Gili Trawangan; the most popular island of the Gili family located to the east of Bali, and rapidly becoming one of the most popular dive sites in South East Asia! Why? Well, the island is widely known for having some of the best dive sites in the World, largely due to its calm warm waters, vast species of marine life, frequent turtle and shark sightings as well as ship wrecks and colorful corals.
Arriving from Bali by fast boat, the shimmering blue waters of the Gili islands immediately excited us to the underwater kingdom that lay ahead. The strip is awash with backpackers and travelers looking to tick off getting PADI certified from their bucket lists. When choosing your dive school, its important to make sure that the school can speak your language, includes all equipment within the price and that the course is affordable.
Meet: DSM Dive
DSM is located in a prime location on Gili Trawangan just 200m to the right of the Trawangan harbor on the main strip. It’s flags flutter proudly across the street, tempting passers by and welcoming both new and experienced divers. The complex is both professional and stylish, a real divers paradise complete with welcome area and reception, social areas to meet other dive fanatics, a 4.5m training pool, equipment room and a lively restaurant and bar directly opposite.
With over 20 years of experience offering introductory scuba dives, fun dives and full PADI certifications, DSM’s experience and quality sets it apart from the crowd. Its friendly staff are multilingual, speaking Indonesian, English, French, Swedish, Dutch and Spanish! Unlike the other dive shops on the island, DSM caters for customers of all abilities. With special signals and apparatus for those with disabilities, the center really does go all out to ensure that everyone can experience life under the sea.
Open Water Course with DSM
For all those considering doing an open water course, here’s an overview of our day to day experience completing the course.
We were immediately introduced to Manu, our instructor for the following 3 days. A friendly Frenchman with a genuine passion for diving and over eight years experience in dive spots around the world including the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, South America and Madagascar to name a few. His enthusiasm and knowledge of marine life, helped along by his degree in ecosystems, made him the perfect partner to guide us through our course. After completing the relevant paperwork, our itinerary was outlined to us from the outset so we fully knew what to expect over the next three days and then we were ready to dive straight in… to the theory part of the course at least!
Day 1: Introduction & Theory
As soon as we arrived in DSM Dive Shop, we were introduced to Manu our instructor and all necessary paperwork for our registration was completed with ease. We were required to complete a questionnaire to ensure we were in good health to dive as well as details for the PADI certificate to be mailed to once we had successfully completed the course. We were invited to the classroom where we would start our five chapters of dive theory. We covered everything from the equipment we would be using, how to enter the water, what we can expect to see, how to negotiate difficult situations and how your body adapts to life underwater. As we completed the theory, we answered a series of questions to prove our understanding of the concepts.
Insider Tip: As you break for lunch, you are spoilt for choice along the Trawangan strip. We might be biased but we opted to eat at DSM’s restaurant across the street overlooking the beach, La Bodega, and we were never disappointed!
We returned to DSM Dive School where we met with Manu at the training pool. He carefully selected our equipment that we would be using for the next 3 days. Each piece of equipment was demonstrated with its use, operation and purpose fully explained to us. Equipment donned, it was time to enter the pool! Fully kitted up, we should have been feeling a little apprehensive for our first dive experience, but Manu’s professionalism and warm manner had put us both at ease and we felt excited to experience our first sensation of breathing underwater. One by one, we ran through a series of skills. Manu was in the pool to guide us through every step and under his instruction each skill felt simple and effortless. We couldn’t wait to apply these skills below sea level.
Day 2: Off to the Open Ocean
Manu asked us to attend a pre dive briefing. We orally revised the skills from the previous days pool session to ensure that we remembered and understood, as we would be practicing some of the skills on our first dive in less then 2 hours time! The dive sites are carefully selected the previous day according to visibility and popularity with other dive schools. Our first dive was at “Shark Point”! A dive site notorious for it’s wide range of marine life and its frequent shark and turtle siting’s! Gulp we hear you gasp! Contrary to popular belief, you are more likely to be attacked by your pet dog Rex or stung by a bee than to be even approached, yet alone bitten by a Shark. Imagine seeing a noisy, bubble blowing freak of the ocean alongside you? The shark is more likely to run for the reefs!
Our carefully chosen equipment from the previous day was packaged and taken to the boat for us. Eager, we climbed aboard with the other divers, but felt comfortable knowing that we had Manu’s undivided attention. Before we set off from the shore, Manu asked us to set up our equipment ready for the dive, as we were shown the day before.
