Destination Fact File
A great mix of diving opportunities and culture in a quiet location.
Diving in the Gili Islands is incredible! The reason for this is partly due to there being more areas that are protected from the fierce swell of the Indian ocean but mainly due to the proximity of Lombok especially on the west coast to the Wallace line that is an imaginary line that parts Lombok from Bali and travels further up the coast where the two different types of species both in and out of the water meet.
Gili offers interesting scuba diving for beginners to experienced divers. The main diving takes place around the Gili islands which lie in the northwest of Lombok in the Strait between Lombok and Bali. Around Sanggigi beach in east Lombok there are also a couple of dive sites in the southern part of Lombok where there is a lot of currents and swells and large pelagics such as sharks, rays and mackerels.
Through the Lombok strait between Bali and Lombok runs the Indonesian through flow, a massive surge of water that passes from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean. The result is a rich underwater life and during certain times of the year also large fish like sharks, eagle rays, turtles and manta rays come and visit the reefs.
This means that Biodiversity in this area is amazing for great diving and in line with most bio-diverse areas on the planet with over 3,500 different marine species all living in and around the reefs that are located offshore and close to the beach feeding off the constant streams of warm nutrients that flow from the deep waters and the intense sunlight that allows fans and wall coral to grow to gigantic proportions.
When you compare the 3,500 different species living around the reefs alone to the 1,500 species living around the Great Barrier Reef, it is easy to see why Lombok is becoming more popular for divers, although the reefs have not yet been over dived and it is a good thing that divers are taking great care not to damage these reefs as over 25% of the worlds coral reefs are located in Indonesian waters.
Three small islands, surrounded by coral, The Gilis, off Lombok’s west coast, are fast becoming one of her main draw cards. Dive centres with all the high tech equipment and professional instructors ensure that visiting divers at all levels of experience and ability can dive in waters that have more varieties of fish than anywhere in the world.
The Gili Islands are an archipelago of three small islands — Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air — just off the northwest coast of Lombok, Indonesia.
The Gili islands are not to be forgotten and certainly require a mention for diving in Lombok, as they are some of the richest and diverse sites in the area. This is due to the variants it the sea bed topography that is a combination of slopes, drop offs and plateaus that harbour all kinds of different species and give a good all-round presentation of all that Indonesia has to offer. When diving in Lombok on the Gili Islands you can expect to encounter such species as moray eels, angelfish, white-tip reef sharks, cuttlefish, turtles and ghost pipefish as a selection of just a few of the many. Diving around the Gili Islands and the rest of northwest Lombok there are over 15 recognized and highly acclaimed dive sites and many more sites that are worth seeing, there are also many spots being found all the time that offer incredible diving in this aquatic goldmine.
In the morning you can even visit a little known spot called Shark Point and no prizes for guessing why. It is a point where there are sharks although they are not the big scary ones, just harmless reef sharks as well as turtles of the hawksbill and green varieties, ribbon eels and as if that was not enough there are often mantas as well. There is also an amazing spot called Volkers’ Golf course which is located not above but below the water just 500 meters east of Shark point. This green patchy floor, which is very similar to an underwater golf course, is the best spot to find sharks that can sometimes be the bigger ones as well as schools of mackerel and doctor fish.
Gili Trawangan is the most popular out of the Gili Islands – it has long had a reputation as the ‘party’ island mainly through a concentrated and central foreshore area of restaurants, dive operations and hotels including some luxury boutique choices. The island has 5 famous dive spots, for a really nice dive. The water temperature around Trawangan normally varies from 26 to 29 degrees Celsius, depending on the depth and the season.
Top Dive Sites:
“Manta Point” - generally an easy dive site, sometimes the current gives you a fine drift. The best season to see mantas is from March to May, still February and June also offer good possibilities to see them. Mantas can be seen exceptionally year-round. 17 Mantas have been seen here the same time. The nutrients carried into the water by runoff from land, make the mantas more active. So, the lower visibility that divers may encounter during the rainy months of November and December can actually be a blessing in disguise.
Even if you don’t see mantas, this is a rewarding site for divers of all abilities. You’ll see lobster and moray eels in the rocky parts of the reef. Look also for cuttlefish hovering over the corals, flashing their brilliant colours. The cuttlefish’s ability to camouflage itself is incredible. It is even able to mimic the red algae found on the bottom here. You can also see the sleeping white tip reef sharks around the bommie coral. It’s around 17 meters deep. Manta Point is also the best place to see the Acropora reef.
“Shark Point” - This is one of the Gili’s most popular dive sites; it is normally done as a drift dive heading towards the point at the centre of Gili Trawangan’s western coast. You can dive at three levels. There are places for deep dives, mid-water drifts and shallow dives.
