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What To Expect On A Gili Islands Liveaboard
Liveaboards that visit the Gili Islands will take divers to a very well known dive area in this part of Indonesia. In the local language Sasak, Gili translates as ‘small island’ or islet. Although there are many ‘Gilis’ in Indonesia, the three to the North of Lombok island really stand out in the diving world. Indonesian liveaboard dive trips in the Gili islands is incredibly popular due to the unspoilt nature of the area and the abundance of marine life.
Gili Trawangan (or Gili T) is the largest of the islands and the most populated with 1500 people living there. Gilis Meno and Air are slightly smaller and less populated with secluded beaches and beautiful reefs. There is no motorised transport allowed on any of the Gili islands and anyone staying there must travel by bicycle or by foot. The islands are beautiful but the facilities are limited with only a few bars and restaurants. A perfect reason to visit by liveaboard and have your very own floating dive resort on your doorstep every day.
The main business in the Gilis is tourism as they are home to mangrove forest and have a small surface area, making any farming very difficult. There are a few small resorts on the islands although these are somewhat limited in facilities and fresh water must be brought in from the mainland. These resorts mainly focus on water sports and honeymooners looking to enjoy more secluded beaches. The majority of people who visit the Gilis do so from a diving liveaboard, from the nearby islands of Lombok and Bali.
The Gili Islands Underwater
Diving is one of the main activities around the Gili islands due to the pristine reefs that surround the islets and the slopes further out which attract bigger animals. The reefs around the islands are fairly shallow with excellent visibility, up to 20 meters or more. They are full of shallow reef sites, perfect for afternoons dives on a liveaboard. The reefs around the Gilis are a liveaboard dive cruise location that is suitable for new and experienced divers.
These reefs are home to a stunning variety of colourful hard and soft corals and beautiful reef fish. The reefs are also home to a rather large number of turtles thanks to local efforts to protect them. It is not unusual to see several in a single dive. Cuttlefish and blue spotted stingrays are also common sights in shallower dives, both make great subjects for photographers.
A little further out, the islands slope off into deeper water and here is the place to see the bigger animals. If there is a little current on these slopes there is a chance that you will see white and black tipped reef sharks patrolling the reefs and juveniles with their tails sticking out from coral bommies. Mantas are also seen sometimes passing by and when the current picks up a bit more there is even a chance to see mola mola.
Dive Sites of the Gili Islands
Shark Point is one of the deeper sites for diving in the Gili islands and this site is very popular with diving liveaboards because of the number and variety of marine life. The dive starts on the shallow reef where there is an abundance of coral and lots of turtles to swim with. Deeper down you can see white and black tipped reef sharks and even mantas gliding gracefully past. It is worth noting that this dive site is 35 meters at the deepest point and isn’t really suitable for beginners.
On the opposite end of Gili Trawangan from Shark Point is Manta Point. This is also a sloping reef with plenty of turtles and some small white tips sleeping under rocks in the deeper parts. There is also of course a good chance of spotting mantas passing over the reef, so best to keep your eyes peeled.
On Gili Air there are a number of sites that are more suitable for beginners, so if this is your first time on a diving liveaboard this could be the place for you. The reefs slope gently down to around 20 meters with fantastic shallow reefs full of turtles, shrimp and pygmy seahorses. At Han Rock there is also the Turtle Rock where green sea turtles are known to sit on the sponges to rest. Gili Meno shares the easy diving conditions of Gili Air and the shallow reefs are often home to beautiful eagle rays and plenty of turtles.
Top Tips for Divers
- Make the most of your time by boarding and disembarking from a different location, more diving less transit time.
- Stay up on deck while you are travelling from Lombok to the Gilis as dolphins often pass through this area in large pods.
Getting to the Gili Islands
There are a few options for getting to the Gilis but for divers the best choice is on a dedicated dive cruise. There are several departure points including Lombok and Bali close to the islands. If you have some time and you want to take in the amazing Komodo Park as well it is also possible to depart from Labuan Bajo in Flores and work your way across.
There are a number of different options for Indonesian liveaboard diving in the Gilis to choose from. There are numerous luxury motor ships which offer top of the line facilities and accommodation. If you are on a budget however there are clean and simple options as well with shared cabins back-packer style. One of the most popular options for liveaboard diving in Indonesia is a traditional sailing boat or phinisi. These beautiful sailing ships offer a peaceful experience bobbing around the beautiful islands.
Flying to this part of Indonesia is relatively easy but usually requires a few connections. Bali and Lombok have international airports but the one in Lombok is smaller and the flights are normally from Singapore or Jakarta. Bali airport also offers connections to Labuan Bajo if you want to start there.