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Near sinking of fastboat from Gili islands to Bali 1/3/13

Melbourne, Australia
Level Contributor
55 posts
26 reviews
15 helpful votes
Near sinking of fastboat from Gili islands to Bali 1/3/13


After reading many opinions on whether to travel to the Gili Islands by fastboat or fly via Lombok, I thought I would provide some thoughts from my personal experience.

After much thought, we decided to travel via fastboat (Semaya One) two weeks ago from

Sanur to Gili T. Despite some rough seas between the Nusa Lembongan to Gili T leg, we made it without incident. Staff were friendly & we were happy with the decision.

HOWEVER.. Be warned that on our return leg from the Gili's to Nusa Lembongan half way between the crossing we encountered what would best be described as a washing machine of currents, creating high white capped waves which did make me uneasy.

Shortly afterwards the front windscreen of the boat was smashed to pieces, with a torrent of water entering the boat through the FRONT drivers bay.

What then ensued was nothing short of chaos, with the 25 passengers racing to put on lifejackets as the crew furiously began to attempt the bucket the incoming water out of the boat as further waves smashed through the Captains bay.

With land barely in sight from either Lombok or Bali, we endured a further hour of waves entering the boat through the front windscreen as the crew attempted to bucket the water out. At one point the boat was close to rolling once, until the Captain regained control.

During this time, a couple of passengers were understandably inconsolably crying with fear (as one young mother passed her 5 year old child to me & said 'I am going to die, will you save my child for me?') as we were awaiting one further large wave to render the boat sunk.

Thankfully that final large wave through the front cabin never came, only a number of medium waves through the cabin and we finally able to regain control of the boat & limp our way across the strait to somewhere off Padangbai which our captain instructed the passengers we would be re-routing too for safety reasons. No one was disagreeing!

Once the boat made it to the coast near Padanbai, it was then relayed to us that the boat would now be making it's way to Sanur due to the currents acting more calmly along the coast.

Despite leaving Gili Air at 12pm, we limped into Sanur at 4.15pm with a completely smashed front left windscreen, internal damage to the front walls of the cabin resulting from the waves & water still on the floor of the boat & not a lifejacket left in it's storage space.

In writing this I would like to praise the Captain of the boat, who we later learned had suffered some concussion from the windscreen smashing into his face. The efforts of the Captain to prevent the boat from sinking was astonishing & despite our ordeal should be thanked for saving the boat from sinking. The rest of the crew also worked tirelessly to ensure that the boat made it to shore, albeit in beaten up shape.

My largest concerns are the fact that despite our perilous state of taking on massive water in the middle of the Bali-Lombok strait, not one boat came to our rescue. We were simply on our own despite passengers calling Semaya One's office immediately upon us taking on large amounts of water.

As much as I would love to be proven wrong, I believe that no other boat companies (who would no doubt have been ferrying passengers through the same stretch of water) were notified that we were about to abort the ship into the rough seas. Not one boat was spotted near, or in the distance at any point. Not one.

A further shock for many of us was that upon arriving at Sanur, around 20 minutes after arriving at shore, a new perspex windscreen was installed onto the boat to get it ready for the next mornings boat transfers in full view of the still shocked passengers. No investigating into what went wrong, or how it could be prevented again. Although I no expertise in boating safety, having utilised the same perspex materials on home renovations, the thin perspex material would easily buckle if a human stood on it, & would NOT be sufficient as a windshield of a boat to protect from large & unpredictable waves.

Having seen first hand the lack of boat safety & lack of any assistance in the event your boat experiences trouble, I would strongly recommend people fly to Lombok & take the small boat trip to the Gili islands during this time of year. Ofcourse, when the weather & currents are more forgiving in the dry season you are likely okay, but my future visits to the wonderful Gili islands will be via plane from now on.

I'm sorry if this post is long winded, but it is impossible to explain in words how frightened 25 passengers were on our boat. If this post can help others make an informed decision about travelling safely to the Gili's & back, then I hope it helps in some small way.

Level Contributor
6 posts
7 reviews
3 helpful votes
1. Re: Near sinking of fastboat from Gili islands to Bali 1/3/13

Thanks so much for your advice. Have a similiar experience travelling to Nusa Lembongan. Thought I was going to die....Travelling to lombok from Bali in May. Have now booked flights. Thanks again and glad your safe.

Lombok, Indonesia
Level Contributor
2,445 posts
58 reviews
45 helpful votes
2. Re: Near sinking of fastboat from Gili islands to Bali 1/3/13

Thank you for your post. I certainly would never consider that crossing by fast boat at this time of year.

