Diving in Bali - Tulamben Bay
Tulamben has become Bali’s most famous diving area.
The easy access from the beach to the main 3 dives sites of the bay, the USAT Liberty Wreck, Coral Garden and the Drop Off, combined with mild or no current, make it a perfect destination for all levels of divers and for Snorkeling.
It is also suitable for any type of diving course.
The beach is made of black volcanic stones that become sand in the shallows.
Surprising at first, this black bottom offers a wonderful contrast to the colorful marine life, corals, gorgonians, and critters. Underwater photographers love it! Note however that sometimes, when it’s wavy, the black stone beach can make entry tricky. The visibility is usually good but can be blurred some days by the plankton-rich waters moving along the bay from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean. It ranges from 5 to 30 meters.
Tulamben also offers an extraordinary diversity of marine life. There are hundred of macro-species living here and huge schools of Big-eyed trevally. The occasional sightings of pelagics are wonderful, but it is the permanent population of Tulamben Bay that brings people here again and again. Tulamben is a wonderful place to learn to dive and to learn about underwater life.
Dives to the USAT Liberty Wreck, Drop-Off, Coral Garden and Seraya dive sites start directly from the beach. The USAT Liberty Wreck lies less than 50m from shore and can also be snorkeled.
Coral Garden, Drop-off, and Seraya are mostly macro dive sites, where one can see two-spotted lionfish, moray eels, ribbon eels, rock groupers at cleaning stations, nudibranch, pygmy seahorse and sometimes even harlequin shrimps. Reef sharks like blacktips or whitetips can also be spotted here.
Add 5 to 10 minutes by traditional wooden boat (jukung) to go to Alamanda, Batu Kelebit, and Emerald bay dive sites. These “jukung dive sites” offer a bit of everything and many large species are often attracted there by the fact that few divers come here. Napoleons and bumpheads parrotfish, mantas and eagle rays, thresher and hammerhead sharks, and even whale sharks have all been spotted!
The USAT Liberty Wreck
Torpedoed by a Japanese submarine during World War II and further broken up by the 1963 eruption of Mt. Agung, this 125-meter wreck now rests in 9 meters of water. Encrusted with coral, the ship features visible guns, boilers, toilets, and anchor chain and hosts numerous species of fishes, wonderful sea fans and sponges.
Marine life is extremely rich around and in the wreck. Big potato groupers live at the wreck. Garden eels have colonized the shallow parts. A gigantic swirl of jackfish can usually be seen on top of the Liberty shipwreck. King barracudas are also often seen here along with a wealth of macro life, like frogfish, ornate ghost pipefish, nudibranchs or the rare pygmy seahorse. Despite this diversity, the USAT Liberty shipwreck remains best known for the school of bumphead parrotfish that sleep inside its hull at night.
We dive in, through and around the wreck, discovering new landscape each time we change direction! The Liberty wreck dive site is convenient for all, snorkelers, beginners or experienced divers. It is often used as the 3d or the 4th dive for the open water course.
The very nice Coral Garden is situated just a few hundred meters from the Liberty wreck. It is a shallow reef with a depth of 3 to 12 meters what makes it a perfect site for snorkelers, beginners or night dives. This spot is also ideal for underwater photography.
The reef mainly consists of table corals and anemones, as well as sponges and soft corals.
The fish life is very diverse with a surprising number of Blue ribbon eels, Cuttlefish and Octopus. In addition, there is a wide variety of shrimps (incl. Peacock mantis shrimps), frogfish, ghost pipefish, razorfishes, nudibranchs and numerous varieties of clownfishes hiding in their white, green or blue anemones. Black-tip reef sharks patrol the area.
It offers a unique opportunity to compare natural coral with the artificial reef present on the site (structures and statues) also teaming with rare fish and coral.
The Liberty Wreck is not the only amazing dive site around the Tulamben area. Diving the Tulamben Wall also called the Drop Off is a great experience and makes a perfect second dive.
