Diving Gili Trawangan

Our boat ride from Lombok to Gili Trawangan (aka Gili T or Gili Tra-la-la) was a brief 15-minute journey.  We stepped off the boat and realized we had arrived in tropical paradise! The island does not have any cars, only bikes and horse buggies.  We were excited to not have to dodge mopeds for a week! It’s also known for its excellent snorkeling and scuba sites.  The real reason we decided to go to Gili T was so James, Goose, and I could get our open water PADI certification

We made our way to the Martas Hotel on our first day and spent the afternoon getting checked into our PADI course at Trawangan Dive Center.  We also got Manji and Bingo prepared for their first day of school at Gili Bumblebee Montessori with Ms. Jacqueline, Ms. Mila, and Ms. Elsa. 

Manji and Bingo with their teachers at the Gili Bumblebee Montessori school

Gili Bumblebee Montessori

The Martas Hotel had the most amazing breakfast with fresh fruit juices and omelets every morning.  For three days, we were on a tight schedule since our PADI course was 8am to 5pm each day, and we had to get Manji and Bingo off to school before that.  Our primary method of transportation was walking so we needed to leave early! 

The first day of school drop off was a bit rough with Bingo refusing to let go of me.  The teachers were so kind and did their best to distract her.  Goose, James and I then made our way to Trawangan Dive to begin the course.  When we arrived, we met the rest of our group, Nick and Allison, two new friends from Toronto, as well as our instructors, Imam and Eva. 

We spent the first several hours watching an instructional video before we prepared for our first pool dive.  The sensation of entering the pool and remaining submerged underwater for an hour was very bizarre.  After five minutes underwater, we all felt like we needed to get out! Eventually, we got used to the sensation of breathing underwater and floating between the surface and bottom. 

Later in the afternoon, we headed out for our first open water dive at Halik.  The current was very strong, but we had a great dive and saw octopus and sea turtles! The first open water dive was a little nerve racking as we were trying to put into practice what we had just learned a few hours before. 

The remaining days of our course were spent with more pool instruction and three more open water dives at Turtle Haven, Shark Point, and Bounty Wreck, respectively.  We saw more octopus, two reef sharks, and so many sea turtles! We even got to have a little fun when our instructor, Imam, brought his GoPro and grabbed some action shots of our adventures underwater!

 James and I both thought the scuba diving experience was even better than we had imagined.  Initially, we thought it would be a fun adventure activity. But after the course, we realized it opens your eyes to a whole new world.  It feels like you are visiting another planet and the sea creatures below accept you as just another fish floating along in their space.  The whole experience was made even better by doing it with Goose.  We had fun studying and quizzing one another and I know Goose felt like such a grown up!

Goose, Kate and James on Trawangan Dive Center boat, headed to dive off the coast of Gili Trawangan

Goose and I on our way to Halik dive site

After our final dive, James spent the evening out with our new friends, Nick and Allison, and the TDC staff.  They bar hopped all night and I got to put the kids to bed and cuddle up to a good book.  Everyone had a great night!

We spent most evenings eating dinner right on the water.  We were visiting during shoulder season, so it was incredibly quiet and we had the pick of any restaurant.  Gili T was more expensive than Ubud or Ekas, but we were able to find a good balance between a $2 lunch and a $8 dinner.  While we waited for dinner, the kids played on the beach and even made friends with several local boys.  They made up a game of making “sandballs” and then used a scrap piece of wood to play baseball.  The creativity that everyone has when you have nothing with you is astounding! It’s been one of the greatest joys we’ve had—watching the kids explore and create with so little. 

Goose, Manji and Bingo using their creativity to come up with new games on the beaches at Gili Trawangan

Bingo, Manji, and Goose play on the beach

After our dive class, we moved hotels to the north part of the island to be closer to our friends, the Gregorys, who we met in Ubud.  On the morning of our move, James hired a horse and buggy to take us on the 1.5 mile journey.  When the driver showed up, he was a bit skeptical after seeing the five of us plus our bags.  We all got on and then the driver made a running start to hang off the side of the buggy! As we plodded along the windy and sandy roads, I was very worried that the buggy was going to tip over at any minute.  Goose kept his head down the whole time because he didn’t want to watch.  Manji and Bingo thought it was hilarious!

Our kids and our new friends, working on new games on the beach at Gili Trawangan

Mentos and Coke experiment with our UK friends

When we arrived at our new hotel, Alam Gili, it was interesting how quiet the north part of the island was.  The new hotel was less comfortable than the Martas Hotel.  Our new digs had very little A/C and many of the bugs made their way into our villa.  However, we were grateful for a cold swimming pool! We rented bikes while in the north and used them to ride around the island, stopping for ice cream and using them to visit other areas.

We spent the last few days on the island with the Gregorys.  Both of their kids are our boys’ ages and match up well. The kids and adults had loads of fun snorkeling with sea turtles, riding bikes, and exploding Coke with mentos! We watched a sunset on the west side of the island together and then attempted to watch the Barbie movie at an outdoor restaurant.  However, this ended in a downpour. Then we rode our bikes through the middle of the island in the pouring rain in the dark! We all hope we remember this night when we are back in Charlotte and on with our “regular” lives!

Bingo arriving at the hotel after our bike ride through the dark, in the rain

The night we rode on bikes in the pouring rain through the island

One of the highlights of our week on Gili T was feeling like part of a community.  Manji and Bingo made several new friends at Gili Bumblebee who we met again for beach and pool play dates.  We also ran into Phil, our surfing instructor from Ekas, while walking down the street.  The staff at Carpe Diem restaurant were our favorite and even allowed the kids to brand coconuts daily!  And finally, we’ll always remember our most amazing diving instructor, Imam. 

Bingo practicing her snorkeling in the pool

Snorkeling with sea turtles

On our last morning, we spent the few final hours with our UK friends.  Sadly, I had caught some sort of stomach bug and was feeling pretty bad, struggling to make it through the day. I couldn’t wait to get on our transfer boat back to Bali so I could spend the whole time sleeping!  

As we walked the island towards the port, we received so many goodbyes from friends from the week.  It was bittersweet, having such an amazing week and wishing all these people well who we likely won’t see again. 

Until next time, Gili T!

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