USAT Liberty… where to start? My first tropical dive, my first underwater pictures, first dive of my Advanced Open Water Course and last dive of my Divemaster course. The USAT Liberty is a special wreck to me, and to a lot of other divers that have been lucky enough to get up to Tulamben to dive on it. Often described as the easiest wreck dive you will ever do, the USAT Liberty is a fascinating dive location. With no hyperbole, I can honestly say there is something there for divers of every level of experience and training, from the newest open water diver to the most experienced instructor. My dives there were done with Bali Scuba, a top end dive group.
A brief history to start is always a good idea. The USAT Liberty is often mislabeled (even by me for those paying attention to the last post) as the “USAT Liberty Glo”. This is a common error, because there was an SS Liberty Glo that served at the same time, and casual internet searches will pop up a “USAT Liberty Glo”. The USAT Liberty however, had a far more interesting life. Torpedoed in WWII, the ship was beached and partially stripped by the american military. Shortly after they left, the locals stripped the rest of it. Then is sat, rusting under the tropical sun until 1963, when the local volcano’s eruption in 1963 rolled it into the water. Since then, it’s become encrusted with all manner of marine life, and one of the most popular dive sites in Bali!
As a dive, the wreck is outstanding. The highest point of the wreck lays about 4m below the surface and can be snorkelled by those who don’t mind a short swim out! The bottom is sandy, and the wreck lays on its side at something of an angle, the “bottom” resting at 30m at its deepest. The wreck itself is 120m long and has a beam of 16m. Visibility is astounding, with 20m plus being the norm, but even in the rainy season it’s good at 10-15m plus. The water always warm, my dives occurred in Febuary/March and June respectively, and the coolest it got as 27˚C, and the warmest was 31˚C! While the wreck cannot be penetrated as normal, you can “enter” the open areas of it, but be aware that there are a lot of stinging corals and gorgonians (cnidarians) that can make an unwary diver an unhappy one very quickly! The area is subject to very gentle currents, but they’re barely noticeable.
Life wise, the wreck has an overabundance of life of all sorts! It’s a photographer’s dream, whether you’re a macro fanatic or a rookie with their first camera (like I was!). The wreck is encrusted with corals, hydroids, gorgonians, and anemones. Fish of all sorts are rife across the reef, from vicious lizardfish looking for easy meals to colourful ribbon eels, jacks, gobies, sweetlips and for a short time, to greater barracuda! Giant clams and nudibranchs are present as well, although the riot of life around you can be distracting from the tiny guys.
All in all, the USAT Liberty is a great dive site, easily accessed from several points in Tulamben; although my favourite is the Dive Paradise Tulamben dive resort (they’re in the centre of the three big sites at Tulamben: USAT Liberty, Coral Garden and Drop Off). They also make the best grilled pork I’ve ever had, perfect for that recharge after a long dive! As I said before, it’s a great dive site, easy and fun for everyone involved. As a dive site, I can’t recommend it enough.