USAT Liberty (Yes, USAT - USS Liberty was sunk near the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt by the Israelis in 1967) is a US Army transport ship that was sunk by a Japanese torpedo in 1942, and now is one of the world's most famous dive sites. It measures about 120 meters in length, with the top of the wreck at only about 5 meters deep. The variety of sea life here is amazing. The ship hardly looks like a ship anymore, the coral is so thickly encrusted all over it. You can penetrate the wreck, and there are so many crannies with weird creatures hanging out. We saw an amazing amount of things here, from black tip reef sharks to several blue spotted stingrays, to a huge moray out swimming, to giant napolean wrasse and parrotfish to mackerel, lots and lots of sea life, and very colorful due to the shallow location of the wreck. A brittle star out swimming - I didn't know they could swim! There are so many amazing small things to see here, and with the color and light of the shallow depth, it must be a photographer's dream.
The site is best dived in early morning because the masses of divers from Kuta, Seminyak, Nusa Dua and Sanur as well as Ubud come up by land transport (about 2 hours), so they are not arriving until late morning. At that time the water and the beach will get really busy and visibility will drop. Much better to stay in Tulamben so you can get a bright and early start before it gets busy. The 2 hour drive from the southern beaches is winding and death-defying - the driving is crazy - there are plenty of good dive sites down south as well, with easy boat entries. Visibility was good at about 25 meters, but not fantastic.
While the dive site itself was really easy, nothing else about this dive was easy, at least for us. While there are porters to bring your dive gear to the beach, it was all do-it-yourself diving after that. We were expected to set up our own rental gear (which we were not familiar with, and some divers were beginners or hadn't dived in years), without assistance. This is a beach entry dive, which sounds easy, but it's not - the beach is not sandy, it's rocky (rocks the size of softballs up to canteloupes) and very slippery. Combined with the surf hitting you as you're entering and exiting the water, and you having your heavy tank and gear on, it is very difficult to stand. This might have to do with what dive shop you go with - ours offered no assistance at all, and my wife fell down twice and had trouble getting up as the surf was beating on her. Once she was dragged down by our divemaster who was falling. Make sure you have thick booties - the rocks hurt your feet as you enter and exit. Maybe it's easy for 20 year olds but we in our mid-30s found it to be treacherous and not fun at all. Once in the water, though, it was easy diving and all was well.
This dive is best suited for those who enjoy macro diving (small stuff), though there was plenty of big stuff to see on our dive as well. We dove it once, and felt we'd seen it pretty thoroughly, not sure I'd need to dive it many more times, but glad we did it. My wife cursed me all day about not telling her about the beach entry, but when I heard beach I imagined the sandy beaches of Bali. This was not that. Maybe it's better if you are a big, strong young man or if you have some help from your dive shop.
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