I’ve decided to write this piece about Bali in English. To those who are looking for an affordable diving package in Bali with good visibility and great marine life, Tulamben might be the right place for you.

This Chinese New Year holiday I finally managed to get my diving certification done. It was just an open water certificate, but for me personally, getting this done was such a big deal. Some people have phobia of heights, some have fear of confined spaces …well, I’m scared of seeing black-colored fish. Funny how other sea creatures don’t seem to frighten me as much as black-colored fish.

Tulamben is easily accessible from Denpasar (source: google map)

Tulamben is easily accessible from Denpasar (source: google map)

Tulamben is actually a perfect diving spot for beginners like me. Situated on the east coast of Bali, this small fishing village can be reached within 3 hours by car from Denpasar. The sea offers relatively easy currents and good visibility throughout the year. Many dive operators offer various different types of diving certification. Signing up is easy and convenient, and the cost? I’d say reasonably cheap in comparison to the diving certification package being offered in Shanghai. Btw, you don’t get to dive in the sea in Shanghai, instead you will be taken to dive in a manmade lake with a fake underwater temple nearby Shanghai called Qiandao Lake. Very sad.

Quiet Tulamben village

Quiet Tulamben village

My diving instructor for this open water course is a veteran in the field. I was introduced to mas Kiki by an old friend of mine, Iyut, who seems to think that mas Kiki is the Indonesian version of Bear Grylls. Both Iyut and mas Kiki have been working on many projects and expeditions together: documentary filmmaking, tsunami relief work, animal conservation, you name it. I brought up the idea of doing the 7 Summits to mas Kiki … and to my surprise he didn’t think it was extreme at all. Being a mountain guide himself, he was quite enthusiastic about my idea and offered me some tips and guidance as to how to really prepare the climb — physically, mentally and financially. Cool, eh?

Surrounded by lush green vegetation, Tulamben is also perfect for trail runners!

Surrounded by lush green vegetation, Tulamben is a paradise for trail runners too!

I did 4 open water dives in Tulamben, two of them at the famous USAT Liberty wreck. This vessel must have had a pretty bad luck. First, it was torpedoed by the Japanese during WWII. It didn’t sink, but was forced to beach on the eastern shore of Bali. Second blow to this vessel came from Mt. Agung eruption, which tremors caused the vessel to slip off the beach and sink.

At least there is one good thing came out of this though, the wreck is now home to a very diverse marine life.

USAT Liberty wreck is now home to a variety of marine life

USAT Liberty wreck is now home to a variety of marine life

The second site we went to was called The Drop Off. We had to take a jukung, a type of traditional fishing boat, to reach this place from our hotel. I was very impressed with this vertical wall. Even though the current was slightly stronger than the previous, but it was well worth the effort. Bigger fish, giant sponges and sea fans can be spotted here.

Colorful Drop Off Wall

Colorful Drop Off Wall

Prior to the dive here, Ollie and I (yes, my good friend Ollie flew all the way to Bali just to dive with me) were told by Iyut and bli Bagong, our two divemasters,

Okay remember, this sign (making a gesture of hand flattened, fingers vertical, thumb against forehead) means … I see a shark.

Uhm…what did you say again? Shark? There are sharks in here?” I wasn’t sure I heard it correctly.

Yes, we might see a black or white tip shark here, but don’t panic,” reminds Iyut.

Right…why would one need to panic seeing a shark? It’s totally normal.

We didn’t see any shark at The Drop Off. I wasn’t so sure whether I should be relieved or disappointed. Perhaps both. My mind was still juggling between the shark and black fish – which would be more frightening?

School of jackfish circling around

School of jackfish circling around

The third diving spot we went to is known as Coral Gardens. The name itself is quite self-explanatory. Here we can see many different kinds of nudibranch and crustacean living on the coral reefs. Ribbon eels, stonefish, and school of jackfish are also quite common sightings.

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Various sea creatures in Tulamben

When we were circling around this area, bli Bagong who was in front of me suddenly turned back and sent me this “I see a shark” sign. Iyut who was diving beside me also looked at me and gave me a shark sign. I could feel my heartbeat pounding faster, with shame I admit scene from Jaws did cross my mind.

Oh boy, there is a shark here somewhere, but where? I slowly followed bli Bagong…here goes nothing.

There it was, a juvenile blacktip resting on a reef. Phew…it’s not big and it’s really not as scary as I thought it would be. (Sorry there is no picture, the blacktip was too shy that it ran away as we got closer)

Check out our diving pictures here. Thanks to bli Bagong who was kind enough to provide us with assistance in Tulamben. If you would like to dive in Tulamben, I recommend to stay at a beach hotel with direct access to the sea, such as Puri Madha. Save you the energy to carry all your diving equipments from one place to another.

Puri Madha bungalow

Puri Madha bungalow