The USAT Liberty wreck in Tulamben is up there with the SS Yongala (Queensland, Australia) as the best diving I’ve done. Unlike the Yongala, though, access couldn’t be easier – it’s actually a beach dive!
This came about because the ship was initially wrecked (after being torpedoed by a Japanese sub in 1942) on the beach itself, only later being pushed into the sea in 1963 by the lava flow from a volcanic eruption. Thanks to that eruption, we have a spectacular dive site right off the beach in Tulamben.
No-one perished when the ship ran aground, so it’s not a grave site and you can penetrate the hull, insofar as the hull remains intact anyway (the ship lies in multiple pieces scattered on the seabed). You don’t exactly get to swim through the corridors, but its still pretty cool following your guide though portals and portholes in & out of a few segments of the ship.
What really makes it a great dive though is the sealife around you – there’s a lot of it, large & small, and it’s quite a show. Huge schools of jackfish ball and spin, or seem to form guards of honour for passing divers, the sunlight glinting off the rippling walls of swirling silver scales around you; an otherworldly experience that stays with you long after. We were also treated to the momentary but astonishing sight of a passing sailfish, perhaps the single most beautiful creature I’ve seen at close quarters on a dive. As for turtles, I lost count!
It’s an awesome dive, and really quite amazing that you can just gear up on the beach, wade in, and immediately be at the wreck and surrounded by fish. In addition to the wreck there are a couple more dive sites in Tulamben also accessed from the beach, Coral Garden and Drop Off (a wall dive, as the name suggests). The dive resorts in Tulamben are lined up along the beach, and have all the gear available to rent and in-house guides ready to take you down. I stayed at Matahari Tulamben, which had lovely rooms and a nice bar with good food, and I can happily recommend it. For other options in Tulamben, search here.
Have you been diving in Tulamben? How was it? Leave a comment below!
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