The Secret Diving Spots on the Gili Islands

The Secret Diving Spots on the Gili Islands

The Gili Islands are known for their idyllic location, natural beauty and world-renowned dive spots. The wonderfully warm (up to 29°C) tropical waters offer amazing visibility and an incredible array of aquamarine life including turtles, sharks, rays and over 950 species of fish.

With the reputation for being the ‘Turtle Capital of the World’ and with over 25 dive sites, the Gili Islands are one of Indonesia and the world’s top scuba diving and snorkeling locations. BASK joined dive instructor Terry Ponton to ask him some questions and gain the inside knowledge on the best spots in the Gilis.

So, let’s dive straight in (sorry, we couldn’t resist!).

About Terry

Terry, originally from the UK, gave up his career as a Mechanical Engineer to follow his love of water and adventure and pursued a career in diving 5 years ago. With the excellent diving conditions found in the Gili Islands, Terry decided to move here just over a year ago.

What makes the Gili Islands so popular for both snorkellers and professional divers alike?

The Gili Islands’ crystal-clear waters, 25+ metre visibility, and all year-round tropical temperatures make them very appealing. All three islands have fantastic snorkeling with easy access to incredible marine life. As the Turtle Capital of the World, turtles can not only be found in the deeper waters but are also often found in the shallows, enabling snorkelers to experience them easily. With the majority of the dive sites located less than 20 minutes from the islands, you’re able to experience a wide variety of different diving options.

What is the most amazing thing you have seen when diving in the islands?

I’ve been lucky enough to see many manta rays. These amazing creatures attract divers from all over the world. In 2014, fishing of manta ray was banned, and Indonesia became the largest sanctuary for them.

Is it easy to learn to dive on the Gili Islands?

It doesn’t matter if you’re new to diving or a seasoned professional, thanks to the variety of dive sites. The Gilis have something for everyone, from smooth shallow sites for beginners and families, to deep sites with strong currents for more advanced technical diving.

Where’s the best place to get my PADI certificate and how long does this typically take?

There are many different dive centres on the Gilis, most of which offer both SSI courses and PADI courses and cater for beginners through to divemasters and instructor level. Various courses are available, and the duration of these courses will be dependent on the course you undertake. Typically, courses take between half a day and 3 days.

TripAdvisor provides a good insight into the different individual dive centres. There are over 150 instructors and management staff who are internationally qualified at the highest level. On top of this, the local staff provide their invaluable knowledge and work as dive guides and boat crew.

How much will it cost?

All dive centres operating on the Gili Islands are part of the GIDA (Gili Islands Diving Association) which ensures a fixed price agreement, so whichever island you are on, or whichever company you choose, the price for the dive course or visit to the dive site is the same.

There is also a one-time reef tax. This is charged to every diver or snorkeller for the Gili Eco Trust. This money is used to pay for beach cleaning, reef conservation and recycling.

What can you expect to see when diving and snorkeling in the waters around the Gili Islands?

With an abundance of hawksbill and green sea turtles, these have to be one of the highlights of diving on the Gili Islands. The warm waters around the islands are teeming with marine life including moray eels, octopus, cuttlefish, rays, sea snakes, white tip and black tip reef sharks, bumphead, parrot fish and clown fish to name just a few.

It is not only the fish that attract thousands of divers every year, but also the array of soft and hard coral and various coral rejuvenation projects. BASK Nest and BioRocks are the best known and offer incredible underwater photo opportunities.

What are the best areas to dive and snorkel and why?

For the snorkellers amongst you, some of the highlights are to the north end of Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan. Here you are likely to see the most turtles and, due to the sheltered location, the current is weaker. For the budding divers, again, the north of Gili Meno is the perfect spot for turtles and north of Gili Trawangan is fantastic for white tip and black tip sharks, parrot fish and turtles.

With so many amazing locations to choose from, we asked Terry to mark on a map his favourite spots on the Islands and tell us what you might see when visiting these sites.

