A group of divers above the shipwreck of the USAT liberty while diving in Tulamben Bali

Scuba Diving in Tulamben: Bali’s Macro Capital & Home to Its Best Wreck

World-class muck diving, a shipwreck sunk for the last 60 years just steps off the beach, gorgeous kaleidoscopic coral walls: there’s so much variety when it comes to scuba diving in Tulamben, Bali!

Just 30 minutes by car from another epic dive epicenter, Amed, Tulamben is a rising star in macro underwater photography, about equal to the likes of Sulawesi’s Lembeh Strait and Anilao in the Philippines.

Tulamben is home to the USAT Liberty Wreck dive (often just known as the “Bali wreck dive” since it’s the most iconic, even though there are several wreck dives in Bali) but it’s worth sticking around the area to see even more.

A regal angelfish swimming near a beautiful soft coral area in the USAT Liberty shipwreck dive underwater
A beautiful regal angelfish swimming next to soft corals growing off the shipwreck

Whether you want coral gardens, shipwrecks, or scavenger-hunt style diving in the ‘muck’ in hopes of seeing Bali’s most unique nudibranchs and other mini sea critters, Tulamben diving can likely give you just what you want.

The great thing about diving in Tulamben is that being so close to Amed, you can base yourself in either place, as virtually all Amed dive shops will bring you to Tulamben for the day.

I personally didn’t stay in Tulamben this time, but rather spent two weeks in Amed, since I currently live and travel full-time as a digital nomad and staying in one spot for as long as possible is essential for my work habits and sanity.

That said, I did several dives in Tulamben, so while I don’t know much about the village itself or what there is to do there besides dive (unlike Amed, which I’ve visited twice and know quite well), I do know the dive scene fairly well!

Getting to Tulamben

Tulamben area beach with people walking around
Locals working at a Tulamben beach helping the divers prepare

It’s really easy to get to Tulamben from Bali’s international airport, Ngurah Rai.

While Tulamben isn’t close per se, transportation is really affordable, even private cars. 

I paid 700K IDR ($44 USD as of November 2023) for a private transfer from my hotel to Amed, not far away.

I imagine that Tulamben would be priced similarly, if not only 100K IDR more or so ($6 USD)

Since I arrived late at night, I stayed the night in the Novotel airport hotel and then had my driver pick me up the next day — I recommend the same if your flight arrives late.

The drive is about 3.5 hours, so you’ll be there in no time!

You could rent a scooter, but I don’t recommend it, at least not with bringing all your luggage with you (especially if you have dive gear)

If you really want to rent a scooter for your time in Bali, just rent one locally when you arrive in Tulamben.

Best Time for Diving in Tulamben

A ribbon eel in Bali
Ribbon eel in Tulamben

Diving in Tulamben is a pleasure year-round!

Technically, the best time of year is in Bali’s dry season, which runs from May through October. November through April is technically rainy season.

That said — I’ve been diving in Bali since the beginning of November (and now it’s November 12th) and I haven’t seen a drop of rain since I arrived!

Bali is sort of in the sweet spot when it comes to tropical dive destinations, since it rarely gets really strong cyclones or typhoons the way other Southeast Asia and Oceania dive destinations do.

That means that diving in the rainy season is generally usually totally possible, though visibility may suffer a tiny bit sometimes when the rains are strong.

But even in the rainy season, water temperatures around Tulamben are always nice and balmy!

Since I’ve been diving in Tulamben, my dive computer has said that the surface water temperature is about 31° C (88° F), with underwater temperatures around 29° C (84° F).

These temperatures are quite normal for diving in Tulamben, typically hovering around 28-29° C, so this is pretty typical for the area.

Occasionally, during the rainy season, the viz can drop a bit, but typically only in very bad weather conditions.

Best Dive Shops in Tulamben

diving in Amed with the dive sites around the area

Personally, I did my dives in Tulamben with an Amed dive shop that drove us there. I did all my Tulamben dives withAmed White Sand Divers and I recommend them highly!

If I were to go to Tulamben independently for diving, I would opt to go with Dive Concepts Tulamben, who also run dive shops in Amed, Pemuteran, and Nusa Lembongan.

