Located a short speedboat ride off the coast of Lombok, the Gili Islands are three (very) small islands known for crystal clear water and their relaxed vibes. From largest to smallest they are: Gili Trawangan (the ‘party island’), Gili Air (more relaxed) and Gili Meno (rustic).
While many people travel to the islands by ferry from one of the several ports in Bali, we arrived in Lombok by plane from Australia. Since the international airport is a couple hours away, our accommodation arranged a driver for us to make the two hour drive along a very windy road to the ‘port’ where a pre-arranged speedboat would take us to the Gili Islands. All this for just over US$50. The port in Bangsal ended up being a a large shed-like, open aired building with no other amenities than a public (pay) toilet and a lot of touts trying to sell us space on a boat.
For a week long stay, we decided on Gili Trawangan as it had the most restaurant options. We were far from focused on partying (most nights we were in bed before the parties started!), but were there instead for one of my favourite hobbies – diving. Over the six days we did about 10 dives. Not a lot, but most days we dove twice during the day and one night we went for a night dive. There is also pretty decent snorkelling off the beach where we saw turtles most days.
The diving schools are quite different in the Gilis compared to past diving companies I’ve used with throughout South-east Asia and Australia. There are no set number of dives you have to do, as you can sign up for the morning dive and/or the afternoon and evening dives. Unless you do a lot of dives, the price is set per dive at about US$30 including all equipment. Most days Jarrad was content with a diving in the morning (9am departure, with sailing time to the dive spots anywhere from 5 – 15 minutes) and I would go again for the afternoon dive at 2pm. We dove with two companies – Manta Dive and Gili Divers. We initially went with Manta Dive because I’d read a lot about them online and they had good reviews. But since our accommodation was on the northern part of the east side of the island, it was quite a long walk from our accommodation. To mix things up, we gave Gili Divers a try. They were smaller and we got better vibe from them than Manta Dive, so we ended up doing most of our dives with Gili Divers.
Our days were spent eating breakfast, doing the morning dive, having a break at a ‘sand in your feet’ cafe / restaurant, another dive in the afternoon, then lounging on the beach in the late afternoon, with dinner and drinks at one of the many bars lining the beach.
The dives were located around the three islands and all were very different. There are a collection of our photos in the slideshow below. All dives had excellent visibility and all days the weather was calm. The only exception was the night dive…
Jarrad was doing the night dive as an ‘experience’ dives as part of the Advanced certification so for the first time we weren’t diving together. My dive started out alright. There was just me, another diver and the dive master. Diving in the dark is very different to diving during the day since your view is limited to what is caught by the beam of your flashlight. The dive started out ok, but then all of a sudden, we were pulled into a current and started flying through the water. When I say flying, with the only things I could see being the small organisms in the water, it reminded me of Star Wars when the spaceships move at light speed! This wouldn’t normally be an issue, but we were just off the beach so we had to dodge ropes anchoring boats and large rock ‘bommies’. I spent all my time trying to slow down and not crash into anything. My dive master eventually got us to stop and found us a rope to hold onto so we could do our safety stop. All my flashlight picked up were the tiny sea snakes that were biting me through my wetsuit. It was the longest five minutes ever!
Once back on the boat, I saw that we were the first aboard. I also heard that a diver was missing. All I could think of was that it was Jarrad (he’s not a great diving buddy – he tends to stray). It was a long 10 minutes until I heard that the diver was found and theat everyone in the group had made it back to the beach. We ended up travelling about 2km in about 10 minutes, which is pretty darn fast underwater in the dark! I was really freaked out by the experience, meanwhile Jarrad was saying how much fun it was and he wanted to go again. Go figure!
The following is a collection of my favourite pictures from the many dives we did. Since the camera was only supposed to go to 18m, on the deeper dives (30m), the camera remaind on the boat. Visibility on most days was 20 – 30m and the water was about 28 degrees.
Besides my near-death experience, the rest of the week was amazing. Great food, great beer, beautiful beaches, glorious views of Bali at sunset, boat rides and of course the diving was incredible.
The pictures below is our week in photos.