Tulamben is a small village on the north-eastern shore of Bali and (like the rest of this stretch of coast) famous for diving. There are many places which offer very similar experiences along the coast, but Tulamben is slightly different. It stands out from the crowd thanks to it’s Liberty. USAT Liberty to be precise. The ship was beached there after being hit by a Japanese torpedo. During a big eruption of Gunung Agung in the 1960s it was pushed into the sea. Nowadays the wreck lies about 50m off the shore in a depth of 5 to 30 meters. This makes it ideal for beginner divers as it can be explored without any special training. The wreck was also our main reason to visit this part of Bali.
After all the dust blown at us on Ijen and Bromo plus the stress of Batur Zoë’s nose was still a bit blocked. Not good for diving as it makes it difficult to equalize ear pressure and potentially damage your ears. So for the first day all we could do was walk along the stony beach and enjoy the sun and hope things would clear up in time. We had two and a half days in Tulamben but booked a dive course for the last day. Fingers crossed.
The next day things were looking better as the day went on and in the afternoon we decided to take up the offer of one of the beachside dive schools and went to see the wreck. It was really cool. There were some other divers but it was not too busy. We had a great time swimming around the ship; constantly on the look-out for fish. And there were lots! On the way to the wreck we saw a few big emperor sweetlips and titan triggerfish. The distorted bits of metal were almost completely covered in corals and other plants with lots of small fish swimming around. After gliding through a big swim-through we spotted a whitemargin unicornfish which looked very unusual and interesting. A few metres further we spotted a giant napoleon wrasse, going into hiding to the inside of the ship. Shortly after, we were intrigued by the giant bumphead parrotfish. A swarm of them sleeps in the wreck every night and goes out during the day; we had been lucky to spot them during daylight hours. Overall we were impressed with our first wreck dive, but less impressed by the company. They never checked our dive license prior to going into the water and just took our word for it.
The next day Zoë felt all fine so we went to Matahari dive resort where we booked our perfect buoyancy specialty course. We had to wait a bit for the instructor while going through the paperwork with his wife. It felt a lot more professional and we were confident to get a good course. Our teacher took us to a sandy slope at about 7m depth to go through the exercises. Some of them were recaps of the open water course but still useful. Others were new and helped us to get a better feel for buoyancy control and how much extra weight we needed. We must have been improving as both of us ended up with less weights than we needed in Koh Tao. Our air consumption also improved but is still inconsistent. The second part of the first dive was diving around rocks with corals while practicing the new skills. Out of the blue we were electrified when our divemaster spotted two blacktip reef sharks. Our first shark sighting! Sadly, it was only short but it was still thrilling.
After a quick lunch from a local lady and her stall we had our lunch break extended because our instructor was unwell. Thankfully he recovered quickly and together with his wife we went for our second buoyancy training dive. While practising our buoyancy skills we spotted a trumpet fish and our guide spotted a remarkably well hidden flat-leaf scorpion fish. Around some rocks we discovered juvenile emperor fishes and a darkphase lionfish who looked quite scary with his long dagger-like fins.
We could not stop being amazed by the plentiful and colourful underwater life. It was just incredible what we discovered everywhere and watching fish swimming right up to us was great. This is what we came for and why we picked up diving. With a new skill set and more dive practice under our belt we feel well prepared for our liveaboard around Komodo in just under two weeks.