Looking for a great place for a scuba centred holiday? The Gili islands are only a short boat ride away from Bali and offer a great alternative to a diving on the ‘big’ island. Diving from Gili Air can offer that island paradise experience without compromising on price or location!
Located close to Lombok, the three Gili islands are fringed by beautiful reef and offer dive sites close by. With less time needed to travel, you get more time to blow bubbles! There’s also a huge variety of dive sites, from challenging drift dives to shallow coral gardens.
When I was considering where to do my Divemaster course, Gili Air was top of the list. After half heartedly considering a few other alternatives I decided to go with my gut – and I’m so glad I did! Gili Air is the goldilocks of the three Gili’s: not as busy as party hard Gili Trawangan, but with more going on than the honeymooners island of Gili Meno.
Looking for some advice? With three months of diving and living on Gili Air under my belt, I feel pretty qualified to dish out some knowledge!
Which dive centre?
Of course I’m going to recommend my centre of choice, Oceans5. Not only are the facilities top notch, it’s well located and employs some genuinely fantastic instructors! So far this year I’ve sent two friends their way for fun dives, and both have decided to stay on to complete their Divemaster training. That speaks for itself.
For yoga enthusiasts, you might want to give Blue Marine a whirl. They’ve been operating on the island since 1999 and have a great reputation. The dive centre is also home to a beach front yoga studio, with classes ranging from your standard Vinyasa to SUP and aerial yoga!
If you’re all about your tec diving then 7Seas might be right up your alley. They offer those with a passion for rebreathers or sidemounts the option of fun dives. And if you like the idea of dipping your toe in the tec pool? You can also find many different courses to suit your needs.
Think that the lowest price will decide your dive centre of choice? There’s an agreement on the Gili islands so the prices are set. This means you can concentrate on choosing the right dive school (*cough* Oceans5 *cough*) rather than walking around in the blazing sun trying to get a deal…
Prepare yourself for the open ocean with a comprehensive pool session, where you can get used to breathing underwater in a controlled environment. Then you’ll head out to a dive site with your instructor to blow bubbles for the first time!
My favourite dive site for this is Turtle City. You’re guaranteed a nemo, and at least 5 turtle sightings. Just note that this course does not qualify you as a diver. For that you need to complete your open water course.
Price: IDR 900,000
Gili Air is a great place to get certified – second only to the Great Barrier Reef in my humble opinion! The water is clear and warm, with plenty of marine life to keep you entertained. There are a number of ‘training sites’ around the islands set up especially for dive courses. Once certified you will be able to dive around the world with a buddy to a depth of 18m.
If you want to save time on your holiday there is always the option to complete your e-Learning before arriving so you can head straight to the pool!
Price: IDR 5,500,000
Advanced Open Water
If you’ve been thinking of taking the next step in your diving education then now is a great time to do it! Unlike other courses, the AoW doesn’t require any pool sessions or exams. You complete 5 speciality dives, with navigation and deep dive being the only compulsory ones. These will not only improve your diving ability, but allow you to dive to a max of 30m! If you were going to hire a guide anyway it makes sense to complete this course.
The advanced course is so much fun, and is a great way to refresh or improve your skills. Gili Air is a great place to do it because of the variety of dives on offer. You can choose from your night dive, wreck dive and drift dive among others.
Price: IDR 4,500,000
Fun diving the Gili Islands is fantastic because of the sheer diversity of dive sites, all just a short boat ride away! With sites as such close proximity, you can be flexible with how often you get wet. Oceans5 had dives at 8.30, 11.30 and 14.00 meaning you can choose to have a sleep in, or an afternoon off if you don’t want to do all three. Hey you’re on holiday – you need some down time! Night dives are available on request and are usually on at around 18.30 depending on sunset.
