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Your Guide to Diving in the Lembeh Strait

Adventures in the Bizarre Wonderland

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...Highlights: great macro life/ marine diversity...
...Diving environment: beginner and advanced divers...

Mention Lembeh scuba diving to any serious underwater photographer and their eyes come over all misty and distant. No place on the planet gives you the chance to see more shy critters such as the mimic octopus, flamboyant cuttlefish, harlequin shrimps, skeleton shrimps and innumerable nudibranchs.

Diving in Lembeh Strait: A stargazer - photo courtesy of Cary Yanny, Tasik Ria Resort
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The fish also include the usual tropical reef suspects but also the more bizarre: Ambon scorpionfish, snake eels, stonefish, sea robins, stargazers, devil fish and even the weedy scorpionfish. There are also beautiful seahorses including pygmies, pegasus, mandarinfish, ghost pipefish and the endemic Banggai cardinalfish. Lembeh Strait dive resorts have a higher than average rate of return customers as enthused first-timers return year upon year, never tiring of the wonders of this undersea paradise.

There are many diving places which claim to be the best and very few get close but it is difficult to imagine a better place in the world for critter hunting, or muck diving. No more than a few breaths go by between one bizarre and exhilarating sight and the next. If you've tired of night dives, then try one in Lembeh - they are simply fantastic. We don't know of a better place for after dark encounters with extraordinary marine life.

Including the wrecks and more traditional reefs, there are over 30 sites to choose from, all within 6 or 7 kilometres of the dive resorts, or just a few minutes boat ride across these calm, lake-like waters. It's easy to understand why scuba diving in the Lembeh Strait has a reputation that's hard to beat among discerning divers that want easy and convenient access to exceptional diving opportunities with bizarre marine life that you simply can not see in other destinations.

Dive Site Descriptions

Aer Perang

The formation of this dive site was influenced by a World War II warship that blasted through the rocks in order to reach fresh water. The name literally means 'War Water'. It is a relatively shallow sand slope that is home to many rare species of octopus. Finding them hidden in nooks and crannies or under the sand takes some skill due to their expert ability to camouflage themselves. The mimic octopus in particular can change colour, shape and even the texture of its skin to blend in with their surroundings, and often they can be spotted here.

For scuba divers, an encounter with a wonderpus is even more unique as this species is endemic to Indonesian waters. It is very similar to the mimic octopus, but has well-defined white spots on the mantle, and bars on the arms. While waiting for the octopus show to start, you may notice pairs of Pegasus seamoths using their pelvic fins to 'walk' along the bottom in search of worms and small prey. Recently, a hole at a depth of 15 metres has become home to a pair of rhinopias. The jury is still out as to whether they are the common red type, or the more rare pink variety. You might want to have a look to decide for yourself.
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How to Dive Lembeh

If it is only Lembeh you are interested in diving then we suggest you stay on the island itself where the sites are only a short ride away and the dive resorts are excellent. For more information on your diving options, and all the other travel information you might need to visit Indonesia, check out our North Sulawesi dive resort section. Otherwise you can enjoy the Lembeh Strait diving sites, Bangka Island, Bunaken and beyond by liveaboard boat or day trip.

If you want to see more than the Lembeh Strait alone then you should consider combining your resort package with a few days in Manado/Bunaken. This way you get to see the full picture of what this splendid area has to offer.

A dive permit has been introduced to combat the problem of floating rubbish in the strait from the nearby villages and port town of Bitung. The small fee is a once-off fee per annum and payable on arrival.

The Diving Season

You can go scuba diving in Lembeh all year but the conditions do vary. Water temperatures hit a peak of 28-29°C between October and March. Then they fall to their lowest at 25-26°C in July and August, which coincides with the greatest number of critters. Sightings have more to do with reproductive cycles than the seasonal movement of creatures. The small stuff of the strait doesn't travel far.

The October to December period has the best visibility. January and February have the lowest visibility, when the water temperature in the strait is at its warmest.

During the worst rainy season months of January and February some of the exposed dive sites at the far northern end of the strait may occasionally be out of bounds due to rough seas. Also from the month of June, when the south-east monsoon winds begin, to September, the surface of the strait can become a little choppy. For more information on the climate and sea temperature in nearby Manado, visit the Weather AtlasOpens in a new window website.

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Where is Lembeh and How Do I Get There?

Review our maps below of Sulawesi, showing the location of Lembeh, and its host country Indonesia. Here, you will find information on how to get to the Lembeh Strait.

Map of Sulawesi (click to enlarge in a new window) Map of Indonesia (click to enlarge in a new window)

Reef Summary

Depth: 5 - 30m
Visibility: 10 - 25m
Currents: Gentle
Surface conditions: Calm
Water temperature: 25 - 29°C
Experience level: Beginner - advanced
Number of dive sites: ~55
Distance: ~45 km east of Manado (1½ hours)
Recommended length of stay: 5 - 10 days

Useful References

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