Tulamben, Bali May 2015
I have returned to Liberty Dive Resort again this
May and have extended my trip to a duration of
three weeks so that I can be here for a personal
reason as well as enjoying the diving and
hospitality that I have experienced here in the
past. As usual the staff at LDR have been
outstanding and I feel like I have become a part
of the resort family.
I have made many friends here and leaving
becomes harder each time. Thanks so much to
Wayan and the whole team that make this resort
just that little bit more special and make my
stay so comfortable and easy.
Normally I do my
trip reports with a "day by day" description of what I have been doing dive wise but this time I am going to
spend a bit more time discussing Tulamben and its surrounds as well as the wreck of the USAT Liberty. I
will also outline some of the things I have shot and a bit on any new sites I have visited.
Tulamben is a small seaside village about 100km from Denpasar in the North Eastern region of Karangasem
near the village of Kubu. It is situated directly under the shadow of Mt. Agung, which has erupted many
times in the past with lava flows through this area. The villages name is a reference to its rocky shoreline
and comes from the word "batulambih" which means "many stones", sort of. This has shortened over time
to the name of Tulamben, which remains today. I am not sure of the population but I would guess it would
only be in the few hundreds and the main occupation for the village would now be linked in some way to
the dive industry that has developed here over many years.
The main attraction of Tulamben, as far as diving goes, would have to be the wreck of the USAT Liberty.
Built in New Jersey, USA for the US navy in 1918 she was used to
transport horses as well as general cargo from New York to France for a
total of three cruises. She was de-commissioned in April 1919 and returned
to the US shipping board. Liberty spent the mid war years in service with
the Southgate-Nelson corporation transporting cargo around the US and
at one point in 1933 collided with the Ohioan, which needed to be beached.
In 1940 USAT Liberty was taken up by the US Army for services along with a number of other ships. When
the US entered the war in December 1941 USAT Liberty was posted in the Pacific as a cargo carrier. In
January 1942 she was torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-166 and although all efforts were made to
tow her to Singaraja by the US destroyer "Paul Jones"
and Dutch Destroyer "Van Ghent" she took on too much water and was beached at Tulamben to make the
recovery of her cargo possible.
1963... February 18th. saw the eruption of Mt Agung and a few days later the flow of lava started down
the slope of the mountain. On March 17th Agung erupted in all it fury with pyroclastic flows killing around
1500 people with another 400 killed by later eruptions. The mother temple of Besakih was spared from the
destruction and the Balinese people considered this a miracle. USAT Liberty was not spared and the
tremors from the eruptions caused her to topple on her side and slide into the sea and down the slope to
where she sits today.
I found the best time to dive the Liberty (for me anyway) was at about 8:00 am as the early morning divers are finished and the rush from
down south hasn't started so you just about got the wreck to yourself. This means I can get a relaxing
breakfast in to start the day along with a couple of coffees. There is both wide angle and macro available
on this site along with everything in between. Visibility can be seasonal but I have had bad when it was
supposed to be good and visa versa so take all your arsenal of lenses when you visit Tulamben.
There are all sorts of creatures inhabiting the wreck from tiny Pygmy Sea Horses to the possibility of
seeing a Whale Shark or Sunfish (Mola Mola) as well as Turtles and just about every marine fish you can
think of. It's a great wreck to shoot with great lighting most of the time.
It seams that each time I visit Tulamben a different site is firing. I found the best site of this trip was the
wreck slope which is just off to the right of the Liberty (looking from shore) as it was teaming with
Nudibranchs, Sea Pen Gobies of many different colours, Mantis Shrimp with eggs and much more. I even
had a couple of Emperor Shrimp on Nudibranchs, which is a first for me so I
made the best of the opportunity.
Other sites in Tulamben Bay include Coral Gardens, which has many coral
outcrops with heaps of life and great colour. A little further east on the
site there is an area where tho locals have put in many statues and a tyre
reef and these are stating to attract lots of life. At the eastern end of
the bay is the Drop Off as it is called. It has a shore entry which takes you over a bed of rocks and then
onto a wall which can be quite spectacular.
There are some great sites around the point which are well worth a visit as there is some great coral
structures around here covered in a myriad of marine life. These sites are accessed by the small fishing
boats seen along the beach and cost a few dollars but are well worth it.
I visited a couple of new sites on this trip, which included a small bay that goes by the name of Sidem,
which can be an interesting dive. It about 7 km east of Tulamben and is accessed by a narrow track which
leads to an area above the site. Its then a short steep walk down to the beach which has an easy
entrance. The bottom is a bit different to other sites in the area in that its
covered in a reddish, cabbage like weed that is the home of the elusive
Rhinopias. We found a few of the Scorpion Fish at this site but they had
moved on within a few days. Other things found at the site include Juvenile Bat Fish, Nudibranchs and lots
of Moray Eels. The other site was Batu Ringit to the west of Tulamben past the village of Kubu. If you are
looking for Tiger Shrimp then dive hereas I found heaps of them. It is a site I want to visit again as I don't
feel I saw the best of it but believe it will have some good potential.
A few kilometres east of Tulamben is Seraya, which has a long bay that is more of a sandy beach than
Tulamben and makes for easier entry and exits. There are several sites along this bay starting on the
western end with Segara, followed by Milasti, Big tree, Bali Hai and the dive site of Seraya itself. All these
sites offer something a little different but it is all pretty much macro along this beach. Unfortunately I had
some bad conditions on this trip so didn't dive this bay as much as usual but that's diving and can happen
anywhere.
Liberty dive resort has many levels of accommodation from smaller rooms
on the top level of the resort to the new luxury cottages at the western
end of the grounds but all rooms are air-conditioned and serviced every
day. There is no TV but who cares. I sleep very well when I stay here as
it is nice and quiet at night. There are three swimming pools scattered
around the resort as well as a number of massage huts and plenty of lounge chairs around the pools. The
gardens are really good with nice green lawns and beautiful garden beds with palms, Frangipannis and
many other tropical plants.
There is a rather large restaurant at the head of the main pool which is open from 7:00 am till 10:30 pm
with a good variety of meals on the menu. Theycater for western tastes as well as offering a range of
Indonesian meals. Some great deserts are to be had as well. Alcohol is limited to Bintang, apple cider and a
variety of wines so you will need to bring your own spirits if you want them.
As far as the staff are concerned you wont find a friendlier, more helpful group of people anywhere. All the
staff go out of their way to make sure you have a trouble free trip to their resort and I have made many
friends over the times I have been coming here.