If you’re travelling to Indonesia, and more specifically Bali you’re very likely to make the trip over to the idyllic islands of Gili Trawagan, Gili Air & Gili Meno. Gili Trawangan is the biggest and most popular of the three islands, and thousands of travellers make the trip to this slice of paradise every year to become a qualified diver or to extend their knowledge and practice. Scuba diving in Gili Trawangan offers some of the best diving in the world. Whether you’re a complete beginner or you’ve logged thousands of dives, there’s something for everyone.
What makes Gili Trawangan such a great place to learn is the warm water year round, high visibility, short distances to dive sites, and common sightings of unique marine life including; Green and Loggerhead Turtles, Reef Sharks, Moray Eels, Manta-rays and hundreds of species of fish.
Where Is Gili Trawangan & How To Get There
As mentioned earlier, Gili Trawangan is the largest of the Gili Islands and is located off the North West Coast of Lombok in the heart of the Coral Triangle. Meaning it’s spoilt for some of the best marine biodiversity in the world!
There are a few different ways to can get to Gili Trawangan. The first and most convenient is getting a fast boat from either Padang Bai (1 hour east of Ubud) which takes about 1 1/2 hours to reach Gili Trawangan or from Serangan (located near Sanur, Nusa Dua, Kuta etc) which takes about 2 1/2 hours. Where you get the fast boat from depends on where you’re staying the night before.
I highly recommend using Blue Water Express to get you to and from Gili Trawangan, they are a little more expensive than other companies however they include free pick up and drop off to your hotel, I’ve never been delayed or late arriving and just the overall experience is second to none.
The other option is taking a flight to Lombok, driving to the ferry port and then getting a local boat (15 minutes) over to Gili Trawangan. Surprisingly this may work out cheaper than getting a fast boat, however it will take longer and is most likely going to be more of a hassle with luggage etc. Alternatively, if you’re already in Lombok, getting the local ferry is super cheap and the best option.
Scuba Diving in Gili Trawangan with the Best Dive School: Manta Dive
I’ve dived with plenty of dive schools all around the world. From Australia to Greece to Fiji to Barbados and beyond, and without a doubt Manta Dive is my favourite dive school! Everything about this dive school is incredible. I cannot fault any of the instructors, they’re some of the most down to earth, friendly, professional and fun people I’ve met. For me, there’s nothing worse than having a boring and unfriendly experience when you’re completing your Open Water Course for the first time.
At Manta Dive, this is the first thing you’ll notice that is different to any other dive school. They welcome you as a friend, instead of just another student. Their huge social area which includes a bar, restaurant and teaching area is a huge communal space that’s always thriving and busy.
I spent 5 days scuba diving in Gili Trawangan with Manta Dive, and at the end I’ve decided I’ll be returning at the end of the year to become a DMT (dive master trainee), which by the end I’ll become a Dive Master. Before diving here, I was set on doing my DMT in Koh Tao as I love the island and the dive schools there are great too. However, even at the end of the first day at Manta Dive, I already knew I wanted to do it here as everything about this dive school was first class.
PADI or SSI?
This is a very common question in the diving world, should you become PADI or SSI qualified? There isn’t really an answer, it’s completely up to you and the dive school you choose. Some dive schools offer both and some are either or. Both follow guidelines set forth by the WRSTC (World Recreational Scuba Training Council), which means that they are both qualified to train and certify new divers.
Having said that, when it comes to recreational courses, such as your Open Water or Advanced Open Water, SSI has a reputation of being more flexible in its teaching techniques than PADI. SSI allows instructors greater flexibility in sequencing their training sessions depending on the student’s personal training needs. Whereas a PADI instructor will insist that you complete the first dive skills before being allowed to move on to the next skill.
In addition, SSI are arguably keeping up with technological age a little bit better than PADI and have made online materials much more accessible and cheaper for their students than PADI.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t wholly matter which you go for. I am a PADI girl, I’ve done both my Open Water and Advanced as PADI, however for my Rescue Course I am switching over to SSI as Manta Dive is purely an SSI qualified dive school.
How Much Will It Cost?
