The island was originally settled by Bugis fishermen from Sulawesi who used the island as their base eventually making Gili Air their home and raising families here. Of the three islands this was the only one with fresh water- Gili Air means small island with water! They planted the island with coconut palms,sweet potato, corn, long beans and peanuts, and raised cows and chickens.
It wasn’t until the late eighties that the first backpackers on Lombok realized they could charter a fishing boat to take them to the island and tourism began! Back then accommodation was very simple, there was no electricity or running water, and you had to catch your fish or chicken for dinner.
From simple beginnings island tourism has grown and now there is accommodation to suit most tastes, some with more luxury than others but the island still retains its charm thanks to the local ambience.