Indonesia’s Gili islands are a group of three small islands located off the northwest coast of Lombok. The islands are best known for their laid-back vibe, white sandy beaches, and the beautiful coral reefs that surround them.

Unsurprisingly, scuba diving in the Gili islands is subsequently one of the most popular spots for scuba diving in Indonesia, and the area is perfect for divers of all levels.

However, while all three islands are amazing for scuba diving, the Gili islands have much more to offer than just diving.

So, if you are planning to visit, here are some tips on how to get the most of your visit, and advice for scuba diving the Gili Islands.

But be careful…

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

Best Dive Sites Around the Gili islands

While each of the Gili Islands each has its own persona and highlights when it comes to diving, they are so close together that they share the dive sites. These are the best sites for scuba diving Gili Islands…

Turtle City

The best spot in the Gili Islands for turtles. You will also see snappers, pufferfish, and eels along with other fish. Best described as a turtle airport, this site will not disappoint!

turtle Hans Reef

Meno Wall

A sloping wall covered in beautiful corals. It’s a great place to see turtles, clownfish, snappers, and more. It’s also an awesome spot for a night dive.

Bounty Wreck

A nice wreck to explore, perfect for open water divers. The steel frame has turned into a coral garden and attracted plenty of marine life including cuttlefish, batfish, and jacks.

Shark Point

Like the other dive sites in the Gili Islands, you will see turtles, and typical reef fish but the highlight here are the sharks. Blacktips and white tips can commonly be found in this area.

It’s one of the most tricky sites to navigate with strong currents in the deeper section of the site.

As a cherry on top between 25m and 30m sits Glen Nusa wreck, an artificial reef sunk by the local community in 2016. It’s a fair size towing boat brought over from Bali that’s now home to all sorts of fish and creatures.

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

The spot can be hit or miss, depending on the general conditions that day and your experience level. But it’s 100% worth checking out! It’s one of the most popular sites and our favorite!

Halik

Halik is a dive site on the north of Gili Trawangan and is one of the best choices for divers supporting all different levels of certification.

Bright hard and soft corals and plenty of fish make this a popular spot for underwater photographers. The dive site is divided into deep Halik (for the advanced divers) and shallow for open water. But you can often dive both sections in one if your air consumption is reasonable.

The shallowest part is a small ledge, starting at 5-7m dropping down to 15-18m. Halik’s reef is very active, with a lot of cleaning behaviors, schooling fish, and baby white tip reef sharks hiding in the crevices.

Some even call it clownfish point as there are probably more than fifty anemones where you can find Nemo and his friends. The deep part is like an underwater highway and is truly stunning. Starting from 25m and as deep as 40m, you’ll often find yourself drifting with the current.

On your way, you’ll likely pass by some blue-spotted stingrays hiding in the sand, big schools of snappers, red tooth triggerfish, and maybe even a shark. As always, extend your bottom time through the use of enriched air nitrox and enjoy the ride!

Sunset Reef

A beautiful reef with colorful corals. Table corals create large ‘shelves’ housing plenty of species of marine life.

Han’s Reef

Legend says that the site was named after one of the locals, Mr. Han, that contributed to the discovery and protection of reefs around the Gili Islands. People often saw the man sitting in a Gili Air bar enjoying a 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 months. You’ll also find turtles, blue ring octopus, lionfish, and endless other reef life.

frogfish Hans Reef

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

Turbo

Divided into Shallow Turbo (for open water divers) and Deep Turbo (for advanced divers). Large coral ‘bommies’ and some gorgonian fans. The shallow area is great for small critters and reef fish, in the deep section you might see sharks, stingrays, and tuna.

Deep Turbo will take your breath away and is another of our favorites!

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 10+ times and never have the same dive.

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

Good Heart Reef

A gentle drift dive with some great macro opportunities. Plenty of butterflyfish, damselfish, and some cuttlefish. It’s a great spot for a night dive as well, look for octopus, shrimp, lobster, and Spanish dancers.