The great thing about completing your scuba diving in Gili Trawangan is the local law on the island that all Dive Schools must keep prices equal across the whole island.
Currently the Open Water Course is 5.9 million Indonesian Rupiah which is roughly US$410 (£320). While the Advanced Open Water Course is 4.9 million Indonesian Rupiah which is roughly US$340 (£270). However these prices do not include accommodation.
Best Dive Sites on Gili Trawangan
Gili Trawangan has some of the best and most diverse dive sites in the world. There are plenty of dive sites to choose from, so even if you did your DMT here you won’t get bored easily let’s put it that way!
During my 5 days, we visited some epic sites and saw a huge array of marine life from turtle to reef sharks, moray eels, triggerfish to name a few! So without further ado, here are my favourite dives sites in Gili Trawangan:
Located to the north of Gili Trawangan is Shark Point, it’s one of the more popular dive sites on the island so in peak it can get quite crowded. However Manta Dive does an excellent job at scheduling dives when other schools aren’t there. Shark Point is great for any diver, starting at around 18m and dropping to around 30m it’s the perfect place to see larger marine life including reef sharks, stingrays and large schools of travelly.
This is probably one of the best dive sites for beginners, starting out at just 5m and dropping to roughly 25m, Halik has a huge array of colourful corals and turtle sightings are common. When I dived this site I counted over 8 turtles in under 45 minutes! So you’ll be very unlucky if you don’t spot one. This site is also great for drift diving due to the fairly strong current here.
I know what you’re thinking, is this THE place to spot the infamous manta-ray?! Sadly, it is very rare to see manta-rays at this dive site however not impossible. Despite this; the mild current, gently sloping reef, variety of corals and the common sightings of stingrays, turtles and large schools of fish make up for the lack of mantas.
This is another reason why I love Manta Dive so much. Not only are the instructors your teacher but they are also well renowned underwater photographers!
I’ve been asked by so many people through my Instagram how I took all these incredible crisp shots underwater, but honestly all of this was down to the incredible team at Manta Dive, especially my good friend Alfie (@Alfredminnaarphotography on Instagram).
All the underwater shots in the blog post are captured by Alfie!
Where To Stay On Gili Trawangan?
Manta Dive is located opposite the ferry pier, and right in the centre of the hustle and bustle in Gili Trawangan, so what better place to stay than at Manta Dive itself! You have the diving, great restaurants, bars and the ferry pier right at your doorstep.
What’s more, Manta Dive’s accommodation is absolutely jaw dropping! Without a doubt the most luxurious dive accommodation I’ve come across! Located behind the main dive school is an oasis of tropical gardens, a gorgeous pool and little private villas that feel like you’ve arrived in true paradise!
All rooms are modern and have great A/C and free breakfast every morning.
Do note, that rooms get booked up very quickly as it’s a popular place to stay. Therefore, I recommend booking this well in advance to make sure you’re not disappointed.
Located in a coconut plantation in the centre of the island, these villas are great if you’re wanting more seclusion during your non diving days or when you want the afternoon off to just relax.
Most villas also have their own private pool, at a really great price. They were recently refurbished too, meaning that all villas have great A/C, modern interiors and include free breakfast.
To get to the dive schools it’s about a 10 minute bike ride!
Gili Treehouses offers a unique experience on Gili Trawagan. If you’re wanting something different and super Instagrammable this is the perfect place!
Featuring A/C, private plunge pool, free wifi, free breakfast and free bike usage.
Sunset Point is 450 yards from Gili Treehouses, while Turtle Conservation Gili Trawangan is an 18-minute walk from the property.
Summary: Scuba Diving In Gili Trawangan
Overall, if you’re visiting the Gili Islands scuba diving is a must! It’s not surprising it’s one of the most popular dive locations in South East Asia after Koh Tao. Having dived at both locations, I can honestly say that Gili Trawangan hands down beats Koh Tao. It’s less crowded, few number of dive schools, better visibility, healthier coral, plenty of marine life and you’ve got Bali at your doorstep! What more could you want?!
Oh and not to mention Gili Trawangan is home to the most awesome and fun dive school in the world – Manta Dive! 😉
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