Tulamben Bali – Snorkeling the USAT Liberty Shipwreck

Tulamben small fishing village lies on the less-visited north-east coastline of Bali, right next to Agung Volcano. A place to be for travelers who prefer quiet, nature-close holidays and want to disconnect for a few days. This area is well-known of the black sand beaches, stunning underwater life and Tulamben shipwreck! Every year hundreds of divers and snorkelers come here to discover Bali’s world-famous wreck, the USAT Liberty.

How to get to Tulamben Bali

This small town lies about 100 km of Denpasar and South Bali tourist areas and reachable within 3 hours with a private transfer. Shuttle service (for example Perame Shuttle) also available from biggest South Bali cities. Should you arrive from Lombok or from The Gilis, speedboats operate to Amed from where Tulamben is available with a short taxi ride.
The name of the village origins from the word batulambih which means many stones that refers to the coast characteristic. Coastline was formed by Mount Agung Volcano’s eruptions and covered with smooth, black stones. Therefore, be careful when entering the water not to fall on the stones!

Corals on the USAT Liberty shipwreck

Most tourists arrive in the North-east side of Bali choose Amed as their base and organize Tulamben shipwreck snorkeling as a day trip only. Getting from Amed to Tulamben is just a 15 mins drive. Although Tulamben has a wide variety of accommodations too, Amed has more to offer if it comes to shopping and eating options. Amed became a little center of the north-east coast while maintaining the traditional Balinese atmosphere. A place far away from crowded resort areas but close to Bali’s best attractions like Pura Lempuyang Luhur Temple or Tirta Gangga Water Palace. And last but not least, snorkeling in Amed is first class thanks to shallow, vibrant coral garden that surrounds the coastline offering easy shore snorkeling. For more information on things to do and snorkeling in Amed, make sure to check our previous Bali post!

Note: as Agung Volcano has an active status currently, stay up-to-date with the latest tourist information when visiting the area. It is still safe to travel to Bali, but depending on eruptions, ash in the air and possible earthquakes in Indonesia, you might experience flight delays or areas close to the volcano being closed, trips canceled.


Best time to dive in Tulamben

Bali has a tropical climate that features hot and humid weather all year long. It is very rainy from December to March. High seas are and low-pressure systems might affect the area during the months of July and August too bringing rain and choppy water. Therefore, the best time to dive in Tulamben is from April to July and from September to November. In this periods you have a good chance for calm sea and great visibility that can reach even 40 meters (120ft). For snorkelers good visibility is even more important than for divers, therefore we recommend always go snorkeling early in the morning. This is when you have the best chance for calm and clear water. The sea is usually free of strong currents so snorkeling is safe around the coast. But we recommend checking the weather forecast regularly! Don’t head out to the sea if there is chance for tropical storm. Read more tips on how to stay safe while snorkeling!

Tulamben shipwreck snorkeling – USAT Liberty

Thanks to the ship’s excellent condition and rich marine life around, Tulamben shipwreck is not only Bali’s most visited dive site but also a world-class place to dive. The 130 m long ship rests about 30 meters deep. But its highest point is just 4 meters from the surface making a big part of it visible for snorkelers as well.

Wreck in Tulamben

Story of Tulamben shipwreck

USAT Liberty (also known as USS Liberty) was a US Army cargo ship. It was towed to Tulamben beach after got torpedoed by Japanese Submarine in 1942. Mt Agung eruption in 1963 moved the wreck into the sea where it rests now. (It was Indonesia biggest eruption in the twentieth century)

USS/USAT Liberty Shipwreck location

Being Tulamben is a less-developed, not so crowded region, it is easy to find the shipwreck. Follow the main road, then turn right at the Wreck Divers Hotel or Liberty Dive Resort. Keep going until you arrive at the stony beach. You can leave your belongings anywhere where you find free space. Tulamben shipwreck is not marked with buoy, or it wasn’t in June 2018. But don’t worry, there are always people around to ask about the exact location or else, just follow others! The ship can be found approx. 25 meters from the shore. Enter the water slowly, on the first few meters there are big stones and it is easy to fall while you trying to go through the waves. Best is to arrive early in the morning when the sea is calmer meaning easier entry and also better visibility!

Beach in Tulamben

Tip: the public safety is very good in Bali especially in the north-east region around Amed. We never had any problem leaving our staff at the beach but of course, it’s good to be precautious. Therefore, we only take the things we really need when we go out. We use our older smartphones to navigate which we close in the scooter or take in the water in a waterproof phone case. To store keys and small valuables, we use a waterproof key holder that is safe even while diving. Clothes and towels that we have to leave on the beach, we pack in a big waterproof bag. Buy microfiber travel towels that take less space and dry quickly! Using a waterproof bag is really a must! Not only because it will keep your clothes dry in case of sudden rain while you are in the water, but also a more convenient way of transporting your wet stuff and swimsuit back home after snorkeling.

Coral and fish species at USAT Liberty

After Mount Agung eruption in 1963 slipped USS Liberty off the beach, marine life quickly started to settle on it turning Tulamben shipwreck into a blooming coral garden with attractive sea life around. The wreck is a celebrated place among underwater photographers with excellent conditions for wide-angle photography. While a Tulamben snorkeling trip, you can expect to observe the following species:

  • Sponge, Barrel sponge
  • Hard coral species: brain, table, finger coral
  • Wire and feather star coral
  • Sea fans in vibrant colors
  • Batfish, damselfish, wrasse, bumphead parrotfish
  • Stingray, garden eel

Stingray on the sea bottom in Bali

Tulamben Coral Garden

Although Tulamben shipwreck is the big attraction, we recommend visiting Tulamben Coral Garden too. This pretty, shallow reef locates just a few hundred meters from the wreck, so a 2-stops Tulamben snorkeling trip can be easily done in one day. The coral reef starts very close to the shore, depth is between 2-15 meters (7-50 ft). An enjoyable, easy snorkeling even for novice snorkelers. Vibrant marine life with many different hard and soft coral species, playful tropical dish and often blue-yellow ribbon moray eels around. If the visibility is good, you might see some underwater statues too!

Corals in Tulamben

Do you want to visit more Bali snorkel beaches? Make sure to read our complete Bali snorkeling guide and we tell you where to go!

Anett Szaszi

Anett fell in love with the ocean immediately when she put her head underwater in the Red Sea back in 2010. Discovering megacities is not her style but getting lost in tiny coastal villages, capturing the beauty of the sea while snorkeling. Wherever she goes, she takes her mask, fins and underwater camera with her. She has a big interest in exploring the world’s last hidden underwater paradises and marine conservation. She hopes to inspire people to protect our oceans by sharing her underwater stories. Find her photos on @anett.szaszi Instagram too!

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