Memories of Bali 1: The USAT Liberty

I went to Bali, Indonesia, land of the Balinese massage. But a spa treatment was the last thing on my mind.

Inexcusable? Maybe. But I did something more exhilarating and unforgettable – I went in for a wreck dive. And the USAT Liberty, my friends, did not disappoint.

Just a side-bit: dive gear was brought in by women who balanced at least two sets on their heads.

“Kaya naman pala ng mga babae eh,” remarked the boys, who always helped carry gear when things got a little heavy. I hoped the ideas that dawned on their minds would soon be thrown out into oblivion.

Now for a bit of a history lesson.

The American USAT Liberty Glo (aka USS Liberty) was built in 1918 and served as a cargo ship during World War II. It was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in 1942. The damage was so extensive that efforts to tow the ship the failed – the crew was evacuated and it was beached on the shores of Tulamben, a three-hour mini Bus ride from Sanur, where we were staying.

Gunung Agung’s eruption in 1963 brought the ship underwater. It now sits on black sandy bed that slopes from 6-30 meters. You could actually see the ship even when you’re snorkeling, but why just snorkel when you can get up close?

The war effort’s loss is diving’s gain – it’s now Tulamben’s most famous dive site (an easy shore entry) and is one of the world’s safest wreck dives.

Left to its own devices, nature sure does know how to make things really pretty. The passing years and nutrient-rich waters have transformed the USAT Liberty into a gorgeous artificial reef, covered with corals and sponges of all shapes and colors.

The diversity of marine life on board and around the ship is fantastic.

Garden eels slowly rose from the sand and undulated with the current, reminding me of a cobras dancing to a snake charmer’s gentle coaxing.

A school of shiny jacks came over to play and show off, as did massive groupers, angel fish, bat fish and parrot fish.

But the real stars of the dive? The nudibranch and the pygmy seahorse, which everyone was excited to see and take a photo of.

I don’t know about you, but I’m more of a big creature person. And that merits another Bali story =)

*Thanks to my dive buddies and BIDP for the photos!

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