Biorocks

Gili T has the second-largest Biorock site in the world. These metal structures help to grow coral at a faster rate with the help of a safe, low voltage electrical current. The artificial reefs attract plenty of fish including boxfish, clownfish, bannerfish, cowfish, and frogfish.

Simon’s Reef

Beauty in the middle of nowhere, the north side of Meno is a tricky one to drop. The shallowest part of the reef is a large pinnacle starting from 15m all the way down to 40m, making it an advanced dive site. With its dramatic topography, this site will satisfy every diver needs.

banana nudibranch gili t

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, cuttlefish, and if you’re lucky…

You might even find a pygmy sea horse.

pigmy seahorse gili t

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

Just further north is a stunning part of it accessible only with more than one tank (sidemount, twins) and enriched air. Make sure to ask around how can you upgrade your certification and off you go!

Shark Point

sharkpoint dive site

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

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

Like a cherry on top between 25m and 30m sits Glen Nusa wreck, an artificial reef sank by the local community in 2016. It’s a fair size towing boat brought over from Bali that’s now home to all sorts of fish and creatures.

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

The spot can be hit or miss, depending on the general conditions that day and your experience level.

It’s 100% worth checking out though.

Deep Turbo

shark 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 10+ times and never have the same dive.

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

Halik

fish at halik

Halik is a dive site on the north of Gili Trawangan and is one of the best choices for divers supporting all different levels of certification.

The shallowest part is a small ledge, starting at 5-7m dropping down to 15-18m. Halik’s reef is very active, with a lot of cleaning behaviors, schooling fish, and baby white tip reef sharks hiding in the crevices.

Some even call it clownfish point as there are probably more than fifty anemones where you can find Nemo and his friends. The deep part is like an underwater highway and is truly stunning. Starting from 25m and as deep as 40m, you’ll often find yourself drifting with the current.

On your way, you’ll likely pass by some blue-spotted stingrays hiding in the sand, big schools of snappers, red tooth triggerfish, and maybe even a shark.

As always, extend your bottom time through the use of 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 discovery and protection of reefs around the Gili Islands. People often saw the man sitting in a Gili Air bar enjoying a 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.

turtle Hans Reef

You can often find a frogfish here, there is resident paddle flap scorpionfish that’s been hanging around for months. You’ll also find turtles, blue ring octopus, lionfish, and endless other reef life.

frogfish Hans Reef

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

Simon’s Reef

Beauty in the middle of nowhere, the north side of Meno is a tricky one to drop. The shallowest part of the reef is a large pinnacle starting from 15m all the way down to 40m, making it an advanced dive site. With its dramatic topography, this site will satisfy every diver needs.

banana nudibranch gili t

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, cuttlefish, and if you’re lucky…

You might even find a pygmy sea horse.

pigmy seahorse gili t

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

Just further north is a stunning part of it accessible only with more than one tank (sidemount, twins) and enriched air. Make sure to ask around how can you upgrade your certification and off you go!

Best Time of Year to Scuba Dive Gili Islands

Gili islands are accessible year-round, however as with everywhere else, some times of the year are better than others. The rainy season is November to April; not that it really matters for diving but the visibility is often reduced.

Peak tourist season from December-January, and again from July-September so expect things to book up very quickly and prepare for large crowds. Visibility is best from May to October, in the dry season but the waters do tend to be a little colder during these months.

Mid-season; May/June and October/November are generally the best time to visit for divers. It’s the perfect mix of excellent conditions and little crowds.

For those looking to scuba dive Indonesia, the Gili Islands are a must! But make sure you stick around for more than just diving as it’s also a great area to explore.

Which Gili Island to visit and how to get there

Gili Trawangan

A trip to scuba dive Gili will inevitably land you at some point in Gili T. Gili Trawangan, commonly referred to as Gili T, is the most popular of the Gili Islands, and known as the party island.

