Scuba Diving the Liberty wreck at Tulamben Beach on Bali
I’ve seen “shipwrecks” before, or what dive center will tout as shipwrecks to tourist, giving their dive sites an added level of interest. That’s what I thought was happening in Bali. I thought we’d pass a boat going and coming, and I was excited even for this. In a strange, poetic way, I love seeing nature claim man-made things.
I should have done my research, but the Liberty shipwreck at Tulamben Beach was the dive, not just an amusement we’d see in passing.
Or, maybe not doing my research was fine, too. My expectations were definitely exceeded, ten-fold.
Diving the Liberty Wreck from Tulamben Beach was Beautiful
We saw a turtle munch on coral from the side of the sunken cargo ship, the ghostly-outline of the eel garden, giant clams, an orangutan shrimp and a few stingrays; all that, more and the massive haul of the Liberty.
Diving the Liberty wreck from Tulamben Beach was beautiful even just as an open water diver.
The cargo ship, used during WW1 and WW2, is so large that we spent two dives exploring it (and definitely could have used more!) It’s a shallow wreck, so even though I just have my open water certification, I was able to see a lot!
The visibility on the day we went wasn’t great. The waves that crashed upon the beach made entry difficult and also churned the particles in the water. For this reason, I never got a good view of the boat at a distance. I’m sure, though, that the sight of this great mass of steal covered in coral and surround by blue is an impressive sight.
Tricky Part of the Dive: Entering (and Exiting) the Water
The shipwreck is just off the beach. When the ship was hit by a Japanese torpedo during WW2, it didn’t sink right away, but was towed to the shores of Bali so the cargo could be recovered. It wasn’t until the 1960s, during a volcanic eruption, that the Liberty slipped below the waves to its final resting place.
So the shipwreck is right there and divers wade into the water from the beach. I’d never done a beach entry before this dive. I understood it in theory, but the actual doing it was more difficult (and comical) than I thought it would be.
We waddled into the water wearing all our gear and carrying our fins. Once we were pass the waves, we put our fins on. This probably would have been easer after descending a few meters, but I managed to put them on (and remove them!) from the surface of the water twice.
Getting out of the water after a dive was the most difficult for me. I’m rather short—5 feet and no inches—so I struggled to get my fins off as an advantageous distance from shore so I could get my feet under me. During my first exit, I found my footing on the rocky beach just as the first of three massive waves hit the beach. I tumbled to my feet and ended up just crawling out of the surf.
Thankfully, I’m used to being washed by waves, having recently started surfing, so this experience was more embarrassing than scary or off-putting. Idy was also close at to help drag me out of the water.
Diving Helpers Club
There are only a few diver centers near Tulamben beach, so the dozens of divers you meet at the Liberty wreck diver site traveled there from somewhere else on the island. Since there are no boats, all the dive gear simply has to be ushered from the parking area to the beach.
To accomplish this task, a band of locals assert themselves into service.
Tiny Indonesia women, balancing an air tank on their head while carrying another in their arms is a sight almost as fantastic as what wait below the waves.
Specifics of Going with Diving Indo
Tulamben is on the northeast side of Bali, a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Sanur. It’s a long day.
When I arrived to the the Diving Indo shop, I said hello to the Idy and Bobby—our dive guides for the day. Then I went to the guesthouse next door for a coffee. I’d been diving with Diving Indo twice before, once to Nusa Penida and then to Padang Bai—so I knew the routine and all my dive gear was together and ready to go.
Once the other divers for the day where situated—a couple from Russian who would be diving with Bobby and a British brother and sister who would dive with Idy and me—we packed into the van and settled in for two-and-a-half-hour drive the drive.
During the drive, Idy shared with me a book about the Liberty shipwreck. This was my first clue that this was going to be a much different dive than I’d done before!
Idy and Bobby of Diving Indo get our dive equipment ready near the beach at Tulamben.
Bobby and Idy are great guys, very funny but they are also really great at their jobs. The dive briefs were informative and covered everything.
Before getting in the water the first time, we ordered lunch. Because of the long drive, we’d be doing one dive and then breaking for lunch before doing the second dive. I was pretty excited about this because I was hungry! Thankfully, lunch was really good. I had tofu curry.
We waited an hour, hour-and-a-half before our second dive. Before leaving, I had time for a quick shower and a coffee, making for a relaxing end to a pretty eventful day!