The island nation of Indonesia straddles the equator between the Indian and Pacific Oceans and lies at the heart of the ‘Coral Triangle’ - the epicentre of the world’s marine biodiversity. Nowhere on ...
For many years, the Gili Islands - Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno - have lured backpackers, divers and beach-lovers alike, drawn by the promise of that perfect paradise experience. Each of the three islands has their own particular charm, but all offer great diving for beginners and more advanced divers, good options for families plus a fantastic range of accommodation and nightlife possibilities.
The Gili islands are sheltered from the currents and upwellings that flow through the Lombok Strait and make the dive sites in eastern Bali so rich. Normally the water is warm and clear, meaning better conditions underwater, but less diversity of marine life. All the islands are ringed by coral reefs, some in better condition than others, and dive sites are mostly shallow sloping reefs with sand or rubble at around 25m+. Some sites have deeper areas with channels or 'canyons' separated by coral ridges and there are isolated pinnacles and plateaus further away from the islands. The coral around all of the Gilis has suffered in the past but things are improving and there are some very nice hard corals, undulating gardens of soft corals and sea fans, whips and large sponges in the deeper areas.
The marine life is generally good with lots of colourful reef fish in the shallows to keep beginners and snorkelers interested. Small schools of snappers, sweetlips, goatfish and barracuda can all be seen, as well as the occasional napoleon wrasse and bumphead parrotfish. There are always plenty of lionfish, morays, scorpionfish and stingrays, as well as mantis shrimps and anemones with transparent commensal shrimps. The Gilis are certainly not considered ‘muck’ destinations, but if you spend some time searching, you can find a few 'critters'. Giant frogfish are guaranteed, whilst ghost pipefish, leaf scorpionfish, ribbon eels, nudibranchs and even pygmy seahorses can be found with a bit of help from the dive guides.
The Gilis are also capable of a few surprises. Rather than reefs and abundant fish life, it is the friendly turtles and cuttlefish, small reef sharks and, in the right season, close encounters with manta rays that make the islands special for many divers. Hawksbill and green turtles can be seen on most sites and there are a few places where they are pretty much guaranteed. Large cuttlefish are also very common. Whitetip and blacktip reef sharks are frequently seen and, in the season, divers have a good chance of diving with manta rays.
The warm, clear seas, gentle currents and shallow reefs make the Gili Islands a perfect destination for snorkelers. And with the fish life, turtles and even manta rays up in the shallows during the season, it is sometimes easier to snorkel rather than dive! At many of the resorts, non-diving guests can join the dive boat and have a snorkel guide join them to point out interesting marine life and keep an eye open for any boats in the area. There are also many fantastic sites - such as the Biorock artificial reefs - where snorkelers have a great opportunity to witness and learn about reef restoration.
Given how conducive the conditions are to learning on the Gili Islands, snorkelers may wish to take the plunge and book a course.
Situated off the northwest coast of Lombok, the Gili Islands are considered by many to be the perfect tropical getaways. The three different islands have something to offer everyone - those looking for more nightlife can head to Gili Trawangan, whilst Gili Meno and Air are more tranquil. All have that perfect mix of white sand beaches, coconut palms and a sleepy, ‘island life’ atmosphere and of course, that beautiful, inviting sea.
The Gili Islands first found fame in the 1980’s and 90’s as a popular stop on the SE Asia backpacker trail and developed a reputation as a party destination, in particular Gili Trawangan. Today, the tourism industry on the islands has evolved, and there is a huge range of different accommodation options - from tiny backpacker hostels and funky dive resorts, to boutique villas and sophisticated resorts.
The best way to reach the islands is from Bali using one of the many private transfer boats that run regular daily schedules. Alternatively, visitors can use the public ferry that runs between Bali and Lombok, or fly to Lombok and make the transfer by road. Given the ease and cost, the transfer boats from Bali are by far the best option. Resorts can also arrange transfers.
Diving the Gilis is year round. July to September, and December to January are normally the busiest seasons and many of the best options for accommodation get booked up in advance. April to June is hot and dry, with great diving conditions - although you can get winds blowing from the south and southwest, making some sites more difficult to dive. The rains arrive between December and February/March, which means lots of plankton and lower visibility, but a better chance to see manta rays. Generally, the visibility around the Gilis is 15-25m+ in the mornings, less as the winds pick up later in the day. In the rainy season this drops to 10-15m, but can be worse with tidal changes and algal blooms.
In the 1980’s and 90’s the reefs around the three Gili Islands were damaged by the use of destructive fishing methods, the impact of a powerful El Nino event and by unregulated tourism. However, from 2000 onwards, the businesses and communities on the islands realised that something would have to be done to protect the reefs and the Gili Eco Trust and Gili Island Dive Association were born. Together, these organisations help to conserve the reefs and regenerate areas that were damaged in the past, develop solutions for waste management and strive to educate businesses, locals and tourists alike about sustainable tourism and conserving the environment.
Read more about the work being doing on the islands in our article about Conservation on the Gili Islands.
Enjoy 9 days, 8 nights of diving, relaxation and island life, staying in a shared standard room at the beautiful Villa Almarik. This package includes 10 boat dives around the Gilis. Upgrades to a superior or deluxe room and meal packages are available - please let us know your preferences when making a booking. High season rates may apply - we can confirm these when you make an enquiry.
The ultimate combination! 5 nights at the Lotus Bungalows in Candidasa, and 4 nights at Villa Almarik on Gili Trawangan, including a total of 12 dives and accommodation in a shared standard room. Upgrades to a superior room at both resorts and meal packages are available - please let us know your preferences when making a booking.