The big Five. Incredible creatures you'll get to see while diving around Gili Islands

The Big Five. Incredible creatures, you are likely to see while diving around the Gili islands.

Diving Tips
19 Oct, 2020

Written by Georgina Swain

As we all know, the Gili Islands are famous for diving, primarily due to the biodiversity of the surrounding ocean. Thanks to the Indonesian throughflow, nutrient-rich water comes through the Lombok Strait, creating a diver’s paradise bursting with marine life.

If you’re looking for your next dive destination or want to become a divemaster, the Gili islands should be top of your list. Nestled between Lombok and Bali, these tiny islands are the perfect hideaway. The white sand beaches are surrounded by crystal clear water and, of course, a tropical climate.

Let’s look at some of the things you can expect to find here. The first thing we will start with is the giant creatures.

Table of Contents

baby white tip reef shark
Baby Whitetip Reef sharks are often seen in the same spot for several months. Photo by Ash Embi.


Yes, you’ve probably heard we have a lot of turtles. Mostly you will find Green and Hawksbill turtles, but occasionally we can see an Olive Ridley cruising by.

turtle chilling on the reef at Halik
Turtle is just chilling at Turtle Heaven. Photo by Karola Sztaba.

If snapping the perfect shot of you with a turtle is high up on your bucket list, turtle heaven is the ideal dive site. Sometimes you can see up to 20 of them on one dive!

Hawksbill and Green turtles are endangered, so we are fortunate to have one of the highest populations in the world. This makes it even more vital that we protect these beautiful creatures. Some of the ways you can help protect the turtles are:

  • Participate in beach cleaning so their nesting areas are clear of obstructions. You can join the Friday beach clean with the Gili Eco Trust if you are on Gili T.
  • Reduce your plastic use to decrease the amount of debris that will end up in the oceans, and take part in Project AWARE Dive Against Debris during your Ocean Advocate Divemaster program.


Not to be feared, sharks are some of the most magnificent and misunderstood animals in our ocean. You can often find Blacktip and Whitetip reef sharks on our dive sites.

If you are lucky, you may even spot a Whale shark cruising past; we have had around five sightings over the last year! Finally, if you’re a tech diver, you also have the chance to see Hammerhead and Thresher sharks, both of which can be found around 50-60m. Sharks play a huge role in the health of our oceans, yet they are under enormous threat. If you want to learn more about sharks and how you can protect them, check out the Project Aware Shark Conservation course!

whale shark
Whale sharks are pretty rare to see around Gilis. That makes it so exciting to come across them on a dive.
Photo by Karola Sztaba


The masters of disguise! Recently became superstars of the ocean with the release of the new Netflix documentary “My Octopus Teacher”. Octopus can instantly change their skin’s colour and texture to match their surroundings. We tend to see the Common Reef Octopus frequently. They can be tricky to find due to their camouflage, but after some practice, you learn the telltale signs that an octopus is nearby! The octopuses we can find are the Blue Ring, Mimic, Coconut, and the Wonderpus! During night dives, you can see that octopuses are more active as this is when they hunt. To have an unforgettable experience, try night diving or visit one of our muck dive sites like Seahorse Bay.

octopus hunting on the reef
Octopus is like an alien that decided to come to Earth and spend his life underwater. Photo by Karola Sztaba


Rays are some of the most majestic creatures and are always a pleasure to see on a dive. We can find Blue Spotted stingrays on the majority of our dive sites. Eagle rays can be spotted in some of the more advanced dive sites. They are shyer than other ray species, so you will see them gliding through the blue. Towards the end of the year, we start to see schools of Devil rays, sometimes up to 25. Devil rays like to hang in shallow water around 10-15 meters, so this is perfect for beginners!

mobula reys or devil rays
Incredible to see them in a squadron like that. Photo by Karola Sztaba.

Moray eels

There are over 30 different species of moray eel you can find in Indonesia. The most common and most significant is the Giant Moray, which can grow up to three meters long and weigh 30kg.

moray eel sticking out his head
Most of the time, you will see just a head sticking out from the reef. Giant Moray, photo by Karola Sztaba.

When you find eels, it will usually just be their head poking out of corals, and they will open and close their mouth. That might look intimidating, but they are actually passing water over their gills so they can breathe, so there is no need to fear them! Another common eel we will find in the Gilis is the snowflake moray. They are a lot smaller but far more beautiful, so they are always a great find.

snowflake moray
Much smaller and very cure with their pointy nostrils, Snowflake morays are pretty common on our reefs.
Photo by Ash Embi.

Stay tuned for part two of the blog, where we will look at some remarkable macro!  

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  1. Cathern Mcdonough

    i like this recommended article

    • Laura Kazimierska

      that’s great!! the new one is coming as well. Now we will have a look at the small creatures of Gili islands.


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