Dive prices in Tulamben are really affordable. You can buy a 7-pack of dives from Dive Concepts for 2.1 million IDR, about $134 USD or less than $20 per dive!

Favorite Dive Sites in Tulamben

USAT Liberty Wreck

A diver exploring the wreckage of the USAT liberty shipwreck dive in Bali with oriental sweetlips fish in front of the diver and wreckage
A diver at the USAT Liberty in Tulamben

Dive Type: Shore dive to a wreck dive, with coral and muck diving before you reach the wreck

Dive Level: Beginner-friendly (no wreck diving certification needed)

Dive Profile: Maximum depth 24 meters, average depth 12 meters, dive time 55 minutes

Dive Sightings: Orangutan crab, regal angelfish, oriental sweetlips, dogface pufferfish, coral rabbitfish, Hypselodoris zephyra nudi, Samla bicolor nudi, Hypselodoris tryoni nudi, Goniobranchus hintuanensis nudi, clown anemonefish with fluorescent green bubble tip anemone.

Large fish hiding near soft coral
Oriental sweetlips hiding under the shallow part of the boat, near soft corals

Far and away the most famous dive site in Tulamben, the USAT Liberty Wreck dive is one of the most popular dives in Bali, period.

Depending what season you visit, it can be swarmed with people, so make sure to go with a dive shop that ensures smaller groups. 

I am traveling solo, so I was lucky to be paired 1:1 with a divemaster at Amed White Sand Divers my entire time! This way, it made it hard to get ‘lost’ in a sea of other divers.

A diver exploring the wreckage of the USAT Liberty on a dive wearing scuba gear
My divemaster leading the way at USAT Liberty

Dive Concepts has a maximum group size of 4 divers per divemaster, which is also a pretty good ratio.

Personally, I didn’t mind there being other divers as all it did was emphasize the huge scale of the USAT Liberty.

At 400 feet long, it’s pretty huge and you can easily create some space between you and another group of divers. 

That said, I wouldn’t have loved to be part of a larger group of divers.

Another diver visible in the distance so you can see the scale of the shipwreck
Another diver visible at the USAT Liberty

I loved this dive from the moment I descended — immediately, we were treated to nudibranch paradise, with with my guide’s expert eye, I immediately started photographing.

Even though the wreck it just a few meters from shore, it took me nearly 10 minutes to get there because I was enjoying all the nudibranchs I was seeing on the sandy shore in the meantime!

A colorful sea slug in Bali with brilliant markings
The Hypselodoris tryoni before we even reached the wreck

Once we reached the wreck, the dive site just did not stop delivering. It was so epic!

The USAT Liberty has sat in the ocean since the 1963 eruption of Mount Agung, which knocked it from shore into the ocean. 

In those 60 years, the metal of the ship has been almost entirely coated by hard and soft corals in every color of the rainbow, being reclaimed by the ocean into something completely unique.

A dogface pufferfish in the water at the USAT Liberty Wreck
Dogface pufferfish in an under hanging part of the wreck

In between all the cool sights of the wreck itself, there are still little microscopic moments to savor. 

My dive guide spotted a belligerent little orangutan crab hanging out on bubble coral — its favorite haunt, but it also likes hanging out in anemone.

He also spotted one of my favorite nudibranchs, the Tambja morosa (gloomy nudibranch).

a blue sea slug with a funny looking gill
The so-called gloomy nudibranch, formally the Tambja morosa
an orangutan crab on some anemone
Orangutan crab on anemone

After spending some time a little bit deeper looking at these adorable critters and fiddling around with my macro settings, our NDLs were approaching.

So we ascended a bit and then continued through the wreck, going through a large rupture in the USAT Liberty where you could cut through to the other side of the wreck.

Here, we spotted one of my favorite sights of that dive: a clownfish in neon green bubbletip anemone — the colors were insane.

A brilliantly colorful anemone fish in the water near the USAT Liberty wreck
This gorgeous clownfish contrasted so perfectly with the neon bubble tip anemone!

After that, we stayed in the shallow portion of the wreck, which was one of the most beautiful safety stops I could imagine.

