Located between Bali and Lombok, the Gili islands of Trawangan, Air and Meno are a firm favorite with divers, snorkelers and backpackers alike. Snorkelers enjoy the crystal-clear turquoise waters around all three islands, and it’s possible to experience the best scuba diving in the Gili Islands simply by entering the water from the beach.
Most dive centers around the islands offer two morning dives, an afternoon dive and night dives. The day boats are also open to snorkelers, allowing them to explore a little further afield. In addition, many operators offer specific snorkeling tours, although the larger snorkeling boats may be crowded.
Whether you’re looking to explore the underwater world from the surface or dive in deeper, there are plenty of places to choose from around all three islands. Here are some of our favorite sites when it comes to scuba diving in the Gili Islands.
Turtle Heaven, Gili Meno
The name says it all — Turtle Heaven offers almost guaranteed sightings of turtles throughout the year. In fact, divers see turtles with reliable frequency around the islands, thanks to turtle hatcheries encouraging reproduction.
This particular dive site is great for both snorkelers and divers. Snorkelers can observe turtles swimming and feeding from the surface, while divers can follow them to the deeper parts of the reef. The top of the reef features broken coral that offers great hiding places for smaller marine life, divers taking a look deeper will find intact coral and sponge bommies, often surrounded by batfish and schooling fusiliers. You may also spot families of bumphead parrotfish.
Frogfish Point, Gili Air
Another good location for divers and snorkelers alike is this shallow reef. For divers, the main attraction here is macro diving. Granted, the islands are much better known as somewhere to learn to dive or become a divemaster or a diving instructor than for macro, but if you happen to be an experienced diver traveling with your camera, let your guide know you’re interested in checking out smaller critters. While dives here don’t necessarily guarantee frogfish, this is a good spot for ornate ghost pipefish, leaf scorpionfish, skeleton shrimp and many different nudibranch species, to name just a few.
Shark Point, Gili Trawangan
One of the steeper walls around the islands, Shark Point suits divers of any level. Beginners stay in the shallower parts close to the top of the reef while advanced divers can reach depths of 100 feet (30 m) and more. Apart from blacktip and whitetip reef sharks and the resident turtles, this is a good place to see giant trevallies cruising by or bluefin trevallies hunting. During November and December you may spot schooling mobula rays too. Your chances of seeing larger pelagic species generally increase at depth, although they are not bad in shallower waters either.
Bounty Wreck, Gili Meno
Despite the name, this is not a shipwreck — rather, it’s wreckage from the pier where the Bounty ferry formerly docked. The pier was abandoned for years and began sinking into the sandy bottom it was built on, which proved lucky for the divers around these islands. The wreckage now sits at an angle on the slope below and stretches from 32 to 66 feet (10 to 20 m). It offers plenty of hiding places for groupers and sweetlips, among other species. It’s a great place to learn about wreck diving and there’s often some current pushing divers along as well.
Air Wall, Gili Air
Diving instructors Meg Daws and Sal Roldan are fairly new to Gili Air and weren’t sure what to expect. But after a few months of taking out divers from their DiveZone base on Gili Air, they absolutely fell in love with Air Wall and here’s why: “We usually start our dive at Air Slope and allow the currents to float us along to the start of the wall. We can reach depths of 89 feet (27 m) and the top is right around 33 feet(10 m). While turtle sightings are guaranteed, eagle rays have also surprised us gliding around the site. It’s is a great dive site for all levels to enjoy with plentiful sea and coral life to zip on by as you cruise south alongside Gili Air.”
Halik and Deep Halik, Gili Trawangan
Starting with beautifully formed corals in shallow water, this reef eventually turns into coral canyons as divers proceed deeper. During full moon, this is a great place to see schooling bumphead parrotfish, even in shallower depths. In the deeper parts of Halik, it’s not uncommon to encounter eagle rays, sharks and schooling trevallies. And while the Gili islands have had a bunch of bad PR for the effects of dynamite finishing on the local coral reefs, this is one place where the coral is in very good condition, whether you are diving shallow or deep.