“Finding Nemo” in Gili Trawangan – My First Diving Experience

Since I was a scuba diving virgin, my trip to Gili Trawangan was planned especially to tick this off my bucket list. My first dive was booked in Ibiza, four years ago, but had to be cancelled at the last minute due to rough waters – The worst part was that I was leaving the very next day. That scarred me for life – or at least till I reached Bali and discovered how amazing diving in Gili islands could be.

My friend and I were so excited about our first dive that we started taking major precautions the night before the BIG dive. First things first, we had to stay off magic mushrooms. Well, trust me, it can be quite a task if you are in a place like Gili where you openly see signboards claiming how their shrooms can take you to the moon and back for a measly $10. It was tempting, to say the least, but we were on “high alert” for our early morning dive session and nothing could mess that up – except – Tequila shots.

After watching people who looked like they were physically there but mentally on a different planet, we had to take a few shots to get to a certain level and enjoy our night – Bad decision. So, my first tip – Don’t consume alcohol the night before your dive – You don’t want to be hung over.

We winged it. Somehow – here’s how it went.

My very first deep see diving experience


Cost and where to book

After checking out several dive schools, we zeroed in on “Diversia “ – And mind you, our decision had absolutely nothing to do with their good looking instructors (Ahem! Ahem!).

Cost for an introductory dive –

1 day (Lasts 5-6 hours total)

Test dive in swimming pool

Around 1 hour dive upto 12 meters in the ocean

All equipment included – Just carry your bathing suits

$65 per person

They have more packages for advanced divers as well. This is the one which we availed though.

For our 6 am dive session, we arrived – a tad dizzy with our heads spinning. We were asked to get into wet suits – which they provided, and get into the pool. We were handed over masks and oxygen tanks.

The next few hours were reserved for training. We had one instructor per two students. We had a great instructor who was patient, though, I must admit he lost his cool a couple of times (I bet this had something to do with our limited understanding power while hung over).

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After the in-depth instructions and do’s and don’t , we were given a brunch break. We quickly grabbed a bite and were back in the pool for our first test dive.

Once we were at the deep end, our instructor re-capped everything – equalizing, how to handle our mask, how to ensure there are no bubbles inside our mask and how to move in water , among other basics. Too many instructions made us both kind of nervous. My friend got cold feet and she decided she would not do the main ocean dive as she wasn’t comfortable in the pool’s deep end.

After some motivation and words of comfort, we both set off into the big blue sea on a tiny boat with other divers for our very first taste of underwater life. We were excited and nervous, both at the same time.

The boat stopped and all divers were asked to put on the masks and dive in, backwards. Needless to say, we were the last to do so – after we were guaranteed a push if we chicken out.

Once in the water, we were asked to use only sign language (of course, since we cannot talk underwater – duh!) and hold on tight to a rope as we go down. As we dived deeper, my instructor signaled that he is going up – huh? Didn’t we just get here, I wondered.

I noticed that my friend was nowhere to be seen so I concluded that she probably got cold feet and our instructor has gone up to bring her. I was right. However, within few seconds my emotions changed from curiosity over my friend’s whereabouts to complete panic on realizing I was all alone in pitch dark and silence.

Underwater world can be fascinating but imagine when you cannot hear or see anything (Yeah I could not see the fantastic corals and colorful fish just yet) – You would panic! Big time!

I know I did!

Actually, I just stopped breathing for a few seconds in there before I remembered the instructions “Whatever you do, don’t stop breathing”. Due to my anxiousness, my next few thoughts went something like this – “What if my oxygen tank is empty after getting all used up in the pool?” “What if water seeps into my mask as I didn’t tie it tightly enough?” “What if I want to reach the surface, how do I do it?”

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After few minutes, which seemed like hours, I felt a tug on the rope (which I was holding on to like my life depended on it) and looked up to see my friend and our instructor come down – That was perhaps the happiest moment of my diving experience.

