The wreck of the USAT Liberty, beached at the little fishing village Tulamben is a dive spot not to be missed in Bali. This massive wreck is located a couple of meters from the shore and offers great diving for all levels. Walking in from the beach the wreck starts in the shallows dropping to over 30 meters deep. Diving on the Liberty is rated as one of the best shore dives in the world, a spectacular dive, discover amazing little critters, see big fish and have great photography opportunities while exploring this extraordinary wreck. Bali has a great variety of dive sites, dive with the strange oceanic sunfish, swim with majestic manta rays or drift dive on spectacular walls. Check out our article on All the Best Diving around Bali.
Indonesia is a unique island country made up of more than 17 000 islands. Located in the coral triangle and hosting 20% of all fish and 70% of all coral species it is home to some of the best Scuba diving on the planet. The beautiful island Bali is the most popular tourist location in this tropical paradise. Among its diving treasures the USAT Liberty is probably the best wreck dive in the whole country and one of the best in the world. Bali has a lot more to offer than diving. The scenery and landscapes on this Asian island is spectacular; volcanic mountains, rice paddy terraces and beautiful temples.
If you are an adrenaline junkie, the challenging hikes, world class surfing and water activities will get your blood pumping. Bali is also great for more spiritual and relaxation experiences with amazing temples, cheap massages, yoga retreats and beautiful spa resorts.
For a well kept diving secret in Indonesia, see our article on diving from Pulau Weh near Sumatra.
Scuba Diving Bali
Bali offers very diverse diving ranging from diving with big pelagic creatures such as manta rays and reef sharks, unique animals like the large mola mola (oceanic sunfish) to diving with unreal, alien creatures doing muck diving on the black volcanic sand around Amed and Tulamben. Check out our Complete Guide to Dive and Travel Bali.
The USAT Liberty, Tulamben
This massive wreck of the USAT (United States Army Transport) Liberty cargo ship is 120m long and located only about 30m from the beach in the fishing village of Tulamben making it very accessible for diving. The Liberty wreck has an interesting history. The cargo ship was on its way from Australia to the Philippines transporting railway parts in January 1942 when it was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in the Strait of Lombok (World War II). The plan was to mend the ship, but the damage was extensive and while towing her to Singaraja for repairs she started sinking and was beached close to the small fishing village of Tulamben. When the volcano Mount Agung erupted on Bali in 1963 the associated tremors pushed the ship back into the water where she now lays on her side.
Tips for Diving the Liberty
It is a very popular dive site and can get extremely busy.
- Stay in Tulamben and dive early in the morning to avoid the crowds, the drive from the south of Bali is long and a day trip can become a very long day.
- Do a night dive on this incredible wreck. Sunrise and night dives is a great time to see the schools of bumphead parrotfish.
- The wreck starts shallow and is a nice site to snorkel.
- There are many amazing sites in the area, combine the Liberty with some other dives.
- If you have a knee or back problem (or do not enjoy struggling) inform the dive center beforehand to ensure you will have help carrying your equipment.
- Combine diving here with exploring the area, climbing Mount Agung, the highest point in Bali is a great day activity from Tulamben.
Diving the Wreck of the Liberty
The accessibility of the wreck, combined with the depth range and variety of marine life make this one of the most popular wreck dives in Indonesia. It is a shore dive, you enter from the beach and a short swim to where you descend. The entry is tricky, the ‘beach’ is covered in big smooth stones, if you go with a good dive center porters will carry your gear close to the water where you kit up, you might be very happy about this. It is not the nicest area to walk with heavy gear, so until you are floating for some it is a mission! It is common to do two dives with a surface interval, some sandwiches, fruit and a cool drink at halftime on shore is great! The dive starts at about 5m depth going to a maximum depth of around 30m. We went to the bow section on our first dive, our max depth was 27m at the turn around point. There is an anchor chain in this area. The bow is encrusted in hard and soft corals and there are some booms, nice structure and overhangs. We saw a large coral encrusted gun.
The wreck is broken up leading to huge, gaping swim throughs and some smaller holes in the wreckage, but the ship is in pieces so you can not really penetrate the wreck and no specialty is needed to dive here. There was one large piece of structure that was like a room with nice columns that you can swim into. We swam along and next to the wreck from bow to stern towards the shore. After a surface interval lying in the sun we did a second dive on the stern section of the wreck. In the middle part of the wreck there were some rails and ladders, the wreck is heavily encrusted with coral and there was a lot of fish around. The second dive was more shallow and we ended this dive by exploring in the shallows on the stern side for a safety stop. On the way back to shore, look on the sand for groups of garden eels poking out from the sandy seabed.
