I finally did something I’ve been saying I was going to for years now, got my open water scuba certification. I’ve been to countless places that are known as “dive meccas”, just to putz around kicking sand on the beach or snorkeling on the surface with scuba divers flipping me the bird 30 feet below…I had enough.
Well, that has all changed my friends, because I am officially “licensed” to take my haggard ass to 18 meters below sea level, that’s almost 60 ft!
Why have I been putting off my scuba certification for so long? I don’t really know, but I do know that make sure you have 3 completely full days to devote to getting your open water certification as you’ll be up at 7 AM and not home again until 5 when you’ll have to study for another 2 hours before even thinking about letting an ice cold, delicious, well-deserved adult beverage hit your lips. It was really no joke, but it felt good to use my brain again to learn something new (been out of school for almost 5 years now!).
The place I decided to make my scuba dream a reality was on the tiny island of Gili Trawangan, Indonesia. A bunch of friends recommended I check out the “Gilis” which are 3 small islands right next to each other off the west coast of a much larger island, Lombok.
There are countless options for fast boats leaving from multiple ports in Bali that will get you to Gili Trawangan (or Gili T for short) in around 2-3 hours. Just make sure you’re not wearing shoes as you have to hop off the boat right onto the beach and I most definitely soaked my Chucks.
Gili T is a pretty quaint island, mostly due to the fact that there are no cars or motor bikes permitted. It’s refreshing to not endure the perpetual din of screaming mopeds or diesel trucks. Oh! and there are no dogs allowed on the island either which is also nice. Even though I’m a dog lover, I don’t necessarily enjoy mangy street dogs that gang up at night. But, if you feel at loss without furry friends, there are more than enough, extremely vocal and friendly cats on the island which will be happy to hop into your lap for the chance of sharing whatever you’re having.
I stayed in the middle of the island which was nice as there was no noise from the bars and clubs on the main drag, but I did hear a bit of wailing from the mosques at call to prayer, oh well, part of the experience. Gili T has become somewhat of a backpacker mecca so there is definitely a fair share of drunk Aussie kids running a muck, but there are plenty of chill beach bars and “normal” bars as well, but it’s fun to have options if you want to turn up one night as well.
I decided to do my Open Water Certification with Lutwala Dive Center. They are one of the only 5 Star IDC PADI Centers on the island, meaning they have the capability to certify instructors (which is the highest you can go) and PADI is the biggest scuba certifying organization in the world.
Lutwala is one of the largest dive centers on Gili T and located on the northern tip of the island. It took me about 10 minutes to ride there from my hotel on a bicycle. I appreciated the large open layout of the center with plenty of couches and relaxing places to sit and study between sessions.
They have a large training pool to perfect your skills before trying them out in the open water which made me feel much more comfortable.
The staff at Lutwala are very serious about maintenance of their equipment and they instilled in me the importance of staying organized and tidy with my gear as that’s how you avoid accidents, which I completely agree with…even though I did dunk a regulator in water at the end of my last session which would require taking it apart again, whoops! They also have their own boat which gets tied off right outside the resort which is nice (don’t have to lug all your gear so far).
Everything was extremely professional, and my instructor, Joe Taylor (awesome dude) was patient, informative, safety-conscious and a lot of fun. I had a great 3 days, and I really learned a lot from everything he taught me as well as the study materials he provided. I even got a 100% on my test!
All in all, I had a great few days on Gili Trawangan learning something new and just kicking back and relaxing. They have some of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen on the western end of the island, and they made for the perfect ends to my memorable days.