Diving in Tulamben, Bali: USAT Liberty Wreck & Coral Garden

(First thing’s first… If you’re feeling lazy there’s a video at the bottom.)

Today we’ve woken up to real a wreck, well, The USAT Liberty wreck that is. It’s a beautiful 30 degrees and breezy outside and we’re off to see if we can’t find a few more shipmates… Though the water is a moderate 29 degrees I opt for a wetsuit today, but as I feel the sweat running down my cheek as we suit up at the shore I’m starting to wonder if it was necessary. The tide is in this morning so we have no problem entering the water over the rocky shore and we’re making our merry way down to the seabed, it’s great vis today – the sun is still low and the wreck is bought back to life by the bright corals and busy bustle of marine life that surrounds them. Heading through the same route as yesterday, we’ve made it further this time; more relaxed our air is spent less quickly and we come to see a whole new aspect to this dive. Bubbles float upwards tickling my face as they roll over and emerge at the surface above. We’ve reached the deeper end of the wreck and whilst I stay at 18m there are plenty of divers exploring the greater depths and nooks in the sunken vessel. With so many bubbles rolling up and along the side of the ship through the corals and shoals of little fish, I’d suspect this place must be where the local marine life come for a little pamper. Scuba-diver-powered jacuzzi anyone?

Spa days aside, the star of this dive has to be a pygmy sea horse, hanging out on a fan coral and arguably it would have been impossible to spot were it not for Komang and his knowledge of the site, plus he bought his torch along and – Bingo! There it is, no bigger than my little fingernail and so perfectly camouflaged that if I blink I find myself searching for it again, but there it is just bobbing around its home and wondering who turned on the flood lights. Making our way back to the dive shop and we’ve decided today is a three dive sort of day; it’s our last day for diving in Tulamben so we’re up for making the most of it!

New dive spot at the ready, we’re headed to the Coral Garden for a stroll through the park. Busily tending to their beds is an abundance of fish varieties, whilst we spot lionfish of various species and sizes across the site. The Garden is brimming with fertility and life and it’s a wonder to see. As we pass through the garden around the concrete temples, spirit houses and Buddha effigies that have been placed there to support new coral growth, we find what was once previously ordained in gold leaf and rich throws are now beautifully dressed with feathered sea stars. Nudibranch eggs wrap poles in beautiful pink veils of adornment; delicately dressed, this underwater temple’s worship now comes from its new residents of the underwater variety.

We spotted a few of the more celebrity status residents as we passed through the neighbourhood, a mantis shrimp was spotted scuttling hurriedly from rock club to rock club (party animal that one) whilst a juvenile lionfish was seen skipping school behind the boulders.. We’re not judging, but we’re sure we saw a puff of smoke emanating from the area; Oh little Lionfish is that seagrass we smell?

The coral garden phased into an anemone forest filled with clown fish, the soft anemones swayed in the tide in such a mesmerising manner that we found ourselves sat here for quite some time. Personally I’d never seen more than one small anemone by itself let alone over a hundred large ones sitting so closely together, it felt somewhat like the scene from Bedknobs and Broomsticks where they enter the jazz bar; why weren’t these clown fish holding cocktails from their softly lit seating areas and swaying to the brass trio? The nudibranchs were everywhere on this dive site too, sitting on and under rocks they seemed to be hastily moving themselves around unlike I’ve ever seen, tiny ones, big globules of neon patterned ones – can you ever tire of seeing their vivid colours and patterns – they’re certainly more exciting than the slugs on land.

Back on shore and two dives in, we’re in need of a little boost so stop to enjoy some local food for lunch, we’ve eaten at our resort every time since we arrived and for good reason – it’s cheap and delicious and we know from experience that when you have a good thing, enjoy it – plus the convenience of just popping downstairs from your room after a long day’s diving never goes a miss.

The third dive takes us to the wall, the location we visited yesterday and it’s safe to say we enjoyed it as much this time as the last. On returning to shore we agreed that we could happily dive those sites a multitude of times and not get bored, especially The USAT Liberty.

With a long day of diving done and our log books stamped we spent the evening looking at photos, writing this blog and enjoying a wonderful meal with a very cold Bintang each, before shortly after passing out on the bed – we certainly made the most of our time diving in Tulamben and look forward to hopefully visiting here once again.











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