The Gilis are three small islands (between 1 and 1.5kms wide), separated by channels of less than 1km in Kambal Bay within 1km of the coast of Lombok.
There are lots of different ways of diving Gili Islands; lots of turtles, lots of drift diving in the currents between the islands, and plenty of natural features like Secret Reef and Meno Wall. Each of the dive sites has different features, and if you dive with one dive centre, they’ll make sure you get plenty of variety.
From a pack-packers perspective, they are en route from Bali to Lombok – as many of the fast ferries stop there. The three islands have three distinct characters: the largest Gili Trawangan is considered the ‘party’ island; the smallest middle one called Gili Meno, attracts mainly couples and guests are typically tucked up in bed by 9.30pm. The one closest to Lombok is Gili Air which succeeds in striking a balance between the other two. The diving is on the reefs all around the three islands, and the channels between them, and as they are so close together, it is possible to dive any of the well-known sites via the dive operators on any of the islands. A couple of places have a ‘house reef’ but most of the diving is by boat.
There is no motorized transport on the Gilis, but there is plenty of accommodation from top end down to traditional beachside bungalows. There are frequent fast ferries to Bali and Lombok. There are plenty of eateries and other things to do as well as dive.
Off the north western coast of Lombok.
There are three operators running boats from Padang Bai to the Gilis. These companies have their schedules on their websites:
The trip is just over an hour to two hours depending on route and conditions. Some boats stop at Lombok on the way, while others don’t. Transfers to Padang Bai are typically included, but there may be a surcharge if you are a bit remote. Definitely do your research and buy a ticket in advance – if you want to turn up and go – otherwise you could be hanging around in the organised chaos that is Padang Bai. It can be a bit of a free-for-all at the islands too, as there is no jetty, you wade ashore.
However, rest assured, the Gilis are definitely worth the effort – it’s a very chilled place once you’re there.
The majority of dive sites are coral reefs, but there are also gardens, bommies and walls, and one wreck. The dives tend to be drift dives too, as the water runs between the islands. This has the advantage of keeping the water clear and typically the vis is very good.
It would be fair to say that there is no ‘must do’ dive as they are all different, and good dives in their own right. Here is a short compilation of footage from a few different sites.
The dives below give a good overview of the variety of diving in the Gilis.