It’s the most cosmopolitan of the islands with plenty of beach bars, cafes, and accommodation options. Gili Trawangan is a hotspot for backpackers looking to meet others travelers and party.

That being said, the island is also good for romantic getaways and even family travels as it offers a little bit of everything.

How to Get To Gili Trawangan

The Gili Islands do not have their own airport; the closest airports are Denpasar in Bali or Praya airport in Lombok.

From Bali, you can take a fast boat from either Padang Bai or Amed. It is advised to book your spot at least the day before as the boats book up very quickly, especially during high season.

Most people leave from Padang Bai (you can catch an early morning shuttle from Kuta, but most people prefer to spend the night in Padang Bai to avoid the early rush in the morning).

The ride from Padang Bai takes about 1.5 hours. Leaving from Amed is another option, it’s less busy and also a shorter ride; only 45 minutes to Gili T.

From Lombok, travelers can either catch the slow, local boat or a fast boat.

The slow boat is by far the cheapest option, however, its significantly slower and can come with a fair bit of harassment. The only way to buy a ticket for the showboat is from the office located at Bangsal.

Do not buy a ticket form a local; it’s a scam. Also do not accept any help carrying your luggage to the boat unless you expect to pay.

If you do need help, discuss fees ahead of time (and make sure it’s in IDR not dollars).

The ferry has no real schedule but leaves when it is full (about 40 people). The ride takes about two hours.

The most common way to reach Gili Trawangan from Lombok is by fast boat. There are two places from which you can do this, Teluk Nara or Teluk Kodek.

Teluk Nara is the most commonly used, Teluk Kodek is usually for guests of resorts.

If you are planning on coming immediately after flying in, it might be tricky. Your best bet is to plan on spending the night in the nearby town of Senggigi and catch a boat the next morning.

It is important to know that none of the Gili Islands have any type of motorized vehicles. The best way to get around is by bicycle (you can rent them everywhere) or walking (the islands are quite small).

There are horse and carriage rides available (cidomos), however, if you choose to use these please make sure you do not overload the cart and try to pick a horse that looks in good condition. This is the best way you can support their care, or check out Horses Of Gili for more information.

Things To Do in Gili Trawangan

When it comes to the Gili Islands, Gili Trawangan probably has the most to offer in terms of activities and adventures outside of scuba diving and snorkeling.

Some of the most popular activities here include SUPing, kayaking, kite surfing, wakeboarding, and even surfing. For those looking for something a little more relaxing, there are glass-bottom boat rides, fishing, yoga, and of course massages.

When the evening comes around, don’t miss Gili T’s famous sunsets. The most popular spot to go is Sunset Bar.

You can also get one of yourself at the iconic photos of the ocean swings at sunset but, don’t let Instagram fool you; it’s not as peaceful as it seems.

There are always long lines to get this favorite shot and locals trying to take your photo and sell it to you as a souvenir.

After sunset, head to the night market for dinner. You can get everything from noodles or rice to a full grilled fish. Next, it’s time to check out Gili T’s famous party scene.

There are usually specific go-to spots depending on the night of the week, but a popular favorite is Sama Sama for reggae music.

If you want a quiet night you can also skip the bars in favor of a movie on the beach.

Gili Air

Gili Air is more laid back and relaxed than Gili Trawangan, but not quite as quiet and secluded as Gili Meno.

It’s a great spot for travelers who aren’t really wanting to party but are looking to experience the Gilis and be social.

Of all the Gili Islands, Gili Air is probably the most popular island for divers to stay at for this reason.

How to Get to Gili Air

Getting to Gili Air from either Bali or Lombok is essentially the same as getting to Gili Trawangan. Just make sure ahead of time that the boat stops at Gili Air as well as at Gili T, or make sure you get on a boat heading to Gili Air.

