My week in Bali was coming to an end and I was bummed about it. There was so much more that I wanted to do and explore, so much ground to cover in so little time. I didn’t want to say goodbye yet.
With a hurried sense of adventure, we took a risk, and what we ended up doing may just have been our best decision yet.
The day before our departure flight, we got on our moto-scooter and drove for 3 hours from Seminyak to east Bali, including a quick stop at Padang Bai for lunch.
Surf & sea pizza for only $7 in Padang Bai!
Our destination: Tulamben
Our goal: Scuba diving
If you’re in Bali and want to go scuba diving, there are great dive sites all along the east coast. Tulamben wasn’t our first choice–we heard lots of great things about Amed and Padang Bai, which were closer–but after finding out that the USS Liberty shipwreck was a shoredive and having the option to dive without a guide, we were sold.
I would have loved to do a boat dive and wouldn’t have minded a guide, but we were running on limited time, and still had to moto back for 3 hours to our place in Seminyak.
We didn’t do much planning for this dive, which is something we really should have done. We Googled a list of dive shops in Tulamben, and almost all of them wouldn’t let us rent gear without a hiring a guide. Finally, we found one called Madha Dive Shop. The location could not have been any more perfect – it was right next to the USS Liberty shipwreck!
We met the dive shop operator named Made, and he set us up with our gear. We forgot to bring our GoPro so we rented an Olympus Tough point and shoot camera.
And in case you’re wondering why I’m wearing a wetsuit in the Indian Ocean, they were available as an option at the dive shop and I didn’t want to risk getting cold. Basically, I’m spoiled for warm waters.
About the USS Liberty
The USS Liberty was a US military cargo ship that was torpedoed by a Japanese battleship in January 1942 during World War II. It went down 10-miles from the Lombok Strait and was tugged back to a beach in Tulamben so parts could be salvaged.
Twenty one years later in 1963, the nearby Mt. Agung volcano erupted (one of the most prominent volcanic eruptions of our era) and the rattling of the tremors caused the USS Liberty to slip back into the ocean on a slope with depths ranging from 15ft. to 75ft.
I was nervous at first
Because I always associated shipwrecks with sharks for some odd reason, and I kicked around awkwardly as it was my first time wearing open heel/strap fins.
I was totally fine though as soon as I started my descent and dipped below the surface–my weight distributed until I was neutrally buoyant, my muscles relaxed, my breathing slowed, and my ears equalized.
The first thing I noticed were the fish.
There were so many of them. At least 3 different schools were swimming past me as I sunk lower until I was hovering over the ship. And they were huge! The fish, I mean. They must be protected in that area or something because we have (some of) the same exact fish in American Samoa, but these were 2 to 3 times bigger! And they swam up to me curiously; not at all scared when I would reach my hand out to say hello.
The Lonely Grouper
This Goliath Grouper was about 4ft long and was chillin’ out super hard in one of the hollow crevices of the USS Liberty. They are typically shy gentle giants and I stared at this guy for a long minute. I also just realized that I have never seen more than 1 grouper at the same time, which is ironic because of its name.
Down here it feels like roaming on another planet and I’m flying through a spaceship
Side note: while writing this I stopped for like 10 minutes and stared at this picture of fish (below). I don’t know if it’s just me, maybe I’m really tired or something but the fish look like they’re moving! I swear, it’s so cool.
You can click on it to zoom. Do you see the fish moving? Is it really just me? Am I going insane????
There’s so much life down here.
It’s a different kind of dive than back home. The ocean floor is a muck and looks bare, but after closer inspection, you’ll find garden eels and stingrays hiding in plain view. A few spots of coral here and there, but on the shipwreck there is all sorts of living matter that now take residence.
Shout out to my guy for doing it all
Driving through crazy Bali traffic (on a scooter nonetheless) to and from Seminyak and Tulamben (is nuts). But you made it happen. Thank you for resting your hand on my thigh every now and then to check on me. I am leaving out so so so many reasons why you’re amazing, but just know that you are, and that I love you!
Dive Log 05:
Date: August 23, 2017
Site: USS Liberty Shipwreck, Tulamben, Bali – Indian Ocean
Depth: 70 feet
Total time: 75 minutes
Visibility: 50 feet
Weather: Partly cloudy
Dive type: Shore dive
Gas Type: Air
Dive buddy: Ian M; Divemaster
Dive Shop: Madha Dive
Back on land
It was abaout 3pm when we got out of the water, and I could immediately feel gravity taking a toll on me. I trudged up the shallow beach, rinsed off, drank some iced coffee, and waited for the photos to transfer to my iPhone, while Ian bought a pair of (probably knock off) polarized Oakley sunglasses from Made’s friend who was there selling them for super cheap.
We geared up for the long ride back to Seminyak and stopped a couple of times to refuel the bike, our bellies (we needed more coffeine!!), and admire some of the most incredible views of Bali on the vistas along the way. The drive was long and hard but it was so worth it to see the beautiful countryside and witness some traditional religious rituals along the way.
Tired but stoked in Seminyak
We finally got back to Seminyak at 7:30pm. Our butts were so sore from the roadtrip, and we felt thoroughly burnt out. But we were hangry!!! We didn’t eat a proper breakfast and that surf and sea pizza seemed like forever ago. It was our last night in Bali too, so we took a cue from one of our favorite shows ever–Parks and Recreation “TREAT YO’SELF”! We took long hot showers, dressed up in our fanciest clothes, and prepared to indulge.
Ian was craving for a heavy meat so we stopped by Smokehouse BBQ for some real American goodness and ordered some of the best sliders I’ve ever had. They even had American beers! I on the other hand was feenin’ for seafood so we headed over to The Holy Crab for shrimp and callamari galore.
We stuffed our faces like mad. We were tired but we felt so electric that night–high on our epic adventure–and we had zero regrets about it!
Bali, i love you
One more excursion
We made one more stop to check out the popular Potato Head Club. It must have been an extra high key night for the club (or maybe there were famous people there that I missed) because the security was intense. They searched our bike before we even turned in to the parking lot, which was a bit of a maze to get to, and then patted Ian down and checked my rattan bag. I didn’t even think about what to expect of the place but once we got there, I was impressed. The exterior design of a couple thousand shutters was really cool, and inside, the vibe was really laid back, tropical, and just. so. cool… We lounged on the floor pillows to look up at the string lights swinging between palm trees and admired the view and the sound of the ocean not far away. The ambiance was so chill that I almost fell asleep right then and there, so we yawned and decided it was time for bed. We had another long day ahead of us.
All photos taken with either my iPhone 6 or the Olympus Tough camera. Ian took almost all the underwater pics!