In less than a few minutes we had reached the dive site. One of the great things about DSM is the location. Its dive shop is in close proximity (10-15 minutes) to all the major Balinese dive sites, meaning less transportation time! We arrived at the site and the “fun divers” who were already certified were soon in the water. With our equipment already set up, we ran through a final safety check. Perched on the edge of the boat with our safety checks complete, we were ready to back roll into the ocean.
3. 2. 1. We we’re in!
The Underwater World in the Gilis
After a few moments at the surface, we deflated our buoyancy aids and down we went. We knew we were in for a treat diving in these parts, but nothing could have prepared us for the world that we were about to explore. At a depth of 12 meters, with his underwater signals, Manu pointed out many schools of brightly colored fish that danced passed us, vibrant corals swayed in the current and aquatic life roamed undisturbed. Under a large coral boulder, two small white tip sharks lay out of sight. We were amazed to be so close to the very animal that we are taught to fear. In fact, we seemed more at ease than they did and we felt privileged that they allowed us to lay eyes upon them so freely. Further ahead, Manu acted out the sign that we had been waiting for. Turtle!!
As it flew passed us, we savored all of its elegant movements and took in its shear beauty. The highlight of our first dive! Below the depths, time seemed to stand still, the seabed teeming with marine life. Faint sounds in every direction, each beautiful in their own distinct way.
After an exhilarating forty-five minutes under water, the oxygen in our tanks was almost at an end and with plenty of time, we were beckoned to the surface. We could have stayed down forever! Everyone climbed back aboard the boat, role was called and equipment was stowed. Digesting the sights and sounds from our morning dive, we had yet another delicious lunch at La Bodega as we eagerly awaited our second dive. We completed the first entry in our logbooks detailing the place, time, temperature and dive conditions. Manu took us through a guidebook and pointed out the names and characteristics of the marine life that we were fortunate enough to encounter.
Feeling confident and excited from the morning, we couldn’t wait to be back in the water! Remembering the morning’s routine on the boat, we felt like pros as we answered the role call, set up our equipment and completed our safety checks. 3,2,1. Manu counted us down for the second time as we back rolled into the sea and signaled to the dive master that we were “okay”. Buoyancy aids deflated, we were back in the underwater paradise. We were instructed to practice the skills that we had learnt the previous day in the pool, mask clearing, emergency ascents…! Here goes … as always, Manu was on hand to ensure everything ran smoothly as we took it in turns. As soon as these were completed, it was time to enjoy the dive! After we got back on shore, we filled in the details for the dive in our log books before answering some questions on topics that we had covered in the previous days training.
Day 3: Practice Makes Perfect
During our regular early morning briefing before the dive, Manu told us what we could expect to see and the conditions of the dive site. It was now time to put into practice some more skills learnt from the pool, only this time in the deep blue sea. By now you should be on your way to getting your gear prepared easily and efficiently, perfecting your dive signals and enjoying your dive! After completing all our dives, it was time for a final theory test. Don’t worry; they are all questions you have seen before! In no time, we became officially certified to dive anywhere in the World to a depth of 18m!
How much does it cost to get PADI certified in Gili T?
Luckily on Gili Trawangan, a diving enthusiast is able to make a much more informed decision on which company to dive with due to a fixed price agreement across dive shops on the island. In this instance we would highly recommend DSM based on their experience, fantastic facilities, short distances from the harbor and the islands dive spots and our sheer enjoyment of both the course and dives themselves, largely due to the enthusiasm and structure of the DSM team! (Prices quoted are as of 2016)
Bubble maker (+8 years old) – $69
PADI Open Water Course – $423
PADI Advanced Course – $346
Fun Dive (for certified divers) – $38
When fun diving at DSM, you can also pay a small additional charge to rent a GoPro. Diving in these parts is the picture perfect Instagram setting for capturing your dives on camera! DSM makes it easy to capture you and your friends alongside sharks, turtles and hundreds of other species of marine life!
Our three days with DSM were incredible and has been one of the best experiences of our travels so far, opening up a whole new world just waiting to be discovered. A large part of our great experience was the team at DSM. From the outset they were professional yet personable, making us feel comfortable throughout the course and confident to explore the 70% of the earth that is made up of water!
For more information on DSM Dive, you can check out:
Please note that some services from DSM Dive were complimentary, however, as always, all opinions are ours and remain completely unbiased.
Looking for more adventurous things to do in Indonesia? Check out some of our other guides:
- Surfing in Medewi Bali with Buddy: Adventure Review
- White Water Rafting in Ubud, Bali Adventure Review
- Jungle Trekking in Bukit Lawang with Sumatra Paradise
- The Top 5 Adventures in Indonesia