Anna’s Favourite Warm Water Dive Destination #6 – Lembeh Strait, Indonesia
LEMBEH STRAIT, NORTH EAST SULAWESI, INDONESIA
Where is the Lembeh Strait and what’s so special about it?
Following on from last week’s colourful wall dive site of Efrata, the Lembeh Strait lies within sight of Pulisan Resort on the mainland, just to the East and the “strait” runs for around 15 km between the two. The dive sites are typified by shallow, generally rather murky visibility on seemingly quite barren, black sand slopes. It’s so very special because of the incredible diversity of marine life there, which is really a whole different kettle of fish (excuse the pun) to pretty coral gardens.
What’s it like?
At first you may wonder what on earth you’d do diving on such apparently unattractive sounding dive sites, and for sure, muck diving is often not for the beginner diver as it might seem a little tedious and not stunning at all. However, if you’ve experienced beautiful coral dives, you might be tempted by the hunt for the rare, the unusual and sometimes the downright bizarre marine creatures that have made the muck their home. Creatures here thrive on their ability to camouflage themselves, and have adapted to their somewhat inhospitable circumstances by developing incredible tactics to hide and evade predation. Consider the names of the Ghost pipefish, the Mimic Octopus, the pygmy seahorse, the decorator crab (which decorates itself with debris to hide) for example and you’ll see why every dive is a slow, focused bottom trawl for the tiniest movement and the slightest anomaly concealing a wonder of nature. Here, fish walk, snakes fly, nudibranch martyr themselves (and have spectacular names like the Discodoris). New species are being found regularly out in Lembeh, and you’ll regularly be gasping into your regulator when you finally spot the creature the guide has been pointing out in vain for the last three minutes and that you’ve totally failed to spot! If you need any convincing, watch this fabulous documentary by Nick Hope about what you can see out there:
When to go?
You can dive Lembeh all year; it’s protected by the island so the big swells that affect the Sulawesi Cap and Bangka island don’t blow out the diving here. September and October are good and less crowded than the high season of July and August.
What to take?
A warmer wetsuit than you’d think. Although the temperature in the water is between 24°C and 30°C, you’re not going to be venturing more than a few metres, and then you’ll be doing so slowly so you may get colder than you think. Depths aren’t great so the chances are you will be doing some nice long dives – ditto on getting colder than you think. Do take a slate to note down what you see if you aren’t an avid photographer, otherwise a camera with a great macro lens or setting, and light. A pointer is always useful, to plunge into the sand to mark a creature whilst waiting for the divemaster, or just to steady you off the black sand if needed. A pointer is also to point, but is emphatically not for use to poke or prod.
Preparation, preparation, preparation!
Muck diving is an acquired taste, it has to be said. If you’re used to cruising coral encrusted walls and flying over colourful reefs you may need to adjust your expectations. But once you’ve done that, you will find an endless supply of entertainment on your dives. Prepare by being super confident in your buoyancy and frog style fin kick.
Where to stay?
If you aren’t sure about muck diving, I’d suggest staying at last week’s retreat, Pulisan Resort, where they do one three dive day (or more, depending on demand) to Lembeh, which is around a 45 minute boat ride (perfect for relaxing on the roof on the way back). Alternatively, you could do a three or five day muck dive extravaganza at Dive into Lembeh or NAD Lembeh.
Gorgeous Gardens? Check. Infinity Pool? Check. Personal Dive Guide? Check. Seriously incredible photography facilities? Check. Private butler? (yes, private butler!) Check. Lembeh Resort is what you’re looking for.
World famous Tangkoko National Park is just around the corner on the mainland and you can also visit the highlands and hike a volcano (or two)!
How to get there?
From London, you’ll go via Singapore, Doha or Abu Dhabi and Jakarta, then a couple of hours by car via local villages to Bitung, then a 10 minute boat ride across the strait.