The Gili Islands and Gili Trawangan especially, are known for their backpacker culture, beach bars, and incredible underwater world. Many people come here to snorkel, scuba dive, or simply relax at some of Indonesia’s most beautiful beaches. The ocean is calm, and you can see a lot of marine wildlife, most famously green sea turtles.
The thing that makes snorkeling in Gili Trawangan unique is the fact that you do not need to pay for an expensive boat tour to go snorkeling at prime locations. Simply head to the beach and wade into the shallow waters, where you’ll find healthy reefs and hundreds of native fish species!
If you’re looking for the best snorkeling spots around Gili T, you’re in luck. Written by a German backpacker who now calls Indonesia home, this guide reveals the best places to see marine life and shares some great tips for snorkeling in Gili Trawangan.
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A Guide to Snorkeling in Gili Trawangan, Indonesia
An Introduction to the Gili Islands
While the islands are similar, they each have their own reputation, Gili T is known for nightlife and swimming with turtles, Gili Meno for romantic resorts and family vacations, and Gili Air for its laidback lifestyle and quiet atmosphere.
You can snorkel around all three islands, but Gili Trawangan has some of the most beautiful reefs right at the beach, where you can spot turtles and see hundreds of colorful fish.
Where to Go Snorkeling in Gili Trawangan
You can snorkel all along the coast of Gili Trawangan, but there are definitely areas that are more beautiful than others. A lot of the north and western coastlines are very shallow, and you can only swim here during high tide. The ocean floor mostly consists of rocks, but you’ll still be able to spot some turtles and fish.
The best snorkeling locations in Gili Trawangan can be found on the east and south coast of the island. The most famous, Turtle Point, is located in the upper eastern corner and is a spot where you’re almost guaranteed to find turtles. Many beach vendors who rent out snorkeling gear will even give you your money back if you don’t!
Those just arriving in Gili Trawangan should begin snorkeling at Turtle Point. This area is known for its powerful current which helps you drift south along the coast of the island. It almost feels like a big lazy river, taking you past world-class snorkeling sites. Sit somewhere along the beach at Turtle Point and just dive into the crystal-clear cool waters.
Do You Need Your Own Snorkeling Equipment?
There’s no need to weigh down your backpack with a mask, snorkel, or fins. Simply, grab your bike and cycle along the coast of Turtle Point, where you’ll be able to pick a beach shack to relax and snorkel. Snorkeling equipment is available to rent in Gili Trawangan all along the east coast.
Prices are reasonable and you can expect to pay somewhere between $2USD and $5USD per day for your gear. This includes complimentary use of bean bags or sunbeds along the beach. Vendors also sell cold drinks and food to those hanging out on the beach which means you can easily spend an entire day here.
Top Tips for Snorkeling in Gili Trawangan
Make the most of your snorkeling trip to Gili Trawangan by keeping these tips in mind:
- Compare prices of the beach shacks offering snorkeling equipment. Some may be considerably more expensive, even though the quality of masks and snorkels is the same.
- Keep an eye on the tide charts before you plan your snorkeling trip. It can be challenging to snorkel during low tide in Gili T, although it’s not impossible. You’ll just have to wade through shallow waters for a while before you reach the reefs. During high tide, you’ll be able to see a lot more, and your chances of encountering turtles are increased.
- Wear a t-shirt or swim shirt while you are in the water. The sun in Indonesia is extremely strong, and you can get sunburned even on a cloudy day if you’re in the water for long enough. Protect your skin from the UV rays as much as possible and cover-up.
- Only use reef-friendly sunscreen. Sun protection which contains octinoxate and oxybenzone is damaging to marine life and therefore should be avoided.
- Gili Trawangan has sandy beaches, but many areas also have a considerable amount of coral which can be painful when walking or standing. Definitely make sure to wear either fins or water shoes to protect your feet while you’re in the water.
- Since Gili Trawangan’s currents are so strong, it’s highly recommended to wear fins when you snorkel. This will allow you to swim faster and stay in the water for longer, especially in the deeper areas.
