Tulamben Flood Report

By Erwin Kodiat (December 27, 2002)

Update on December 12, 2003

  1. It's been a year since 2002 flood disaster, recently USS Liberty Ship Wreck has overcome the disaster, a lot of people dive there nowadays.

  2. Although Drop Off has lost a lot of its beauty in shallow part, if you consider Technical Diving this is the place you want to go. Twenty five meters and below still offer the amazingly healthy wall down to 75 meters and more.

  3. Paradise Coral Garden (Patch Reef) coral growth and number of fishes drastically recovered as the mud got swept by the current.

Update on February 18, 2003

  1. The mud and debris from the mountain still comes during the heavy rain. It will need some sort of reboitation (re-planting) the forest along the river.

  2. A fellow diver just dove the Liberty Shipwreck and the viz around 20 meters! It was a sunny day.

  3. Gregorius David Leksono, a tekkie friend of us got stuck in zero-viz in front of the river. He had to do the deco stop in the ink-black cloud, he can even see his own palm when he put it in front of the mask. It is really wise to avoid the drop off during the rain.

Original story as of December 27, 2002

Had a 2-days-trip to Tulamben on 25-26 December 2002. Basically, after heard a lot of bad news about Tulamben dive sites, we want to know by ourself about the condition in Tulamben. Generally, Tulamben is still good for diving. I did 6 dives in 2 days. 2 dives in Liberty Ship Wreck, 2 dives in Coral Garden (Paradise Patch Reef), 1 dive at Batu Kelebit and 1 dive a the Drop Off. Will describe the condition of each sites. The main cause of this catastrophy actually is heavy rain occured somewhere in the higher area. Since the rain pour continuously, the barrier no longer capable to hold the water (which has debris and mud) then it overvlow and some of them ran to estuary next to Mimpi Resort Tulamben which form a new delta, see right picture. That picture was taken from Diver's Paradise Tulamben facing the Drop Off.

Liberty Ship Wreck

This area mostly undisturbed excepts a lot of debris from the Drop Off covering some hard coral on her. What really affected is the viz on shallow part which is dropped to 3-7 meters between surface to 7 meters depth. Gradually, the deeper we are, the better the visibility. When I reached 15 to 18 meters depth, the visibility was around 10 meters. Deeper than 20 meters, I got 15 meters visibility. On the same day, a local guide, Gusti, told me, he found the Pygmy Seahorse on the same Sea Fan which is lying in 27-30 meters depth. All we have to wait is the debris (mud) getting consolidated with the bottom and start to have crystal clear visibility in Liberty Ship Wreck. However, at the present time, it's still diveable. If you love to watch silver jack (bigeye trevally) swirling around then you still can see it after the flood.

Drop Off

I choose to swim a bit going to the first corner of the Drop Off. Then descend to 7 meters. The wall area of the Drop Off is quite undisturbed except the viz of course. Even the purple giant sea fan, one of our landmark in Drop Off, is still alive. The worst visibility is, again, in the shallower part (surface to 15 meters depth). However, one of the most heartbreaking dive I had is when I reached the slope which is stretched from 9 to 20 meters depth. Most coral there are died, I guess it is around 80% of coral covered by debris and when I swept my hand around, I saw that bleached part of the coral (remind me of Lombok). If you were in the Drop Off before, this was the reddish hard coral (Acropora sp) where we can find after we turn right from the first wall. They all covered with debris and everytime I swept my hand around, I saw bleached coral. And also some soft coral surrounding, like brain coral and table coral also bleached. I saw a barrel sponge full of debris inside, it's still alive though, but I don't know how long :(. All underwater pictures in this page were taken in Drop Off, we can see that many coral died already and visibility dropped.

Coral Garden/ Paradise Patch Reef

I did one night dive and also it was raining heavily. For the night dive, Coral Garden is not much changed after the flood. I still can find my favorite ribbon eel. The anemones there is still healthy. I also found a small baby squid and a lot of lionfish, even more than before the flood. Additionally as the bonus, 4 morray eels closely to each other appear near the end of the dive. It was one of the best night dive I had, not mentioning the surge getting stronger and stronger and make me sick thereafter :)

In my sixth dive, I decided to dive this site once again. However, instead of getting a good one, I got the worst visibility ever. Starting from around zero to 1 meters visibility, getting a bit better (3 meters viz) after deeper than 4 meters depth. Also found out some coral already bleached after the flood but the area not as big as the Drop off. Until the end of the reef, the viz did not exceed 5 meters. You know, that this patches end on around 12 meters depth. So basically nothing we could see. The viz getting better after we reached the slope sandy bottom. Viz there was around 10 meters. Actually I was waiting for Rossy (a juvenile black tip shark, which my Swiss friend named it). This time it did not show up. :( Finally, after 32 minutes of boring dive, I decided to end the dive. Again, this site is still promising. Once we got better viz, we can still enjoy this place.

Batu Kelebit

This site is not affected at all. Still got the same good condition and a lot of marine life is still there. The diver come to Tulamben can make this site for the number one dive site.

Another good new sites I have heard about is Batu Ringgit, which is northern of Tulamben. Will do a small survey in this new year diving. Will let you know later. The highlights (not confirmed yet) are healthy coral and some sort of cavern dive, let see whether it's true.