Tulamben's biggest attraction sunk over 60 years ago. The wreck of the US cargo ship Liberty is among the best and most popular dive sites in Bali and even snorkelers can easily swim out and enjoy exploring the wreck and the coral reefs that are scattered along the coastline.
The village of Tulamben is but a short cluster of hotels and houses along a kilometer stretch of the main road which snakes along Bali’s north coast. In either direction you will find a few resorts spread about however the beach is nothing but a narrow strip of pebbles and far from ideal for swimming. Tulamben’s name is supposedly a contraction of ‘batulambih’, which roughly translates to ‘many stones’. Visitors come for the diving and snorkelling and not much else. But don’t be fooled — the wreck can be one of the busiest dive sites in Bali!
We couldn’t figure out an easy way to get from Pemuteran to Tulamben and opted to arrange a car with driver for the 125km (3 hour) journey which cost us IDR 500 000 (USD 34). (Next time we go to Bali we would probably opt to rent a scooter long term and make our own way around the island. You can save quite a lot on transport and always having your own wheels would make it much more interesting to explore off the beaten spots.)
As the best diving sites are mostly accessible directly from the shore, this cuts out the use of boats and crew, making Tulamben a real scuba destination bargain compared to most of Indonesia. There are plenty of good dive shops around and a guided dive with all gear included can be found for under IDR 300 000 (USD 20) with discounts offered for dive bundles. If you are planning on diving in Tulamben, it might be worthwhile to check out packages which include accommodation and dives.
In 1942 USAT Liberty (USAT stands for United States Army Transport) was en-route from Australia to the Philippines with a cargo of railway parts and rubber when she was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine near the Lombok Strait.
The Liberty was eventually beached at Tulamben for salvage operations where she lay for the next 21 years. During1963, an eruption of Mount Agung caused the vessel to slip further off the beach and positioned it to its current position on a sandy slope in 9 to 30 m of water. The wreck is about 130 m long with the shallowest part at about 5 m deep and the deepest on the other side of the wreck at about 30 m deep.
Very early, just before sunrise you will find large numbers of Giant Bumphead Parrotfish hanging around the wreck! This in itself makes it worth the effort to get up early!
In this rather bad video(!) you will see footage of us diving around and inside the Liberty at sunrise.
Whilst the wreck itself has deteriorated dramatically over the years, it has managed to attract an abundance of marine life and is now largely blanketed in soft corals. There are a number of points of access, nothing too adventurous and easy for even the newly experienced diver. On a sunny day you get beautiful rays of light passing through the structure!
One of the best parts about diving the Liberty Wreck is the fact that you can dive it as much as you like, at times which suit you. Best times are early morning or late afternoon after a lot of the dive operators have left and it’s a lot quieter.