“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”
As travelers, you already know the world is a magical place, yet most travelers have only seen up to 30% of it. The ocean comprises 70% or more of the earth’s surface; let’s take a peek below.
In 1943, Emile Gagnan and Jacques Cousteau invented the Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus…or as we call it today, S.C.U.B.A. This invention made it possible for so many humans to explore the underwater universe. I use the word “universe” because once below the surface, you quickly realize it seems a bit like exploring space, just a few meters offshore. Some of the world’s most intelligent beings reside here.
With the majority of the globe being underwater, where do we begin? There is cold water diving in Iceland; kelp forests to explore in Southern California; bull sharks, lemon sharks, and tiger sharks to view in the Bahamas; manta rays in the Maldives … the list is endless. One of the best places to start exploring an underwater world –where there are calm, temperate waters full of life to explore — is what is known as the Coral Triangle.
The Coral Triangle gets its name from being the habitat for 76% of all known coral species in the world. This area is in the far Southwestern Pacific, bordering on the Indian Ocean. I am writing to you from the heart of the Coral Triangle, the Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia. Gili Air is a tiny island in a cluster of three (Gili Air, Gili Meno, Gili Trawangan) just off the northern tip of Lombok. I have parked myself at Blue Marlin Dive, a 5-star PADI dive resort.
Gili Air is the quintessential island paradise, chill and perfect for sipping an espresso, listening to tropical birds each morning, and hearing the afternoon call to prayer by one of the two local mosques in the distance. Gili Meno is the smallest of the three and often called “the honeymoon island”. The largest of the three is Gili Trawangan, which people often dub “the party island”. Blue Marlin also has a location on Trawangan (aka Gili ‘T’). This is the location where they offer tech diving as well as regular recreational diving. I have also stayed on Gili Trawangan with Diversia Diving Club and Bungalows. Both of those places are great choices to stay and dive as well as enjoy great food and atmosphere — take your pick!
Here’s some amazing footage of what to expect when diving in the Gilis:
The Gilis are easily accessible by speedboat coming from South Bali (Serangan) and East Bali (Padang Bai). One may also access the Gilis by way of a Lombok ferry. There are no cars (nor roads) on any of the Gilis. All travel on the island is by foot, bicycle, or hired horse cart on sandy or paved pathways. Once on any of the Gilis, you can island hop for just the day or for a few days by way of either local boat for about $3 each way, or fast boat for about $8 each way.
It’s 7:30 a.m. on Gili Air, and the buzz has begun at Blue Marlin Air for today’s first dive. The tanks get loaded, everyone gears up, and off we go on a”lokal” Indonesian outrigger to Turtle Heaven where we might see (you guessed it) loads of sea turtles! Once beneath the surface, you are swimming amongst not only turtles, but we also lionfish, triggerfish, schooling snapper, lobster, cleaner shrimp, both hard and soft corals, octopus hiding behind rocks, and cuttlefish flashing their ever-changing skin colors as they buzz by. To say it’s amazing down there doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface.
Being underwater is entering a whole new world right beneath the surface. It opens our eyes not only to how small we (as humans) really are in the grand scheme of things, but also to what we need to do to protect it from our own demise.
Scuba is for everyone. Just here at Blue Marlin this week, getting open water certified was a 69-year-old grandmother, 12-year-old grandson, and his friends aged 11 and 8! The 8-year-old could go underwater as a ‘bubble-maker’ up to 2 meters with a guide. The rest of the family has already been diving for years so once some of the family members were newly certified they all joined each other on fun dives.
As scuba instructor (formerly at Blue Marlin Air) Chinmay Kulkarni says, “you know in the underwater world you don’t require any passports, any caste, any (particular) communities, it’s all for us and we are all for (it) them”.
Are you an avid scuba diver or interested in getting started? Where have you been/want to go for the perfect dive? Let us know in the comments!
All images by Samantha Isom.
You can see more of Samantha’s photography and read about her travels on her website.