If you mention Lembeh to any serious underwater photographer, their eyes will come over all misty and distant. Many diving places claim to be the best, but very few get even close to Lembeh for critters.
This is the best place to go critter hunting! No more than a few breaths go by between one bizarre and exhilarating sight and the next.
There are over 30 sites to choose from in the calm, lake-like waters of Lembeh Strait. There are wrecks and traditional reefs but the main attraction of Lembeh is the exceptional diving opportunities with bizarre marine life that you simply won’t see at other destinations.
Here are six of the top dive sites in Lembeh – all great reasons why you simply have to dive Lembeh Strait at least once in your lifetime!
Reason 1: Hairball
On a day dive here you are likely to run into a few quite large seahorses proudly going about their business unperturbed by divers. For frogfish lovers this is your spot. The question is not ‘if’ but ‘how many?’ White, yellow, black, hairy, giant … you name it! Add to this the occasional encounter with an octopus lurking furtively inside half-buried coconut shells and you can see the reason for this site’s popularity.
Night time, as with many sites here, turns the excellent into the unbelievable. Dreamlike oddities haunt hairball at night. Successfully spotting a buried stargazer, eyes cast up to the heavens, will keep you happy for a week. More frogfish, cuttlefish, cuttlefish eggs (with moving pre-hatched babies!) decorator crabs and Spanish dancers are but a few of the collection of wonders that Hairball spits out.
Reason 2: Nudi Falls
Your diving boat will tie itself to both a low impact anchor as well as some over hanging trees at this site near the water’s edge. The sheltered nature of the bay and the proximity to the land makes it feel like a lake dive. You will notice, as you roll over the edge, that the water is normally a degree or two cooler than at Bunaken.
You will start slowly down over a dark sandy slope to about 25 m where the bottom is covered in soft corals like a bed of cauliflower. Look out for ribbon eels and shrimp and goby partners around here before coming to the mini-wall that is this site’s main feature.
On the floor and the rocky base of the wall is where you can spot most action with flying gurnards, frogfish, mantis shrimps and pipefish all likely to be around. While amusing yourself here, your Lembeh dive guide will likely be scouring a fan on the wall for pygmy seahorses. As you’d expect from the dive site’s name, there are simply stacks of nudibranchs.
Reason 3: Jahir
Jahir is one of the newest dive sites discovered in the strait and was named after the guide who first found it.
You can reach as deep as 30m here which can easily happen, if your focus is too much on the visuals and not on your depth. Distractions include mimic octopus, tiny frogfish, hairy frogfish and ornate ghost pipefish. There are also honeycomb moray eels and long horn cowfish to keep you entertained.
Reason 4: Nudi Retreat
This is yet another great site featuring a gentle reef slope that starts from a sheltered cove on the Sulawesi coast and descends gradually to a depth of 28 metres. Offering more coral than many of the dive locations you will find on the Lembeh Island side of the strait, healthy soft coral and anemones abound, playing host to probably the world’s most popular fish, the anemone fish.
Other walk-ons in your underwater show are dragon sea moths (also known as Pegasus sea moths) moving along the sandy bottom and boxer crabs hiding among corals. A real treat is coming face-to-face with a juvenile flamboyant cuttlefish. Their colours are a lot brighter than their parents making for great photo subjects.
If you are drawn to this site with the goal of spotting nudibranchs, then you will not be disappointed. As the name suggests, the corals are bejewelled with many different varieties of these tiny stars.
Reason 5: Angel’s Window
If, during your stay, you are growing tired of black sand, among some of the most amazing and bizarre, rare creatures on the planet, Angel’s window gives you the chance to do a bit of reef diving. More than just a change of scene, however, this site is in fact a beautifully decorated pinnacle whose tip lies just below the surface, off Lembeh Island.
As you work your way down you will be struck by a vast field of soft corals. Further down, the pinnacle base flattens out to the north and south which is home to sponges and sea fans harbouring knobbly, pink pygmy seahorses, whose presence is all but guaranteed.
Also look out for red octopus who often are found slithering around this area. Nudibranchs in various hues, pinnate batfish and schools of angelfish are likely to keep you amused as you make your way to Angel’s window. This swim-through is at 22 to 25 metres. The window’s walls are covered in crinoids and featherstars so it is advisable for divers only to swim through if they can be sure of a contact-free penetration.
Reason 6: Mawali Wreck
This Japanese World War II steel cargo ship wreck lies completely on its side on the strait’s seabed in water ranging from 15 to 30 metres. As the sight of the wreck begins to take shape beneath your fins you will marvel at just how beautifully encrusted it is with crinoids, black coral trees and soft corals.
The 60 metre long structure is home to lots of fish predominantly enormous specimens of scorpionfish and lionfish, and several spotted barramundis. Look closer and you will find the other unusual suspects such as crabs, nudis and pipefish. All manner of sunken junk seems to get called an artificial reef these days but the Mawali wreck truly is a fine example.
Of course, apart from the outstanding diving; there are many other reasons why you should dive Lembeh – the calm waters, the amazing hospitality, the great food, relaxing holiday atmosphere…
Join us on our dive trip to Indonesia in June this year and experience it for yourself! Please contact us for more details - you won’t be disappointed!!!