When I first started to plan my trip to join the research team of the Gili Shark Conservation project, I was excited to dive frequently with sharks and learn more about these amazing creatures and the measures needed to conserve them. However, nothing prepared me for the beauty of the marine life of the Gili Islands in addition to the fascinating sight of black and white tip reef sharks.
The Gili Shark Conservation research team is lucky enough to have access to a wide variety of dive sides throughout the waters of the three Gili Islands: Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan. We do survey dives for thirty minute intervals seven times a week, where we search for and record indicator species. The indicator species are fish that are part of a shark’s diet, and range from giant malabar groupers to schools of humpback snappers.
The science of today is the technology of tomorrow
When a member of the team sees an indicator species that is thirty centimetres in length or above, they record the size, name of the species and how many there are, as well as the depth and time they were seen at. This action is an important method of research to see how the number of indicator species has changed over time, and if the number of sharks in the area correlates to this change. The goal of the surveys overall is also to see the effectiveness of the Gili Matra Marine Reserve, a Marine Protected Area that is set to be re-evaluated in 2019.
My favorite dive site around the Gili Islands
On survey dives, and especially during the team’s weekly fun dive, it is interesting to see what other marine life there is besides indicator species. Sunset, a dive site located off the coast of Gili Trawangan, has been one of my favorite dive sites so far because it was where I saw my first cuttlefish. Clown fish, lionfish, stingrays and eels can also be commonly viewed at Sunset. The Gili Islands also have spectacular coral foundations, which teem with groupers hidden in the crevasses and turtles resting in large sponges. Each dive site is familiar after you have dove it several times, but always offers something different to see because of the sheer diversity of life that can be seen here.
I would highly encourage anyone to make the trip to Lombok and join the Gili Shark Conservation project and the incredible work that they are doing for the sharks and overall marine life of the Gili Islands. You’ll get the chance to experience seeing and doing research to assist species that few get to see in their lifetime- and have a great time doing it, too!
Written by: Lucinda Barret