I liked watching some of the larger fish like the oriental sweetlips sheltering under the bow of the ship, which was covered in soft corals.

It was the perfect end to a perfect dive!

Coral Gardens (from USAT Liberty shore entry)

A goby perched on a rock in the coral gardens dive site in Tulamben
A grumpy-looking flagtail shrimp goby in Coral Gardens dive site 

Dive Type: Shore dive, sandy slope with coral 

Dive Level: Beginner

Dive Profile: Maximum depth 20 meters, average depth 12 meters, dive time 65 minutes

Dive Sightings: Large octopus with cleaner shrimp, baby octopus hiding in a rock pile, giant barracudas, flagtail shrimp goby, Mexichromus trilineata nudibranch, Goniobranchus kuniei “Marilyn” nudibranch, leopard flounder

Octopus hiding under a rock with cleaner shrimp in front
Octopus and cleaner shrimp in Coral Gardens

This is part one of a large dive site; I am listing them separately because I explored entirely different sections of the site on each dive, and left from different entry points.

This part of the dive was a mix of muck diving and coral diving, and we dove from the entry point for the USAT Liberty. 

Along the way there was so much beautiful soft coral!

black soft corals in tulamben
Lovely black soft corals in Coral Gardens
A giant barracuda and coral rehabilitation structures
Giant barracudas in wait at the Coral Gardens

We saw some of the artificial reefs (and some giant barracudas hanging out there!), but we didn’t get as far as the sunken statues. 

I’ll talk about those in the next section, as those are closer to the Tulamben Drop Off part of the dive site.

Mostly, though, this dive was an excellent dive for a mix between some beautiful coral to admire and so many nudibranchs and small life to photograph.

A white nudibranch sea slug on the sand with orange antennae
An adorable Mexichromus trilineata — this one was so tiny!
Goniobranchus kuniei 'Marilyn' sea slug with spots
The Goniobranchus kuniei, nicknamed the ‘Marilyn Monroe’ nudibranch for its floating skirt

Between the sandy bites and the coral parts, there was just so much to see here.

And another favorite, the ribbon eel, with its unique yellow and royal blue coloration.

Ribbon eel in Tulamben
I captured this picture too late, but there was another ribbon eel here!

Actually, I saw two ribbon eels, sharing the same burrow — something I didn’t know that they did, but apparently they do. 

Ribbons eels are a never-ending mystery to me!

It was a fun place to work on some of my photography skills because the dive conditions were really easy to work with as well.

I really enjoyed playing with the composition of some shots, like this close-up of a camouflaging flounder’s eyes.

a flounder eyeballs in the sand
Can you see where the flounder’s eyes are?

Overall, this dive stunned me a lot, and it was definitely worth doing in conjunction with the USAT Liberty.

It was also a lot less crowded here, as most people do two dives at the USAT Liberty, but we split our 2-tank dive between the wreck and the Coral Garden dive site.

Coral Gardens (from Tulamben Drop Off shore entry)

View of the coral garden and fish
Papuan toby at Coral Gardens

Dive Type: Shore dive with coral and sandy slope, sunken statues underwater

Dive Level: Beginner

Dive Profile: Maximum depth 20 meters, average depth 12 meters, dive time 62 minutes

Dive Sightings: Bubble coral shrimp, orangutan crab, ribbon eel, Goniobranchus fidelis nudibranch, Hypselodoris paradisa nudibranch, Hypselodoris zephyra nudibranch, Hypselodoris tryoni nudibranch, Doriprismatica atromarginata “Cheesecake” nudibranch, Papuan toby

pink and purple and brown colorful sea slug
Hypselodoris paradisa nudibranch at Coral Gardens

Even though this is technically the same dive site as the one above, I saw so many unique and different things. 

It actually felt like a whole new dive site because we didn’t cover any of the same ground.

This section of Coral Gardens has the submerged Buddha statues which are a fun photography spot — great if you want a unique diving picture of yourself!

Dive instructor next to a buddha statue underwater
Fun photo opportunities abound here!

On this dive, we saw so many unique nudibranchs, including many new-to-me species.