Level Contributor
2,017 posts
1 review
4 helpful votes
3. Re: Near sinking of fastboat from Gili islands to Bali 1/3/13

Thank you so much for posting about your shocking experience.

I will be posting the link to your report on some of the other forums I belong to. It is so important travellers are informed of the dangers they may encounter.


Gosford, Australia
Level Contributor
544 posts
30 reviews
89 helpful votes
4. Re: Near sinking of fastboat from Gili islands to Bali 1/3/13

hi all

we had a similar return trip from gili meno to padang bai last year in late June with sea marlin.

our windscreen did stay intact but we had water constantly pouring in the front hatch.

all windows were kept shut due to the waves crashing against the glass. looked like a front loader washing machine.

this didn't help the half a dozen or more people who were sea sick due to the lack of fresh air & about 60-70 people on board.

Despite a wonderful trip over 10 days earlier i would be very reluctant to go on a fast boat again!!!

This would explain why the comments on the forum have informed people the harbour master had stopped all boat transfers recently!!

Happy travels on!!

Perth, Australia
1 post
1 review
3 helpful votes
5. Re: Near sinking of fastboat from Gili islands to Bali 1/3/13

Be careful with the flights though, tried to fly back 8ish on Lion Air, at the airport and turns out the flight and the next days flights until 6pm were cancelled, were forced to take the local ferry back to Bali as our flights were the day after we were expected back in Bali. Highly recommend the local ferry, Japanese built and was not too terrible, although we were left drifting just outside Padang because there was no space (car ferry) for it to dock. The trip took approximately 5 hours and if you have the option to, get a mattress or stay out on the open deck. Was a lot better than waiting 12 hours for a Garuda flight and paying more, and it only cost about $4AUD each!

sydney australia
Level Contributor
3,665 posts
80 reviews
52 helpful votes
6. Re: Near sinking of fastboat from Gili islands to Bali 1/3/13

The Lombok strait can be very rough particulary in the afternoons - during the monsoon season.

What a frightening experience, but at least everyone got to dry land with few injuries.

Be a great tale to talk about for years - but very scary at the time.

Thanks for taking the time to share

Denpasar, Indonesia
Level Contributor
2,999 posts
40 reviews
32 helpful votes
7. Re: Near sinking of fastboat from Gili islands to Bali 1/3/13

Only a fool would have considered taking a boat out in the conditions here two weeks ago.

No other boat would have come to your assistance because all would have still been in the harbour.

The captain does not need praise he needs to be shot!

Lombok, Indonesia
Level Contributor
8,312 posts
4 reviews
11 helpful votes
8. Re: Near sinking of fastboat from Gili islands to Bali 1/3/13

Yes, it certainly does beg the question; why were they out there at all in a small fragile boat in a tumultuous sea?

It's not like the weather conditions arrived by surprise, so they set out knowing there was a clear and apparent hightened risk of an adverse event.

Bawley Point...
Level Contributor
4 posts
15 reviews
12 helpful votes
9. Re: Near sinking of fastboat from Gili islands to Bali 1/3/13

We travelled to Gili T with Ocean Star in December 2011, from Padang Bai it didnt even enter my mind that it would get rough...how stupid of me. I had been dodging the swells to Lembongan for years even went on a small outrigger once and also travelled to the bottom of Java years ago so should of known better.

But is was like a mill pond both ways so when I took my young daughter and husband back last July , didnt even think about a rough trip...again

We caught the fast boat to Lembongan, no swell but on arriving the tides were low so we had to be off loaded a long way from the usual spot. This was a hassle with luggage etc and also the elderly or not so fit would never of coped.

from here we headed to gili T , so as the tides were wrong again we were loaded onto a glass bottom boat and taken out to the pontoon to board the fast boat.

Well there was no pontoon we had to climb from this little boat up onto the bigger boat...so dangerous and then pass our luggage over the water to the boat.

After about 45 min we hit swell that just got bigger and bigger, everyone was sea sick, water was coming in the windows and not once were we ever shown where a life jacket was. This lasted for 3 hours!! it was so bad we didnt go via Lombok as we were supposed to.

So the next two days I stressed about getting back. All I can say was the trip back was ten times worse than going over. 3.5 mt head on swell, they told me no not bad we go in worse. It was terrible and is an accident waiting to happen

Hobart, Australia
Level Contributor
1 post
35 reviews
32 helpful votes
10. Re: Near sinking of fastboat from Gili islands to Bali 1/3/13

Thanks - was going to use the fast boat but will fly to Lombok and get the half hour boat instead to Gili Air.

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