Diving in Tulamben – USS Liberty

by Poi on July 5, 2012

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As mentioned in the previous post we’d heard a lot of good things about Tulamben, most relating of course to the USS Liberty wreck.  Unsurprisingly after getting settled into Liberty Dive resort the first thing we did was hunt someone down to go through the dive sites, The wreck being top of our agenda.

Not fancying getting up early on our first morning in town and wanting to save our first dive on the wreck for when the  conditions were perfect, we opted to try another one of Tulamben’s dive sites first.

The Drop Off

After squeezing into a wetsuit at the resort we jumped on the back of a moped which quickly zipped us down to the opposite side of the bay where the ‘drop off’ is located. Being lazy and diving at midday meant there were quite a few other divers around kitting up but it  soon quietened down once in the water.

We descended onto a steep sand bank and followed it down until we hit a vertical reef wall.  The wall was teeming with life and with plenty to see it was hard not to descend further into the depths, the wall apparently continues down to 60m, far beyond where we would be exploring. Scorpion fish, Sponges, bump head parrot fish and plenty of interesting coral made for a decent  first dive.

That was it for our first day, a good dive followed by eating too much, splashing around in the pool and a lot of napping. It’s a hard life…

USS Liberty

USS Liberty DivingKirsty diving the wreck

The next morning we were up early for our first dive on the USS Liberty.  5:45am we appeared, yawning but excited, this was to be our first ever wreck dive.

After slipping into a wetsuit it was a short walk down the road to the beach to find our gear ready and waiting after being dropped off by those ever reliable mopeds. By 6:10 the sun was making an appearance as we entered the water, this time there was no one else around, now who’s lazy?.   Similarly to the drop off we followed the bank down to the wreck which at it’s shallowest point lies in just 9m of water and 30m from the shore.

Being so close to the shore caught me out a bit and I was quite taken back when I lifted my head up from scanning the rocks below to see the bow of the ship towering above me.  We worked our way around the ship despite it now being mostly broken up and it’s easy to see why it’s both one of Bali’s most popular dive spots and known as possibly the worlds easiest wreck dive.

The life taking advantage of the ship is pretty incredible, we’d been told that early morning were a great time to see bumphead parrot fish in groups despite usually being a little antisocial and this proved to be the case.  Trying not to be too mesmerised by the wreck and remembering to look out for them was the only challenge.

USS Liberty DivingOn Deck

If the wreck was exciting in the daylight imagine how it would be in the dark.  Wanting to tick another first off that day we told our divemaster we’d like to dive the wreck again that night. Just under 12 hours after exiting the water we were back again, this time armed with a large torch and a few more nerves.

Descending into the darkness for the first time is very odd (every time I imagine, at least for a while) and getting used to only being able to see where your light is shinning is strange, your usual sense of where you are in relation to everything else around you disappears. This time, despite experiencing it early in the day, arriving at the bow shocked me even more.

In the dark, following only my light the ship seemed even bigger as it towered above me, I couldn’t help but think “I wonder how often this thing shifts on the sea-bed”.   The dive site seemed like a completely different place at night and the wrecks inhabitants were out in force for us to marvel at, including a few (very strange) ‘Spanish Dancers’.

When a large bumphead parrot fish swims by, inches from your mask and taking you by surprise as it shines bright blue in the torch’s light it’s easy to see why people say diving is addictive.


Kubu, BaliKirsty at Kubu Dive Site

After another early morning dive on the wreck we decided to check out one more local dive site before leaving the area.  After talking with our dive master we decided to head to Kubu, an easy relaxed dive with plenty to just a few kilometres down the road from Tulamben.

Swimming out from the shore again, we descended down to soft and hard coral as far as the eye could see and large shoals of small fish filling the blue space above.  Although not as exciting as diving the wreck this was a very peaceful dive simply enjoying all the varying colours underwater and a lovely way to finish our time here.

Tulamben was a treat to dive, especially for Kirsty who was diving only her second spot and although the wreck is undoubtedly the highlight the other sites are worth a quick dip as well. I could easily see us returning for a few days to dive the wreck again and if you’re in the area it would certainly be one hell of a place to learn to dive.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Monica July 5, 2012 at 6:38 pm

This was one of my all time favourite dive spots. I’m a bit of a lazy diver and like places that are calm and easy but still have loads to explore so this place ticked all the boxes. There’s not a lot to do in Tulamben but diving is exhausting anyway so it was lovely to relax.


Poi July 26, 2012 at 9:07 pm

It was a very easy place to dive but like you say it certainly wasn’t lacking in anything. So much to see!

I’d happily go back today!


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