Tulamben Dive Guide

It's easily Bali's most visited diving site, and with good reason. Tulamben sports not only a fantastic wreck dive, but also an excellent wall dive. The black sandy bottom coupled with the wide variety of marine life makes this a very popular place for underwater photographers.

Although there are close to 20 dive sites in the immediate area, there are two in particular that draw the most people: The USAT Liberty shipwreck and the Wall. I've covered those two in more detail here. The others include Kubu, just north of Tulamben, and Batu Kelebit, just to the south.

Tulamben has a small group of dedicated dive resorts to choose from, but truth be told it's a rather isolated and undeveloped area. You might want to spend a few days here to see some of the other dive sites - and see the main dive sites before the vans from the south show up - but you probably wouldn't want to base yourself here for a long stay. Another option would be the next bay over, Amed.

Tulamben Diving

Liberty Shipwreck

Liberty Shipwreck at a Glance

Depth: 5 - 40 m
Currents: nil
Season: Any

The wreck of the USAT Liberty is easily the most popular dive site in Bali. Not only is there the attraction of the wreck itself, but on and around it is the most extraordinary diversity of marine life. You'll find everything from common Trevally to the rare pygmy seahorse.

The wreck has its origins in the morning of 11 January 1942, when the Liberty was passing through the Lombok Strait as part of a convoy of ships bringing supplies from Australia to the Allies in the Philippines. The liberty was a freighter, built in New Jersey in 1918, and conscripted to help the war effort, and was reportedly carrying rubber and railroad parts. At 4:15 in the morning, Japanese submarine I-166 got the Liberty in their sites and sent a torpedo into it. Although badly damaged, the Liberty did not sink. Two destroyers escorting the convoy took the crippled ship under tow, making for Singaraja on the north coast, where they hoped the ship could be repaired. Unfortunately, the Liberty began taking on too much water and was beached at Tulamben.

The Liberty sat grounded on the beach for a little more than twenty years, during which time her cargo and other valuable items were salvaged. Then, in 1963, the nearby Agung volcano erupted, sending out violent earthquakes which rolled the Liberty into deeper water and breaking the ship at the bow and stern.

You approach the wreck from the shore - not as easy as it sounds, since the 'beach' here is covered with large stones bigger than your fist. There's no graceful way to make your way out to a depth where you can inflat your BCD and put on your fins. Expect to get a few bruises on your knees on the way in or out. The top of the wreck is around 5 meters down. You'll most likely come up on the Liberty from the stern.

The entire wreck is almost complete covered with various kinds of growths. Some of the most interesting sights are around the crumpled top-side. Look carefully at the fan corals, and you might find the rare pygmy seahorse. They're not much bigger than a flea, and the same color as the coral, so they're hard to spot.

The Wall

The Wall at a Glance

Depth: 5 - 60 m
Currents: nil to strong
Season: Any

Also called: The Drop-Off

The Wall is at the south end of Tulamben Bay, and is actually three coral covered lava spurs. The alternate name of "The Drop-off" is apt, as the area quickly drops from 5 to 60 meters. Keep an eye on your depth here. Of course, there's so much to see at shallower depths that you won't necessarily be drawn deeper. Be careful as you round the wall, since you can come face-to-face with some strong currents once you come out from the protection of the wall.

Among the sights are large fans - at least one over 3 meters wide - barrel sponges and staghorns. Look for a small boulder on the sandy bottom with a large mossy green staghorn on it. A large group of cleaner shrimp have set up shop on the boulder and the coral, where you can sometimes find a number of other fish utilizing their services. Generally, you make your way leisurely out along the base of the wall until you're down to half a tank, the turn back and make your way back and up the wall for your safety stop. The character of the wall changes with every meter. On my way back, my guide-buddy spotted a large bright red pin-cushion starfish.

The one constant sight on this dive site is a large school of fusiliers that's usually found around the end of the wall, above the sandy bottom.