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Lombok offers interesting scuba diving for beginners to experienced divers. The main diving takes place around the Gili islands which lie in the northwest of Lombok in the strait between Lombok and Bali. Around Sanggigi beach in east Lombok there are also a couple of dive sites and some dive operators such as dream divers also offer scuba diving in the southern part of Lombok (Blongas), where there is a lot of currents and swells and large pelagics such as sharks, rays and makerels.
Through the Lombok strait between Bali and Lombok flows the Indonesian Throughflow (Arus Lintas Indonesia), a massive flow of water that passes from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean. The result is a rich underwater life and during certain times of the year also large fish like sharks, eagle rays, turtles and manta rays come and visit the reefs.
The diving in the south of Lombok is not very widely known, quite
good but challenging. There is one dive operator in the Bay of Blongas (Bay
of Tranquility), Dream divers, and one small but nice resort, the Teluk Sepi.
The Bay of Blongas is a large sheltered bay with a peninsula. The waters here
are calm, but as soon as cross the narrow mouth around Gili Wayang, the sea
gets much rougher and choppy with a strong surge. The interesting dive sites
all lie here, mostly steep rocks and boulders some half covered with water so
this is only for experienced divers! The dive sites are all 20 to 30 min by
speedboat form the resort. Visibility is not so good at most places 15 to 20m.
The area has a very rough look, the landscape is very impressive, with large waves pounding jagged rocks and lots of white spray everywhere. From the boat you can see some beautiful sandy beaches, stretching for kilometers but empty, because of the waves crashing some way our. The bay itself though earns its name of "Bay of Tranquility" because it is very flat and calm with nice beaches and small fishing villages. It can be reached from Lembar harbor (ferry from Bali about 4 to 5 hrs) in about an hour over a very bad road.
The Magnet (Sopia Lawisa) No. 1: This dive sites
is the reason why most divers come here, mainly because there is a good chance
to see hammerhead sharks. This is a large rocky pinnacle jutting up from about
50m below. It lies in the open sea and 20 to 30 min. by boat. Large waves crash
on top of the rock and over it and the resulting surge can be felt even down
at 20 meters! Actually you can only dive safely below 15m because of the surge
and all the bubbles in the water and safety stops are made away from the rock.
For experienced divers only!
You dive on the north side of the rock and make a drop right in the middle, if possible. If the currents are not so strong you can now continue the dive by going in zigzag back and forth between the eastern and western edge where the currents coming from the south can be felt strongly. The large pelagics such as hammerheads, whitetip sharks, mackerels and barracudas congregate here in large numbers. If the currents are fiercer, the area where you can dive narrows with side currents pushing you towards the middle of the sheer wall. If the currents lessen you can even dive entirely around the rock which even then is still a challenge, because you have to fight against both current and surge..
The amount of fish you see is quiet amazing and during our week there we saw a lot of really large dog tooth tunas, some mobulas (like manta rays, but smaller) and eagle rays, several sharks including hammerheads and twice we just seem to hit a wall of barracudas - great! We also went once out to the Magnet and decided not to dive, because it was too dangerous. The other dive sites are more sheltered, so we went there.
Coral garden No. 2: You dive around two larger rocks with a seriees of smaller rocks which lie on sand. Lot's of soft corals in yellow, orange and purple colors, whip corals, some gorgonians and anemones. We found some nice nudibranchs and shrimps and also saw a school of small barracudas. An easy dive, max. depth about 25m.
Wollis Pinnacle No. 4: is a large rock which top is about 7m below the surface and some more rocks tumbled together and lying on white sand. We saw a black giant frogfish, sharks, ribbon eels and several species of nudibranchs. There is sheltered area with gorgonians, table corals and black corals. An easy but interesting dive, max. depth 19m.
Gili Sera No. 6: this is a big junk of rock. Underwater it looks like large pieces of the rock fell down and are now litterling the sand all around the island. These rocks are covered with leather corals, sponges and tunicates, but there are some more sheltered areas where table corals and black corals grow. When the currents are not very strong, this is a nice dive site for small animals such as nudibranchs, shrimps, glass fishes, scorpionfishes and even the occasional sea snake, white tip reef shark or ray.
The Cathedral No. 7: This large pinnacle rises
from about 40m to the surface. Only a small rock is visible from the surface
and zthe crashing waves fills the upper 5m of water with bubbles. You dive on
a steep wall covered with soft corals, sponges and tunicates. There are yellow
sea cucumbers everywhere. We encountered two species of sea snakes, the common
banded sea krait and I think the turtlehead sea snake (Emydocephalus annulatus).
The later has a much larger head and a brown color but also some lighter colored
The swell makes you go up and down a lot - not so good for your ears - and like on the Magnet we actually surfaced from about 10m by swimming away some distance to avoid the swell. For experienced divers.
There are some dive spots off Kuta beach, however due to very strong currents and usually high waves only very few operators offer dives there. The Novotel seems to have a dive center.