Best time to Dive Tulamben
The best time of year to dive in Tulamben is from April to July and October to November. Visibility is usually very good at this time, up to 40 meters! The monsoon can cause rough seas during December through April and late July to September.
Marine Life on the Liberty wreck
The Liberty wreck is home to an amazing variety of marine life, lots of fish like barracuda, big bumphead parrot fish, groupers, sweetlips, pufferfish, angelfish, surgeonfish, moorish idol and schools of big eye trevally are seen often diving here. Seeing a whole school of big bumphead parrotfish enter the wreck is a classic Liberty dive image and a big Napoleon wrasse or even Spanish mackerel are sometimes seen around the site. We saw some turtles, a reef shark and moray eels on the wreck, if you have a divemaster with a good eye there are amazing tiny critters to spot all over the wreck, making for great macro photography! There are some beautiful nudibranches on the wreck, I love finding these colorful sea slugs! Swimming back to the beach from the wreck over the sand keep an eye out for the field of garden eels. These small conger eels burrow into the sand, if you do not get too close many of them stick their heads out of the sand floating around like a patch of tiny cobras. If you do disturb them they retract into the sand at lightning speed! On the wreck and the black sand surrounding it there are some unique little critters like pygmy seahorses, ghost pipefish, frog fish and mantis shrimps can be seen here.
Dive Conditions in Tulamben
- Water temperature at Tulamben usually ranges between 27 and 29C, a 3mm wetsuit is recommended since dives here are usually quite long, 60 to 90 minutes.
- The water is usually calm with little current, but it is known to pick up from time to time.
Dive Sites Around Tulamben
The wreck of the Liberty is located on the east coast of Bali and there are many other great dive sites close by. The area is known for some of the best shore diving in the world, great muck diving on the black volcanic sand and some fantastic wall dives. The small fishermen’s villages of Amed and Tulamben both offer great diving either walking in from the shore or taking a short ride to the dive site in a jukung, a traditional wooden sailboat. The village Amed is located about 30 minutes drive from Tulamben.
The Drop off, Tulamben
The Drop Off is a shore dive that can be accessed directly from Tulamben Beach. The site is also known as The Tulamben Wall and is a steep wall dropping into the deep from 3m underwater. The wall was created by Lava flow during the eruption of Mount Agung that pushed the Liberty into the water in 1963. Beautiful wall dive covered in hard and soft coral with massive gorgonians. Great variety of marine life, many different fish and great excellent macro diving.
Coral Garden, Tulamben
Coral garden is another nice shore dive in Tulamben, not far from the Liberty wreck. Easy dive with usually little current, the depth varies from 5m to 25m. Rich fish life, large Moray eels, great macro life with frogfish, ghost pipe fish, mantis shrimps and more amazing little animals.
The Amed Wall is only a 5 min boat ride in a traditional jukung boat. Amazing wall covered in soft and hard coral and giant gorgonians from 8m dropping down to a maximum depth of 40m. Look out for pygmy seahorses, leafy scorpionfish and a variety of nudibranches.
Japanese Wreck, Amed
The Japanese Wreck is located in Lipah, a quiet bay, close to Jemeluk and is accessible by road. The wreck is about 20m long and is located very close to shore. An easy, shallow dive, max depth 12m on a sloping sandy bottom. Wreck is encrusted in coral; octopus, cuttlefish, beautiful nudibranches, and even pygmy seahorses often seen here. This shallow wreck is popular for snorkeling.
Man made pyramid reef structures on the sandy bottom, now covered in life. This artificial reef dive site is only about a 10 min boat ride in a traditional jukung boat. Variety of fish on the structures and nice macro life found here includes leafy scorpionfish, ghost pipefish, frog fish, and the pink pygmy seahorse.
The best dive sites around Bali
The island of Bali has a variety of spectacular sites with amazing structures and marine life, if you are traveling around the island don’t miss these sites:
- Crystal Bay from Nusa Penida is the best spot for Mola Mola (in season).
