Read more about my Self Care Sabbatical and the other places I’ve visited!
The only reason to come to Tulamben is to scuba dive. Unlike a place like Koh Tao where there are some other things to do if you are not diving, there is absolutely nothing else to do in Tulamben. The town is extremely small, consisting mostly of the main strip of dive resorts and restaurants with a few shops and an ATM. That’s it.
And if you are coming to Tulamben to dive, you are likely going to see the Liberty Wreck. This is one of the most famous dive sites in Bali (and best wreck sites globally) and it was easily my favorite. We ended up going to this site five times in four days! The USAT Liberty was an American ship hit by the Japanese during World War II. It was beached until 1963 when an eruption of Mount Agung moved the ship, causing it to settle below the water on its side. It is now basically a giant artificial reef (130 meters long) that can be reached at 9 meters and goes as deep as 30 meters. When the visibility is good, this is an incredible dive site with tons of marine life! Also, because the wreck is on its side and “open”, you can go in and explore parts of the wreck without having a special certification to do so.
Diving in Tulamben is mostly shore diving. The Liberty is easily accessed as a shore dive and our resort, Matahari, had two other sites just in front of the resort that could be accessed as shore dives. This meant that diving in Tulamben was relatively cheap – if you have your own gear, it is even cheaper – and we had five dive options available to us every day. The downside was that we had to request (and pay extra) to visit any dive sites that were further away. Because we were spending four full days in Tulamben we found it worth it to pay more to see these other dive sites. We were getting a bit sick of the same sites every day. In general, the dive conditions were great here and there was a ton to see. And it really is a great cheap place to spend a few days diving. Just don’t plan to have a ton of variety in your dive sites. Both Emerald and Alamanda are nice dive sites and worth checking out.
Amed, not far from Tulamben, is another place with a lot of dive resorts and some sites (including another wreck). You can consider staying in Amed and then traveling up to Tulamben to dive, especially if you just want to check out the Liberty.
We didn’t do much in Tulamben other than dive, hang out around the pool (with Bintangs), and eat. But our resort was perfect for all of those activities and we only ventured outside the resort to do some souvenir shopping and for dinner. We also got to catch some awesome sunrises before our morning dives and some beautiful moonlight views over drinks.
Because Tulamben is small, the eating options are limited. We found a few local spots that offered cheap, tasty food (and sometimes live music). It is also noticeably cheaper than Uluwatu with meals ranging from 30-50K (versus 75-100K in Uluwatu). Check out Wayan Rusti and Warung Komeng (with live music). Try the nasi campur, a nice sampler plate that can often be ordered vegetarian/vegan. Our resort also offered a nice breakfast and good meals as well.
Getting There: Tulamben is about 2.5-3 hours from the airport and transfers cost about 500K rupiah. If you are leaving Tulamben to go to another island, as I was, you can either take a ferry from Amed to the Gili Islands (though there is only one per day) or you can get a transfer to Padang Bai which has ferries to Gili. There are more options for ferries in Padang Bai throughout the day, but the transfer will run you about 350K from Tulamben.
Where to Stay: On recommendation from our friend, we stayed at the Matahari Dive Resort and it was quite perfect. It’s an affordable resort with good food, friendly service, and cheap diving. There is also a spa at the resort where you can get a very reasonably priced spa treatment. We spent about $20/night on our room (which was upgraded) and had breakfast included. Staff at the dive center is great and it was a nice change (surprise!) that we didn’t have to carry any of our gear after working as Divemasters in Training for the past few months!