Diving the Liberty, Bali
We had arranged to stay at a super cheap place with pretty good reviews in Tulamben to dive the USS Liberty, a US cargo ship torpedoed by Japanese submarine in January 1942. She came to lie off of the coast of Bali having being towed and beached there, in 1963 a volcanic eruption moved the Liberty off of the beach and to her current resting place in 5-35 meters of water a short distance from the shore.
Unfortunately on arriving in Tulamben our driver couldn’t find our hotel, not the most auspicious of starts. When found Bali Reef Divers first impressions were fine, a few divers milling around, dive staff doing the same, a little pool a few steps back from the road and four little joined cabins at the back, cheap, basic, fine. We checked in to discover a tiny room as expected, damp on each wall not so expected. The room was hot hot hot, so we turned up the A/C, for nothing to happen, no worries it also had a ceiling fan, which when turned on wobbled and made such a bad noise we feared it would dismount and decapitate us. Fan quickly switched off, hot room it was. (I should note after four hours the A/C did finally kick in). We could hear voices coming from somewhere behind as if they were in the room. Its ok we said, we’re only here to dive and off we went to arrange that. Oh you’re certified PADI rescue divers they sneered. Hard to sneer at that but anyway. Yes we explained, new to diving we had thought getting the rescue certification was a smart move. It seemed to change their tone towards us from convivial to dismissive. Awesome, why we didn’t walk away at thay point ai will never know. Dive arranged for the next morning, we wandered up the street to the Liberty Dive resort we had not booked as it was out of our budget, to have a look around. Friendly, warm greeting, lovely accommodation, just out of our budget *sigh*.
Morning came soon enough, thankfully as we had heard our neighbours and a million mopeds driving by all night, and we were fitted for BCDs, wetsuits and due to the very pebbly shore, booties and fins. They had no 2kg weights and so I was given six 1kg ones, not so comfy to dive in but not the end of the world. And off and down the street we walked while our tanks were taken by moped. Walking any distance in a wetsuit in 30 degree heat is something I can live without doing again. When we arrived at the shore and were in our gear we had to shout at our guide, who’d not said a word to us so far, to get him to pause long enough for us to buddy check each other before entering the ocean. Once in I found the borrowed fins and booties unbearably heavy, like I had weights strapped to my feet making them cumbersome and ungainly. I’m only just learning to dive; I have so much still to learn and I felt as if I knew nothing, unable to compensate for the sudden heaviness of my feet. To make matters worse there was a pretty strong current. We proceeded excruciatingly slowly over volcanic sand and nothingness for what seemed like an age until to our left out of the murkiness a hulking bow appeared. I would wax lyrical, but I hated the entire dive, my foot got cramp the fins were so heavy I could not look around and enjoy my surroundings for fear I would bash into them. We started going with the current and ended against it, something we had learned never to do, start with the hard, end with the easy, not that any of it was easy. I was only too glad to get out at the end. Well that was a disaster.
Less than an hour later we were heading to the Liberty Dive Resort, checking in to a deluxe bungalow and scheduling an afternoon dive with Gede our helpful, friendly dive guide. Sometimes the budget needs to take a back seat. There are several different levels of accommodation, standard and deluxe rooms and standard, deluxe, superior and family bungalows. Our deluxe bungalow was lovely. A little verandah out front with chairs and table, another seating area inside and a lovely high ceilinged bedroom, super kingsize bed etc etc The grounds are manicured and perfectly maintained, an oasis in the heat. There are three pools ranging from small to large and comfy loungers with cushions at each. The restaurant serves reasonably priced and tasty Western and Indonesian cuisine and the included breakfast was delicious, the best banana pancakes so far.
Our first dive with Gede, like all we had there, was fantastic, seeing the USS Liberty, with our own fins on, weighted properly, floating along, stopping to look closer when necessary, perfectly buoyant, just as we should have been. It is a great wreck, twisted and broken with many hiding places for all sorts of sea creatures. Areas you can swim into and through and soaring limbs of metal at all angles. It was a cool experience; I learn a little more each dive we do. On our dives among others we saw lagoon rays, seal faced puffers as well as giant puffers, peacock mantis shrimp, huge groupers and oriental sweetlips, huge longfinned batfish, scorpionfish, blue lined grouper, a very large tuna, tiny shrimp, huge triggerfish, schools of jacks, a giant barracuda greeted us each time we dove the Liberty, mere metres from the shore, its mouth full of teeth, long and sharp, grinning inanely at us.
We also dove Coral Garden nearby where an artificial reef has been created from a Buddhist temple that was built too close to the sea and toppled in a number of years ago. The statues have been moved to create an underwater folly that the fish have taken to with relish. We saw countless nemos, bannerfish, trumpetfish, the smallest baby moray as well as larger ones, blue ringed angelfish, white banded shrimp that will clean your teeth if you’re brave enough to take out your regulator and present your teeth to them, we were not, as their cleaning station was also temporarily home to a moray having a clean. We also saw our first Indonesian Black tip reef shark, so much more intimidating than the docile white tips we’ve encountered so far, but only an adolescent who was curious, not threatening towards us.
We would thoroughly recommend the Liberty Dive resort, they were a professional outfit, the dive briefings were informative, our guide knowledgeable. It turned into an expensive few days but oh what an experience. Now just to get that pesky budget back on track Xx