Diving & Snorkeling in Gili Tepekong


About Gili Tepekong

Gili Tepekong and its two smaller cousins, Gili Mimpang and Gili Biaha are three rocky islets just outside the Amuk Bay in the east of Bali, Indonesia. Among the three of them they boast some of Bali's, if not the world's best adventure dive sites, featuring superb marine life.

As these small, almost barren islands are out in the open sea, they battle strong, tricky currents which are for advanced divers only (50+ dives). These currents bring a lot of nutrients to the underwater biosphere and that means large groups of fish that attract lots of predators like barracudas, rays and sharks. The coral cover is somewhat sparse due to the force of the current but beautiful and radiant. Another highlight is the variety of spectacular black, volcanic rock formations.

These are demanding but extremely rewarding dives that should only be undertaken through the best local operators. There are caves with sharks here, a tunnel from one end of a coral slope to the other, whitetip reef sharks resting in the sand and hundreds of reef fish species.

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Best diving spot around Gili Tepekong - The Canyon

The Canyon (or Toilet Bow) is a big fish dive in the western area of the small island, also known as Pulau Kambing (Goat Island) depending on who you ask. It involves challenging currents, especially around the full moon and new moon. In fact, the dive operator will make the final call on the day whether the conditions are suitable for diving there. If all systems go then you will enter an amphitheater like canyon that offers a natural viewing platform to see lots and lots of fish.

White tip shark in Gili Mimpang, Bali

First you will drift across sloping, vibrant coral reefs with many crinoids on each sea fan from depths of 12 m (39 ft) to about 30 m (98 ft). The sponges and other coral scattered around the black basalt boulders and fantastic pinnacles are home to a lot of small critters like nudibranchs and shrimp. Shoals of fish zip everywhere - Moorish idols, unicornfish, yellowtails, butterflyfishes, basslets, trumpetfish, angelfish and chromis. Whitetip sharks rest in the current. The schools of fish found here are favourite meals of the big fishes; barracudas and tunas are often seen in this area. Napoleon wrasse, grey reef sharks, leopard sharks, eagle rays, even mola mola may make an appearance as you bobble through the canyon.

Exploring the Underwater World

Gili Tepekong, Mimpang and Biaha are a fish heaven from the smallest ones to the big daddies of the underwater world. All the reef fish that the Coral Triangle is famous for - sweetlips, batfish, trevally, snappers, fusiliers, golden jacks, mackerels, lionfish, groupers and hundreds of other species live here in astonishing quantities. Moray eels, cuttlefish, barracudas, tuna, dolphins, turtles, octopuses pop up regularly. Several types of sharks and eagle and manta rays may lurk in the deep blue a bit further away from the coral. Whale sharks have also been seen feeding on plankton between these islands.

Gonnadive travel tip

These boat dives usually start at the Padangbai port or, by arrangement, from nearby Candidasa village on the other side of the small bay. Most dive sites can be reached by a 15-20 minute boat ride. In fact, these rocky outcrops are normally visible from Candidasa. See our page about Padangbai to check how you can get there from Denpasar International Airport or from the south of Bali where most visitors stay. If you take a speedboat from Sanur at the south of Bali it usually takes an hour to reach Gili Mimpang which is the first of the islands from that direction.

Dive sites around Gili Tepekong

  • Gili Tepekong - East side - Sloping ridges with sponges and hard and soft corals and shoals of fish. Coral bommies at a depth of 18-24 m (59-79 ft) that hide nurse sharks, reef sharks, turtles and stingrays. At around 18 - 21 m (59 - 69 ft) there is a tunnel (Blue Hole) at the southern end of the slope that leads to a sheer wall on the other side. It's not for the faint-hearted but after a 7 m (23 ft) swim you will emerge at 28 m (92 ft) depth on the vertical wall that is almost twice as deep as that. Schools of yellowtails greet you just past the end of the tunnel.

This site is for advanced divers only. The current can take you in any direction, including up and down in a vertical surge, requiring constant equalizing. Depending on tidal activity and sea currents it can feel like being at the spin cycle of a washing machine. Once in a while it can be a tranquil place but that is more the exception than the rule.

Colorful coral in Gili Tepekong, Bali
  • Gili Mimpang (also known as Batu Tiga - 3 Rocks) - This varied dive site goes from a sandy bottom at 5 m (16 ft) between the rocky outcrops to a sloping coral reef then a drop off from 30 m (98 ft) to unreachable depths. Whitetip reef sharks are a constant feature as they rest at a sandy area (Shark Junction / Shark Point) on the northwest side at around 20-25 m (66-82 ft). The elusive ocean sunfish, the mola mola, growing to the size of a small car, is often seen here in the right season (August - September). Shoals of fish fight the current and manta rays, blacktip reef sharks can often be ticked off here from your must-see list. Ocean eagles nest on the rocks and spend the dawn fishing. Yes, there are 4 small islands, don't ask why they are called three rocks... maybe it was high tide when they decided on the name!
  • Gili Biaha / Gili Likuan - The west side of the island offers a a gradual slope toward the mainland, reaching depths of 36 m (120 ft). Large barrel sponges host an army of crinoids that are often bent by the strong currents. A veritable abundance of fish species feast on the nutrition that the currents bring. Surgeonfish and triggerfish can be seen swooping up and down for tasty morsels. Schools of yellowtail fusiliers check out divers, not shying away from coming quite close to them for a mesmerizing moment then, their curiosity satisfied, they are gone in a flash. There is not a lot of coral here compared to more sheltered diving spots around Bali but all the local sea fans and coral heads are healthy and magnificient. Large pelagics that sometimes swim by include tuna, sharks or manta rays. Toward the open sea there is a cave at 7-12 m (23-39 ft) where whitetip sharks may sleep and lobsters poke around in the dark. In strong surge you must exercise utmost caut on entering the cave.

GonnaDive recommends in the neighborhood

As you start these dives by hopping on a boat at Padangbai, might as well stay for a few days there and explore some lovely dive sites around the Padangbai port. Then you can get on other diving boats to Nusa Penida or Padangbai port. Then you can get on other diving boats to Nusa Lembongan with more challenging current dives or set the island of Lombok in your sights. If you wish to stay on the Bali mainland, you can head northeast to Amed or Tulamben for some wreck diving. If you'd like to get to Bali's party central, you need to travel south to Sanur or Nusa Dua where you ill also find diving courses and reef diving and snorkeling opportunities just past the beaches.

Best Time for a Scuba Diving or a Snorkeling Vacation

All year round but visibility is best from June to October, often up to 25 m (82 ft). November, just before the onset of the monsoon can be an excellent time to dive here. Thick wetsuits are recommended as currents and the thermocline can bring the water temperature down below 20 °C (68 °F) from the usual 24-26 °C (75-79 °F) here, already a far cry from the balmy 28-29 °C (82-84 °F) around Bali's shores.

Gonnadive safety tip

You need to respect all of these dive sites and follow the instructions of your local guide closely. In fact you need to stay close to your guide underwater so they can instruct and assist you quickly. Should your dive instructor decide that any of the above mentioned dive sites are not accessible that day then you can rest assured that your and their own personal safety is paramount to them. There are enough dive sites around these islands that you should be able to see some amazing places on any day. Should the water and weather conditions be really bad they will probably offer you a dive the next day.

So, are you up for some watching sharks and tussling with a current? Gili Tepekong awaits you!

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