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Meaning “small island” in Bahasa-Indonesia, the Gilis are three little islands on the North-West of Lombok, Indonesia.

In the last decade, these islands have become a top spot for those who want to learn to dive, snorkel or enjoy the tropical island feeling.

With comparable prices and greater biodiversity than Thailands most famous Kho Tao, the Gilis have become a hub for scuba divers with various interests and certification levels.

map of gili islands

It’s a must-see if you are traveling around Indonesia.

But be careful…

Once you make your first step out of the boat you might never leave.

Gili Trawangan is certainly the biggest and the most popular of all three, so let’s have a closer look and talk about different dive sites.

Dive Sites

On Gili Trawangan, you may find yourself diving at the following dive sites:

Shark Point

sharkpoint dive site

Probably the most famous dive site around Gilis due to a large white-tip reef shark population.

It’s also one of the most tricky sites to navigate with strong currents that can give you goosebumps.

Here’s the site owner Austin diving at Shark Point!

Sank by the local community in 2016, the site is now is home to all sorts of fish and creatures.

Like a cherry on top between 25 and 30m sits Glen Nusa wreck. It’s a fair size towing boat, that was brought over from Bali to create an artificial reef.

Often you’ll see few juvenile giant turtles or a white-tip just chilling at the sandy bottom.

You can have the best of times or the worst of times there, depending on the general conditions and experience level.

It’s 100% worth checking out though.

Deep Turbo

eagle ray at deep turbo

This site will take your breath away and is my absolute favorite!

Only a five-minute boat ride to the north in the channel between Gili Meno and Trawangan, this dive is accessible by Advanced divers and those who can go to 30 meters.

Likely the best way to dive is with enriched air nitrox increasing your bottom time.

With a series of pinnacles and ridges stretching over a massive area, this site looks like an underwater city, with sandy valleys, coral formations, beautiful fans, and massive sponges.

What’s so incredible about this site is that you can visit it over 10 times and never have the same dive.

Often you can see a spotted eagle ray passing by or a reef shark but as for me, it’s all about topography here.

Halik

Dive site on the north of Gili Trawangan is one of the best choices for divers with all different level of certifications. A shallow part is a small ledge, starting at 5-7m and dropping down to 15-18m.

It’s a very active reef, with a lot of cleaning behaviors, schooling fish and baby white tip reef sharks hiding in the crevices. Some call it clownfish point as there is probably more than fifty anemones where you can find Nemo and it’s friends.

The deep part is like an underwater high way and it’s stunning. The ridges start from 25m and you can dive there as deep as 40m. Usually, you’ll drift with the current.

On your way, you most likely will pass by some blue-spotted stingrays hiding in the sand, big schools of snappers and red tooth triggerfish and maybe even a shark. To extend your time at depth dive it on Enriched Air Nitrox and enjoy the ride

Hans Reef

Legend says that the site was named after one of the locals, Mr. Han that contributed to the discoveries and protection of the reefs around Gilis.

You could often see the man sitting in one of the bars on Gili Air enjoying his cold Bintang, chatting to the tourists and local instructors.

It’s a dive site perfect for those who love a bit of underwater scavenger hunt. Full of amazing fish and creatures.

You can often find a frogfish here, there is resident paddle flap scorpionfish that’s been hanging around for moths, turtles, blue ring octopus, lionfish and many, many, many more.

It’s usually protected from the current, which makes it a perfect training site, accessible for all diver, from the beginners to advanced the deepest point is 24m. It’s a must on your diving list.

Simon's Reef

A beauty in the middle of nowhere. Located at the north side of Meno is the tricky one to drop. The shallowest part of the reef is a large pinnacle starting from 15m and dropping down to 40m.

Therefore it’s the advanced dives site only. With its dramatic topography, this site will satisfy every diver needs.

Full of schooling fish and astonishing coral fans its large area is impossible to cover in one dive. It’s also home to a banana nudibranch a species of a sea slug, cuttle fish and if you are lucky you might even find a pygmy sea horse.

Thanks to its location, the reef itself is mostly protected from the currents and is a perfect training ground for technical dives.

Just further north there is a little stunning part of it, accessible only if you are diving with more than one tank (sidemount, twins etc.) and enriched air so ask around how can you upgrade your certification and off you go!

Dive Centres Gili Trawangan

An important thing to know is that due to a price agreement between dive centers, the standard and quality of teaching is not compromised by the lowered costs found on the island.

You simply need to choose the dive center with the best vibe and start your adventure.