If you are coming from one of the other Gili Islands, there is an Island Hopping boat service. Service is limited so come early and expect delays. Another, perhaps easier, option is barter for a charter boat.

Things to Do in Gili Air

Not surprisingly, water sports are the main attractions here. Scuba diving, free diving, snorkeling, and surfing being the top picks. When you aren’t in the water you can try yoga, relax on the beach, or even take a cooking class.

In the evening you can grab dinner at the Gili Air Night Market, and grab a spot on the beach to watch the gorgeous sunsets.

Gili Meno

Scuba Diving Gilis is the main attraction on all 3 islands, but Gili Meno is probably the least popular and the quietest of the Gili Islands.

That being said, its lack of crowds often makes it a popular choice for couples looking for a romantic getaway. One of the perks of it being not as crowded as Gili Trawangan or Gili Meno is that the beaches here are much cleaner, and therefore much nicer.

If you are looking for a laid-back island for your diving vacation, Gili Meno is the place to go.

How to Get to Gili Meno

Gili Meno is the trickiest of the Gili islands to get to because it is not as popular. If you are coming from Bali or Lombok, check ahead of time to see if the boat will stop.

Most don’t have scheduled stops to Gili Meno, but may if enough people want to get off. Another option is to charter a private speedboat which can be pricey as an individual but isn’t too bad if you are going with a group.

It is also possible to get to Gili Meno from either Gili Trawangan or Gili Air. There is an Island Hopping boat service with limited service. It’s run by the same company as the public ferry from Bangsal so be prepared to come early and expect delays.

Perhaps the more convenient option is barter for a charter boat. Barter slowly and do not indicate you are in a rush, or else the price will be higher.

Things to Do in Gili Meno

As indicated above, Gili Meno is the quietest of the islands with no party scene. That being said it is the perfect spot for enjoying nature.

Aside from diving and snorkeling, there isn’t really that much to do on the island but sit back and relax.

That being said, Gili Meno has a couple of cool attractions including a turtle sanctuary where baby loggerheads and baby green turtles are kept until they are old enough to be released into the wild.

Gili Meno also has a bird park with over 300 species to be seen and heard. As with the other Gilis, sunset is always something to look forward to so find a spot on the beach or visit one of the local beach bars to enjoy.

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.

They have an 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 side-mount and closed-circuit rebreather with one of the leading technical instructors 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, which runs reef conservation and restoration projects.

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.

Visit Website

Blue Marlin Divers Site

Blue Marlin is one of the oldest and probably best-known dive centers on the island, with 5 locations around Indonesia. It’s history going back to the 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 for 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 center 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 Chappie’s 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.

Visit Website

Free Dive Gili Site

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

A team of beautifully built, enthusiastic and experienced 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 part in one of their daily yoga classes.

Visit Website

Liveaboards Gili Islands

Most liveaboards in Indonesia occur elsewhere in Indonesia. Learn more about Indonesian liveaboards in our in-depth guide.

Transport To 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 being 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

What’s Gili Diving Like?

Gili islands are a 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 its 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 blacktip reef sharks, rays, morays, anemone fish as well as sea horses, octopus, and frogfish. For those who love the small creatures, there are a few astounding muck diving sites in nearby Lombok bays.

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

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 an 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 the 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.

Free Dive Gili Site

You can refill your water bottle in many places on the island. We recommend downloading an app called RefillMyBottle 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 your perfect holiday view so if you won’t do it for the planet do it for yourself.

Credits and Contributors

The Scubaotter team would like to thanks the Trawangan Dive Team for helping put this guide together. Many of the photos included in this guide are from @KarolaTakesPhotos and @djash_e.

We’d also like to thank Laura Kazimierska for helping structure and write the article.

We hope to see you diving at the Gilis soon!

Austin Tuwiner Administrator

Austin is the website owner, and began scuba diving at just 16 years old. After traveling and diving all over the world, he is dedicated to bringing the hobby to more people.

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