When there is talked about diving in Indonesia, the Gili islands often are one of the places mentioned. Not too far from Bali (you can get there by ferry) it is a favourite destination for many.
There are three gili islands: Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. Each has its own atmosphere which can be described as following:
- Gili T(rawangan) : Party Island
- Gili M(eno): Just married
- Gili Air: Relax
I started my trip at Gili T. I thought to do some dives there and afterwards go to Gili Air to do some more dives there. However, here I made an error in my planning. The islands are so close to one eachother (about max 15’) that divecenters on no matter what island dive spots on all three. So in the end I did all my diving out from Gili T.
Picking a divecenter
Diving in the Gili’s is relatively cheap and there are many diveshops around. However, to avoid a total price war, all the divecenters have agreed on fixed prices. You ll pay around 35€ for one dive and get discounts if you take packages. Even the discounts are more or less agreed on. I got a ten dive package which was on average 28€ a dive. Quite reasonable.
Since the prices are all the same, it can be hard to pick a divecenter. I took my time for it and made a visit to around 7 divecenters. Some welcomed me with open arms , others were like “ ok, just wait here – and never came back”. In the end I followed my guts and went with DSM, a divecenter with a great atmosphere around . It was a great choice and I would recommend anybody diving in Gili T to go with them.
The dives and the turtles
I took a ten dive package and because DSM was only diving twice a day (some other centers go 3 times a day), I had five nice days of diving. Two dives/day were enough for me, also the starting times (10am and 14pm) were great to be able to combine the diving with going for some beers in the evening (you are on a party island anyway).
On my ten dives I did 9 different dive spots, so that was pretty great arranged. Following pic shows the dive map of DSM. As you can see they dive around all the gilis.
The dive sites itself were great. Turtles must be the main attraction here in the gilis which focus a lot on turtle conservation and protecting hatching nests.. About 8 out of 10 dives we saw turtles.. Not 1 small turtle, but up to +20 turtles in one divesite (turtlecity) with very big ass turtles. I even got “hit “ by a turtle.. coming in from behind me and not giving any f*ck about me being in his path..
They also had a small wreck dive (sharkpoint) or a sunken platform dive (bounty) which were full with life.
I would say that the main focus is on reef fish and macro life.. Many super nice nudibranches, some crabs, different shrimps, frogfish,.. Bigger stuff (apart from the turtles) is a bit more rare.. There are sharks around (white tips and blacktips) but not in big numbers. I saw 1 white tip in a cave and on another dive 1 blacktip passing by very quickly. You can encounter stingrays and even devil rays or mobulas, but those latter ones are more a lucky hit then a certitude (and I had not that much luck).
I did see some cuttlefish.. A group of 4, probably 3 male and 1 female. The big male was chasing away the 2 younger males. Quite a show!
Faded paradise or restoring reef?
However, I must mention it, I often was very surprised about all the dead coral. You could literally see nice oases of very nice corals, in the middle of a desert of dead corals. Not rarely we had to cross this dead coral places to go from nice place to nice place. And it was not limited to one dive, you could encounter this on almost every dive site.
The question I often had was.. is the reef here healing again or is it slowly dying? It seems to go in the direction of the first one, but the ‘coral graveyard’ feeling is still very aware on each spot. I talked with many people about this and heard different explanations.. no sustainable tourism, dynamite fishing, global warmth… It is a fact however that the diveshops combined their efforts and apart from your diving fee you ll pay a one time marine tax of about 5 euro to help sustain (rebuild?) the reefs. Let’s hope that in some years the situation improves!
And then just when I thought my ten dives were over and I was planning to leave, I heard an ‘inside’ tip to do the night dive “seahorse bay” close to Lombok with another divecenter. This divespot is only done once in some time and not all the divecenters go there(DSM for example isn’t).. Some instructors of DSM talked very enthusiastically about it and joined also themselves with this other divecenter (Uberscuba). So I decided to go for it and waw, I think this was my best dive in the Gilis. 3 seahorses, a ghostpipefish, a walking frogfish,… Too much to sum up actually.. There were small creatures all over the place and I enjoyed every minute of this dive. I think it is absolutely underrated and can only recommend anyone going to Gili T to do this dive!