Tulamben is now one of the most famous diving areas in Bali and attracts divers from all over the world. Tulamben bay, just like the rest of Bali, is situated in the world’s richest marine biogeographic zone with more than 2500 different species of fish and 700 corals. Situated on the north east coast, the bay receives very plankton rich water from the major ocean current that moves from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean or vice versa. The wreck, rocky wall and sand slopes provide a wide variety of physical habitats. All of these factors, combined together are why the Tulamben bay contains an incredible diversification of the underwater ecosystem.
Early in the morning of January 11, 1942, Liberty was motoring across the Lombok Strait, bringing war material from Australia to the Philippines. At 4.15 am the ship was torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I -166. Although crippled by the blow, the Liberty did not sink. Two destroyers tried to tow the ship toward Singaraja where it was hoped she could be repaired, however the ship was taking in too much water, so she was beached at Tulamben. Over the coming year anything of value was removed.
Then in 1963, Bali’s highest and most holy mountain, Gunung Agung, erupted creating a powerful earth quake that rolled the ship in to deeper water and broke her at the bow and stern.
Liberty Wreck Dive
The Liberty now lies almost parallel to the beach, the shallowest part of the wreck touches the sandy slope at 7-9 meters and the deepest part is at 28-30 meters which is suitable for all levels of diving qualification and experience. It’s a magnificent dive site recognized as one of the world’s best and easiest wreck dives. The wreck is very popular with photographers as it is totally encrusted in anemones, gorgonians and corals. The magic is also added by Tulamben’s black sand which provides an excellent colour contrast to the incredible variety of marine life.
It’s quite difficult to list what you will see on this dive because you will come across just about everything in any Indo-Pacific reef guide book. From the minute angel fish, nudibranches, pipefish, goby through to the areas of garden eels, huge schools of silver fish called big eyed trevally, sweet lips, batfish, butterfly fish, then add invertebrates, the hard coral, black corals, sponges with crinoids, sea fans, make Tulamben uniquely amazing. The wreck is great for night dives, particularly if the moon is full, you may see Spanish dancer, flashlight fish, or sleeping parrotfish.
The dive starts off on a steep sandy slope with nudibrances, flounder, shrimp 10 meters. There are big sponges with many varieties of shrimp, lionfish, and continuing to the right, the slope develops into a reef with very impressive topography, and becoming a vertical wall from 15 meters and descending to below 60 meters. Here you will find a sea fan, almost 2 meters across, at a depth of 28 meters, which is probably the crown jewel of the drop off – inhabited by pigmy Seahorses. On a good day usually in the morning at low tide, visibility at the drop off will reach 20 meters and because of the location, there will be almost no or a mild current only. The fish life is similar to that found on the Liberty wreck. However being a much larger area than the wreck, you can see white tip reef shark, napoleon, bump head, parrot fish, moray eel and octopus. Should you dive in the afternoon, you will see a wide variety of lionfish that inhabit the area in their abundance.
Just in the front of Tulamben resort is a delightfully rich little patch reef, which is dominated by croporid, hard coral, including some large table and fire corals, interspersed with anemones as well as sponges.
Though only less than 200 meters long, this reef also supports a diverse fish population, snapper, angelfish, wrasse, parrotfish, black tip shark, and millions of common reef fish. Also you can see some rarities, like blue ribbon eels (the juveniles are black) frogfish and unusual scorpion fish and even the rare ghost pipe fish.
Your dive in here can be extended, much deeper than 12 meters if you follow the sandy slope down. You will find barrel sponges with many surprises, juvenile emperor, angelfish, a school of juvenile catfish, a school of razor fish, two spot lion fish, and if you turn to the right toward the drop off, swim along the slope you will arrive at a dry river bed, It is a gray bowl of rock and sand with no structure other than small sound ridges radiating out into deep.
Just around the corner from Tulamben bay, 15 minutes by Jukung (traditional Balinese fishing boat ) sits Batu Kelebit. At this beautiful site, there are two large underwater boulders lying just off shore from a point marked by a jagged crest of lava. The dive site is dramatic and consists of steep ridges encrusted with an incredible diversity of hard corals, sea fans, fire coral and sponges and between the ridges separated by valleys of bright white sand. On this dive site not only the colour of the sand differs from Tulamben bay, also the species of even the most common reef fishes are different too!
In fish and invertebrate life, Batu Kelebit is perhaps even richer than Tulamben bay. Because of the steepness of the site combined with the structure of the ridges and plankton rich water, you will have more chances to see big pelagic including dog tooth tuna, mantas, schools of barracuda and you will always see the reef white tip sharks at Batu Kelebit.
Tulamben is a great place for a vacation with family and friends and it’s the best place to take the edge off and enjoy the serenity of underwater sea life.