There on, it was all fun and games , mixed with slight panic sessions as my friend had to stop at least ten times to adjust her mask (As water was seeping in constantly).

We swam through amazing corals & colorful fish before we saw “it” – Nemo.  I was totally bedazzled after seeing the character of my favorite Disney movie “Finding Nemo” come to life – I mean, literally, the cute orange fish swimming in and out of corals. For me, that moment was probably the most exciting part of the dive. Then I saw a little blue fish swim past, in my mind it was Dory (The other character from Finding Nemo, though, in reality it could be just another blue fish).

After 55 minutes (though it seemed like just 20 mins now after our personal wide screen Nat Geo underwater movie), we re-surfaced – proud and victorious.

We talked excitedly about our underwater adventures all day long and promised to go back.

Did you ever have a crazy diving experience or yet to go on your first diving adventure? Tell me all about it.

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  • Woohoo! I was hooked to this article from the beginning! Loved how you mixed humour and thrill at the same time.

  • wonderful experience..

  • Chris Tine

    As wonderful as it might have been, I think it’s pretty irresponsible from your diving instructor to leave you alone in the waters. This is absolutely not cool, I’d have been freaking out BIG TIME and would probably never go diving again since it sounds so scary and I’d be afraid this might happen again. But glad you enjoyed it in the end and nothing bad happened!

    • I agree – I have pretty much chalked off diving from my “To-do” list at the next destination. I wanted to experience it and even though it was really amazing, it was that time I was scared shit – even if for just a few minutes. Plus, I guess in all the nervousness, I did not equalize properly and my ears were hurting for 2 days. So, even though I had booked my tkts to Coron for wreck diving, I chickened out at the last minute because of this past experience. Well, its wonderful so I should probably try again, before writing it off completely – and of course, I might find “Nemo” again 😉

  • We had a lot of instructors with us during my first diving experience so whenever someone had any emergencies, someone else will always be there with us. So yeah, that’s a very scary experience specially for a first timer to be alone in the open water. Even if I had my instructor with me the whole time, I’ve been panicking. :p

    • Gee right – it has kind of turned me “off” diving – though I loved it, I am a bit hesitant to do it again.
      Did you have several instructors for a small group? We had 1 for 2 people and there were others but everyone dove separately – so they were somewhere close but nowhere in sight.

      • We were a group of 6 I think and there were about 4 instructors with us not including the ones on the boat waiting for us. :p

  • what a great experience this would have been. Its something i really want to do. I used to love snorkling.

  • Girlswanderlust

    Nice written post! I lived for 7 months on Bali and visited the Gili’s a couple of times, but never did diving. Definitely regret it after reading your post. However, I did see many sea turtles during snorkeling around the islands =)

    • Well I was in Indonesia for 11 months but Gili for just 1 night,sadly. Sea turtles are adorable and snorkeling is fun too. There are so many great diving spots in the world, I am sure you will get to dive soon and love it 🙂

  • Luxury Travel Diva

    A very entertaining read! I love the photo of the Turtle too. I wish I was brave enough to dive – I love snorkelling, but was ‘spooked’ by someone dying whilst diving when I visited The Geat barrier reef. Well done you!

    • Oh no – someone died? Was it recent? Gee, I would be “spooked” too – I mean I was shitting my pants in the 2-5 mins I was left alone “down under” so even though I act brave, maybe I am not so much…lol

  • I’ve never been diving, but I’d love to try it. What an exciting trip! I also didn’t know magic mushrooms were so readily available in Bali…

    • Well shrooms are banned in Bali now (since last 8 months or so).. However, Gili is a totally different story. *No cops on the island* shhhhh…..

  • Jennifer Morrow

    I am a certified diver and love it. You should definitely go for another dive. 24 hour sobriety before will be much safer and a more enjoyable dive. 60 feet under water is an amazing high!

  • Love this! Just did some diving off Gili T and had a great time.