Each Thursday I share a travel experience from the past. With 4 years of non-stop travel and 3 years of part time travel I have a lot to get through! From the highs of skidiving to the depths of scuba diving – and everything in between, let me inspire you to try something new!
The adventure series – Issue 3: Wreck diving
This week we’re going to go on an underwater adventure – Scuba Diving! We got our PADI Open Water certificates on Koh Tao, Thailand back in August 2012. Since then we’ve been pretty restricted on the whole extended travel front for the past two years we haven’t had many chances to keep our diving skills up – but when we got the opportunity to go diving through and around a shipwreck, we jumped at the chance.
WRECK DIVING @ TULABMEN, BALI – the USAT LIBERTY
Wreck Diving. It could be considered to be the holy grail for scuba divers – and one that you often can’t achieve without upgrading your PADI Open Water cert. to PADI’s Advanced Open Water qualification. Having got our OW cert. in 2012, we dive whenever we are in tropical waters – which isn’t as often as I would like! – but I have always wanted to do a wreck dive. To swim in and around a shipwreck, reclaimed by the ocean over time and home to amazing fish and coral, has always been a dream. However, upgrading our PADI qualifications has never been high on the list of priorities – when assessing the additional cost/time and days required to do so (all of which could be spent on another adventure), for us, it always gets put on the ‘someday’ list.
Enter – Or sink down a very short 5m to – the USAT Liberty.
USAT Liberty was a United States Army cargo ship torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in 1942. Once struck, the ship was towed to shore where the Americans told the Balinese they would be back to reclaim it after the war. They never came and the ship sat corroding on the beach for the next 20 years. In 1963 the volcano on the island erupted and the flow of lava carried the boat off the beach and into the waves where she sank to her not too shallow grave.
The USAT Liberty is now one of the best dive sites in SE Asia, and one of the only wreck dives that you can complete with only an open water certificate. It’s fantastic – over 120m in length and at depths between 5-20m It has a great range of coral that has grown over the years since it was sunk and an array of marine life. The water was crystal clear with great visibility and the wreck itself was amazing with some great points for penetration (something not always available to novice/newer divers). I had thought (or maybe I had overheard somewhere) that these entry points were off limits due to too much damage caused by the salt water – but our dive master had us swimming in and out without a care in the world.
One thing to note is that the Liberty is a shore dive – which we had never done before – and meant that rather than jump of the side of the boat and into the big blue, your entry is la little more complicated. You suit up on the shore, stumble over smooth black pebbles with dips and drops that you can’t see, waves crashing into you and weighed down by your equipment.. if you can’t tell from my description, it is just not easy; and safe to say that I lost my footing and landing on one knee on the pebbles below got smacked in the face by a passing wave. Queue spluttering and coughing as I tried to expel the unexpected seawater from my lungs whilst simultaneously trying to brush the hair that was now covering my face, out of my eyes. Attractive image yes? no? I didn’t think so… Anyway, our dive master stumbled over to my aid and dragged me back to a standing position, but it was clear to anyone watching that I had already made myself look like an idiot. I don’t have any pictures of that precise moment (fortunately!) but I do have one of me mid-dive, taken with our crappy $20 underwater disposable camera, so no great colours to be seen, but, without spending a fortune on good dive equipment that we would hardly ever use – whats a girl to do?!
The wreck is a underwater wonderland of marine life – schools of trevally, bream and fusilier and mill all over and around the wreck. Then there are Batfish, large sweetlips, angelfish, butterfly fish and anemone fish which hover under ledges and in crevices. Lionfish, scorpionfish, hawkfish, bumphead parrot fish, pufferfish and coral trout are everywhere – as are the gobies, blennies, shrimps and dottyback out on the sand flats. Feel free to google all of those names of fish so you really get a feel for the array of colour and life that is found under the water. We even saw some garden eels – which were absolutely incredible – like a section of tall grass laid across the sand swaying in the current.
The wreck itself is a sight to behold, the fact you can still identify bits of the ship – like the cannons – now crusted in coral and surrounded by all the sea life – it’s like a (not-so-little) underwater community! We had been told that visibility was good at the site for most of the year – as Bali has quite a consistent climate – but as with most activities, I am a fair weather diver (fair weather skier/fair weather para-glider/fair weather anything really!) and I would be hesitant to dive the site in windy/stormy/tropical weather as excessive waves may affect your buoyancy and stability at the higher depths. Or that might just be me. I keep noticing that I’m really not all that great at scuba diving – and lets not mention the boat dives where I suffer with terrible seasickness…
Are you a scuba diver? Have you ever done a wreck dive? What were your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below! Happy Travels :-)