The USAT Liberty Wreck off Tulamben is one of the most famous dive sites in Bali – here’s how I got on when I ticked it off my bucket list!
Having spent a lot of time in Bali and some of the neighbouring islands over the last few years I’ve covered all the main backpacker activities it offer – I’ve partied in Kuta, surfed in Uluwatu, gone scuba diving in Gili T and explored the rice terraces in Ubud.
However surfing has got in the way of ticking off a bucket list item I’ve been wanting to do for a while, especially as scuba diving is becoming a growing passion of mine…diving the Liberty Shipwreck in Tulumben.
The USAT Liberty
One of the most famous dive site sin Bali, the wreck sits just off the beach in Tulumben on the east coast of Bali (about a 4 hour drive from Kuta – you can get a private car transfer from either there or Ubud like I did) the wreck of USAT Liberty, a cargo ship that was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine during WW2.
The dive site itself is regarded as one of the easiest and most accessible wreck dives in Indonesia as it’s easily accessible from the beach as a shore dive, is very open (lots of swim throughs!) and it sits at around 3m and descends to 29m – which means all levels of diver can enjoy it.
Since it’s a well established wreck it has been reclaimed by the ocean and is now teaming with underwater critters and almost completely encased in all manner of corals and reef, essentially it has become a climbing frame for marine life!
I’d been told a lot about the site so I was pretty stoked to gear up and get under the water to check it out myself!
Bali Reef Divers
My base for the trip was Bali Reef Divers – they’ve got a pretty slick setup in Tulumben and offer some epic value on dive and stay packages. Me and T opted for 2 night, 5 dive package which comes it at only £90 per person for a private, air con double room or if you’re travelling solo the a/c dorm package is just over £80 – a great way to get some diving in without breaking the bank!
It also comes with a pool and restaurant too so if you’re feeling lazy (which we were) you can simply kick back with everything you need on your doorstep and enjoy the diving!
After arriving from Ubud we opted for a lazy first afteroon and added an extra night onto the trip to make things less rushed (something I advise doing as you wont arrive until at least midday) but the following morning we kicked things right off with a dive on the wreck, keen to tick it off my bucket list and take advantage of the favourable diving conditions.
Having kitted up we enjoyed a short stroll to the beach we were met by our amazing porters who carry your tanks and BCD right to the shoreline…on their heads! Anyone who dive will tell you that isn’t a light piece of kit – it’s seriously impressive!
After trying not to look stupid stumbling across the rocky entrance we descended into the depths and began the circuit to the wreck.
Out Of The Blue
If you haven’t been diving on a wreck yet it’s a weird sensation. Suddenly in the distance a shadow lurks towards you, a towering silhouette surrounded by schools of fish amongst the hazy waters. For me this is the best part of a wreck dive – a sense of scale, outline and the part where I truly appreciate the eerie past that lead to it laying silently on the ocean floor. As you get more up close and personal the main swim alongside the wreck is like any other dive and the USAT Liberty is now home to a vast array of marine life – it’s the perfect artificial reef!
You’re frequently reminded of it’s original shape though – steel bars encrusted with coral jut out into the blue and old door frames and windows are visible as you make your way along the wreck.
Then our guide pointed to one of entrances and signalled “ok” before disappearing through it! Despite the rathe narrow squeeze (I’ll admit to a couple of tank clangs!) we had passed into the cargo bay of the ship – an massively open area where beam of lit jutted through, creating a really creepy atmosphere, a gold mine for some creative underwater photography!
As we meandered through the structures I couldn’t help but be amazed by the way nature has claimed the ship as her own. Although it’s clearly a wreck there is very little that hasn’t become an adopted underwater home!
Bursting out into the open water and sunshine again I understand why people love wreck diving so much, it’s a totally different way to dive.
In fact we opted to dive the wreck twice to fully appreciate it, including an early morning dive to catch the schools bigger fish looking to grab an early morning snack. The first light of a new day creates an even more imposing atmosphere and if you get the chance to do the 2 dives there take it!
With our 3 remaining dives we decided to check out some of the other surrounding dive sites in the Tulumben area, again both are shore dives and an easy stroll down the beach from Bali Reef Divers HQ – Tulumben is certainly on island time!
They were both pretty easy dive sites – a coral garden and a wall dive, for a fan of the bigger things (I love a good bait ball, shark or manta ray!) they were fun dives but not as blog worthy as the dives on the Liberty.
The reef dive did however come with a complimentary manicure – in the form of a shrimp cleaning station! Stretch out your hand over this area and a work force of shrimp will happily clean your nails and hands…if you’re feeling a bit braver you can even remove your regulator and they’ll climb inside your mouth and do your teeth too – although I can’t say I was in any hurry to give that a go!
If you have a bit more money to play with and really want to make the most of the diving on the East Coast of Bali then I recommend heading to Ahmed (Bali Reef Divers have a pretty epic set there too) which is about half an hour away but allows you access to a lot more varied dive sites and you can slot in the Liberty as part of their packages as well.
Even so I was stoked with having ticked the Liberty Wreck of my scuba dive bucket list and had a great few days relaxing and diving with the team at Bali Reef Divers in Tulumben. For me it was the perfect way to hit the water – a great wreck dive, solid accommodation and an inviting pool to relax in. If you’re heading onwards to Gili T or Lombok after you can also get a direct speedboat from there too so you can easily link it into your Indonesian travel plans without a huge detour!
Have you been diving at the Liberty shipwreck? How did you find it?