Tulamben is now one of the most famous diving areas in Bali and attracts divers from all over the world, Here, is where you can hear the news about conditions in the different parts of the island or exceptional events, like the sighting of a whale shark or mola and here is where you are likely to meet internationally recognized underwater photographers and writers.
It is Tulamben bay which just like the rest of Bali, is situated in the world’s richest marine biogeographic zone with more than 2500 different species of fish and 700 corals.
Situated on the north east coast, the bay receives very plankton rich water from the major ocean current that moves from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean or vice versa. The wreck, rocky wall and sand slopes provide a wide variety of physical habitats. All of these factors, combined together will explain why the Tulamben bay contains an incredible diversification of the underwater ecosystem.
The Liberty Wreck
The Liberty was built by the federal shipbuilding company in Kearny New Jersey. She was 120 meters long, 17 meters in beam, drafted 7.3 meters and grossed 6.211 tons powered by a 2500 horsepower steam turbine engine.
Early in the morning of January 11, 1942 liberty was motoring across the lombok strait, bringing war material from Australia to the Philippines, and at 4.15 am the ship was torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I -166. Although crippled by the blow, the liberty did not sink. Two destroyers tried to tow the ship toward Singaraja where it was hoped she could be repaired, however the ship was taking in too much water, so she was beached at Tulamben. Over the coming year anything of value was removed.
Then in 1963, Bali’s highest and most holy mountain, Gunung Agung erupted creating a powerful earth Quake that rolled the ship in to deeper water and broke her at the bow and stern.
The liberty now lies almost parallel to the beach, the shallowest part of the wreck touches the sandy slope at 7-9 meters and the deepest part is at 28-30 meters which is suitable for all levels of diving qualification and experience.
Its a lovely dive site, and recognized as one of the world best and easiest wreck dives. The wreck is very popular for photographers as it is totally encrusted in anemones, gorgonians and corals. Perhaps the magic comes from Tulamben’s black sand which provides an excellent colour contrast for the incredible variety of marine life.
It’s quite difficult to list what you will see on this dive because you will come across just about everything in any Indo-Pacific reef guide book. From the minute angel fish, nudibranches, pipefish, goby through to the areas of garden eels, huge schools of silver fish called big eyed trevally, sweet lips, batfish, butterfly fish, then add invertebrates, the hard coral, black corals, sponges with crinoids, sea fans, make this variety unique and amazing.
Current is rarely present and at most it will be mild. Visibility is usually 20 – 30 meters.
The wreck is great for night dives, particularly if the moon is full, you may see Spanish dancer, flashlight fish, or sleeping parrotfish. You will notice the different behaviour of marine life, compare to the daytime. Where else on this planet can you make such as easy, relaxing, perhaps romantic and varied night dive.
THE DROP – OFF
The basic structure of the drop off is a spur of volcanic rock leading out from the rise on which the temple sits. It is an old lava flow from mount Agung. It is located at the opposite end of the bay from the wreck.
The dive starts off on a steep sandy slope with nudibrances, flounder, shrimp ( be careful with your fins ) at 10 meters. There are big sponges with many varieties of shrimp, lionfish, and continuing to the right, the slope develops into a reef with very impressive topography, and becoming a vertical wall from 15 meters and descending to below 60 meters. Here you will find a sea fan, almost 2 meters across, at a depth of 28 meters, which is probably the crown jewel of the drop off – inhabited by pigmy Seahorses.
On a good day usually in the morning at low tide, visibility at the drop off will reach 20 meters and because of the location, there will be almost no or a mild current only. The fish life is similar to that found on the Liberty wreck. However being a much larger area than the wreck, you can see white tip reef shark, napoleon, bump head, parrot fish, moray eel and octopus. Should you dive in the afternoon, you will see a wide variety of lionfish that inhabit the area in their abundance.
THE CORAL GARDENJust in the front of Tulamben resort, ( where we usually have our delicious lunch ) in 5- 12 meters of water is a delightfully rich little patch reef, which is dominated by croporid, hard coral, including some large table and fire corals, interspersed with anemones as well as sponges.
Though only less than 200 meters long, this reef also supports a diverse fish population, snapper, angelfish, wrasse, parrotfish, black tip shark, and millions of common reef fish. Also you can see some rarities, like blue ribbon eels (the juveniles are black) frogfish and unusual scorpion fish and even the rare ghost pipe fish.
Actually your dive in here can be extended, much deeper than 12 meters. If you follow the sandy slope down, you will find barrel sponges with many surprises, juvenile emperor, angelfish, a school of juvenile catfish, a school of razor fish, two spot lion fish, and if you turn to the right toward the drop off, swim along the slope you will arrive at a dry river bed, It is a gray bowl of rock and sand with no structure other than small sound ridges radiating out into deep.
You may meet many photographers and scientists in the Tulamben area and ask them their reason for being there. “The answer is simple” Tulamben is so unique and arguably the best place in Bali to find rare marine animals. Because of the depth, place and location, the coral garden is an outstanding, easy, relaxing and a popular site for night diving.
Just around the corner from Tulamben bay, 15 minutes by Jukung ( traditional Balinese fishing boat ), At this beautiful site, Batu kelebit there are two large underwater boulders lying just off shore from a point marked by a jagged crest of lava. The dive site is dramatic and consists of steep ridges encrusted with an incredible diversity of hard corals, sea fans, fire coral and sponges and between the ridges separated by valleys of bright white sand. On this dive site not only the colour of the sand differs from Tulamben bay, also the species of even the most common reef fishes are different too!
In fish and invertebrate life, Batu Kelebit is perhaps even richer than Tulamben bay. Because of the steepness of the site combined with the structure of the ridges and plankton rich water,
you will have more chance to see big pelagic including dog tooth tuna, mantas, schools of barracuda and you will always see the reef white tip sharks at Batu Kelebit.
Because Batu Kelebit receives deep off shore water, the visibility will be excellent and the temperature a little cold. Current in here usually tends to northwest, however the ridges here provide excellent protection, so it doesn’t create any problem at all.