Diving Gili Padang Bay from Nusa Penida
Gili means “island” in Sasak, the language spoken in Lombok. Most of the islands around Lombok are also called Gili. But also these three small islands off Bali, in front of Candi Dasa, the Gili Padang Bay : Gili Biaha, Gili Tepekong and Gili Mimpang. And these islands are some of the nicest dive sites in Bali !
For Warnakali diving center, going there is always a special day as we leave the waters of Nusa Penida. Getting there requires more preparation. That day, the whole team is mobilized, because we leave for the day without dismounting. Beyond the usual diving equipment, our fruit salad, coffee and music, we will bring a curry for lunch and an additional gallon of water for our comfort. We also do not forget our safety by doubling the equipment normally present on Buraq 3, our proud boat.
On the way to the Gili Padang Bay
When we leave Toyapakeh, our home port, we will be in a small group. Direction full sea and a crossing of 45 minutes to reach the coasts of Bali. Muhyiddin, our captain, begins navigation with Mount Agun as a landmark. Soon we see Gili Tepekong taking shape in the distance. Once arrived at our destination, the sea conditions and the season will define the order of our dives. The idea remains whatever happens to diversify the experience as much as possible, offering as many opportunities as possible for underwater encounters.
Each dive site has its own specificity, our main objectives will change over the dives. Very often, we will sail a few more minutes between the islets in order to choose the most suitable dives, in consultation with the captain and his mate, Imam. It is often difficult to make this choice. We take into account the dreams and desires of our divers. But we also have to consider each one’s level and experience.
3 Gili for 3 totally different experiences, as the topography of the sites here changes completely. Alternating vertiginous drop offs, plateaus rich in life, sandy benches, small cellars and canyons, the currents will be part of these mazes where we like to get lost.
Follow the guide !
Diving Gili Biaha
Diving Gili Biaha will primarily target whitetip sharks. We leave the boat in the waves beating the rocks of a small cove. Therefore our captain, his mate and your guide will be very focused.
The whitetip shark nursery
The immersion begins above a plateau, and there the first surprise awaits you. A small cellar, refuge and nursery for whitetip sharks, hidden by the surf. If the smallest of them stay most often in the cellar, others navigate as they please. Some are even curious to meet us, always at a good distance.
The whitetip shark hunts much more often in narrow holes than in open water. This probably explains why it is one of the most agile shark. You don’t get rid of admiring the fluidity of its movements, but it’s time to leave. We continue our descent along an irregular wall, with an alternance of alcoves, plumbs and short plateau which will serve as natural hideouts throughout the dive.
Many species also move around us with the waves. Thus, schools of trevallies, and other barracudas take advantage of this hunting space opened by whitetip sharks. The term “food chain” takes on its full meaning before our eyes.
The reef will not leave us indifferent either. Gili Biaha dive site is not kwoned for its crystal clear visibility because of the movements of water going directly from the depths. But the variety of sediment transported here creates life. From clown fish to Damselfish fish there is such a variety of shapes and colors that the diver’s eyes are always drawn.
We end the dive in the blue, with the sandstone of the currents. The magic worked !
Diving Gili Tepekong
Gili Tepekong, from the smallest to the largest, is a multi-faceted dive.
As often, there are several ways to approach a dive. A question arises here : do we prefer to go down or go up in a chimney ? Indeed, we begin our descent on a gently sloping plateau, literally bordered by a wall plunging into the blue. A chimney allows to pass from one to the other. We go there one by one, taking care not to alter the abundant life there. This particular moment, very often a first for our divers, is fun to share. But we are not at the end of our discoveries.
Our quest alternates between small and large. In the small category, in addition to crabs, shrimps and other nudibranchs, we will look for the Bargibanti pygmy seahorse that will catch our attention. Nestled in pink or yellow gorgonians, it will take the color of the latter to accentuate its camouflage. looking for the eye of the seahorse is best way to find it and then to admire it, always with great care. They are indeed just as fragile as they are small.
And the big ones ?
For the big ones, we usually meet the Mola Mola around some bummies. He is often lonely here, not shy, allowing us to share a good part of our diving with him.
We finish our dive at the end of the steep cliff of the islet. The alternance of shadows from the island and bright light coming from the surface bathes us in a special atmosphere. We come across a number of octopus outside their usual cache. It is also the home for many Zanzibar shrimps hidden on their whip coral. And also orange and white Thor shrimps, seeming to dance a permanent ballet within the waves.
From the smallest to the largest : a rare and intense moment.
Diving Gili Mimpang
It is the smallest of the three islets of the Gili Padang Bay, at least on the surface. These few rocks seeming to come out of the depths hide in reality a vast and complete site.
The dive begins on a gentle slope ending in a sandbank. Colorful stonefish and scorpion fish follow us during our descent. It is not uncommon to come across white tip sharks taking advantage of the currents to land quietly on the sand.
The current carries us to an angle. There, an infinite blue faces the verticality of the wall with a thousand colors. The goal is simple, to reach a large natural alcove, the only place protected from the currents, our best observation spot..
The Mola Mola joins us to dance in the currents
This is where, during the season, you can meet a group of Mola Mola, playing together. They come to Gili Mimpang to let the heniochus fish clean, but also to dance together in the currents. They, usually so calm, look like they are willing to play. Like if they were challenging us to leave our shelter and danse with them. It’s really the world upside down ! They come towards us, then move away and observe us again.
We will start our ascent under their amused eyes. The wall then the plateau ending our dive is bathed in light like nowhere else. Shallow and with no real island above, the sun floods the decor all day long and the colors seem brighter than elsewhere.
Everything converges, it is no longer the divers who come to observe the fauna but the reverse. We come out of this dive with the strange feeling, so pleasant, of no longer being a spectator but the object of the show.
A day like no other diving Gili Padang Bay
The diversity and the beauty of Nusa Penida dive sites is such that it may not seem worth going so far from home, and yet …
Diving Gili Padang Bay is always memorable for all, because of its magnificent and totally different dive sites from what we find in Penida.
This is a moment that we prepare with care, all together, divers, students, guides, instructors, staff, the Warnakali family on the move. The main objective is not only to dive together, to transmit our knowledge, but to share a day, all together. We are planning this day at the end of long training, with our divemasters. Or at the end of the safari after some good times shared together. Or with those who make us the pleasure to come back, again and again, with the same impatience each year.
And when we go diving Gili Padang Bay we have also more time to share a special lunch, to talk about everything and nothing, to smile when listening to a special song.
It’s time to go back
At the end of the day, when we go back, the whole team, Made first, will be there to welcome us on the beach. They are even more impatient than usually to know what we saw, to confirm that everything went perfectly. If the day is long for us on the boat, Made and his team are not done yet. They prepared everything early in the morning, but they still have now to clean the equipment and refill the tanks.
Generally, we end this day at the dive center, facing the sunset and Mount Agung. With brand new memories and more anecdotes to remember and to tell next time.
Thank you to those who shared these moments, to the entire Warnakali team for their efforts to make such a day a reality. And to know more about the marine fauna in Bali you can read this guide of Nusa Penida diving.