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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Divers Only

When searching for the best dives of the coast of Bali, Tulamben kept showing up at the top of the list. Tulamben is a small coast where you will only find dive hotels, one or two shops, a couple of restaurants, and the closest ATM is 30 minute drive away. The only people are divers, snorkelers, there few friends afraid of the water, and the locals who work there. This is not you typical tourist area, and thankfully neither are the prices. I stayed in a dorm for 100,000 rupees about $11 a night, a dive only costed 250,000 rupees $30 and since it was the rainy season and not many people, I had my own private dive instructor for each of my dives.
My first dive has a history which started in 1942 , when the U.S.S. Liberty was struck by a torpedo from a Japanese submarine. Two US destroyers attempted to accompany the damaged boat to a port in Singaraja, Bali, but when it became clear that the boat was taking on too much water, it was intentionally grounded on the shores of tiny Tulamben where the military was able to salvage the cargo. The ship sat grounded for 21 years until neighboring Mt. Agung erupted in 1963, which pushed the boat into deeper water just offshore creating one of the world’s most rewarding wreck shore dives for me to explore.

As soon as you submerge the Liberty is waiting for you, a dark looming site until you are closest enough to see it come alive. The hull of the wreck was a tasty feast for my eyes, decorated with hard and soft corals as well as some stunningly colored feather stars and neon sponges. The site is also teeming with large schools of fish including the bumphead parrotfish, oriental sweetlips, a massive school (500+) of swirling jacks so close you could touch. Amongst the the few items of the ship that one still can make out such as ladders, holes for windows, and large deck gun, I saw Surgeon fish, giant trevallies, batfish, insanely huge grouper, Napoleon wrasse and a pregnant porcupine fish. After my instructor saw my diving abilities she took me on the coolest part of the dive the fun swim-throughs, where we entered the stern of the boat swam vertical turned up toward the sun and enjoyed looking through the port holes. My swimming was not pretty or controlled as my instructor but I made it without doing any damage to me or the boat.
Even after my first wreck dive, I still prefer dives where bright colors are the main features and the next day that is what I got when I dived "Coral Garden" with my instructor Ben from France. After making it down the dirt path with all our gear on, we arrived to the black stone beach were I was thankful to have booties on to navigate. Then we waded into the water where I enflated my BC and put on my flippers. As soon as I rolled over and put my mask in the water I saw the beginnings of a delightfully rich little patch reef, dominated by hard coral, including some large table and fire corals, interspersed with anemones and sponges.

Prior to the dive Ben said we might see some sharks depending on the visibility, so I was thrilled when he pointed to a blur object and did the hand signal for shark. He then had me sit with him on the bottom of the ocean floor and wait. Soon he nudged me and pointed to my right about 10 feet away were the two black tip reef sharks swimming side by side another about 12 feet behind, we sat there and silently watched while they swam circles around us. It was quite peaceful until I noticed the barracuda the length of my leg deadly still with it' jagged teeth. For some reason they freak me out, not enough to surface but enough to put some distance between us. The other under water creatures that creep me out are moray eels with there long slithering bodies, cloudy beady eyes, and lazy months. Thankfully since they cannot see real well they mostly just barely stick their head out from behind a rock and snap there mouth shut when is something close, this meant if I kept enough distance, a foot or so, I could examine these weird creatures and not be bothered. During this dive I did find there is one kind of these creatures that I found that I actually enjoy and is a rarity, blue ribbon eels. There named describe theme to a t except the fact that the ribbon of there blue body has an edge of yellow.

As we followed the sandy slope down and I practiced swimming with out my arms in order to save energy and air Ben showed me the home of a spiny lobster and peacock mantis shrimp, three giant rock fish camouflaged on the bottom between two hard coral bushes, and bright blue sea cucumber. In addition to the thousands of common reef fish including blue striped snappers, angelfish, wrasse, parrotfish, and a couple two spot lionfish. When our dive was finished and we reached the surface Ben and my smile said it all. His even more so because even after hundreds of dives he was still excited by what we saw.

Location:Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia

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