Scuba diving in Gili Trawangan is a real experience. This island, commonly known as just Gili T, is a part of the stunning Gili isles, which string through the Bali Sea like a series of tropical gemstones. It sits between pockets of pristine reefs and colorful coral gardens that are forever washed by turquoise water. So, it’s hardly a surprise that so many travelers choose to come over from Bali and Lombok to strap on the bubble tanks.
In fact, Gili T sits just on the edge of an area that’s known as the Coral Triangle, a vast region of very biodiverse marine habitat that stretches from the Philippines in the east to the edges of the Thai Gulf in the north. The upshot? Divers can look forward to an underwater wonderworld that’s replete with animal life, and there are plenty of dive schools touting affordable PADI courses to match.
This guide to the scuba diving in Gili Trawangan will take a look at all the ins and outs of going under the H2O in this corner of Indonesia. It will focus on some of the top dive spots in the sparkling seas around the island, highlight a few of the creatures you can expect to find, and reveal the best time of year to go diving here. Let’s begin…
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What makes scuba diving in Gili Trawangan so good?
There are loads of things that make the scuba diving in Gili T some of the best in Asia. First off, the dive spots here are very accessible. Most are <20 minutes by boat from the main docks on the east shoreline of the island, so you won’t have to travel far before getting under the water. On top of that, the water is generally warm all year round (between 80-87 F) and visibility can hit 35 meters in the peak of the dry season.
There’s also a lot to be said for the sheer variety of diving that goes on in Gili T. There are places for all levels, from total beginner to seasoned pro, along with a variety of different dive types, from muck diving to drift diving (a particular speciality of the Gilis – check below for more info).
Probably more than anything else, though, it’s the range of dive schools and dive clubs that now make their home here. They offer the standard open-water PADI, along with specialist wreck diving courses, eco diving courses, and even dive rescue courses. It’s an endless selection and they shouldn’t break the bank, because scuba diving in Gili Trawangan is some of the most affordable in Southeast Asia.
Drift diving in Gili Trawangan
Lots of the diving in Gili Trawangan is a type of diving known as drift diving. Divers literally drift with the currents through the dive site, then get picked up by the boat afterward. Once completed, divers launch their surface marker buoy to signal to the boat where to be collected.
There are many advantages to this type of diving, one being a more relaxed dive as you do not need to swim, just keep neutrally buoyant and look for some awesome marine life! Drifting is very relaxing when the current is small, however careful attention is required when the current is medium or strong.
Another benefit of drift diving is not having to navigate your way back to the boat. This can take away a lot of pressure, knowing that the boat will be waiting for you at the end. Drift diving in Gili Trawangan is also incredible, as you get to watch as beautiful corals and marine life passes by like an underwater montage below you.
The best dive sites in Gili Trawangan
There are upwards of 20 amazing dive sites around the Gili islands, and the most popular of the lot are located around Gili Trawangan itself. Of the lot, Shark Point is probably the most famous of all. It was mentioned by more than half the instructors we contacted as the best dive spot overall. It forms on a coral plateau between 10-18m on the north side of the island. It’s home to a small wreck and attracts rare fish like dogtooth tuna and manta rays. It’s also a great place to go and spot baby sharks.
Some of the other top dive sites in Gili T are:
- Halik reef – Halik is one of the most colorful dive sites which has a lot to offer. The topography of this dive site is a slope, with parallel ridges. In Halik, you can find moray eels, scorpionfish, lionfish, sea snakes, sharks, and eagle rays if you are lucky!
- Deep Turbo – An advanced dive site where the currents can be strong, Deep Turbo is about seeing the marine life where the coral gardens drop into the deeper Bali Sea.
- Meno Wall – The Meno Wall is the drop off at the edge of Gili Meno, another island in the Gili chain. It’s a popular place for those practicing going deeper and great for spotting smaller fish and turtles.
- Jack Point – An advanced-level spot that goes to 24m below to some of the most pristine coral reef around the Gilis.
- Manta Point – An all-level spot that is a regular haunt of sea turtles.
- Simon’s Reef – A fantastic location for a drift dive where you can see stunning corals starting on a white sanded seabed.
- Marlin Hill – A coral slope that goes from five meters to 30 meters, this is an excellent place for encounters with sea turtles.
- Mirko’s Reef – Home to cuttlefish, Butterflyfish, and scorpionfish, this reef offers an open-water descent of 10m.
Diving in Gili Trawangan is also amazing, not just because of the natural beauty, but the amazing artificial reefs. Biorocks is one of our beautiful dive sites which is also very interesting. Large metal structures have been placed underwater, with an electrical current running through them and pieces of corals attached. This electricity causes the calcium carbonate in the water to solidify quicker, promoting coral growth.
What marine life can I see when scuba diving in Gili Trawangan?
There’s all sorts of animal life waiting to be discovered under the rich waters of Gili T. Some exist at certain dive spots, while others can be spotted all over the island.
