The Gili Islands – three small, relatively isolated islands off the even bigger island of Bali. Crystal clear turquoise waters, colorful fish, uninterrupted sunsets and friendly locals. How could it get any better. Well, to our surprise it did – when we met the staff at Oceans 5 Dive Resort on Gili Air.
Let me back track by just saying we almost had to ditch all of our plans to even get to the Gilis due to the volcanic activity happening just a stone’s throw away on Lombok. We couldn’t fly into the Lombok airport, forcing us to reroute to Bali, skip our two days on Gili Trawangan (a recently popular party mecca in Indo), and eventually take a boat to Gili Air. We were pretty gutted we had to skip out on Gili T and our few days of partying, but I sure am glad we made the extra effort to get to Gili Air in order to dive with Oceans 5. To think we were going to skip it altogether is unfathomable now after spending some of the best few days on that gorgeous, small and laid-back island.
We arrived on the island and settled into our traditional Lombrung in the middle of the island. Soon after, we jetted off to find Oceans 5 Dive Shop, which is conveniently located near the harbor and pier. The shop itself is awesome. They have a spacious office and training center, big picnic tables outside for divers to hang out, and a pool for training and cooling off. At the shop, we learned they offer accommodation (which from the outside looked amazing), fun dives, all of the scuba diving courses, instructor courses, free diving courses and even aqua yoga classes!
After chatting with a few of the ladies who run the shop, we were fitted with our top notch Aqua Lung equipment – BCD, fins, weight belt, computer and wet suit. They scheduled us in for the 8:30 and 11:30 am dive. They also offer a 2 pm dive and a night dive (by request) every day.
We were really stoked to get back in the water after a few months being above land. We heard amazing things about the diving in the Gilis, and we were told that if we didn’t see a turtle then something was wrong with us. Given our bad luck with marine life sightings, we weren’t too sure about our chances. We met up the next morning with our guide, Safari, and met a few more of the dive masters at the shop. Everyone seemed really laid-back and friendly, but you could tell that they knew what they were talking about and took safety really seriously. Which is a good thing… Especially when you’re 25 meters below the surface.
After suiting up, listening to safety instructions, and grabbing complimentary bottles of water, we were off to the first reef of the day – Bounty Wreck. Although there were no turtles, we saw tons of macro life – trigger fish, nudibranchs and scorpion fish. The wreck itself was amazing, but we weren’t allowed to swim through. For me, this was a big accomplishment of a dive because my ears weren’t so much affected, and I was able to calm myself down underwater. (I’m prone to freak myself out throughout a dive.) Our guide, Safari, had amazing eyes and spotted everything out for us and even taught us how to make bubble rings underwater. It was incredible.
The next few days followed the same routine. Meet up with our guide, debrief, safety instructions, take off for the dive, see unbelievable marine life, and head back to the shop before we do it all over again in an hour for the next dive. Since the reefs are all spread out amongst the three islands (Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili T) with the farthest reef only being 25 minutes away, Oceans 5 does 1 dive per outing and makes it back in time for you to jump on the next dive if you wish.
We dove mostly with Suri, a local diver who knew exactly where to find the coolest marine life. We saw huge turtles, sting rays, sharks, octopus, eels, porcupine fish, lion fish, cuddle fish and a HUGE school of jack fish. I’ve never in life seen that many awesome creatures in one dive. Our favorite dive was our last of the trip at Sharkpoint. In that one dive alone, we saw 2 small turtles, a giant sleeping turtle, an even bigger swimming turtle, two sharks, a giant school of jackfish (I’m talking huge), a few blue spotted rays, an octopus and a clown trigger fish. It was incredible. Truly a dive we’ll never forget.
One of our absolute favorite moments of our time in Gili Air was the Reef Clean Up we participated in. Oceans 5 offered free equipment to those who wanted to do an offshore dive and clean up the reef. We were split up in teams of 3 and given a large bag to collect the trash in. I was appalled by how much plastic was underwater, but it was one of the most rewarding experiences. We spent about 35 minutes underwater picking up anything we could see and when we realized our bag was almost overflowing we decided to come up. As a whole, we collected over 80 kilograms of trash just off the beach. We all felt so happy to have done our part. I feel sometimes we take so much from the environments we travel to, and to be able to give back in a way was a truly rewarding experience.
The diving, visibility, equipment, and set up may have all been awesome, but it was truly the team that made our experience. Each of the guides, staff members and dive masters we met along the way were all so welcoming and light-hearted. They made us feel like we too were a part of their family. We were invited to celebrate four divers’ recent completion of the dive master training – which may or may not have included some form of dive gear, alcohol and costumes. They joined us on our last night in town at a local bar to watch the sunset and all got to know each other a little more. Our time in Gili Air has been greatly enhanced because of choosing Oceans 5. Thank you so much! We’ll be back!
If you’re interested in accommodation, fun dives, dive courses, free diving courses and/or yoga classes, be sure to check out their website – http://www.oceans5dive.com/.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Oceans 5 Dive Shop in exchange for this review. As always, I would never endorse or recommend a service or product that I didn’t honestly love.