Source: Scallywags, 2018

Gili Meno

Turtle Heaven – North of Gili Meno. This site offers excellent visibility, calm currents, and is a renowned dive site located just 80m from the beach. This site is excellent for all levels of both snorkellers and divers

What to look out for – turtles, moray eels, octopus, cuttlefish, clown fish, eagle rays, batfish.

Meno Slope / Wall – North West of Gili Meno, this site is primarily suited to diving as there is medium visibility and a stronger current.

What to look out for – turtles, banner fish, eagle rays, clown fish, sea snakes, frogfish, trigger fish

Bounty Wreck – West side of Gili Meno is one of the Gili Islands few ‘wrecks’. Sunk in 1999, this former floating dock has become the perfect artificial reef and home to many different species of coral and marine life. There is medium visibility and sometimes strong currents at this site, but it is still fantastic for diving and snorkeling. The wreck is 9 – 14m deep and only 40m from the beach so great for all levels as well as night dives.

What to look out for – leafy scorpion fish, sea snakes, glass fish, pygme, sea horses, triggerfish, moray eels, sometimes turtles, eagle rays in the depths and great coral growth.

Secret Reef – North East of Gili Meno. This site has fantastic visibility and is ideal for open water and advanced students (18-30m).

What to look out for – Amazing corals, turtles, white tips and black tips, snakes, blue spotted rays, lobster, octopus, huge schools of fish.

BASK Nest – This is not only a stunning sculpture (thanks Terry) offering great photo opportunities from the surface or underwater, it also provides a key role in reef rejuvenation.

What to look out for – new young coral growth and more established soft corals, clown fish, triggerfish and banner fish

Gili Trawangan

Halik – This wall dive is good for all levels (6 – 40m). There is a lot of diversity at the site, with fantastic visibility of 25-30m making a top spot with underwater photographers. Currents can be strong, but this is one of the most popular dive sites and is the place to go for night diving with sharks.

What to look out for – turtles and white tip sharks, octopus, bumpheads, clown fish, snakes, morays, cuttlefish.

Shark Point – Similar marine life to Halik, there is also a shipwreck called the Nusa Wreck at 26m which is suitable for advanced divers.

What to look out for – turtles and white and black tip sharks.

Manta Point – South of Gili Trawangan, this site has little current, although there are sometimes surges, making it suitable for all levels. With visibility of 20m this is a top spot for manta ray, if you are lucky enough.

What to look out for – hard and soft corals, cuttlefish, octopus, turtles, reef sharks, and manta ray.

Biorocks – These are metal structures which have been placed off the southern coast of Gili Trawangan by a local charity, Gili Ecotrust, to create an artificial reef. These structures provide growth areas for corals and fish to live and offer great snorkeling and diving opportunities. Only 40m offshore and 7 – 25m deep, this site is suited to all levels. It is also a fantastic site for night diving.

What to look out for – good coral growth, turtles, batfish, octopus, cuttlefish, snakes, turtles, banner fish, clown fish and crab shrimp.

Gili Air

Air Wall – North West of Gili Air, this wall dive offers excellent topography with a depth of 5 – 24m making it suitable for all levels.

What to look out for – colorful gorgonian sea fans, sea whips, soft corals, and a variety of sponges as well as eels, lobster, crabs, shrimps and turtles.

Simon’s Reef – This site is a deep site (18-35m) and is suited for advanced divers only. This site has a stunning coral reef making it perfect for photographs.

What to look out for – beautiful and colorful coral, giant gorgonian sea, barrel sponges, spotted eagle rays, green sea turtles, and white tip reef sharks.

Is there a hidden gem that you’d recommend?

My hidden gem would have to be the vespa scooters located at Bio Rocks in 3m of water. This is great for snorkeling and capturing those all-important underwater shots!

The Gili Islands offer an incredible variety of marine life, warm crystal-clear waters and cater for all levels. Top this off with some exceptionally welcoming locals, and extremely competitive pricing, this is a great place to learn or further your scuba diving experience. What are you waiting for, dive right in (we did it again!).