Tulamben is one of the most famous diving areas in Bali. The diving industry in Tulamben started due to the presence of the USAT Liberty shipwreck. The ship was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in 1942 and beached in Tulamben. In 1963, the earthquakes associated with a Mt Agung eruption pushed the ship back into the water. Over time the wreck drew adventurous scuba divers to the area and a new industry was born. The first dive centre/resort was opened in 1986 (Paradise) and now the town is dedicated to diving.
Although famous for the Liberty wreck, the entire area is a diving hotbed. What started as an industry based around the coral reefs of Coral Garden, Drop Off, and Alamanda has now exploded. The diving activity now ranges north to Kubu and south through the Seraya area. Now, when people refer to Tulamben they refer to the larger area as a whole.
In the early 2000s, with the rising popularity of digital photography and muck diving, Tulamben truly blossomed. The new found fame of the Lembeh Strait and it’s weird critters led divers to search for the same in Bali. Sites such as Seraya Secrets and Batu Niti were found to produce incredible critter life along black sand slopes. Now, the Seraya area 5 minutes from Tulamben is the hotspot for critter diving in Bali.
Tulamben Diving – What To Expect?
Tulamben is a varied destination and suitable for all levels of divers. The USAT Liberty wreck is the dive that gets the most attention but it’s certainly not the only one around! Many of the sites are easily accessed by shore, some with sand, others with rocks. We therefore advise people to use open heel fins and booties for diving in the area.
Here we have a look at some of Tulamben’s top attractions from North to South.
Kubu Wreck (Wide Angle)
The newest wreck in the area, this is a purposely sunken wreck for divers. Starting around 15 m deep, this wreck drops down to 30m+ at the stern. For wide angle photographers it offers all kinds of fantastic photo opportunities. Although not covered in coral, there are plenty of photogenic holds for great snaps.
Liberty Coral Garden (Wide Angle)
Located to the NW of the wreck, this small coral garden is a real treat. Several large barrel sponges and sea fans decorate the sandy slope. The highlight of the site are the many and colorful magnificent anemones and attendant clown fish.
USAT Liberty Wreck (Wide and Macro)
The most famous site in Bali, this shipwreck is a real treasure. At over 100 meters in length, this ex cargo ship is a true coral reef. Soft corals and sea fans cover much of the superstructure in brilliant colour. Schools of fish are very used to divers and easily approachable. A friendly hawksbill turtle calls the wreck home and is not afraid of divers. Although a very busy site, there are always great photo opportunities available.
Liberty Slope (Macro)
A sandy slope to the south side of the ship, this is a great site for finding wonderpus! There are a few coral heads on the slope but not many. A great spotter is a real advantage on this site in order to find the cool critters. Nudibranchs, ghost pipefish, shrimp, and frogfish are common encounters here. This site is a great afternoon dive when many critters begin to emerge.
Coral Garden (Wide and Macro)
The corals here have suffered over the years from storm damage. However, the fish and critter life remain abundant. One of the best places in Bali to find blue ribbon eels and juvenile black males. There is a gorgeous section of hundreds of magnificent anemones and clown fish in just 3 – 7 meters of water. There is also a small artificial reef here with tires and statues which have attracted cleaner shrimp and many eels.
Drop Off/Alamanda/Emerald (Wide and Macro)
These sites are all reached with a short ride on a jukung. All of these sites are steep slopes with great fish life. Sea fans, soft corals, and sponges are plentiful in 20 meters and deeper. Hard corals are spread throughout the shallows with clouds of anthias and damselfish hovering above. Turtles, bump head parrotfish, and reef sharks are a common sighting as well.
Moving further south east past the abandoned Emerald Resort the area becomes Seraya, the heart of critter diving.
Segara and Melasti (Macro)
These are two sites that fit the classic black sand dive profile. Gentle slopes with fairly nondescript looking bottom topography. However, these sites are macro life heaven. Shaun the Sheep nudis, donut dorids, Harlequin shrimp, frogfish, and octopus are just the tip of the iceberg. A good spotter is required to make the most of your time at these sites. The cryptic nature of the inhabitants mean a keen and experienced guide will bring out the best of these sites.
Seraya Secrets (Macro)
The first muck dive site in the area, this sandy slope is located in front of Scuba Seraya Resort. Another black sandy slope with oases of coral on the slopes. Spotted morays, pygmy seahorses, nudibranchs, leaf fish, and the occasional rhinopias are frequent inhabitants. It’s easy to spend a day here diving along this series of sites spread over several hundred meters of beach front.
Batu Niti (Macro)
Hidden under some shady trees, the entrance to this site is along a rocky stretch of shore near a dry river bed. Although it can be silty during the rainy season, the bottom is home to a plethora of great encounters. Beautiful nudibranchs, boxer crabs, harlequin shrimp, and saw blade shrimp are found daily. Do keep your fins off the bottom here as the sand/silt is very easy to stir up.
Batu Belah/Sidem (Macro)
Around the corner from Batu Niti lies a small cove and dive site Sidem. This site has a different bottom composition than the Seraya area. This site is more rocky with a lot more vegetation covering the bottom. Rhiniopias, lots of octopus, frogfish, and harlequin shrimp can be found here. The bay is quite large and it’s easy to spend two dives in here, diving different ends of the bay.
As diving is such an integral part of the local community, Tulamben diving is unique. Each dive spot boasts a small parking area, rinse tanks, showers, and helpful porters. Divers provide a great source of income locally and in return receive a unique service. Divers don’t have to carry their heavy tanks along the beach as porters do it. The porters range from young kids who put the gear on their motorbikes to older women who carry it on their heads! Watching how everything functions like clockwork is part of the charm of Tulamben diving.
Dive in Bali
We suggest that every diver who visits Bali to try Tulamben diving. The variety and quality of diving in the area is one of the best in Bali. Underwater photographers and critter enthusiasts rave about their encounters here.
If you would like to see a few sample itineraries please have a look at our Bali Safari page.
If you would like to read more about the history of the USAT Liberty Wreck please have a look here or watch this short video.