A majority of them are located on the main street, so have a bit of look-around and chat with the people that potentially will take you diving, before you decide.

Be aware that few shops might offer you a cheaper price but remember, there is a reason behind it, that should raise questions. There are over 20 options to choose from, but we’ll cover the most popular ones here.

trawangan dive site

Trawangan Dive Centre is the largest and highest certifying dive center in Indonesia. It is our favorite one! As soon as you enter the shop you can feel it’s energy.

The great thing about it, is that you can get your experience on every level here. If you are up for “try dive” with the team of top instructors or get your first diving certification, this center will be the best start for your diving adventure.

To capture your memories underwater ask for a photographer (@Karolatakesphotos), she’ll make sure your next instagram post is going to be fabulous.

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They have outstanding Divemaster program that runs along with the Instructor Development Course. Trawangan dive should be your first choice if you think of becoming a dive professional.

You can also start your technical diving training, including sidemount and close circuit rebreather with one of the leading technical instructor on the island.

The team down at Trawangan dive is super fun, friendly and very experienced. Once you get to know them you can’t but love that bunch. You can sense they all love what their doing and their passion for diving is contagious.

If you hang around, you might become apart of the family. You can be sure they will make your time on the island unforgettable. Trawangan dive works closely together with the Gili Eco Trust, that runs reef conservation and restoration projects.

Gili Eco Trust

So if you are an “Eco Warrior” or want to become one and expand your knowledge, you’re in the right place.

They also have a pool bar and who doesn’t love a pool party after hours?!?

Here you can have an amazing cocktail and yummy food from the Fat Cat’s Restaurant make some new friends and continue to unwind on your holiday.

Blue Marlin Divers Site

Blue Marlin is one of the oldest and probably best-known dive center on the island, with 5 locations around Indonesia. It’s history going back to early ’90s when Gili Trawangan was nothing more than a few wooden shacks on the beach and a land full of coconut plantations.

Loads of the dive sites were explored by Blue Marlin founders back in the day.

Today, however, a fresh team of instructors will take you underwater and teach you in many different languages. If you want to become a technical diving instructor that is the place to go.

Blue Marlin Tech was the first technical diving operation around the islands and now is run by a professional team of instructors. After diving all-day you can lose yourself at the Blue Marlin Monday Party, and dance away your night.

Manta Dive Gilis Site

Manta dive is well known from their outstanding social media appearance and popularity.

They have the best social media team on the island and they put great work to create their image.

Overall a super friendly and inviting team of instructors will welcome you as soon as you step off the boat, as the shop is located right next to the Harbour.

Their original tuxedo-looking like wet suits, look great on photos. Manta is the biggest SSI dive centre in Indonesia and you can find them on both of the islands, Trawangan and Air.

Here you can gain your qualification on every level of diving from Open Water through Divemaster and Instructor. They also offer technical diving courses if you are interested to learn more about advanced diving techniques.

This dive center is always buzzing and at Chappies bar you’ll always find few people to have a cold beer with and chat about diving by the end of your day.

Dive Central Gili @divecentralgili On the other hand if you are looking for a cozy boutique dive center you can’t miss Dive Central Gili, located alongside Pesona resort and restaurant.

There you will be welcomed by a lovely and passionate team of instructors. You can learn all levels of recreational diving and you’ll be well looked after.

Discover their house reef Bio Rock that’s a coral restoration project and shelter for many marine creatures. You don’t need to scuba dive to see it, so grab a snorkeling set and have a look around.

After hours sit on a comfortable cushion and unwind smoking sheesha, eating some delicious Indian food or enjoy relaxing massage in Azure Spa that’s located inside the complex.

Free Dive Gili Site

If you don’t fancy to deal with all the equipment but, you are tempted to immerse yourself in a silent world, try freediving! The top spot to do that is Free Dive Gili, located right next to the best vegetarian restaurant on the island.

Team of beautifully build, enthusiastic and experience instructors will guide you through the mysteries of breath-hold diving.

In two days you will learn new breathing and equalization techniques and you might walk out with a level 1 freediving certification.

If you are up for some further relaxation take a part in one of their yoga classes. Lastly, they also have two yoga shalas to practice in peace.

How To Get To The Gili Islands?

One way to get here from Bali is to fly to Lombok Praya airport, then take a taxi down to the smaller harbor called Bangsal. From there you can hop on a public boat to get to the island or grab a speed boat over.

The other way is to take a speed boat directly from Bali to the Gilis. There are plenty to choose from, that run every day on various time schedules. The most reliable one, with outstanding service is Blue Water Express.

