Our alarm annoyingly sounded at 5am. It was already time to suit up and get ready to go into the water for our first dive. Once we were ready, we walkout out of our bungalow, and then another 30m onto the black sandy beach. The first rays of light were appearing on the horizon as we were walking into the water. The time was 5:50am. You might be asking yourself, what kind of time is that to get up on your holiday? Well we got up so early because this is the best time for diving USAT Liberty wreck in Bali.
The USAT Liberty wreck is a classic dive on Bali’s north shore. For me probably one of the best shore dives I have ever done. There are not many places in the world where you swim 50m from shore and have a 125m long shipwreck teaming with marine life. I have also have done shore dives where I have seen Manta rays, Eagle rays, and sharks too. Nevertheless this dive has a special place in my heart.
We were staying at the Ocean View Dive Resort which is right in front of the wreck. It was a simple and friendly place, with a small dive center. My wife and I are both dive professionals and brought our own equipment. So all we needed was to rent tanks. The guys gave us a small orientation about the dive sites nearby and told us the best time to dive the Liberty wreck was at sunrise to see the Humphead parrot fish. They would bring tanks to our bungalow whenever we needed (10$ per tank).
We waited until the afternoon on the day we arrived from Trita Gangga to make our first dive on the wreck. The guys from the dive center told us that this would be a better time, since in the middle of the day all the dive operators from south Bali would be diving on the wreck. And so it was, van after van arrived from Padang Bai, Kuta, and Denpasar with divers. After they all returned back to south Bali, we kitted up and did our first dive.
The northern part of Bali is very different to south, which is green, lush and covered in rice fields. Here the terrain was barren, the soil is red and there were many cacti. Also here the beach is made up of black volcanic sand. This sand gave a stunning contrast to the colorful tropical reef fish, which were teaming around the wreck. We explored the wreck which has broken into many pieces from its age and when it had slipped further into the sea during the 1963 eruption of Mt.Agung. Not like usual wreck dive feel, it felt like diving the aftermath of a battle.
Best time for Diving USAT Liberty Wreck
So the alarm sounded at 5am, we got ready, and the first rays of light were appearing on the horizon as we were walking into the water. We put on our fins and swam out to the wreck. We were the first in the water, there were maybe 6 others preparing on the beach, but were far from ready. Down we went in the twilight, the fish were waking up and so were we. The water was a little chilly at that time and the visibility was around 20m.
10 minutes into the dive we saw the first Humphead Parrot fish. He was huge, shortly after a massive school of them came our way, around 100 of them. It was absolutely awesome. We hung out with them for a while. Then they spread out around the wreck and started chewing on the coral. The noise was louder than usual crackling sound when diving in the tropics and was heard almost the entire dive. That day we were the only ones who saw the massive school. The other divers were down at 30m and missed them.
On the dive we saw many other fish; Sweetlips, Banded pipefish, Harlequin nudi’s, Mimic & Reef octopus, Spearing-Mantis, Giant Cuttlefish and many more. After about 65min of diving more divers started to come into the water and we ascended to a shallower depth where there was a massive school of Jackfish hanging out. We played with them for another 20min. Then we went out for breakfast and a nap!!!! 85min dive, max depth 30m, awesome…….
We loved Diving USAT Liberty Wreck so much we ended up doing 4 dives on the wreck, 2 of which were at dusk.
when to go and how to get here
The best conditions for Diving USAT Liberty Wreck are usually are between early April to July, October and November. It is dry season during these months and visibility can reach up to 40 metres. Though you can dive here pretty much year round as long as weather permits.
There are 3 ways of getting there. You can take a local bus (which we did), take a taxi, or hire a car/motorbike. The Perama bus company run daily shuttle buses which take 2-3 hours to get there from Denpasar. The buses leave between 7-9am depending on where you leave from and cost from 100-175,000 IDR. A taxi costs around 3-450,000 IDR and if you rent a car around 175,000 IDR per day. This takes about 1.5 hours from Denpasar.
where to stay and dive with
In Tulamben its best just to stay at a resort with a dive center right on the beach. Otherwise you will have to pay for porters. If you are a very experienced diver or a dive professional you can just rent tanks here. Though if you are not that comfortable and experienced then take a guide. Also if you are in the area and have a bit of time, you might want to take a short livaboard to Komodo, read about it in our blog.
We stayed at the Ocean View Dive Resort, and were very happy there. The rooms are very nice and the restaurant was good. Also they have a awesome seaside pool. Though there are some other good options which we might try next time and are also close to the wreck are is the Tauch Terminal and the Matahari Tulamben Resort.
a brief history of the wreck
The USAT Liberty was launched in New Jersey in the USA on the 19 June 1918. She was a cargo ship in the US Army during the first and second World War. On 11 January, Liberty was torpedoed by Japanese submarine southwest of the Lombok Strait.
US destroyer Paul Jones and Dutch destroyer Van Ghent took the damaged ship in tow attempting to reach Celukan Bawang harbour at Singaraja. However she was taking too much water and so was beached on the eastern shore of Bali at Tulamben. Here the cargo and fittings could be salvaged.
In 1963 the tremors associated with the eruption of Mount Agung caused the vessel to slip off the beach, and she now lies on a sand slope between 7-30m deep.
If you want all the details read about it on Wikipedia.