The Gili Islands are surrounded by spectacular coral reefs containing a vast array of fish life and have become one of the most alluring dive destinations in Indonesia. There are over 20 different dive sites just a short boat ride away offering plenty of challenges for the experienced scuba diver and a quick learning curve for the complete novice. The Gilis offer the most accessible diving in the region and is significantly cheaper than Bali.
Gili Trawangan has the most vibrant scuba diving culture of the three islands and is home to eight professional diving schools offering a range of starter and specialist courses up to IDC instructor level. Many are accredited 5 star PADI and SSI resorts with experienced expat and local dive masters. Wherever you stay on the Gilis you will visit the same offshore dive sites and some of the Gili Trawangan dive operators also have centres on Gili Air and Gili Meno.
In theory prices are fixed to maintain standards across the board. Most offer courses in several European languages. PADI beginners open water courses are US$350, advanced open water at US$225 and comprehensive dive master training from US$750. Single fun dives for qualified divers are US$35.
All these courses are available year round at all dive schools and there are additional specialist courses such as rescue diver, emergency first response, nitrox and photography courses subject to demand. All these dive resorts offer dive and stay packages with their own accommodation and attached bars/restaurants.
Gili Islands dive centres
Blue Marlin Dive: Gili Trawangan, tel: +62 370 632 424, Gili Meno, tel: +62 370 639 980, Gili Air, tel: +62 370 634 387, website: www.bluemarlindive.com.
Dream Divers: Gili Trawangan, tel: +62 370 634 496 and Gili Air, tel: +62 370 634 547, reservation, tel: +62 370 693 738, website: www.dreamdivers.com.
Big Bubble: Gili Trawangan, tel: +62 370 625 020, fax: +62 370 613 8523, mobile: +62 813 3984 0863, website: www.bigbubblediving.com.
Buddha Dive: Gili Trawangan, tel: +62 370 644 174, website: www.buddhadivegili.com.
Blue Coral Dive: Gili Meno, tel: +62 370 693 441, fax: +62 370 69 344, website: www.bluecoraldive.com.
Vila Ombak Diving Academy: Gili Trawangan, tel: +62 361 270 252, fax. +62 361 284 431, website: www.scubali.com.
Manta Dive, Gili Trawangan, tel: +62 370 643 649, management: +62 812 3788 9378, website: www.manta-dive.com.
Trawangan Dive, Gili Trawangan, tel: +62 370 649 220, website: www.trawangandive.com.
Lutwala Dive, Gili Trawangan, tel: +62 370 619 4835, website: www.lutwala.com.
Although the reefs have suffered through fish bombing (which is now outlawed) and the effects of El Nino, most are in pristine condition and house a fabulous array of fish life and some weird and wonderful sea creatures. Sea turtles are always a big draw for divers and snorkellers alike and the area is brimming with reef sharks, mantas, moray eels and minute macro life such as pipefish, seahorses and luminous nudibranches.
There is a wide variety of hard and soft corals and lots of colourful sea fans. Seasonal highlights include the occasional whale shark, mola mola sunfish and during full moons, vast schools of bump head parrotfish. Listed below are some of the best dive sights around the Gili Islands.
Top Gili Islands dive sites
Hans Reef: Situated off the eastern coast of Gili Air, there is a fabulous array of sea fans and macro life including frogfish, seahorses and pipefish.
Shark Point: A perennial favourite with all levels, expect to encounter mantas, white tip reef sharks and hawksbill turtles in abundance. It slopes down through hard and soft corals to a sandy bottom with frequent sightings of octopus and bump head parrotfish.
Meno Wall: There are abundant small coral species here such as lionfish, gobies and nudibranches down to a depth of around 18 meters. An ideal night dive location, you are pretty much guaranteed sightings of hawksbill and green turtles making this also an immensely popular daytime snorkeling haven.
Malang Reef: Lesser known Malang Reef offers the real deal for advanced divers with mantas, reef sharks, blue spotted stingrays and scorpion fish hiding amongst canyon walls which drop down to a depth of 40 metres.
Deep Turbo: A site for advanced divers only, there is an excellent variety of corals and colourful sea fans. Leopard sharks and giant rays are often seen basking in the overhangs along with schools of inquisitive barracuda.
Gili Islands diving and the environment
In response to the gradual deterioration of some of the reefs, the Gili Eco Trust was set up in 2004 and is a commendable initiative in partnership with the diving community, local business and fishermen. Its primary aim is to protect the coral reefs and improve awareness and education both among divers and the local community. Activities also include monthly island wide beach clean ups funded by a one off ‘reef tax’ of rp40,000 payable by all visiting divers. It also manages island wide recycling and these islands are quite possibly the most environmentally aware in Indonesia.
All this is complemented by the highly successful Biorock initiative, now in its sixth year. These are 32 artificial reef structures located around the coastlines which are fed a constant low voltage electrical pulse to help stimulate coral growth. Results have been very successful, attracting a wide variety of marine life and further installations are planned for the future.