You can book them online, through your hotel in Bali or contact one of the local tour agents to make a reservation for you. Be prepared that the journey door to door will take you about 3 to 4 hours. Book yourself enough time to enjoy the place with two days be the minimum.

What’s unique about the islands is that cars or any motorized traffic are prohibited.

Once you arrive, the main ways to get around the island are by foot, bicycle, or unique horse-carts called cidomo.

cidomo on gili trawangan

Where to Stay in Gili Trawangan

You have several options in terms of housing when it comes to Gili Trawangan.

  • AirBnb
  • Hotel
  • Hostel

What’s Gili Diving Like?

Gili islands are popular diving destination because of their vast turtle population. On most of the sites you can encounter Green on Hawksbill turtles passing by like it’s “no big deal” and some of them are gigantic!

Gili Trawangan is located furthest away from the Lombok island. And due to it’s location on the north of Lombok Strait you might expect some currents.

Current brings nutrients and due to the currents, reefs around the islands are so biodiverse and full of life. Once you stay on Gili Trawangan, you can dive all the spots around three Gilis.

Besides the turtles you might often see a white tip and black tip reef sharks, rays, morays, anemone fish as well as sea horses, octopus and frog fish. For those who love the small creatures, there is a few astounding muck diving sites in nearby Lombok bays.

Those with technical diving certification however, can drop deep on a steep walls just 20 minutes boat ride away, where coral is completely untouched and breathtaking.

History of Gili Trawangan

sulawesi fisherman

Official settlement of the Gili Islands, including Gili Trawangan, occurred fairly recently in history during the year of 1970.

This 1970 settlement was led by fishermen from Sulawesi.

Previous to this settlement, the island was used as a land stop for fisherman, as well as Japanese Military for lookout posts and prisoner of war camps.

Gili Trawangan is often noted for having a fairly heavy drug tourist market. Gili Trawangan is the only island of the Gili’s with active police presence. This police presence often deters drug marketers from displaying the presence more openly in the area compared to surrounding islands where there is no police activity.

The island’s artificial reef cages are administered a continuous stream of electricity to foster coral regeneration which serves to attract various forms of marine life.

If you find yourself more interested in the environmental initiative of the Gili Islands, there is a PADI marine environment speciality course designed to further educate a wider population.

One unique element of Gili Trawangan’s location is the aforementioned close proximity to Gili Meno and Gili Air. Tourists can travel to these Island’s via motorboat from locals.

Off the coast of Gili Meno, a breathtaking underwater sculpture of 48 human-sized figures exists to serve as a foundation to help save the coral reef near Indonesia. The sculpture was designed by accredited underwater sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor.

Jason deCaires Bali

As time proceeds, the underwater sculpture is expected to become covered by coral, making it a prime destination for your next scuba excursion.

As Jason deCaires’ underwater sculpture, ‘Nest’ paves the way for a healthier marine environment, its circular and unified design serves as a symbol for the echo system of life.

Jason deCaires was quoted as saying he views the recent sculpture as a bridge between human and marine world. Jason deCaires’ contribution shouldn’t be overlooked as more than 40% of the world’s coral reefs have been lost in recent decades.

In 1997-1998, the intense El Nino fish bombing took place. During this time, fishermen used dynamite to catch fish.

This shoddy fishermenship resulted in the death in the majority of the Gili island’s coral.

Not all hope is lost as a recent 2018 study led by Nicole Hegelson reflected over 70 species of coral at the Bounty dive site, as well as 35 different species of coral on a Halik bommie.

Conclusion

Gili Trawangan and its many attractions is a wonderful little piece of paradise. Give it time and it will grow on you, till the point that all you will think of is to COME BACK AGAIN!

If you are already on the Gilis you have to visit Lombok and get the feeling of how Bali was maybe 30-40 years ago.

You can join educational snorkeling trip with an organization called The Dorsal Effect (check what an amazing job these guys are doing @thedorsaleffect)or explore some new dive sites around Kuta with newest Blue Marlin location.

Whatever you choose to do, do not be rude to local people, remember that you are a guest in their country so be respectful of their culture. Be eco-friendly by reducing a single use plastic item.

You can refill your water bottle in many places on the island (download an app refill my bottle to check where), say NO to plastic straws, plastic bags and anything that can’t be reused.

At some point, it will all end up in the ocean and ruin you perfect holiday view so if you won’t do it for the planet do it for yourself.

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