Bali, Indonesia is home to what most scuba enthusiasts agree is the top wreck dive in the world – the famous USS/USAT Liberty. It’s every bit as spectacular as its hyped up to be, and it’s such an easy, accessible dive that it’s something every diver should put on their bucketlist. John and I loved it so much that we did it twice in two days, and it utterly blew us away both times.
Beneath the huge, volcanic peak of Bali’s Mount Agung, the USS/USAT Liberty sits in the shallow blue water just a short swim from shore. This US army cargo ship was torpedoed in WWII and beached at Tulamben. Then in 1963 when Mount Agung erupted, great earthquakes rolled the Liberty back into the sea, and marine creatures great and small quickly got to work making it their home. The skeletal ship is world renowned due to its shallowness, which means the colors are vivid and you can spend a lot of time underwater exploring it, and also because of the unbelievable array of life it harbors. Plus, you can swim through columns and big holes in its hull – a truly memorable experience. At 120 meters/400 feet in length, the Liberty Wreck is a haven for sea life and for divers.
Look into the rusted crevices of the ship’s remains and you’ll discover nudibranchs in dazzling colors and strange textures, weird frogfish, octopus, seahorses, and barracuda. Peek into the great caverns of the hull and you’ll see large schools of bumphead parrotfish, which look like they swam into the side of a ship at high speed and got a big old golfball on their foreheads. There are also schools of scribbled filefish, tuna, peacock groupers and huge shrimp everywhere you look. And just beyond the wreck, there’s a vast field of garden eels, which at first glance look like tall blades of grass (with eyeballs) swaying in the gentle current. There’s so much to see that you could easily do 5-6 dives here and still not see it all.
Tips for Diving the Liberty Wreck
Because it’s easy to do it as a shore dive, the site get extremely crowded, extremely fast. Our dive operator – the Villa Markisa – beat the crowds by getting us out there before the break of dawn. We had the ship to ourselves for a good half hour, which was incredible and I highly recommend it. But be sure to bring strong torches or you’ll literally be in the dark.
Other Dives in the Area
Tulamben Wall was our second favorite dive – we were the only divers there, and there’s tons of colorful life to see on the wall, from a giant purple gorgonian fan to sharks to barrel sponges and mantis shrimp.
Nudibranch lovers will absolutely go nuts for the muck dives. I’ve never seen so many nudis in my life, and they are in every psychedelic color of the rainbow. Plus, you can occasionally spot a cuttlefish or octopus in the muck too.
There’s also a lovely coral garden dive with some interesting sunken statues that are quickly becoming the dwellings of various sea creatures. It’s not particularly spectacular, but if you’re in the area for a few days, it’s a very different dive from the others, so it’s nice for variety.
When to Go
You can dive there year-round, however the sea can be rough from December through March. Also, Mount Agung has been having lots of seismic activity lately and is threatening to erupt again, so be sure to check on its status before booking your trip.
Where to stay
The town of Tulamben isn’t much of a town really, and accommodation options are limited. If you want to splurge a little, as we did, the best place to stay is the exclusive Villa Markisa. From the gorgeous location to the excellent dive masters and equipment, the beautiful rooms and delicious meals (their fresh baked pretzels are to die for), they pay such great attention to detail and your preferences that it makes your stay truly exceptional, effortless and decadent. I mean, check this place out – it’s stunning, isn’t it?
We met divers from around the world who came here year after year, and they were all so impressed that whenever they arrived, they Markisa staff remembered all their preferences and prepared their rooms just as they liked. Like one lady who hates geckos, so the staff spends time clearing the room of the little lizards before arrives – now that’s incredible service! It’s not cheap, but it’s worth it – we’ll definitely be joining the ranks of their loyal, repeat guests.
If you decide to stay here, note that they don’t book through any of the travel/hotel sites – you have to book with them directly. You can do so by contacting them through their website.
Happy diving, and say hi to the bumphead parrotfish for us!