Diving Indonesia: Bali – Diving the Liberty Wreck at Tulamben

The Liberty wreck is a shore dive, and entry into the water simply means strolling down the beach with your equipment on your back and fins in hand… But, as you will quickly notice, the beach is not sand, it’s large volcanic pebbles which take some getting used to and if there is any swell can make that simple entry a little more difficult.

Soft corals & fish around the staern of the Liberty wreck in Bali

Soft corals & fish around the stern area of the Liberty Wreck

It’s not that big a deal on the beach itself, but when you have waded in and are trying to balance on one foot while putting your fin on the other – well you get the picture, especially when there are some waves added to the equation…

But once you are over that initial, somewhat embarrassing hurdle, actually diving the Liberty Wreck is quite straightforward.

From the entry point on the beach the pebbles turn into a black sand slope at about 8m depth and you can normally see the outline of the stern at this point.

As you approach you realize that you are looking at the bottom of the ship – laying as it does on it’s starboard side, and if you look down you will see the rudder in the black sand pointing up towards the beach.

Swimming round the stern to the northern side the broken decking is rich in sponges & gorgonian fans which host an excellent variety of small creatures and making it an excellent place to end your dive.

But for now descend down to the bottom at about 20m and check out the remains of the stern gun and the nearby barrel sponge which are host to an array of marine life.

Heading northwest down the wreck you will pass the large boilers inside the hull, then you will pass the hold, which is open and a great place to explore briefly before arriving at the the mid-section with it’s rich profusion of soft corals, marine growth & reef fish that have made their home there.

This is my favorite part of the wreck and I usually spend too much time in this area because it is just so photogenic.

Try and save some air to explore the bow area which also hosts a rich selection of soft corals & gorgonian fans plus it’s nicely encrusted gun is still in place after all these years.

A swim back up the wreck to the stern and a deco stop amongst the rich corals on the broken decking is the usual way to go, but if you are running short of air by the time you have got to the bow then Plan B is to swim up to the shallows and do your deco stop there.

Diving Indonesia: Bali – Liberty Wreck Underwater Image Gallery

Liberty Wreck Image Gallery

Diving Indonesia: Bali – Underwater Photography & the Liberty Wreck

The Liberty wreck offers both superb wide-angle & excellent macro photo-opportunities and because it’s a shore dive, it’s relatively easy to go back to if you see something you need a different lens set-up to capture.

The Liberty wreck in Bali is home to George the giant barracuda

Always look up when diving the Liberty wreck in Bali…

My personal recommendations for underwater photography on the Liberty are to go for wide-angle in the morning, when there is the best chance of good visibility, and get there early before everybody else has arrived.

If you can also manage to do this on a rising tide you will have the best chance of optimum visibility.

Because you never know what you will see on the Liberty wreck, my wide-angle lens of choice on the Liberty would be the Nikon 16-35 on my FX camera or Tokina 10-17 fish-eye zoom if you are using a DX format camera.

This is especially true early in the morning before everybody arrives, where the flexibility of a wide-angle zoom comes in to its own.

The areas around the stern, the mid-section & the bow are particularly target rich environments for wide-angle but you should probably save the stern for last as it’s quite shallow at the top and a good place to do your deco stop.

There is so much to see on the wreck that its easy to get fixated with what is below you, but there are often fish-balls and large barracuda to be seen – so remember to look up….

For macro I almost always use my 70-180 Nikon macro zoom and carry an external wet dioptre in case I find anything really small – there are several fans with pygmy seahorses…

Again the areas around the stern, mid-section & bow are all good for macro but the guides know where to find the critters, so explain in advance what you are looking for. For general wandering round the wreck I would use the Nikon 24-85 on FX or the Sigma 17-70 on a DX camera.

Finally, it has to be said that underwater photographers have a bad reputation on the wreck for damaging the marine growth in pursuit of that perfect image… so please bear that in mind if you do get to dive the Liberty and take great care.

Diving Indonesia: Bali – When to Dive the Liberty Wreck at Tulamben

The best time of year to dive the Liberty wreck is October & November after the southeast (dry season) monsoon has ended, but before the northwest one (wet season) has begun and when you will get the calmest conditions

The period at the the start of the southeast monsoon in May, June & through to about mid July also offer good conditions, but after that for about 2 to 2.5 months high winds create rough seas and poor conditions. Around the end of September the conditions start to improve again.

Generally December through to early April when the northwest monsoon is at it’s peak are not good conditions due to strong winds & rough seas.

The best time of day is early in the morning, but these days the divers who stay up at Tulamben mean that it’s tough to get the wreck to yourself… but if you can get the timing right so that you have a rising tide, or even high tide around 07.30 there is an excellent chance you will get both good visibility and most of the wreck to yourself!

Next Page: The “Insiders Guide to the Liberty Wreck”

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