When asking knowledgeable divers, you can always get a quick and unequivocal answer to the question "What is the coolest dive site in Bali?" - "USAT Liberty in Tulamben."
Even among non-divers, among those who simply enjoy snorkeling with a mask and snorkel, there are many who have heard of this shipwreck or have swum over it. Liberty is the most popular and frequently visited dive site in Bali.
The USAT Liberty was a cargo ship of the American army.
It was launched on June 19, 1918, by the Federal Shipbuilding Company in New Jersey and acquired by the United States Navy on October 7, 1918. Liberty was assigned to the U.S. Navy's Naval Overseas Transportation Service. On October 24, 1918, it departed from New York on its first voyage, carrying a cargo of horses bound for France.
For the next six months, Liberty shuttled between France and the United States, transporting livestock and general cargo to French ports.
After delivering 436 tons of army cargo and 2,072 tons of steel rails, Liberty arrived in Virginia, USA, on April 30, 1919, and was decommissioned from military service.
On October 20, 1929, it collided with the French tugboat Dogue in Le Havre on the Seine River. The tugboat sank, resulting in the loss of two crew members.
On November 23, 1933, Liberty collided with the American cargo ship Ohioan in the Ambrose Channel. The Ohioan ran aground as a result of the collision.
In 1939, Liberty was acquired by the Southgate-Nelson Corporation in Virginia. In 1940, it became one of the ten ships allocated by the U.S. Army for defense purposes.
When the United States entered World War II in December 1941, Liberty was in the Pacific Ocean. In January 1942, it was en route from Australia to the Philippines with a cargo of spare parts for a railroad and rubber.
On January 11, 1942, it was torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-166 southwest of the Lombok Strait and to the southwest of Nusa Penida Island, approximately in that location.
The U.S. destroyer USS Paul Jones and the Dutch ship Van Ghent attempted to tow Liberty, trying to bring it to the port of Celukan Bawang near Singaraja on the northern coast of Bali. Singaraja was a Dutch port and the administrative center of the Lesser Sunda Islands region at the time.
However, Liberty took on too much water, and it had to be left on the shore near Tulamben to unload the cargo. Over the subsequent years, local residents salvaged everything valuable they could find from the ship.
In 1963, an earthquake caused by the eruption of Mount Agung shifted the ship from the shore to where it currently rests.
Now, the 120-meter-long ship lies at depths ranging from 5 to 30 meters, parallel to the shore, in water with minimal currents.
It rests on black volcanic sand and serves as an excellent attraction for a wide variety of marine inhabitants, ranging from common reef fish to the bumphead parrotfish, potato cod, and even turtles.
It's the kind of reef where you can do up to four dives in a day and still want to come back for more.
Since there are hardly any currents at the site, even beginners can dive here comfortably. Over the years of diving, the site has been well explored by divers who have discovered the most interesting spots on it.
Diving starts from the beach with large boulders. Once you are in the water, you put on your fins and swim out about 10-12 meters from the shore. As the water becomes clear, you can already see the corals on the black sand.
There are different routes to follow, exploring the shipwreck, and all of them are incredibly interesting!
Typically, the approximate dive plan is to reach the ship's bow at a depth of about 24 meters and then move towards the stern, inspecting the areas under the beams where sweetlips and batfish hide.
Following this route, you will only be able to cover half of the ship on one dive. Therefore, on the second dive, you can return to where you finished the previous dive and complete the exploration.
A kind person thoughtfully placed a coconut palm trunk in a strategically important area, making it very convenient for orientation. After two dives, you will feel at home on the site and will be able to explore specific areas in more detail.
On the wreck you can find a small fish nursery, which can be seen through a hole in the casing.
There are many surgeon fish swimming around here, like this Yellow Mask Surgeon.
Or this Sailfin Surgeon.
Lots of sweetlips - the most unexpected varieties.
You can find Angel fish or Butterflyfish including the Philippine Butterflyfish.
And when you have had enough of the reef fish, it’s time to concentrate your attention on the small animals.
Striped coral shrimp.
Scorpio fish are hiding in plain sight.
Who else can you see on the Liberty: big-eyed trevally, gobies, lizardfish, barracuda, groupers, and giant mollusks.
Diving is possible year-round. Visibility is around 20 meters, but during the rainy season, it can drop to 10-15 meters. The water is warm and comfortable throughout the year.