Diving Tulamben

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To dive Tulamben, first you must get to Tulamben, a small community on the northeastern coast of Bali. Instead of chartering a taxi, or shuttle for the 50km stretch from Padangbai we opted to rent a motorbike. As has become the norm since Vietnam. The drive is pretty, though not particularly scenic until the end. Also along the route are pesky checkpoints. We had heard of these, and knew it was difficult not to have to stop at one, but we had forgotten. The ever friendly police here will insist westerners on motorbikes, not bearing international licenses pay a small ($5-15) fine. What they mean by fine of course, is bribe. Ironically, to rent a motorbike you don’t even need to have a drivers license. The fact that this was the first time encountering such a thing is pretty lucky. Corrupt police are ubiquitous throughout Asia. At least these guys were nice about it.
We hit another “checkpoint” further north, but insisted the previous checkpoint had cleaned us out, not true of course, but baring they didn’t search us, the only thing they could do is let us go. Which they did, after informing us how great Obama is and high-fiving us. Strange indeed. Though our pockets were $10 lighter at least we can now add “bribing a foreign police force” to our list of things we did whilst in Asia, even if it wasn’t nearly as scandalous as it sounds.
The road after the checkpoints vastly improved scenically as we left the interior as skirted cliffs overlooking rice terraces in one direction and Mt. Agung in the other. The north is much more arid than the south or central, the light dirt and faded colors of the water and surrounding greenery gives the whole area a vintage look, as if shot on film in the 1970’s. The beaches turned from whites and to black volcanic and laden with large boulders.
Once safely in Tulamben our days functioned simply. Wake up, breakfast, dive, lunch, swim and relax by the pool, afternoon tea, read, dinner, and repeat. Not the worst way to spend the last few days in Bali. Instead of doing two dives in a day we broke ours up. On the first day we dove the USAT liberty wreck. At 120m this behemoth lies a mere 20m off shore, thanks to some volcanic activity pushing it underwater from the shore. We aren’t wreck certified, so we only got to explore around the ship, occasionally ducking inward when large spaces allowed. I love wrecks, and really want to get deep water/wreck certified. I think it’s fascinating how quickly the ocean takes over. At the hull of the ship you might just think you had encountered a reef wall, the marine life had completely taken over. Around the wreck there were signs of the ships former glory, a mount for a giant machine gun, steering wheels and ladders, and other unidentifiable rusted parts. I could imagine people standing on the deck, or going about daily work, there’s something about it being under water that makes it feel incredibly preserved.
Our second dive was the drop off. A relatively shallow sandy patch that extends several meters from shore suddenly plummets 60m into the ocean, though our open water certification would only take us 18m. Unlike coral reefs we skirted along the marine life, observing it in front of us, as opposed to beneath us, which I vastly prefer. Aside from a plethora of fish and coral we saw a giant puffer fish and lumbering barracuda. Not quite as amazing the blue spotted ray or sea turtle in Koh Tao, but a great dive none the less.
Next we head back to the southern coast for a night before leaving Indonesia en route to Singapore. Indonesia was nothing like we expected. Java and Lombok surprised us with being some of our favorite destinations, while Bali was admittedly a bit of a let down, minus our stay at Alila and diving, of course! Over all I’ve had a wonderful time, and can’t wait to explore the further east islands one day. Three islands down, 16,997 to go.
On to Singapore!
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