Amed is a long way from the nightclubs and surfer beaches of Kuta.
In the far north of the island of Bali, this ramshackle collection of villages lies on dark, black sand beaches, and underwater, the seabed is littered with the haunting remains of shipwrecks. I dived into the depths of the ocean to explore the remnants of the sunken USS liberty.
It was 04.30 am. Far too early to be up for anything at all. Or so I pessimistically thought. I wiped the sleep from my red eyes and crawled out of bed, grumbling and moaning that the sun had yet to even rise. An hour later, with two cups of strong Balinese coffee down me I was suiting up into my Scuba diving gear in the pitch black on the dark, volcanic sands of Tulamben beach in Amed, preparing to dive on the wreck of the USS Liberty.
As the sun tentatively rose and began to shed light on the pristine, yet dark shores, I finished the safety checks with my diving buddy, and we waded out into the morning waves, donned our masks and regulators, and then dropped down to the seabed below.
Even in the darkness the wreck wasn’t difficult to locate and through the gloom came the haunting silhouette of the decaying metal hull, as we edged further below the surface.
The wreck is only 25 metres from the shore, and parts of it could probably even be snorkelled, as it it lies on the seabed at depths of anywhere between 5 to 30 metres. The USS Liberty was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine during World War II, in 1942, while carrying cargo from Australia to the Philippines and initially, despite the damage, the crew managed beach the ship at Tulamben, near to Amed. Years later, in 1963, the mighty Gunung Agung erupted, and the beached wreck slid into the waters to be colonised by the ocean’s creatures.
The dive had to begin outrageously early as sunrise is when all the marine life that shelters and thrives in the caverns of the wreck begin to emerge. As the sun rose and began to penetrate beneath the waves, the waters lightened, and aquatic animals began to surround us.
The rusty bowels of the wreck are home to the largest Humphead Fish, or Napoleons, that I’d ever seen. The ship discouraged them in hordes.
And hidden beneath the scraps of hull were enormous Potato Groupers, as big as a man of reasonably average size, but too well camouflaged to capture on camera in the gloomy shadows.
The cargo hold of the ship is torn open, and we dived into the underbelly of the Liberty, an eerie grotto of dark and broken metal, but teeming with fish.
The wreck is home to an abundance of sea life, from the large groupers, to turtles and even black tip sharks. The early rise, despite all the grumbling, was certainly worth the extra effort, as the waters were bursting with fish, large and small and a blur of different colours.
The USS Liberty is possibly one of Bali’s best dive sites. In January, when I made my own dive here, the rains that hit Bali made the waters rather murky, but this didn’t stop the fish from coming out. Any other time of year, and the visibility will be astounding I expect, and being so close to shore, and at various depths on the seabed, it’s a wreck that beginners or pros can tackle, and even those with just a mask and snorkel. So gear up and dive in, even if you hate the mornings.
I dived the USS Liberty wreck with the excellent Fun Divers. They had the best value dives in Amed and fantastic and cheap accommodation too. I can highly recommend them!