TULAMBEN, BALI - JUNE 2018
I returned to Tulamben for the first time since Mount Agung erupted last year and stayed once again at Liberty Dive Resort. The village is a bit quieter now as many people are still worried about coming back and as the alert level is still at three it is hard for many to get travel insurance. Even during my three week’s stay there were a few small eruptions and the day after I left there was a bigger one that closed the airport. This hasn’t stopped me from booking another trip in a few week’s time as it is believed that these continuing blowing eruptions are beneficial in the release of pressure. Liberty resort is running with full staff now and although it is quieter there are a steady flow of guests coming through. Not ideal, but I am sure it will continue to improve and once the alert level is back to normal the divers will return.
I settled back into room three on my arrival and put my camera kit together with batteries charging before going to the restaurant to say hello and have a few beers. I would not start diving till day three as the purpose of the trip was also to relax and recuperate after a long hard year. It was great, and sometimes overwhelming, to catch up with all my friends at Liberty and we spent some time talking, laughing and catching up on news. Since I last saw them some have had babies while others had gotten married and overall, they were very happy to be back working after the closure.
I spent the first full day just relaxing and visiting my local family for a bite to eat and a wrestle with three-year-old Putu who recognises me straight away these days.
Getting back in the water after such a long break came naturally to me and I was looking forward to seeing if the lack of diving in the area had given the sites a bit of a reprieve. Happily, it had and upon diving at Seraya we found many Pygmy Sea horses, Harlequin Shrimp as well as a couple of Emperor Shrimp on their host Nudibranchs.
My guide and long time friend Mega on the Liberty wreck
One of the many statues placed in a special area near the coral Gardens site
All in all, there seemed to be a lot of life around on this trip but this could have been from the slightly cooler water temperature. There were a number of Mimic Octopus to be seen as well as many Nudibranchs and a lot of Crinoid Shrimp, Crabs of varying colours and species. The resident Rhinopia at Sidem appear to have moved to deeper water as we could not find them on the dives we did at this site but this could be due to the number of divers that visit here when they are around. Turtles were also more common this trip with sightings at Kubu Wreck as well as the Liberty Wreck and Agung Resort site and they were not too concerned about being photographed.
The Drop off at the end of Tulamben Bay had its good days with numerous schools of Oxeye Scads in the shallows and there were quite a few fusiliers at 25 metres along the wall. The big Anemone in the shallows was completely closed up which made for a few good shots and I could sit there watching them for ages. A beautiful Black Tip Shark made a pass on us but I wasn’t quick enough to get a shot in the clear blue water, must be age creeping in.
Most of my diving this trip was centred at Saraya and other sites along that bay as there is some really good macro photography to be done along there at the moment. If you cant walk away with a few good shots then your doing something wrong as the guides will find numerous subjects of all sizes to shoot and then leave you to it for as long as it takes.
Although most people consider Tulamben and the surrounds as great for macro photography there is also a number of sites that lend themselves to Wide angle as there are some beautiful reefs and wrecks in the area. Just to the east of
Coral Gardens in Tulamben Bay is an area in about 15 metres of water where many statues of the local gods have been placed along with small temple structures. These have had much growth build up on them since they were placed and provide something different to shoot.
Another great area to try is Amed which is 30 – 40 minutes to the east depending on where you are diving. There are some great locations here including the famous Jemeluk Bay. This tranquil bay has many good sites including the Pyramids, which is made up of many concrete structures and is teaming with life, and the beautiful wall to the right of the bay when facing to the sea. These sites are boat dives and you will go out in small local “jukung” fishing boats. They may look a little awkward but are very stable and reasonably easy to get in and out of.
The wall at Jumeluk is amazing with hundreds of large fans and many big Bommies. This was the first time I dived the wall but will not be my last. Many schools of fish inhabit the wall and reef above it and the visibility is generally great. Wide angle is a must here but I guess there would be plenty of macro around as well but was just not looking for it. It is a big site so it doesn’t get too crowded but make sure you come up on the right boat when your finished. We had a bit of current and Mega tells me it is common but it did not cause too many problems.
Once again, my stay at Liberty was easy and comfortable and the staff really look after you. Just let your guide know when you want to dive and what you want to see and they will organise it for you, It’s that easy. The restaurant has enough variety to get you through a trip and the food is good as well as being reasonably priced. You can have a great time with the staff as they are very friendly and love working there. Also, great massages either is the spa or the local massage ladies come about 3:30 – 4:00 in the afternoon.
Amed's Jemeluk Bay is great for wide angle
A selection of images from Tulamben and the surrounding areas