This page have been written in collaboration with mahli974 (14 spots)

The three minuscule Gili Islands, fringed by white-sand beaches and coral reefs, are among the most popular tourist destinations in Indonesia, and certainly one of the best snorkeling area in Southeast Asia. The crystal-clear waters of these paradisiacal islands, where turtle-watching is the star attraction, are the guarantee of exceptional snorkeling experiences. Gili Air is the closest of the three islands to Lombok, and certainly the quietest and most peaceful of the three Gilis.

How to get there?

To reach Gili Air, you have many options available, mainly from Lombok (Bangsal) and Bali (via Gili Trawangan), by ferry or speedboat. Inter islands boats transferts are also available (from/to Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan). Contact the different companies for up-to-date information.

Snorkeling Gili Air, Indonesia

Water entrance

You can enter the water anywhere along the sandy beach.

You can do snorkeling all around the island, surrounded by coral reefs, but we particularly recommend you the area on the map below, known for the richness of its marine life and the regular presence of sea turtles.

Gili Air snorkeling map, Indonesia

Exploration

The spot to explore covers a 150 to 200 meters-wide area between the beach and the reef drop-off. At this point, when starting from the beach, you will cross a few dozen yards of sandy areas and seagrass (↕0.5-2m), then a sea bed covered with coral (↕2-3m) as far as the reef drop-off (↕+6m).

The sea turtles (two species, the green sea turtle and the hawksbill sea turtle, are mostly observed in the Gilis) use to feed on the sea grass, sometimes a few meters only from the beach. You can also meet them on the coral areas along the drop-off, especially at high tide.

Snorkeling with hawksbill sea turtle at Gili Air

In Gili Air, like elsewhere in the archipelago, the turtles have been long used to human presence and can be easily approached and observed. Avoid disturbing the turtles, which come to the area to feed and rest: don’t chase after them, don’t touch them, and leave them enough room when they come up to the surface to breathe.

While turtle-watching is the star attraction on the island, the other richness of the site should not be overlooked. Along a strip of ten or so meters along the reef drop-off, the seabed is covered by colorful soft and hard corals, even if some areas have been badly damaged in the past. You will swim with hundreds of green chromis, scissors damselfish and sea goldies. Sunburst butterflyfish (chaetodon kleinii) is the most common butterflyfish in the area. Clownfish are present but remain rare. Try, instead, to spot a palette surgeonfish (paracanthurus hepatus, the absent-minded blue fish from “Finding Dory”), that pays regular visit to the site.

Lionfish at Gili Air, Indonesia snorkeling

The reefs were damaged in the past and are slowly regaining their former glory. Don’t touch the coral and be careful not to break it with your swim fins. Watch out for boats that come and go on this site when you are exploring the drop-off area.

Restaurants and accommodation

On Gili Air, you’ll find countless beachside hotels, bungalows, cafés, bars and restaurants.

Species you may spot while snorkeling Gili Air
COMMON NAME SCIENTIFIC NAME ABUNDANCE FISHBASE WIKIPEDIA
Hawksbill sea turtle Eretmochelys imbricata  
Green sea turtle Chelonia mydas  
Green Chromis Chromis viridis  
Blackback butterflyfish Chaetodon melannotus  
Raccoon butterflyfish Chaetodon lunula  
Sunburst butterflyfish Chaetodon kleinii  
Moorish idol Zanclus cornutus  
Barred thicklip wrasse Hemigymnus fasciatus  
Whitetail dascyllus Dascyllus aruanus  
Indo-Pacific sergeant Abudefduf vaigiensis  
Scissortail sergeant Abudefduf sexfasciatus  
Ornate butterflyfish Chaetodon ornatissimus  
Lined surgeonfish Acanthurus lineatus  
Spotfin lionfish Pterois antennata  
Sixbar wrasse Thalassoma hardwicke  
Bicolor cleaner wrasse Labroides bicolor  
  • Level required Beginner
  • Maximum depth6m
  • Water entranceEasy, from a sandy beach
  • Potential DangersBoats crossing in the area
  • Visitor numbersHigh
  • Access costsFree
  • Restaurants nearbyYes
  • Public toilets & showersNo

MAP Spot

Sea turtle watching in the Gili Islands

snorkeling-turtle

Sea turtles (both green and hawksbill) are a familiar sight in the Gili Islands. In order to be a responsible snorkeler, be sure to respect the following rules when observing them:

  1. Do not attempt to touch or ride sea turtles
  2. Stay at a distance (6 to 10ft) from sea turtles
  3. Do not chase a turtle swimming away
  4. Avoid sudden movement and allow sea turtles plenty of space when they come up to the surface to breathe

These snorkeling spots are accessible to beginners and kids. You will enter the water gradually from a beach, or in a less than 3ft. deep area. The sea is generally calm, shallow, with almost no waves or currents. These spots are usually located in marked and/or monitored swimming areas. It is not necessary to swim long distances to discover the sea life.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.