Bannerfish and Moorish Idols decorate the reef with their high contrast black and yellow bodies. You’ll see them moving around the coral formations. Look for schools of Jackfish or Trevallyfish at the current-swept point, as well as Reef Sharks and occasional Rays.
Most divers end this dive along the upper reef flats before the tip of the point. Carry a safety balloon, as the currents can drift of divers off the point into the open sea. Cuttlefish, blue-spotted stingrays, turtles, chromis, basslets and other colourful reef fish live in this area’s shallow water. And, of course, because it is called Shark Point, you can see sharks, normally in the small caves and holes below the coral and sometimes even on open spots.
“Coral Fan” - This site got its name for it’s presence of large, white-polyped Gorgonian fan-coral with bright-red skeletons. They grow on the big coral bommies of this sites shallow reef top.
You’ll find other types of hard coral spread along the bottom at 5 to 7 meters, surrounded by lots of reef and tropical fish. Small copper sweepers especially like to swim here. The shallow corals and colourful fish life makes Coral Fan a good choice for snorkelling in the Gilis.
As diver you often see Titan Triggerfish and Clown Triggerfish on this site’s outside wall, which drops from 8 to 30 meters. The strong current that feeds the wall’s healthy coral and fans make drift dives the order of the day. The slopes have varied fish life, including a good selection of Scorpion fish, so be careful where you put your hands.
Gili Meno is the middle island of Lombok's northern islands. Snorkelling off beaches of pure white sand the coral is superb. It has a small hotel and restaurant strip at the harbour on the west side of the island. Also it has various small and cosy restaurants and hotels spread over the island. The island has a small saltwater lake but is so small you can walk around the whole island in about 1.5 hour. With the sunken pontoon, called the Meno Wreck or Bounty Wreck, and the Meno Wall it is just as Gili Trawangan a famous island for divers.
“Meno Wreck/Bounty Wreck” - The old Bounty wreck is placed just off the coast of Gili Meno (you can actually see parts of the old jetty on Google Maps Satellite) but it is easier to reach by boat from Gili Trawangan. The wreck is covered with soft coral and also harder coral (Acropora Florida, Acropora Pormosa, Acropora Nobilis). There is also a big variety of fish. The depth is around 13-17 meter. Visibility is always good here, around 20 meters. The fish families you can find here are sweetlips, angelfish and clownfish. And be careful for the angry fish that lives at the east side of the wreck, especially if you have nice colourful fins! There is also a famous wreck bike which you can take a ride on.
“Meno Wall” - Off the west coast of Gili Meno, Meno Wall drops down to depths of 18m. It offers a lot of small coral fish like lionfish, soldier fish, gobies, crabs, as well as lots of nudibranches coming out of hiding. It is also called "Turtle Heaven" because of the many resident hawksbill and green turtles.
Has the largest local population and while it has more of a lived-in feeling than the other two islands for some that is quite possibly its attraction. On Gili Air it’s possible to likewise enjoy the marine possibilities but also one can absorb some of the local culture missing on the other islands.
In addition to the Gilis there are many other dive and snorkel possibilities such as an area now being promoted on the rugged south coast where the experienced can now dive among hammerheads and rays.
“Hanns Reef” - This site is just off the east of Gili Air provides a great opportunity to see very unusual marine life. It is a semi Muck diving site, great for all levels, a good training site as it has a shallow sandy section with lines and buoys. Then this site provides a great opportunity for macro photographers or those who wish to witness some of the smaller, stranger creatures found here. Frog fish, leaf scorpion fish, sea horses, black spotted morays , pipefish, nudibranchs, turtles and mantis shrimp are also frequently spotted here.
“Air Wall”- To the west of Gili Air, is a very beautiful wall that, due to the soft coral cover, shines yellow-orange depending on the position of the sun. The highlight of this wall is a coral block at 22m in which leaf fish make their "home", surrounded by shrimps, pipefish, white-banded cleaner shrimps and thousands of glass fish. Look into the deeper parts for white-tip reef sharks.
“Japanese WWII Wreck” - This dive is available to experienced divers. The wreck itself is intact, and situated in a protected bay to the South of Gili Air, so it is largely unaffected by coastal currents. The Japanese World War II patrol boat is approximately 20 meters in length and is covered in beautiful corals. Inhabiting the wreck are many lionfish, stonefish and frogfish. Around the wreck, schools of tuna, barracuda and batfish are commonly seen. Owing to the depth of the wreck, we recommend divers to use Enriched Air on this dive to take full advantage of this experience, although Air dives are possible.