- Do not try to swim from Gili Trawangan to Gili Meno. While the two islands might look like they’re located very close together, the distance between them is actually considerable. It’s not safe to swim or paddle to Gili Meno from Gili T.
- Rent a stand-up paddle or kayak at least once during your time in Gili T. This is best done at Turtle Point, where the water is usually calm, and you can snorkel and see turtles. Bring your mask and snorkel on the stand-up paddle, and jump in the water when you get the chance. This is the perfect way to rest in between swimming too.
- There are always boats arriving and departing from Gili T. The dive boats and smaller snorkeling tours tend to dock somewhere close to Turtle Point, which means they need to navigate around tourists swimming along the coastline. While most boat captains are very experienced in this, it’s still wise to keep an eye out for boats while you are in the water and keep a safe distance from them.
- If you want to snorkel in deeper water and areas that aren’t as easy to access as Turtle Point, you should consider joining a boat tour. There are a variety of different options in Gili Trawangan depending on your budget and what you’re looking for.
- Try to visit Gili Trawangan during the high season, which is approximately from June to September. These months are the driest, and underwater visibility is at its best. While the rainy season is quieter with fewer other tourists around, you might encounter cloudy waters and an increased amount of trash in the ocean.
How You Can Help Protect the Environment in Gili Trawangan
Protecting the delicate environment and unique underwater ecosystem of Gili Trawangan is essential. Many of the native animal species in Gili T are endangered, including both the Green Sea Turtle and the Hawksbill Turtle. Make sure to be mindful of the environment when you snorkel in Gili Trawangan and take any trash with you.
There are occasional beach cleanups on the island which you can join, but even if there isn’t an event going on during your time there, you could always start your own. Just grab a large trash bag and collect plastic or other rubbish you see along the beach. Many of the larger resorts and hotels will be happy to take the bags once they are full.
The most important thing to keep in mind when you are snorkeling in Gili Trawangan is to avoid touching anything underwater. This especially applies to coral and turtles, which can be negatively impacted by human interference. You should also not take any shells or sand as souvenirs.
Keep a safe distance from the marine life around you and do not chase or get too close to turtles. They may be scared of humans and might even become too intimidated to surface to breathe. It’s okay to approach a turtle and snap a few photos but make sure to stay far enough away to give the turtle its own space and allow it to escape if it feels uncomfortable.
You might want to clean your mask or take a quick break from snorkeling while you’re in the water. When you do this, make sure you avoid standing on any coral or marine animals that live on the seafloor. If you do need to stand, it’s best to swim to a sandy patch where you won’t be damaging the delicate environment around you. There are plenty of these sandy areas in Gili Trawangan, so you won’t have to go far.
If you’re in deeper water, take care that your fins are not damaging the coral beneath you, which can happen even without you noticing. Gili T’s reefs have recovered considerably over the past few years, and it’s important to keep them as healthy as possible.
How to Get to Gili Trawangan
The Gili Islands can be reached either from Lombok or Bali, depending on where you’re staying. Head to Senggigi in northern Lombok and get a local boat to the Gili Islands, which will only cost about $3USD (approximately IDR 45,000). The ride takes less than 30 minutes and will be quick and easy.
If you’re headed to Gili T from Bali, the journey will be considerably longer and also more expensive. Book a ticket with a fast boat company like Semaya One, Eka Yaja, or Ostina. You can choose between a wide variety of companies, and most boats are very similar in price.
Expect to pay around $23USD (IDR 350,000) for a one-way journey which includes pickup service in most areas of Bali. Boats depart in Padang Bai, which is located a two-hour drive from Kuta or Canggu.
The boat journey from Bali to Gili Trawangan is notoriously bumpy, with high waves and strong currents. If you tend to get seasick, it may be wise to take motion sickness medication to make sure the ride is as comfortable as possible. Depending on the weather, you’ll be on the boat anywhere between 1.5 and 2.5 hours.
Have you been snorkeling in Gili Trawangan yet? What is the most exciting marine life that you’ve seen?