Indonesia is one of the most magical places that I’ve been lucky enough to visit, and Gili islands diving is some of the best out there. These three beautiful islands all have something unique to offer, and there are plenty of options for diving, whatever level you’re at!
‘Gili’ means ‘small island’ in Bahasa, and there are plenty of them dotted around Indonesia. The three most famous and popular ones are Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan. While each of these hubs of paradise offers something a little bit different, the ocean around them is full of stunning marine life. Gili islands diving is definitely worth adding to your ‘to-do’ list in Indonesia, whether you’re a newbie or a pro.
The ocean here is home to two varieties of turtle – Hawksbill and Green. There are also many different species of fish, anemone and (harmless!) sharks. While snorkelling can give you a snapshot of marine life, diving is the best way to really experience all that the waters have to offer.
My favourite of the islands, Air offers a mix of quiet and vibrancy. Picture beautiful beaches mixed in with sunset cocktails. Days here are spent snorkelling, eating and, of course, diving. There are plenty of dive shops on this island, many of which offer accommodation alongside the centres themselves.
If you’re new to diving, you can head out on a discover dive. This basically means that you don’t gain a qualification, but go through enough training to be allowed to head out into the water. You’ll be supervised very carefully the whole time, and the aim of these dives is to explore and enjoy. You won’t learn all about the technical side of diving, but you’ll still get the opportunity to spot colourful marine life. Dive shops such as Manta Dive are ideal for you!
If you fancy working towards your PADI, there are lots of places to do this as well. Most of the dive schools here offer a range of qualifications, such as becoming a Dive Instructor or Dive Master. Whatever level you’re at, this island is full of opportunities. While you’re still learning, look out for Oceans 5 and 7Seas. They come highly recommended and are pretty big schools on the island, so are some of the best companies to approach for your Gili islands diving experience.
For those of you who are already advanced divers, why not plan your own trip? Gili Pilih is a new centre based in Gili Air. It offers those who already have plenty of experience the chance to build their own dive. You can choose where you go, and the centre is super flexible, with the aim of making sure you have the best possible time.
Gili Meno is ideal for any honeymooners or couples who fancy a romantic getaway. While diving may not seem like a typical honeymoon activity, it’s a lovely way to spend time on the island. Again, there are loads of opportunities to dive, whatever your ability or aims. Stay in a dive resort, or book a little bungalow and find a dive shop on your wanders around the island. Meno is pretty tiny, so you won’t have to look too hard! These are my recommendations for dive shops to keep an eye out for…
If you’re a beginner and fancy giving it a go, head to Blue Marlin Dive for one of their discover dives. This is a great way to get a feel for it and see if you want to progress further. It’s also just a really fun way to spend an afternoon, especially with someone you love. In Meno, your Gili islands diving may not be as sociable as if you head to Gili T, but it’s still a lovely way to explore the oceans.
For those of you who fancy working towards a qualification, or climbing up the diving-ladder, pop in to Gili Meno Divers. They offer a range of options, so it’s perfect if you’re not 100% sure what you fancy doing! Freediving is also popular at this dive centre, and is well worth trying.
Gili T is the party island of the trio, with a big backpacker scene and heaps of dive shops. As always, there are lots of options, so you can wander and find one that suits your needs. Some of the more popular ones include Gili Divers and Blue Marlin.
There are opportunities to try diving for the first time, as well as working towards becoming a Dive Master. If you fancy freediving, head to Freedive Gili. This is something that has to be taken very seriously, as you’ll be diving with no equipment! Make sure you go to a trusted dive centre and ask as many questions as you want to. It’s important to feel comfortable during your Gili islands diving adventures in order to get the most out of them.
Here you’ll find turtles as well as other stunning sea creatures, so give yourself some time to fully explore underwater. Diving is safe and very addictive, so I’d suggest giving it a go at the beginning of your trip if possible. This is also a really great way to meet people on the island. A lot of travellers who come to Gili T will be there for the fantastic diving, so join in and find a group to hang out with.
You’ll find that there are some companies that own dive shops here as well as on the other gilis, which is always a good sign. Travel between the three islands to explore more of the reef and really make the most of your trip. Gili islands diving can be something really fun to challenge yourself with, it can be a romantic experience to share with your partner, or it can be an exciting (and very different!) way to meet new people.
Find an island that suits you, and then find a dive shop that gives you good vibes. Don’t stress too much – the dive shops here are all qualified and want to give you the best possible experience. With oceans like we have here, you’re bound to have an incredible time, whichever company you go with!