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Diving in Lembeh

Known as the “Critter Capital of the World”, the Lembeh Strait is home to an abundance of unique and rare marine life which thrive on its black sand muck diving slopes. Lembeh is an underwater playground where nothing is quite as it seems. Be prepared to find the most unusual of critters in the most unexpected of places.

Diving in Lembeh

Quick facts

Lembeh Island sits to the east of mainland North Sulawesi from which it is separated by a long, narrow stretch of water known as the Lembeh Strait. With nicknames such as “The Critter Capital of the World” and “The Twilight Zone” expectations of rare and unusual marine life are high. Lembeh’s black sand muck diving slopes are home to some of Indonesia’s weirdest and most bizarre looking sea creatures and it’s a macro photographer’s heaven. Above water and away from the Port of Bitung the banks of the Strait boast lush green vegetation and jungle packed rolling hillsides which cascade down to the water’s edge.

When to go

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USD 936Per person for 7 nights for 2 divers
USD 1,569Per person for 7 nights for 2 divers
USD 1,186Per person for 7 nights for 2 divers

Nudi Falls – This is a true combination site which offers a shallow rubble reef top, sloping reef, a vast soft coral garden in the deeper areas and a vertical wall adorned with gorgonian fans. The soft corals are home to minute colourful cowries and rhinopias scorpionfish are also spotted here. Gorgonian fans are inhabited by pygmy seahorses, anemones host both anemonefish and Banggai Cardinalfish, giant frogfish perch on the wall and, as the name suggests, there is no shortage of nudibranch. Teluk Kembahu – More commonly referred to as TK1, TK2 and TK3 these are sloping, black sand muck diving sites for which the Lembeh Strait is so well known. The dives start at 5 meters on a shallow sand flat before sloping down to around 30 metres / 100 feet. Patches of rope sponges on the slope and small bommies in the shallows attract various marine life including hairy and painted frogfish, mimic octopus, cuttlefish, stingrays and ribbon eels. Almost anything is possible at TK! Hairball – This iconic Lembeh Strait dive site is a firm favourite with macro photographers. This is a black sand site on which you find occasional sponges and natural (and unnatural) detritus. Whether it is a tree branch or a beer bottle, inspect whatever you find as it is sure to be a hotspot of critter activity. Frequent sightings here include various frogfish and octopus species, cuttlefish, seahorses and look out for stargazers when night diving. Sarena West – This sand and rubble slope to the North of Sarena Kecil is home to an array of nudibranch and goby species. The rubble patches provide numerous critters with hiding places so go slowly and look carefully. Other possible sightings here include giant frogfish, plenty of shrimp species, pygmy cuttlefish, Banggai cardinalfish and even blue ring octopus. Police Pier – This site takes its name from the nearby pier of the police station which monitors Lembeh. Anything is possible at this sloping combination site which offers sand, rubble and soft coral patches decorated with bright orange sponges. Highlights of diving here include Banggai cardinalfish, spotted barramundi cod, painted frogfish, bigfin squid, harlequin shrimp and ghost pipefish.

What to see

Lembeh is all about critters and some of the most iconic species of the Strait include hairy frogfish, mimic, coconut and wunderpus octopus, pygmy seahorses, bobbit worms, stargazers, harlequin, tiger and emperor shrimps, ghost pipefish, a plethora of nudibranch species, mandarinfish and the endemic Banggai cardinalfish. Be sure to make a night dive to see the many nocturnal species too.

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Most likely sightingsPossible sightings

Location

Lembeh is an island close to the north eastern coast of Sulawesi, Indonesia. It is world famous for its highly colorful and diverse marine life. It has also eraned reputation for being the one of the best places in the world for macro photography. Lembeh is home to a profusion of some of the most exotic and wonderful marine life which is exclusively found in Lembeh. The Lembeh Strait is sheltered from monsoon, both from north east and south west sides. The current pattern brings a large quantity of planktons. The visibility remains between 10 and 15 meters most of the year. However, as you go to the north out of the bay area, more and more reef formations with much better visibility can be seen. They make some of the most exciting dive sites. These reefs also attract larger species like Mackerels and Sharks. The area also has some interesting wrecks, well within safe distance limits of recreational diving. Water temperatures are between 24° to 27°C, which is slightly colder than the tropic average. The depth range is 3 to 25 meters for all the sites. While it is possible to dive in Lembeh all round the year, the best two months are September and October owing to calmer sea conditions and better visibilities. Lembeh is one of the best muck diving sites in the region. The marine life in this area is very diverse and rich with atleast seven types of seahorses alone. Mandarin fishes, Sea Spiders, shrimps, Pegasus, Pipefish, frogfish and many many more. The island has a large number of dive centers and operators. The quality of accommodation has also significantly improved over the last few years. Many operators bring dive tour on day trips from Manado as well.

Getting there

The nearest airport is Sam Ratulangi International Airport in Manado (MDC), which receives flights from Singapore as well as Bali, Jakarta and other cities in Indonesia. The port of Bitung is around a one and a half hour car drive and from there you will travel onwards either by car or by boat depending on which side of the Strait you are staying. Diving is mainly resort based and most resorts offer airport pickups.

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