Gili Air

written in collaboration with mahli974 (6 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.

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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.

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.

Aerial view


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 Report - Hawksbill sea turtle at Gili Air
Hawksbill sea turtle at Gili Air © photo credit Mahli974

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.

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.

Snorkeling Report gives the most precise tips possible about the snorkeling spots and potential dangers, but each one of us is responsible for our own safety in the water. For more information, take a look at the snorkeling safety page. If you want to add extra information or make any corrections to the spot descriptions, please contact us.

Spot’s weather forecasts (°C)

Spot tips

  • Type of spot
  • Level of difficulty
    All levels
  • Maximum depth
  • Water entrance
    Easy, from a sandy beach
  • Potential Dangers
    Boats crossing in the area
  • Visitor numbers
  • Access costs
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Public toilets & showers

Spot map

Spot photos

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Underwater spot photos

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
Clown surgeonfish
Acanthurus lineatus
Spotfin lionfish
Pterois antennata
Sixbar wrasse
Thalassoma hardwicke
Bicolor cleaner wrasse
Labroides bicolor
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