- Manta Point from Nusa Penida, here you can dive or snorkel with Manta Rays all year. Check out our complete guide with Everything about Dive and Travel to Nusa Penida.
- Secret Bay in Gilimanuk unreal creatures for amazing muck diving
Transport to Tulamben
You can get to Tulamben by renting a car, by public bus or by taking a private shuttle. Many dive centers provide shuttle transport.
Renting a Car – Rental Car a platform comparing best car rental options in Bali.
Public Bus – Buses depart from Amlapura and Singaraja around every 30 minutes until 14:00
Shuttle Bus – Perama shuttle bus drops off in central Tulamben, picks up at Candi Dasa, Kuta, Padang Bai, Sanur and Ubud. Book Shuttle Bus
Best rated and reviewed accommodation.
- Backpacker Budget – Bali Reef Divers Tulamben
- Budget Rooms – Matahari Tulamben Resort, Dive & Spa
- Mid Range – Liberty Dive Resort
- Luxury – Toyabali Resort, Dive & Relax
Book Diving around Tulamben
- Full Day Tulamben Dive Trip – Dive three of the best dive site in the east of Bali, the Liberty Wreck, Coral Gardens, and Tulamben Drop Off
- Half Day Tulamben Dive – make your own way to Tulamben, well rated operator
- Full Day Snorkeling Tulamben, Padang Bai, Amed or Nusa Penida Choose snorkeling at one of Bali’s famous sites, snorkel on the wreck of the Liberty or with the mantas of Nusa Penida! Includes Snorkel equipment rental, Hotel pick up or drop off (Central Kuta, Seminyak, Legian and Sanur), Lunch, Drinks, Marine Park entry fees
- Discover How to Scuba Dive – not certified? No problem, get picked up at your hotel, learn the basic skills and get taken for a dive on the wreck by a dive instructor!
Scuba diving does have risks, World Nomads Diving Insurance is a great way to make sure your health and gear is covered.
More Must Do Things in Bali
- Visit the awesome Gili Islands, book a fast boat to the Gili Islands here! Hotel pick up.
- Eat, Pray, Love dreams? Visit the amazing Ubud – Ubud Shuttle
- Go snorkeling with manta rays in Nusa Penida.
- Learn to surf in Kuta or Padang Bai.
- Learn to cook some of the most well-known Balinese dishes, go for a Cooking Class in Ubud
- Do a sunrise trek up Mount Batur.
Things to Pack
We never go on a dive trip without a dive computer, mask and camera.
Check out the Mares Smart dive computer, good value for money, great computer, I love mine.
The Mares Star liquid skin mask, is one of the most comfortable mask I have ever had, we have both been using the liquid skin Star for a couple of years now; high quality mask, great for scuba and freediving.
Canon G7x camera inside its ikelite housing awesome camera, no need for carrying a massive set up. Go Pro Hero 8 camera, unreal what you can get out of this little rig, not professional footage, but amazing quality, you will also need a scuba housing to dive deeper than 10m with your Go Pro Hero Camera.
Little things to have in your dive bag.
SMB+REEL | RASH VEST | HOODED RASH VEST | ORCA TORCH | BUFF | KEY CHAIN O-RING KIT | ANTI-FOG | SILICONE SACHETS | SURF HAT | MICROFIBER LENS CLEAN KIT | POLARIZED FISHING SUNGLASSES | WATERPROOF DIVE LOGBOOK
Going on a dive trip? – Dive Trip Packing List+Tips
Dive Indonesia Resources
For some of the best diving around Indonesia, probably in the world go to Komodo National Park easy to get to from Bali check out our Dive Komodo National Park – a Traveller’s Guide
The large island Sulawesi offers a variety of fantastic diving, diving Bira island is great diving in South Sulawesi. Lembeh Strait in the north is the place to go for muck diving and search the Togian Islands for an off the beaten track diving adventure.
See our Guide to the Best Diving in Indonesia for a comparison of all the best dive sites around Indonesia.
About Author – Campbell
The strong half of Stingy Nomads, a nomadic Aquaman that would be happy to spend all his life in the water diving, surfing and spearfishing but often has to compromise with Alya and go hiking instead. Campbell is responsible for all our marine adventures and following them with write-ups. He loves traveling, braai (BBQ in South Africa), red wine and spending the day in a wetsuit.