Tulamben is one of Bali’s best scuba diving destinations thanks to its abundance of marine life. Among the many species found here, eels are one of the most fascinating and unique.
Though they look a lot like snakes, eels are actually a type of fish. But unlike most fish, ocean-living eels don’t have scales, giving their skin a smooth and slimy texture. They are also distinguished by their elongated form which allows them to move gracefully through water with serpentine movements.
Divers can spot several types of eels in the waters around Tulamben. This includes moray eels, ribbon eels, and garden eels. Read on to learn about these distinctive marine animals and where to find them while diving in Tulamben.
1. Moray Eels
Morays are the largest type of eel in Tulamben, with some species reaching three meters (10 feet) in length. Some of the moray eels you might encounter on a dive in Tulamben include the giant moray, white-eyed moray, and peppered moray eel. They come in a variety of colors, the most conspicuous being a leopard-like pattern of white with dark spots.
While morays are a common sight in Tulamben, divers must look closely to find them. During the day, morays tend to be shy since they are nocturnal creatures. Be sure to scour the cracks and crevices on the USAT Liberty Wreck and Tulamben’s other dive sites for these snakelike fish. These dark spaces are where morays like to hide and you will likely only see their heads sticking out from the reef.
At night, morays emerge from their hiding spots to hunt small fish, crabs, squid, and octopuses. Their keen sense of smell makes up for their poor eyesight, allowing them to locate unsuspecting prey as they swiftly maneuver through holes and crevices. As if morays were not already intimidating enough, they have a second set of jaws located further back in their throat. These jaws perform the formidable function of grasping their prey and pulling it down their esophagus.
With their sharp teeth and powerful jaws, morays give off a menacing appearance. Though they are skilled predators, they are typically not aggressive to divers unless provoked or cornered. As with all marine life, it’s essential to approach morays with caution and give them plenty of space.
2. Garden Eels
Garden eels are another intriguing type of eel found in Tulamben. Rather than slinking through the reef, these eels “plant” themselves in the shallower, sandy area by the Liberty Wreck.
Garden eels bury the lower portion of their body in the sandy seafloor so only their heads and upper body poke out. These small eels are slender, their bodies about 1.3 centimeters (0.5 inch) in diameter. The eels live in colonies and sway together in the current. Their joint movement resembles a field of grass blowing in the wind. When garden eels feel endangered they retreat tail-first into their holes to conceal themselves from the threat.
Garden eels spend most of their lives rooted in the sea floor. are filter feeders. Their diet consists primarily of tiny plankton that float by in the currents.
3. Ribbon Eels
Ribbon eels are another type of eel that tends to hide in holes in the sand. Though ribbon eels are technically a species of morays they look different from their cousins. Their long, thin body and ribbon-like dorsal fin inspired their name. On the rare occasions when they do swim out in the water, their body ripples like a ribbon wielded by a rhythmic gymnast.
Many divers think ribbon eels look similar to a mythical Chinese dragon. Along with long bodies, the ribbon eels protruding nostrils resemble the tendrils that are often depicted on dragon snouts.
One interesting fact about ribbon eels is that they are all born as males. Young ribbon eels are completely black, but as they mature they undergo a drastic transformation. As they grow, ribbon eels develop a yellow dorsal fin and face and their body becomes electric blue. Towards the end of their life, ribbon eels transition from male to female and become all yellow in color.
Ribbon eels’ striking coloration makes them a popular subject for underwater photographers. If you’re on a mission to capture a photo, keep in mind that the Coral Garden dive site is the best place to find ribbon eels in Tulamben.
Dive in Tulamben
Eels are just one of the incredible creatures that you can see when diving in Tulamben. The dive sites here are an excellent place to spot different species of marine life.
If you’re interested in diving during your visit to Bali, please send us a message to book your dive in Tulamben. Our top-rated dive center is located in the center of Tulamben and our local guides are experts at spotting marine life in the area.
Select an option below to learn more about our most popular scuba diving trips and courses: