It's 6.30am - I'm awake - eyes wide no time for coffee; and I'm heading up to the dive shop, the streets of the sleepy village of Tulamben are quiet - the only sounds are from the ever present cockerels and the hiss of scuba tanks being tested and filled.
Tulamben is famous worldwide to divers as the village where you can shore dive the Liberty wreck. Thirty meters out from the rocky shore and 30m down is the sunken remains of World War II freighter the USAT Liberty. In it's former life nearly 70 years ago - the USAT Liberty was shipping materials to Australia, across the Lombok Straits, torpedoed by a Japanese U-boat and taking on vast quantities of water, the ship was beached on Bali's north shore. An eruption in 1963 left the vessel in it's present location, situated ideally for marine life and divers alike.
Staying in the village means you can get up and dive before breakfast, when the wreck is quieter - before the day trippers from Kuta arrive. Dive some of the also fantastic but less popular sites such as the drop off, during the day - and then mid-afternoon back to
the wreck - as the day trippers huddle in their mini-vans on the long ride south.
We pad down to the beach - ridiculous in our wetsuits carrying fins and cameras. A small weathered old woman who looks to be in her 60's carries all our other gear - the heavy parts - tanks and BCDs - one unit on her head, one on her back. My initial "I'm fine carrying my gear" remarks have faded into acceptance - the villagers' main source of income - both young and old is through diving; guiding, feeding, driving, carrying - divers are high maintenance and are willing to pay - the euros that this old woman earns from carrying our equipment probably feeds the families.
The rocky shoreline glistens with low reflected light, the sun just lightening the sky in the east. Strapped in, weights on, air turned on, gingerly we step into the water. The waves and melon sized rocks make a really difficult entry, the suction from the receding wave pulls legs out from the unwary, pro-photographers carrying 20kgs of expensive camera equipment regularly tumble - sacrificing elbows and shins rather than damage the precious housing.
is a different world. At 6.40am - the prow of the Liberty harbours the sheltering Bumphead Parrotfish. Parrotfish make a mucus cocoon every-night to sleep safely in - I look for traces on the just stirring Bumpheads - at nearly a meter a mucus cocoon should be easy to spot on one of these but I'm yet to see it. Dark red almost black volcanic sands descend into the depths, the odd scattered outcrop sheltering ghost pipefish and nudibranches - strange denizens of the sea.
A left turn at about 20m depth and the prow of the Liberty Wreck looms up - encrusted with life, corals, soft-corals, anemones - provides homes, food and shelter to countless creatures - life after deaths for a ship doomed by a torpedo in one of mankind's lowest hours.
Searching fan corals we find 5mm pygmy seahorses. Anemones shelters shrimps and anemonefish in symbiotic relationships. We drop down through the wreck, through mysterious swimthroughs, past a large gun turret, hoping to surprise a shark or a great baracuda. Like some guardian of the wreck the great baracuda is there again - one of the biggest I've seen - maybe 2m or more -
teeth prominent and looking very very sharp. Baracuda can attack divers, mistaking shiny attachments for the reflections of fish scales - fingers and earlobes the most often bitten areas - but like most creatures in the sea - this torpedo with teeth is more scared of us than we of it. Sudden movements and it is gone at high-speed into the depths where we can't follow.
Backup through the wreck, sweetlips, angelfish and groupers drift in the shelter of debris. Some fish hide, some lurk, some flee.
One of the most impressive areas of garden eels is just off the top of the wreck, long slender bodies face into the current waiting for food to drift by, they timidly retreat into burrows every time anything large gets near.
On top of the wreck, in the 6m area between it and the surface a shoal of jacks (big eye travally) thousands strong, swirl and stream, twisting into tornadoes and funnels, turning in on themselves and diving down. Hunting and avoiding being hunted at the same time. The perfect place for a long safety stop to decompress - releasing any built up nitrogen from our bloodstream slowly.
that and it's not even 8am - three more dives today - after breakfast of course. More about the Liberty Wreck
Tulaben is on Bali's arid northern coast - thirty meters out from the rocky shore and 30m down is the sunken remains of World War II freighter the USAT Liberty.
In it's former life nearly 70 years ago - the USAT Liberty was shipping materials to Australia, across the Lombok Straits, torpedoed by a Japanese U-boat, taking on vast quantities of water, the ship was beached - all hands saved. An eruption in 1963 shifted it to it's present location, situated ideally for marine life and divers alike.
At 120m long the USAT Liberty and straddling the perfect recreational dive range of 30m to 6m deep the Liberty now provides a home to see life from Great Baracuda's (2m) to Pygmy Seahores (2mm) - countless jacks, anemones, corals, crabs, urchins - and shelter to a shoal of sleeping Bumphead Parrotfish.
It is the best wreck dive I have made. We dived with Tulamben Wreck Divers
- sometimes with a guide sometimes without (my buddy and I were trained divemasters) - going without a guide
is a fantastic for experienced divers - but the spotter aspect of a local guide is awesome as well - but once you know what to look for...
There are other operators and all looked well set-up.
Tulamben is small - accommodation particularly with the dive centers is very impressive though. Internet is slow - almost grindingly slow - a reminded of dialup days - with cuts and connections being frequent and page load times stretching into the - go and get a cup of tea - levels. So take the easy option and go offline for a few days 😊 (I wish that were an option I could take more often)
It's five hours minivan ride north of Kuta.
My thanks to Vanessa (the diver in most of these shots and the best buddy in the world) - she'd completed her divemaster training in Perhentian Islands when I was there during July and August - she is unbelievably economical with her air - I'd be down at 80bar - she'd be on 160! I would borrow her octopus and extend our dives out - upto 95 mins sometimes 😊 Camera Equipment
photos taken with a Canon G9, stock Canon underwater housing, and a cheap slave strobe for macro.
These photos are the best from about 20 dives - yeah - I liked it that much 😊
Tot: 1.659s; Tpl: 0.073s; cc: 17; qc: 52; dbt: 0.0507s; 1; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.5mb