All dive sites are close to Sengiigi.
Malimbu: A drop off between 5 and 20 meter. Sandy with
coral blocks and patchy reefs. A place to find leaffish, moray eels and sting
rays. There is another dive site near by Malimbu cave with
several small underwater caves. All dive sites are close to Senggigi.
Alang- Alang wall: starts at 16m and reaches down to 35m with a small plateau and another wall that goes down to 60m. Everything is covered with hard and soft corals and a lot of coral reef fishes living among them.
In the north of Lombok, a short stretch off the mainland are three small, coral-fringed islands, Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. Each has very nice beaches, clear water and small coral reefs (some corals have suffered due to El Niño though). The Gili islands (gili = small island in Bahasa Indonesia) are quite touristy. The islands are busiest from May through August and December to January. The islands offer nice views of the Rinjani volcano (3724 m) on Lombok mainland and beautiful sunsets, if you stay at a resort in the western side and in the calm waters in the south and east often whales and dolphins can be encountered.
Especially on Gili Trawangan there are a lot of small resorts
and restaurants mostly for budget travelers and there are some popular snorkeling
areas in the northeast. The first time I visited this island in 1990 you had
to bring your own food and water. The next year there were small losmens and
the first disco, now I heard it is known as "party island".
Gili Meno (about 2km long and just over 1km wide) is the smallest and probably also the most quiet and peaceful of the three islands. There is an interesting small salt lake in west and a bird park to visit. The areas for snorkeling lie the east.
There is a small turtle hatchery on Gili Air and some good snorkeling spots near the jetty.
1. Coral fan garden and 6. Basket coral: Colorful soft
corals and many reef fish. Easy diving.
2. Shark point: this dive site lies along the east coast of Gili Trawangan and covers quite a large area. You start in shallow water and follow the slope which has terraces that get gradually deeper to a plateau on about 24m. The coral covering is not so interesting, but there is a good chance to see whitetip and blacktip sharks and sometimes even gray sharks and there are also often tutles here. There is also a sandy area with a lot of garden eels. A popular dive site.
3. Manta point: If you are lucky you can encounter manta rays in this dive area. From the end of October to the beginning of December (in the rainy season) they migrate here, when the water is rich with plankton.
8. Meno wall: lies west of Gili Meno, the reef is about
300m long and goes down to about 18m, covered with soft corals and gorgonians.
It offers a good chance to see hawksbill and green turtles. Also good for a
12. Malang reef: the plateau lies on about 10m, but drops down to 40m. There are some really nice canyons.
14. Air wall: a beautiful wall (max. depth about 32m)
with a coral block at 22m which is a cleaner station with shrimps. It is surrounded
by a large school of glasfishes and there is often a leaf fish sitting there
and feeding on them. After diving on the wall you go around a corner and come
to a sandy area. Look around, you might find some interesting animals like the
robust ghostpipefish and even sometimes sharks.
15. Gili Air harbour (Frogfish point): a sandy area with garbage and some really interesting critters. This is a good place to find hidden smaller animals like the ghost pipefish, special shrimps, nudibranchs, frogfishes and scorpion fishes and waspfishes. With luck you also find seahorses, short-tailed pipfishes, mandarin fishes and sea snakes. Very good for macro photography.
The islands of Gili Lawang, Gili Sulat and Gili Petagan lie in the northeast of Lombok. There are no dive operators there, but some operators in Sengiggi offer trips there and some liveaboards pass by on their way to Sumbawa or the Komodo islands.
Nusa Tenggara is the Indonesian name for the over 500 islands east of Bali, running from Lombok in the west to Timor in the east. Nusa Tenggara stretches 1300 kilometer and lies just a few degrees south of the equator. The northern islands (Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores to Alor) are volcanic, the southern islands (Sumba, Savu, Roti and Timor) are uplifted coral limestone and sediment. There are over 40 volcanoes with half of them still active.
Lombok lies right on the east of the so called Wallace Line. This line runs between Bali and Lombok, extending north between Kalimantan (Borneo) and Sulawesi. The naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, who explored these islands between 1854 and 1862, had noticed, that while Bali shares nearly all its birds with Java (we now know, that it is about 97%), Lombok and Bali have much less birds in common (only 50%).
Why is there such a distinct separation between the bird populations of Bali and Lombok which lies only about 25 km across Lombok strait? During the ice age Bali was connected by a land corridor to Java. Between Bali and Lombok was still a channel. Some birds, that are good dipersers and had no problem to cross the gap, other birds stayed in Bali and never reached Lombok. The further east in Nusa Tenggara you look, the more distinct from their mother population in Java the birds become. In Nusa Tenggara and the Maluku (Moluccs) there are 562 species of birds recorded, 144 of these are endemic (= found nowhere else). Timor, the island to the very east has the highest number of endemic species of any of the other islands of Nusa Tenggara.
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