Trip Report - Tulamben, Bali with Liberty Dive Resort (October 2018)

The Land of the Gods! Few other places evoke images of soft, sandy beaches, beautiful villas with a private pool, and drunk tourists spoiling for a fight. Fortunately for me, I would be far away from the Kuta crowds and much closer to Mount Agung, an active volcano, in Tulamben. Yay!

Popular with day-trippers visiting the USAT Liberty along with some freedivers, it is we macro photographers, the few, the proud, that call Tulamben one of our homes, alongside Lembeh and Anilao.

This is my second time in Tulamben and first with Liberty Dive Resort (LDR). Packing a camera with macro lens locked in, my intentions couldn’t be clearer.

Getting there

Enjoying the view on my way to Tulamben

Enjoying the view on my way to Tulamben

Flying in from Singapore, I took a 2.5 hour direct flight to Bali Denpasar Airport. The journey to the resort took another 2.5 hours by airport transfer arranged with LDR. Fast!

Tulamben

What do you think of when you think of Bali? Nice beaches? Vibrant nightlife? Sorry, pal, but Tulamben has none of that. Topside, it’s mostly resorts, restaurants, and a few convenience stores. Evenings will be spent mostly relaxing in the resort, with a beer in hand. Come to think of it, that’s not too bad, is it?

Liberty Dive Resort

Liberty Dive Resort - Garden Cottages

Liberty Dive Resort - Garden Cottages

Beautiful, spacious resort with three (yes, 3!) swimming pools, restaurant, and a camera room. Food at the restaurant is pretty good, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to get out and try everything else Tulamben has to offer!

Big shoutout to LDR staff as service was consistently excellent!

LDR dive operations are very well-run, and provide you with your own dedicated spotter and free Nitrox. They usually go out for two dives in the morning, come back for lunch, then go back out for another two afternoon dives or an afternoon dive followed by a night dive. Bottom time is limited only by you; I was averaging 70-minute dives, and we were coming up only because it was cold! After your dives, you will be served fruit slices and a drink which you can enjoy as you take a dip in the pool to rinse and warm up.

Love this pool after a cold dive, you will

Love this pool after a cold dive, you will

I booked a garden cottage for myself which has more than enough space for me and my camera.

Liberty Dive Resort - Garden Cottage

Liberty Dive Resort - Garden Cottage

Liberty Dive Resort - Garden Cottage

Liberty Dive Resort - Garden Cottage

Pro tip: pick the garden cottages if you want to be closer to the dive centre, restaurant, and main pool, like me!

Diving

Say hello to my dive guide, Rick!

Say hello to my dive guide, Rick!

Tulamben is famous for the USAT Liberty wreck which is easily accessible for divers and freedivers. However, the real magic can be found when you slow down and take a closer look at the sandy slopes and rocky bottoms. Tulamben ranks right up there with Lembeh and Anilao when it comes to macro, so don’t be shy when sharing your 'most wanted’ list with your spotter! Here are a few ‘Tulamben Specials’ to get you started:

  • Doto greenamyeri

  • Doto bella

  • Tritonia sp

  • Costasiella sp (with rosy cheeks)

A dawn dive on the USAT Liberty is also highly recommended for the Humphead parrotfish. Be sure to hit the water early at 530am for the best chance to see a group of them just getting up and ready before their morning commute. A word of warning about the wreck; try to avoid late-morning to late-afternoon as this is the time most day-trippers will visit, unless you’re into seeing more bubbles and getting fin-slapped!

Nothing to shoot? Selfie time!

Nothing to shoot? Selfie time!

Bottom Line

Tulamben is a great destination if your focus is macro photography, bonus that it’s easy on the wallet. As popular as the USAT Liberty is, it’s not all that impressive and there are much better wrecks to explore which are less crowded. Since there isn’t much to do topside, a stay of over one week is only recommended for hardcore macro photographers or those with very specific objectives.

Liberty Dive Resort gets top marks for value and is very highly recommended for it’s beautiful resort, fantastic staff service, and professional guides.