Some of those include the Goniobranchus fidelis, the Hypselodoris paradisa, and the Doriprismatica atromarginata, all first-time sightings for me.

orange, white and purple nudibranch on a coral
Goniobranchus fidelis on a sandy ledge

We also saw one of my favorite fish of all time, the Papuan toby (I love all tobies, but this one in particular has beautiful markings!).

We also got really lucky in one section where we saw bubble coral and some of the unique animals around it.

Namely, the orangutan crab and the bubble coral shrimp, which is such a funky little guy!

an orangutan crab on the bubble anemone
Orangutan crab
a purple shrimp on a bubble anemone
Bubble coral shrimp

Overall, I was really happy to do this section of the dive site, and barely even feel like it was the same site. 

I’d definitely recommend exploring this as a second dive after the Tulamben drop-off (which is next on this list), because you can reach it right from shore — just dive towards the left, rather than the right (the way you go to reach the wall).

Tulamben Drop Off

Colorful coral wall
The stunning Tulamben Drop Off coral

Dive Type: Shore dive to a wall dive

Dive Level: Intermediate (Advanced Open Water recommended due to depth possible)

Dive Profile: Maximum depth 24 meters, average depth 14 meters, dive time 58 minutes

Dive Sightings: Peacock-tail anemone shrimp, golden-striped soapfish, juvenile harlequin sweetlips, coral-banded shrimp, skunk cleaner fish on yellow soft coral, harlequin pipefish, pink skunk anemonefish, purple iridescent magnificent sea anemone

Black fish in the coral
Golden-striped soapfish in the coral

If there’s one word for this dive site… it’s just wow!

This is one of the most impressive dive sites in Tulamben because it really has it all (well, besides a wreck, but no dive site can have everything, can it?)

This dive site had an absolutely stunning coral wall – I couldn’t believe my eyes at how colorful and spectacular it was, with so much hard and soft corals.

I felt like I was back at Fiji’s Rainbow Reef just because of how much color I was seeing!

From the enormous yellow soft fan corals with skunk cleaner shrimp and harlequin pipefish darting around it to the huge iridescent lavender magnificent sea anemone housing a family of pink skunk clownfish… it was really every color you can imagine.

purple anemone with clownfish inside it
Majestic sea anemone and pink skunk clownfish
Yellow sea fan with cleaner shrimp on it
Skunk cleaner shrimp on soft coral

We also spotted some unique juveniles fish, like the juvenile emperor angelfish and a first for me, the juvenile harlequin sweetlips, which had such a unique pattern.

I love to see juvenile fish because they’re usually so different than what you end up seeing later on. Fish life stages are so interesting!

a juvenile fish with brown and black and white markings
A juvenile harlequin sweetlips 

Aside from that, we saw some of the common Bali nudibranchs (the ‘bus stop’ nudibranch, etc.) and also a really cool peacock-tail anemone shrimp!

It was really hard to photograph because the fringes of the anemone were, well, doing its job of obscuring the shrimp.

Still, it was cool to watch and try to photograph, though it was a reminder of how far I have to go as an underwater photographer!


Doto greenamyeri egg-shaped nudibranch on a hydroid
The ornate, bubble-like Doto greenamyeri nudibranch

Dive Type: Shore dive for muck diving and macro photography

Dive Level: Beginner, but only really exciting for underwater photographers

Dive Profile: Maximum depth meters, average depth meters, dive time minutes

Dive Sightings: Thornback cowfish, Hypselodoris confetti nudi, Doto greenamyeri nudi, emperor shrimp with Mexichromis nudis, Eubranchus sp. nudi, Eubranchus virginalis nudi, thumbprint toby, Flabellina rubrolineata nudi, ‘Shaun the Sheep’ Costasiella kuroshimae nudi, Goniobranchus hintuanensis nudi, leopard flounder, Eubranchus ocellatus nudi

Silly-looking fish with horns looking at the camera
Thornback cowfish at Melasti dive site in Tulamben

I hadn’t heard of this dive site before my dive guide talked about it, but I was surprised that this was maybe my favorite dive site in all of Tulamben!

This is definitely a true muck dive. Don’t expect a lot of coral at all — it’s mostly little bits and pieces of coral here and there, with lots of sand and hydroids to inspect in search of macro photography opportunities.

