Locating the dive sites in Tulamben
Tulamben is a charming little village set along the ocean on the east coast of Bali. The place is renowned for its stunning coral gardens and especially for the wreck of the USAT Liberty, accessible to beginners. Therefore, Tulamben is almost entirely dedicated to underwater activities. Dive centres are everywhere. We rent a cosy room to Dive Concept (run by Frenchies) and buy 9 dives each for the following days. We even manage to have a discount on the already cheap price, thanks to a flyer we took at the airport. These will be our fist real dives since the ones we did on our PADI exam in Australia, under terrible weather conditions.
We spend our first evening snorkelling above the Coral Garden, located just in front of the dive centre. We come back on the morning to try to locate the wreck. The stern of the boat is only 7m deep, so it’s pretty easy to go down snorkelling. We even go down a bit deeper than that, trying to see more, but that doesn’t last long for we finally decide against it. It would actually be better to keep the surprise for when we’ll dive.
Diving at Coral Garden and the Drop-Off.
At 8 :00 in the following morning, we are ready with our gear on the shore. Our first dive will be on the Coral Garden. We wanted to start by a really easy spot, for Mariette had trouble to equalize her hear pressure last time we dived. PADI students are also trained here. Once underwater, we discover with delight a colourful universe and wildlife. It’s like swimming in an aquarium! The bottom temperature is about 29°C and we are enjoying 30m of visibility! Artists had layed down metal structures on the sandy bottom (one is shaped like a plane), where corals can grow up freely and bring wildlife around. The bottom is also covered with huge coral tables. Amazing!! We wish we would stay there forever; unfortunately we must go out of the water prematurely… We consumed our oxygen far too quickly because of a strong unexpected current.
We dive again at 11:00 on a deeper site: The Drop Off, which is formed around three lava flows and falls straight down to the bottom of the ocean. We love this wonderful foreign feeling of floating over the “deep blue” along this incredible underwater cliff. We are also delighted by the extravagant marine life. We even meet a sea horse on our way back! Our dive master is a bit jealous for he had to wait 3895 dives before seeing he’s first.
Our third dive starts at 4:00 pm. We are overexcited, as we dive on a wreck for the first time! The American cargo USAT Liberty was badly damaged by a Japanese submarine during WWII. The captain, who wanted to save is freight, stranded the boat on the nearby beach. The USAT Liberty stayed there many years (and of course was stripped of anything of value in the meantime). Then, one day, during a volcanic eruption, a lava flow pushed the boat back in the water where she sank. Today, the wreck is lying on its side in shallow water 30m from the shore. An ideal site for beginners like us. We go down to see the cannon on the bow 20m deep and dive our way up through small passages and rooms inside the wreck. It’s fantastic! We leave the wreck to admire a school of giant trevallies turning around, then we go through a “field” of garden eels. We also come across a multitude of fish of all sizes, colours and shapes. We’ll spare you the long list of names that would probably be as long as this article!
Diving with sharks
The following days are entirely dedicated to our 9 dives on the different underwater sites of the area. One day we discover Batu Belah, an other coral garden located behind a lovely temple. Gorgeous dive with again a lot of wildlife, including a rare lionfish: the clever Two-Eyes lionfish. Its caudal fin, hiding highly venomous spines, is decorated with two false eyes, tricking its predators about where the head is. We also dive a second time on the Liberty wreck early in the morning to have a better visibility. The counterpart is that you can see less wildlife. We take this opportunity to make a film on our first wreck, that you will be able to watch at the end of this article!!
Then, on our last day, we choose to try something different: we want to dive amongst the sharks. Therefor, we return to Coral Garden but on the other side of the aircraft structure. Reef sharks always come lurking around here when the tide is rising. We are quickly surrounded by inquisitive black pointed reef sharks about 2m long. We are truly amazed by the swiftness of their gracious movements. It’s magical! We are overwhelmed by the wonderful show. Sharks are so majestic! On our way back, we also see a harlequin shrimp, another rare specimen that our dive master waited over 9000 dives to see!
It’s already time for our last dive. We go on Kubu Monkey, an amazing underwater garden covered with gigantic coral tables and barrel sponges bigger than us!! Mariette is in love with baby toby fish, her favourite since then. After these idyllic weeks in Bali, we will now return to Australia to finish our tour of the country. We still have to discover the best part of it: the west coast from Perth to Darwin!
Tintin & Riette