After three weeks of my Eco-Divemaster course with Two Fish Divers, I moved from Nusa Lembongan, Bali to Gili Air, Lombok. While both are Indonesian Islands, they have completely different vibes. Gili Air is really small – only 5 kilometers in circumference, and while it sits in close proximity to the notorious indonesian party island, Gili Trawangan, it gives off the feeling of being the super chill uncle to Gili T’s wildchild. There are no motorized vehicles here, so the island is very quiet. The people here are completely relaxed and incredibly friendly, inspiring visitors to come from all over the world to spend their days laying on the white sandy beaches, often listening to live music while watching the sunset.
In terms of diving, I was a little nervous to leave my comfort zone of Lembongan, but the instructors here, “Scuba” Sal and “Mermaid” Meg, have been amazing in making me feel welcome and involved. My routine involves preparing and setting up the equipment for the daily dives on our large wooden dive boat the Dua Ikan – “Two Fish”, and assisting with whichever course or project is going on at the shop. Because the center it situated on the main “road”, (narrow dirt path just large enough for the horse carts), we get a large amount of walk in customers, so every day is pretty spontaneous.
The main difference I’ve noticed between Nusa Lembongan and Gili Air is the number of Discover Scuba Diving and Open Water courses that occur daily. The clear water and lack of currents around the Gili Islands make them an ideal place to learn how to dive, so many people decide to try it here for the first time. It is amazing to witness their initial oceanic underwater experience. It is a completely different sensation than can be explained or comprehended on land, or even in the pool, and I love watching the reactions to this novel phenomenon. Often after the dive they describe it as, “like flying”, “living in a dream”, or “floating in space”. The excitement of a new diver is contagious, and it makes it continuously special for the instructors involved.
Another benefit of diving Two Fish on Gili Air is that they have access to an amazing house reef for night dives. I had never tried night diving before coming here, and it is unlike any other dive sensation I’ve experienced. We were able to walk into the water just as the sun was setting over the mountains, and as we descended into the growing darkness we saw amazing creatures that are typically hidden during the day. There were mandarin fish, ghost pipefish, many different sizes of cuttlefish, and even a gigantic frogfish. As you swim along through the darkness, you can only see what your small torch illuminates. The notion that so many creatures are around you, outside of your awareness is both spooky and thrilling, I felt like an explorer discovering the ocean for the first time. At one point while I was pondering the wonders of the unknown, a large turtle popped into my line of vision, giving me quite a fright! There is never a dull moment on a nightdive, and the ability to focus on only one small area at a time provides the opportunity to better appreciate the details of the reef. During our safety stop, we turned off our flashlights and had what can only be described as a psychedelic dance party. This was because the sea itself was practically pitch black, but any movement of our arms or fins caused bright blue bioluminescence to become illuminated and sparkle. We were dancing weightless in a sea of stars. Utterly amazing.
To cut this very long story short, Gili Air is delightful. I’ve already made so many new friends and watched numerous people become mesmerized with the wonders of scuba diving. Through night diving I have discovered a new perspective on the ecosystems of the ocean and learned that sometimes when you focus on a smaller area, you can actually better understand the bigger picture. The “Slow Down” mantra of the island has allowed me to take my time, and appreciate each aspect of the program, rather than rushing to complete all the logistics and forgetting to enjoy to process. When they say it’s great to learn here, they mean it. Even as an experienced diver, every day I am learning new things about the ocean, and about myself. I’m excited to see what I will discover here throughout the next week!