There are a few fish here and there, but it’s mostly gobies, tobies, and boxfishes — other than that, the focus is on nudibranchs, and boy, was this a nudibranch party!

A group of several nudibranchs hanging out underwater in bali
Truly a nudibranch celebration here!
A purple, white and orange shrimp next to two nudibranchs
A surprise guest: this emperor shrimp camouflaged beautifully on the gathering nudibranchs!

For some reason, this particular dive site is hugely popular with the Mexichromus genus of nudibranchs… I truly lost count of how many I saw, but it was definitely around 10 in a single dive.

There were probably a few different species of Mexichromus but I’m not too familiar with this genus so I’m not quite able to parse out all the differences.

This was also where we saw perhaps one of the most famous nudibranchs of all: the ‘Shaun the Sheep’ nudibranch, aka the Costasiella kuroshimae.

Leafy nudibranch on a grass

My photo of it isn’t as good as it could be, as I hadn’t learned how to fully zoom (this is it 11x, but I just learned my Olympus TG6 can actually go up to 44x!)

These guys are so tiny, they’re really difficult to picture — but this photo is already so much better than my last attempt, so I’m still happy with it.

We also saw some other really otherworldly nudibranchs here that I had never seen before or even heard of.

Purple antennae of a nudibranch with pink and white detail
This funky nudibranch was a new one for me! I’ve only seen it as a ‘Eubranchus sp.’ but let me know if you know a more precise ID
a greenish clear nudibranch on a piece of soft coral
What a strange nudibranch! I’m pretty sure this is a Eubranchus ocellatus, but let me know if you have an alternate ID

For me, one of my favorite things about a dive is if I leave the water being like “what the hell did I just see”, excited to tear into a marine life ID book.

But maybe that’s just me: I’m a big nerd and information sponge for all things diving, so this was a really fun dive for me and a highlight in Tulamben.

Seraya Secrets

white-eyed moray eel
A silly-looking white-eyed moray eel at Seraya Secrets

Dive Type: Shore dive for muck diving and macro photography — read full guide to Seraya Secrets here.

Dive Level: Beginner, but excellent for underwater photographers!

Dive Sightings:  Spectacled filefish, harlequin shrimp, juvenile peacock razorfish, decorator crab, white-eyed moray, long nose rock shrimp (aka ‘Donald Duck shrimp’), ornate ghost pipefish, black saddled toby, Mexichromus katalexis nudi, Hypselodoris maculosa nudi, Hypselodoris tryoni nudi, Bennett’s toby

A nudibranch that blends into the soft corals
A beautifully camouflaged nudibranch (exact species unknown)

This was ‘the big dive site’ I had heard about for muck diving in Tulamben and I wasn’t disappointed!

Though I think I liked Melasti better by a hair, I still saw so many cool things on this dive.

This one was full of lots of little critters that were really interesting: not necessarily all nudibranchs, but other funny-looking creatures like the long nose rock shrimp and harlequin shrimp made an appearance!

A shrimp with a huge nose seen in the coral
Any guesses why this shrimp is nicknamed the ‘Donald Duck shrimp’?
A harlequin shrimp hiding out in the coral
I unfortunately overexposed this harlequin shrimp since I was near the end of my dive and didn’t have much time to get the tricky lighting just right, but it was still fun to shoot!

In terms of fish, we spotted a ornate ghost pipefish (another favorite subject to shoot, especially since they don’t move that fast) and a spectacled filefish, a funny-looking creature.

We also saw a unique juvenile peacock razorfish, which was a unique sighting — I really liked its ‘hook’-like head feature.

Lastly, we saw a few of the “usual suspects” in terms of nudibranchs: a Mexichromus katalexis, two Hypselodoris maculosa, and Hypselodoris tryoni nudi

More Dive Sites in Tulamben

Here are some other dive sites in Tulamben that I haven’t gotten the chance to experience… yet!

They’re on my list for future dives, though. I can’t stay away from Bali!

  • Kubu Wreck
  • Boga Wreck
  • Batu Belah
  • Batu Niti
  • Cantik
  • Sidem
  • Batu Ringgit

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