Trying to choose which dive sites to put on your list? Here are some of my favourites around the Gili Islands:
Shark point – West of Gili Trawangan
I had to map this site for my Divemaster and so know it better than any other! It’s great because of it’s variety. There are beautiful soft corals in the shallows with wide ridges as you go deeper. If you’re into deep dives you can easily break 40+metres, and you can often spot huge schools of jackfish in the depths. Currents here can run pretty crazy (my friend once ‘completed’ the entire site in 7 minutes) so I’d recommend checking conditions if you’re inexperienced with drift diving.
Meno Wall – West of Gili Meno
A gentle wall slopes from about 5-16 metres and is great for first time drift divers! I had one of my favourite moments here, as a sleepy turtle swam down between me and the wall as we drifted along for a good 5 minutes. Magic.
Sunset – South of Gili T
This was probably one of my favourite sites to fun dive. There’s not much current but it can get a hell of a lot of surge! You have to watch your depth carefully as it’s on a really gentle slope, and it’s easy to become distracted and suddenly hit 30m (not that we ever did that, ahem). Coral wise it’s one of the best sites, and you can often spot baby sharks hiding under bommies.
Mentiggi – Lombok
This dive is one of the most unique you can do! It’s a really cool muck dive just off Lombok, a long sandy slope with not much coral and little in the way of current or surge. You see some super crazy stuff there – we likened it to scuba diving after a nuclear radiation leak – but go with a guide for sure! The locals know how to find the cool stuff like seahorses and nudibranch (I spotted a hermit crab 30cm long and a black lionfish) but without knowhow it ould be a very boring hour of swimming over sand…
Deep Turbo – North East of Gili Trawangan
This dive does what it says on the tin! There’s a sandy bottom at around 30m which is surrounded by huge coral mounds and ridges covered in life. It’s a deep dive only with no opportunity to shallow up. The highest ridge is at 24metres so it’s only suitable for AoW divers. I used to spot some super freaky nudibranchs here, and as I get narced at around 22 metres I’ve had many a giggling fit! Can sometimes get a bit of a current, so monitor conditions closley.
Bounty Wreck – South West of Gili Meno
The bounty isn’t a traditional wreck – in it’s previous life it served as a pontoon. Under mysterious circumstances (the locals disapproved, so who knows what happened) a huge hole appread and it sank down to the coral covered slope along Gili Meno. There’s an awesome bommie nearby that’s always covered in glass fish, and it’s become something of a bike graveyard with some fantastic photo opportunities! Its a great place to spot frogfish and scorpion fish for those with eagle eyes.
Halik – North west of Gili Trawangan
You can do Halik as a deep dive, but I much prefer exploring the shallows. There’s a mini wall at about 10-12 metres and it’s lovely to drift along as you spot numerous fish, octopus and turtles. For those wanting to clock up the metres there are some great coral patches between 20-30m which attract schools of snapper.
Turtle City – North east of Gili Meno
This is the ultimate site for first time divers! A gentle sloping wall with one large pinnacle, it’s easy to navigate and offers the chance to spot moray eels, scorpion fish and – of course – turtles! The pinnacle is always playing host to sleeping turtles and also houses a ‘proper’ nemo. For more experienced divers, the deeper part of the wall can offer some fantastic macro opportunities.
Hans Reef – North East of Gili Air
The ultimate site for both student divers and macro lovers! A training site sits in the shallows and so is often chosen for the first open water dive. Swim across the sand and you’ll find a huge pinnacle crawling with life, home to frog fish and leafy scorpion fish amongst many others.
O5 House reef – South of Gili Air
I completed all of my night dives here and it shall forever be known as the place I first spotted a seahorse! Take a guide for sure, and they’ll help you find the shy but beautiful mandarin fish. This rates second to Mentiggi in my ‘where I spot strange stuff’ site, and I often lost count of the types of scorpion fish we’d see in one dive.
Can you see why I chose this little set of islands as my home? It’s a paradise both under the water and above the surface. Do you have any questions about diving the Gili Islands that I’ve not answered? Let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them!