The Drop-Off wall is an old lava flow from Mount Agung.
The dive starts on a steep sand slope with nudibranchs, flounders, and goby- shrimp pairs. At 12m, sponges with many varieties of shrimp can be found, as well as many crinoids, often with attendant ghost pipefish. Continuing around to the right, the slope develops into a reef with a very impressive topography, becoming a vertical wall (from 15m to below 60m) which then reverts to a steep slope.
Wonderful gorgonians fans, sponges, and black coral bushes can be found, animated by colorful and abundant marine life. There rarely is any current, even mild.
To finish the dive, the top of the reef offers a coral garden at 5 meters.
Excellent for snorkelers as well.”
From the Tulamben Beach, we take a Jukung to cruise beyond the Drop Off. It will take us around 5 -10 minutes.
The Reef is very healthy. The steep slope reef is dominated by dome hard corals, soft corals and variety of Gorgonians, Between 20 and 30 meters there is rich ridged reef with a large number of sponges, Barrel sponges, and variety of reef fishes.
Pygmy Seahorse on purple sea fan is the favorite macro critter amongst the experienced divers, sometimes on a single sea fan you can find 5 to 10 Pygmies.
Current mainly brings the diver toward the Drop Off, water temperature is warm and the visibility is good, what makes it a great drift diving experience with the boat waiting at the end of your dive.
Batu Kelebit is about 15 minutes from Tulamben Bay – that’s by jukung (local wooden fishing boat).
The site is basically two large rocks that lie just offshore. There are grey and white sand channels between the two reef ridges running to 25-40 Meters in depths.
These steep ridges form a rich and healthy reef and are covered with an extremely diverse growth of hard corals, sponges, gorgonians and every other encrusting animal.
Along the reef, we often see schools of Big-eyed trevallies, while on the sand we find Fire Dartfish, Gold-specs jaw fish, Starry puffers and cuttlefish.
The color of the sand differs from Tulamben dive sites, but also the combination of steepness of the site, the structure of the ridges and the plankton-rich water give you a better chance to see pelagic than in the Tulamben bay it-self: barracuda, tuna, Manta rays, White-tip reef sharks, turtles, Dogtooth tuna and sometimes … Mola-Mola (Ocean sunfish).
Water clarity is always good and its temperature is a bit cooler compared to the rest of Tulamben Bay dive sites (25°C). Current varies from mild to quite strong with occasional down currents, you need to watch your depth and stay close to your guide.
Emerald bay is another of the great dive sites we can find in the area of Tulamben. It is situated a bit to the east of the Batu Kelebit dive site and is accessed using a Jukung (wood local boat).
There is a “wreck” of a Toyota car and some other pieces of artificial reef, attractive for interesting marine life such as ghost pipefish, octopus, lionfish and scorpion fish. A lot of Gorgonian Sea Fans are hosting Pygmy Sea horses.
The sandy slope homes cuttlefish, gobies, decorated dartfish, Helmut gurnard and nudibranchs, of course. There are some areas of Garden eels too.
In the 20-30m area the reef seems to become richer with a large number of sponges, including Barrel sponges, and is a good place to see reef sharks.
There is a small drop-off with Elephant-ear sponges and hard corals, and some large, semi-resident Napoleon wrasse.
Current is generally smooth, but can become strong. In this case, you will drift gently towards Tulamben, with the Jukung following your bubbles to pick you up at the end of the dive.
SERAYA – Excellent Macro & Muck dive in Bal
It’s just a heaven for macro critters underwater photographers searching for some amazing and unique creatures living in this underwater muck!
With a 10 m deep black sand bottom, you can stay for hours searching for strange small creatures hiding all over the place.
If you are lucky (and patient enough), you might even get to see the rare mimic Octopus!
Due to the sandy bottom the visibility can sometimes be poor but this doesn’t really affect muck diving! Get your camera ready and enjoy