Known for the impressive USAT Liberty wreck and world-class black sand muck diving, Tulamben is one of Bali’s best known dive destinations. Easy shore dives offer reefs teeming with colourful life, whilst hammerheads, eagle rays and thrilling wall dives lie just offshore.
Diving in Tulamben
Tulamben, located on Bali’s East coast, has quickly become one of the most famous diving locations in the area. The quiet village with black sand beaches is known for the USAT Liberty wreck dive and excellent muck diving. With easy entry onto the World War II vessels intact body by the shore, you can take a trip back in time while exploring the wreck for small creatures that have made the wreck home, as schooling fish circle overhead.
Scuba diving in Tulamben has little to no current so divers of all levels are welcome to bring their underwater cameras to uncover the secrets held by Tulamben’s underwater world. At shore dive sites, reef sharks patrol the area while the elusive mimic octopus deceives you into thinking you are in the company of a lionfish. Further out at dive sites reached by a traditional ‘Jukung’ boat there’s even the chance of spotting an eagle ray, hammerhead shark or even mola mola.
You can gain access to Tulamben diving by travelling overland Bali while enjoying scenic rice terrace views on the way. Upon arrival, you can stay at one of Tulamben’s dive resorts or take part in daily trips from one of the many dive centres that visit the area. Often dive centres and dive resorts are based in Amed, another renowned Bali dive location, as inland tourist attractions are more accessible from here. The calm conditions make for the perfect location for dive courses - from completing the last dives of the open water course to an underwater photography or night dive specialty.
Best time to dive
Scuba diving in Tulamben is best from April through to July and October to November. During these periods, visibility is at its peak reaching up to 40-metres on the perfect diving day. As the wreck is very popular, it is best to dive the USAT Liberty early in the morning or late in the afternoon to get more of the dive site to yourself. Those who dive in from liveaboards visiting the area often experience the Liberty Wreck with fewer divers as they have the advantage of already being on the water - remember, the early bird gets the worm!
Types of diving
Apart from the famous USAT Liberty dive, the Kubu Wreck also makes for an exceptional wreck dive site. Dive among schools of fusilier and surgeonfish while descending down onto this Japenese ship to complete wreck speciality dive courses. At Serayas Secret, the Drop Off and Coral Garden the black sand sea beds are great for muck diving. Returning for a night dive, when the sun sets, is sure to bring to light a number of nocturnal and curious creatures.
In Tulamben Bay, the Drop Off dive site offers a superb wall dive, while dive sites reached by the traditional ‘Jukung’ boat boast dramatic sloping reefs and unusual rock formations. At these further flung dive sites, the currents can be stronger you may be able to enjoy the peace of fewer divers. Whether you want to relax and investigate wrecks and wonderful macro critters or revel in strong currents, Tulamben diving has a dive site for you.
What to see
Scuba diving in Tulamben’s wreck will find you surrounded by huge schools of fish. Everything from barracuda, oriental sweetlips and bumphead parrotfish circle watching as you dive deeper into the USAT Liberty in search of a pygmy seahorse. At muck dive sites, search among anemones and big barrel sponges for ribbon eels, banded boxer shrimps and all different colourful species of nudibranch. Moray eels, ghost pipefish and tiny squat anemone shrimp all shelter waiting for their next moment of fame under a diver’s camera.
The ‘Jukung’ accessed dive sites not only no longer have black sands but the species of fish differ too. As the water is more plankton rich in these areas and currents are stronger, there are more chances of catching sight of pelagics. Dogtooth tuna, bumphead parrotfish, manta rays, eagle rays and even whale sharks have been spotted at these sites. As the water is cooler than at Tulamben Bay, due to cold upwellings from the depths, there is also the chance of seeing thresher and hammerhead sharks as well as the otherworldly mola mola all watching you from the blue.
Best places to dive
The main reason why people visit Tulamben is to dive the Liberty Wreck. In 1942, the Liberty was hit by a Japanese torpedo in World War II where it was badly damaged and eventually the ocean claimed all 120-metres of the wreck. Divers of all levels can observe the vessel, guns still intact, resting on Tulamben’s black sand. As the inside is bright and airy and there is constant access to the surface, less experienced divers can explore shallow parts of the wreck while experienced divers can head down to 30-metres. Here, you’ll spot schooling trevallies, barracuda and even the occasional passing black-tip reef shark while macro divers delight in the unusual life harbouring in the wreck itself.
Off the shore of Kubu Village, the Kubu Wreck can be found. Resting on the seabed at 36-metres, the dive site is the perfect place for a deep speciality dive course. While diving here it’s possible to see a VW jeep as schools of oriental sweetlips brighten the surrounding water. When you’ve had enough of wreck diving, head to Seraya Secret to indulge in muck diving at it’s best. Whether at night or during the day, search in the depths to spot the tricky mimic octopus disguising itself in the sand.
Well suited for macrophotography and beginner divers is the Coral Garden dive site, where you enter by shore. Descend onto a gentle sandy slope and dive among buddha statues while capturing banded boxer shrimp, ghost pipefish, vibrant nudibranch and moray eels on camera. At the shallow end of the Coral Garden dive site, you’re likely to spot black-tip reef sharks cruising along the seabed.
Another macro site that will not disappoint is the Drop Off. Located nearby to the Liberty Wreck, the Drop Off features big, beautiful corals including gigantic gorgonian sea fans. Fin along this 40-metre deep wall where you can search for a number of nudibranch species as well as shrimp and crab. You’ll spot a great variety of fish life here as well, from oriental sweetlips to octopus and bumphead parrotfish.