I had been looking for an opportunity to get my scuba PADI open water certification for a while. After being unable to any diving in the Andaman islands earlier last year owing to constant rain and murky conditions, I was looking at Similan islands in Thailand. However, that never happened. Being in Bali opened up a plethora of diving options – from training and certifications to some world class recreational diving without having to invest the time with books and classroom work. Being on a short holiday, I decided to do some recreational shore diving. Amed, located on the North Eastern part of Bali, is a great base to get to Tulamben bay – home to the USS Liberty ship wreck. For some reason, wreck diving has always held a special appeal.
I had been emailing a couple of scuba schools back and forth, and they seemed to be have a high price point, being located in the south of Bali. You are better off booking your dive with a local dive school around Amed, or even Tulamben. I booked my dive with an Amed based school, run by a French man. I had no trouble getting a 1:1 instruction, it being a low season. After an initial briefing about breathing, the equipment and communication and safety under water, we put on our wet suits and cylinders and off we went under water for a quick demonstration. After several bouts of panick attacks during the first few minutes, I gradually got more comfortable with the entire set-up. Be prepared to end up with a terribly dry throat after all the inhaling from that rubber tube. The nitrogen you inhale along with the oxygen may make you uncomfortable and tired – give it a day for your body to release all the nitrogen.
After an hour long break to recoup, we drove for an hour out to the Tulamben bay area. As expected, the site was buzzing with activity. The wreck being so close to the shore makes it a lot accessible for the first time divers. But the relative ease of it, doesn’t take anything away from the dive. The wreck used to be on the beach until the lava flow from Mt. Agung’s eruption pushed the wreck 5 m. within the sea. It extends as deep as 40 m. for those looking for some adrenaline rush.5 minutes into the dive, and we could spot amazing corals(the wreck has helped build a lot of artificial corals) and fishes. Although I am no expert in identifying the marine species, what I saw was truly magical. Having seen all of that amidst a huge ship wreck was all the more exciting – from being able to move between chambers, to seeing cannon balls. The second dive was seemingly more enjoyable – I found myself at ease, being able to use my lung volume to control my depth, and navigate through the wreck –as magical as taking my first flight with a paraglider.
Go ahead and plan your first dive!