Published: April 12th 2010March 31st 2010
It was going to be a bemo (minivan) ride from Lovina to the main bus station in the next town across and then a bus ride to Tulamben but as the sole aim of public transport in Bali is to rip off tourists rather than convey people, we chartered a car and driver instead. As a typical tourists won't know the correct far from place to place, the usual trick of any bemo driver is to ask for as much as they can get away with whilst keeping a straight face. Even if you do know the correct fare that the locals would pay (say be asking a few locals), the bemo rivers will swear blind that their inflated price is what the locals pay and quickly becomes a battle of wills. As Lovina had very few tourists, we were able to charter this car for a knock down price between the three of us and it drove us quickly along the north coast and down the east coast, arriving in Tulamben in a little over an hour.
The reason we came to Tulamben is to dive and snorkel at the US Liberty ship wreck just off the beach, which
is in fact the only reason that anyone would come here as there is nothing at all else to do. The small main street consists of hotels and dive shops and not much else. As the only budget place in town was full, we traipsed around every hotel looking for a cheap room and it became apparent that most of the hotels weren't going to be within our budget. As soon as one mention air conditioning or hot water, most backpackers will simply turn around and walk away as they are always aimed more at holiday makers. After much bargaining, we found a place that would give us a triple room for 150,000 rupiah and the three of us would share to save some cash. The owner wouldn't include breakfast which is unusual but the selling point was the small pool in a pleasant courtyard that we could jump in and cool down. The place had a dive shop attached and part of the room deal was that I'd go diving with them. I set about bargaining for a good price for two dives, fortunately having already asked the price of dive everywhere else in town so managed to get
a good price of a little over £13 a dive, which is the cheapest I've seen anywhere.
We set out that afternoon to find the wreck and do a bit of reconnaissance work with the mask and snorkel that we'd bought on Ko Tao. The sea was pretty choppy which was a bit worrying but I put on the mask and swam out 20m from shore to find the wreck, amused by the large number of people below me who were doing 'discover scuba' courses and were kind of kind dragged along by their instructor by their tanks. Seeing the wreck for the first time was amazing- it was huge and there were fish everywhere so I knew tomorrow morning would be an absolute delight. Back on shore quite a few of the discover scuba guys were looking a little queasy from the choppy waters. I told the girls what I'd seen and that they should have a great snorkel.
Of course there was nothing to do in Tulamben in the evenings so we found somewhere cheapish to eat and tried to bargain for another car and driver to take us to Padangbai the following afternoon. To set
the tone for the next day, we watched Finding Nemo on my laptop which is a must before or after diving.
Up at 6:30am, I set up my scuba gear and the girls rented some snorkels and fins and we headed off for the wreck, crossing our fingers that the sea would be a bit calmer. We reached the beach and it was calm and very flat, like glass so perfect conditions. The dive master and got in the water and swam off towards the wreck. It is huge- about 200m long- the remains of the US cargo ship liberty which was hit be a Japanese torpedo during WW2 and beached here to save the cargo. They'd intended to salvage her but it ended up sinking and breaking apart, providing a fantastic artificial reef for divers. I saw huge bump-headed parrot fish, big schools of jack fish, shrimps, stingrays and a huge range of coral and other fish that I couldn't identify. I didn't a circle around the ship and then swam through into part of the cargo hold and through some narrow archways formed by girders. It was amazing! The girls had an equally good time snorkeling and
Cat had particularly enjoyed the huge school of silvery jack fish that swam around her like a big bait-ball.
The next dive I I was up the beach a little way at a site they call coral garden. I was of course no where near as impressive as liberty but still had a nice range of coral and some scaffolding made into random shapes like aeroplanes and submerged to form artificial reels. The fish were very tame and the light was good so it was a great opportunity to take some photographs with my underwater camera.
We'd finished by around 10:30 so got showered and had lunch before checking out and heading off. We tried again to get them down to the price we wanted for a charter car but neither side would agree so we ended up taking a couple of bemos to get to our next destination at Padangbai. We took one bemo half way and then changed onto another, negotiating hard each time for the fare. One of the local lady's on board spoke some English and had a great time chatting to Cat and kindly told the driver in Indonesian where we were headed
so he'd drop us off in the right place. The liberty wreck dive was fantastic and best of all, was the cheapest diving I've done so far!
Padangbai is a relaxed little port town with ferries connecting Bali to Lombok which was to be our next stop. The place has a couple of beaches and some decent enough snorkeling but lacks an ATM which takes VISA so we had to keep an eye on our cash supplies. I tried to take a bemo to another town half an hour away in order to use the ATM. Unfortunately these bemo drivers were out for blood when negotiating fares but I wasn't going to budge very far so it was a bit of a stand off. In the end, I had to agree to a slightly inflated price to get to where I wanted to be- it wasn't the usual friendly bargaining and I can honestly say that the drivers were real scum-bags and would anybody off coming to Bali. I got some revenge on the way back though as when a bemo stopped to picked me up from the return journey, I refused to budge from the local's standard price
and since his van was empty, he needed me more than I needed him so he had to agree for the sake of getting at least one fare to cover his petrol.
The three of us spent a couple of days in Padangbai, spent mainly on the beach and planning our onward journey's. Cat was heading elsewhere on Bali and we were going to try to get to Flores to visit Komodo National Park which is a long way away. We found a great local restaurant and ate a lot of much needed cheap food and listened to some ageingg stoner hippies on their 5th bottle of Bintang beer argue in heated debates about religion and howeveryonee should love each other, which was very entertaining.
We said goodbye to Cat with the plan to try and meet up on Lombok before we had to leave Indonesia and got on the ferry for the long slow journey to Lembar port on Lombok's west coast.
There are more photos below