Blacktip and whitetip reef sharks are locals here, which can be found in shark caves or swimming in the blue. In shallow shark point, you can find a huge range of marine life such as sharks, octopuses, and moray eels. In Halik, you can find moray eels, scorpionfish, lionfish, sea snakes, sharks, and eagle rays if you are lucky! Hiding in the sand or under the edges of rocks, blue-spotted stingrays can be found.
Peacock mantis shrimps can be found in a few dive sites, but most commonly Halik. These organisms are very interesting. They are beautifully colored, with a set of protruding eyes, allowing them to see on a 360 degrees axis. Their two front claws can punch so fast and hard, the water around their fists heats up to the same temperature as the surface of the sun! The force of these punches is so strong, it can even break steel.
This island is also a turtle hotspot. It’s home to two species: The green turtle and the hawksbill turtle. The green turtle is the largest out of the two, reaching up to 47 inches in length! It is the only herbivore among the different turtle species, mainly eating corals and seagrass. The hawksbill turtle is slightly smaller, reaching 35 inches in length, with overlapping patterned shells. Hawksbill turtles eat jellyfish, anemones, and other marine organisms. These are beautiful animals, which attract thousands of tourists to come to visit and dive in Gili Trawangan.
You might also get to see cuttlefish. These creatures are very spectacular. They have one large fin circling their body like a skirt, which allows them to move elegantly through the water. When they require speed, they can propel with jet propulsion. Did you know that Cuttlefish have three hearts? Two pump blood to their gills, and one pumps oxygenated blood around their body!
The best dive instructors and dive schools on Gili Trawangan
There’s an overload of awesome dive schools on Gili Trawangan today. Seriously, it can seem like every turn you make there’s another PADI-certified spot ready and waiting for would-be bubble blowers. In fact, diving in Gili Trawangan is in such high demand that there are now around 26 dive shops, each with numerous dive instructors. All dive shops here have different personalities, suiting different groups of people. When diving here in Gili Trawangan, it is important to find a shop that suits you and can cater to your needs. For example, different dive shops can offer instructors who speak different languages. Courses and fun dives are available in English, Dutch, French and Swedish.
Divers on Gili Trawangan can benefit from the GIDA agreement. It’s an island-wide promise, standing for the Gili Islands Diving Association. It sets standards, which all members agree to adhere to. For example, all dive shop prices and bundle packages are the same across all GIDA members.
Here are just a few of the top dive schools on Gili T you can pick from:
- Trawangan Dive Centre – A long-running name on the Gili T dive scene, this school runs all levels of PADI courses and even technical specialist dives (deep diver, wreck diver, night diver).
- DSM Dive Gili Trawangan & Lombok – A well-rated dive school that runs dives on Gili T and nearby Lombok.
- Manta Dive – Manta Dive runs dive courses for all levels and has some particularly nice in-house accommodation options for those on a residential dive course.
- Blue Marlin – One of the largest dive operators in Indo, with outlets on Gili T, Gili Meno, and Komodo, this one’s a tried-and-tested favorite.
The Gili Eco Trust – diving sustainably
The Gili Eco Trust is a non-profit organization that aims to create a more sustainable island. In addition to planting corals and restoring the reefs where divers come to be wowed at the underwater creatures, they collect and recycle island waste, protect and aid the turtles, and help the island cats and horses. They also make efforts to raise awareness about local ecotourism on the Gilis.
Divers can opt to volunteer with the Gili Eco Trust to give a little back to the natural habitat. There are organized beach cleans every Friday, for example. They’re a great way to help pull some rubbish out of the ocean and meet other, likeminded divers exploring Gili T. There’s a new location every week and free snacks are provided right after.
Turtle conservation is one thing Gili Ecotrust is most famous for. Although turtles are found here in great numbers, the green turtle is classified as endangered, while the hawksbill is critically endangered. Therefore, it is hugely important to protect the local turtles and aid them to ensure their nesting experiences are successful. Every morning, a volunteer circles the island looking for turtle tracks and nests, to mark their locations and keep them unharmed. When their hatching day arrives, Gili Eco Trust then ensures their journey to the ocean is safe and secure.
When they’re are not busy planting corals, tracking turtles, diving, or helping manage waste, the managers and Gili Eco Trust volunteers also plant trees. They are currently planting hundreds of native and endemic trees, creating a forest nursery on Gili Trawangan!
Diving in Gili Trawangan – a conclusion
The diving in Gili Trawangan is nothing short of epic. The island hosts some of the clearest waters and most pristine coral reefs in the whole of Southeast Asia. Spots like Shark Point and Deep Turbo can cater to divers of all levels, with depths ranging from 5m to 30m+. Gili T is also home to fantastic drift dives that use the currents of the Bali Sea to reveal even more of the underwater coral beds. To top it all off – there’s an excellent array of dive schools, running everything from starter PADI courses to expert dives.