Terrific Tulamben

Bali is a land famous for its lush green landscapes, endless sunny days and a bustling tourism industry in the south with many activities including surfing, cycling, trekking and rafting. Often overlooked though is the variety and quality of diving. From deep drift dives in search of pelagics to muck diving in the volcanic black sand looking for critters; Bali has it all!

I had planned a 3 month trip in Indonesia and diving here was high on my to do list. The Liberty shipwreck in Tulamben is justifiably the most popular dive site in Bali and it was here on its doorstep at Tulamben Wreck Divers Resort that I would be based. Alongside the wreck there are 2 more sites: Drop off and Paradise.

Coleman's Shrimp on a fire urchin, Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia All are easy shore dives within walking distance of the resort. When combined with short journeys to the surrounding sites such as Kubu, Alamanda, Ahmed and Seraya, there is plenty to keep any diver entertained for weeks.
An average day's itinerary would be to wake at dawn, grab a quick coffee and kit up for an early dive at the wreck, followed by breakfast and at least 2 more dives at the other sites. I was amazed by the variety of life in the area. Friendly competition between dive guides provides many interesting finds and on every dive I encountered something rare or new to me. I happily shot away filling my 4GB memory card more than once.

Harlequin Ghostpipefish found at the wreck of The Liberty, Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia On one dive after spending 20 mins looking for a recently spotted pygmy seahorse I turned and met a big Black-tip Reefshark, quickly followed by a giant Napoleon Wrasse and a few Bumphead Parrotfish. So much for the macro dive! There would be many more chances to satisfy my small critter fix though and one of the best sites for this is Seraya Secrets. A 5 kilometre drive from Tulamben, the area hosts black sand slopes down to 30m+ and the chance to see many rare and unusual creatures. With the invaluable help of my dive guide I was rewarded with sightings of Harlequin shrimps, seahorses, boxer crabs, many moray eels, and also a great number of fire urchins which hosted the photogenic Colemans shrimp!

A yellow Ribbon Eel, Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia The other stand out macro dive is Paradise or Coral Garden as it is also known, a shallow reef which runs between the wreck and the drop off. I spent many long dives of 70 minutes plus here at around 5 meters photographing Ribbon Eels, Frogfish, Mantis Shrimp and Leaf Scorpionfish among many other things.

The resort also organise day trips to Nusa Lembongan where there is a famous Manta Ray cleaning station. On the day I arrived the site was so busy with diveboats it looked like a harbour! Luckily for us though everyone seemed to be ascending from their dives and I spent an hour with as many as 8 different mantas! Whilst I would be looking into the blue trying to spot one I would then turn to find another gliding above my head! Although this site is incredibly busy it is definitly worth doing and if you get lucky like I did then it can be spectacular,

Leaf SCorpionfish, Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia Undoubtedly, the star attraction though is the Liberty shipwreck. Being as famous and popular as the wreck is, from 8.30am until around 2pm everyday the area gets amazingly busy with up to 100+ divers in the water! For this reason it is well worth getting up early. On more than one occasion me and my excellent dive guide Nyoman had the dive site all to ourselves! An amazing feeling and an excellent chance to really explore and get some good photographs.The wreck lies in less than 30m of water and starts at a depth of just 5m. The broken ship is encrusted with many colorfull hard and soft corals and seafans and hosts a massive variety of fish. Staying so close meant plenty of dives to experience everything this wonderful site has to offer. My final and best dive of the trip would highlight just why this sight is so special.

Harlequin Ghostpipefish found at the wreck of The Liberty, Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia I had decided to dive 30 minutes earlier than usual (6am) hoping to witness the daily departure of the resident school of bumphead parrotfish. Me and my guide were the only people in the water this early and found the herd of 20+ huge fish within minutes. We then descended to a familiar area just before the wreck where we found approx 10 Orrnate Ghostpipefish and Robust Pipefish. I swapped my wet lens from fish eye to macro and happily shot away.

We then planned to descend to the deep end of the wreck at approx 28m to a seafan known to host Pygmy Seahorses. Halfway there whilst scanning the wreck for critters I heard frantic banging from my guide and looked up to see a huge Oceanic Sunfish. A Mola Mola on my last dive of the trip and not another diver in site! The giant fish has been known to make rare appearances here and allowed us to watch as it got cleaned by Bannerfish for 15 minutes before sinking back into the depths.

The dive was not over yet though and as planned we found 2 different species of pygmy seahorses (Hippocampus bargibanti & Hippocampus denise). From the oceans biggest bony fish to one of its most famous tiny critters within a few minutes! With time running out we also found a white juvenile Frogfish before ascending to the top of the wreck to complete my safety stop amongst the huge school of swirling jacks. An unforgettable dive to end the trip. This site is reason enough to dive in Bali and I will be back to Tulamben wreck divers ASAP. Bali is an underwater photographers paradise.......

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