A Lady of Liberty

By Annabel Thomas
For The Bali Times 

TULAMBEN ~ The small village of Tulamben, famous for its black volcanic sand, is quite rightly Bali’s most popular diving location and where you are most likely to see internationally recognised underwater photojournalists. 

Tulamben Bay, like the rest of Bali, is situated in the world’s richest marine biogeographic zone – the Indo-Pacific. Located on Bali’s northeast coast, the bay receives very plankton-rich waters from the major ocean current that moves from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean. 

This, coupled with the different physical environments found in the area, means Tulamben contains a stunningly diverse underwater ecosystem.

It’s unusual to encounter a current here; however, due to the amount of plankton in the water, visibility is rarely above 25 meters. Average depth is 18 meters; max 40 meters. Tulamben is also great for snorkelling and a wonderful place to do a 1-Day Introductory Adventure Diving Program. If you’ve ever thought about trying scuba diving but don’t want to commit to a full-on course, try an intro at Tulamben – you’ll never look back.

The main draw of Tulamben Bay is the USAT Liberty shipwreck. Liberty is the actual name of the ship – she was not a ship of the Liberty class. 

She measured 120 metres and weighed around 6,200 tons when she was launched in 1918, later being outfitted with guns and put into service for WWII.

There is sometimes reluctance to dive wrecks for worry you’re actually diving at a site where people died, but, as far as I know, no one died on-oard. While it’s a fact that the Liberty was torpedoed, she was actually hit in the Lombok Strait (on the morning of January 11, 1942, to be exact). The plan was to tow her to Singaraja on Bali’s north coast but she was taking on too much water and so was beached at Tulamben. There she lay until tremors from the eruption of Mount Agung in 1963 forced the ship into the water. 

At that time, the boat was only half-submerged. But – albeit very, very slowly – the shipwreck is slipping down the slope from the beach and presently lies 20-30 meters offshore. It’s possibly the world’s most accessible shipwreck.

This is a dive site that offers an extraordinary density of marine life that includes a huge school of Big-Eyed Trevally, Bumphead Parrotfish, Leaf Scorpionfish and Hippocampus Bargibanti (pygmy seahorses). Magical night diving – look out for the Flash- Light Fish and cephalopods (octopus, squid and cuttlefish) – and there’s a range of accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets, some right on the beach.


The writer is director of AquaMarine Diving, Bali.



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