When I finished my Open Water Diving certificate a couple of weeks ago, I told Made, my diving instructor, that I was still in Bali for a few more weeks and to let me know if he was going to any different dive sites so I could join him. On Monday he texted to say that he was going to Tulamben the following day with my brother-in-law (N) and sister-in-law (T) so they could do their third and fourth dives and get their certificate. Did I want to join them? Yes, of course! He said he would dive with them and he would arrange for a dive master for me. Perfect.
Tulamben is a small fishing village on the north-east coast of Bali and is one of the most popular dive sites as the wreck of USAT Liberty lies just off the shore. USAT Liberty was an army transport ship which was torpedoed by the Japanese in 1942. The ship was originally beached at Tulamben but due to the eruption of Mount Agung in 1963, it moved off the beach.
On Tuesday morning, Made and his team picked us up at 8am. It was going to be a long drive, at least 2 hours. It actually took us 3 hours to get there but it was a beautiful drive through the mountains.
There was loads of traffic getting there as the roads are quite narrow and every few minutes we’d be held up by children practising for the Independence Day parades being held over the next few days. We eventually drove into Puri Madha Bungalows and were met with at least 50 other divers, all in various stages of preparation for their dives.
You wouldn’t think that just 5 metres under this surface, about 30 metres away from the shore, lies a 125-metre shipwreck! It lies on a slope and goes down to 30 metres.
N and T went off with Made to get their equipment ready. My diving ‘buddy’ introduced himself to me as Yitno. He’s been diving since 1998 and is now a dive master.
I’d never done a beach dive and he helped me get my equipment on. Bloody hell – it’s heavy! The dives I’d done until then were all off a boat and I’d put my equipment on in the water. ‘Divers have to be strong,’ he told me. ‘The equipment weighs 20 kg.’ As I walked to the shore with this weight on my back, I realised I was carrying all the weight I’d lost in the last year (and a little more). How did I even move?? It was a struggle. Aside from the weight of the equipment, I had a very pebbly beach to deal with… and waves! Once I was in the water Yitno helped me put on my fins and we descended.
My first dive was awful. As soon as I was in the water, my mask started fogging up. I tried to clear it several times but it just wasn’t working and I gave up. I couldn’t see very much, I was uncomfortable, and poor Yitno had to hold my hand the whole time or I’d have just drifted off into the ocean somewhere. I’m sure it was more than he bargained for. I did see some interesting things though – an orangutan crab! It looks just like a tiny orangutan! I also saw sand diver fish, a giant clam, garden eels, angel fish and a few other things. There were hundreds of divers down there.
Ascending wasn’t a problem, but getting out of the water was a pain! I took my fins off and then had the waves to contend with. ‘When you walk out, don’t fall forward.’ ‘OK,’ I said. I started walking out of the water, tripped on a huge stone and fell forward. If that wasn’t bad enough, a wave chose that moment to break over my head. I could not wait to get out of there. I took my BCD off as soon as I was out of the water and decided I was done for the day. There was no way I was doing another dive like that.
N and T were out of the water soon after me – they both struggled too. We sat down, had some lunch and relaxed for an hour. Made told me to wash my mask out with shampoo as it was still fairly new and that might make it better for the next dive. Whatever, I thought. I’m not going back in.
N and T went off with Made for their next dive. ‘Ready?’ asked Yitno. ‘No,’ I replied. Anyway, I ended up going back in (after washing the mask with shampoo) and it was so much better the second time round! I could see what I was doing and where I was going and Yitno didn’t have to hold my hand. The ship is amazing. There’s coral growing on it, thousands of fish swimming around, and I could see the guns on the ship. We swam through the wreck as well. I went down to a depth of 22 metres. It was fantastic.
The second time we ascended Yitno thought it would be better if I took my BCD off before getting out of the water. Yes, definitely, I agreed. It still didn’t stop me from tripping on a stone while getting out of the water!
N and T were out soon after me so we sat around for a while, putting the equipment away and getting ready for the drive back. From left to right: N, Made, T, Yitno.
We stopped for a photo/cigarette/bathroom break on the way back.
It was a long day and we were exhausted by the end of it but it was totally worth it!