UNDER THE SEA
Diving in Lembeh at North Sulawesi
Ashort two and a halfhour flight from the sun-drenched beaches of Bali will take you straight to the worldfamous Lembeh Island, one of the best diving destinations in North Sulawesi. Though Lembeh is quite popular among macro underwater photographers already, this area however is still less known among Indonesians and tourists alike. Compared to its neighbor Bunaken, renowned for its crystal clear water, beautiful corals and its proximity to Manado, Lembeh still remains unknown to some, even to this day.
Most popular dive sites in general share three common qualities; crystal blue water with clear visibility, gorgeous coral reefs and a variety of marine life. These qualities can be found in Bunaken along with its breath taking white sand beaches. Lembeh, on the other hand, is a little bit different with black sand on the bottom of the ocean and lush forest on the land. However, the water clarity is still acceptable, making it one of the most discussed dive sites among underwater photographers.
Famously known as the “Macro – Heaven of the World” and having
been covered in many underwater forums, this tiny island on the northern tip of Indonesia attracts photographers from all over the world every year. Lembeh is also relatively close to Manado, the capital city of North Sulawesi, and can be easily reached with a flight from Jakarta, Singapore and other major cities in Asia – which adds another reason why Lembeh is worth a visit.
MEET THE CREATURES
The topography of Lembeh dive site is mostly gentle slopes or flat with black sand on the bottom that makes a contrasting background for underwater photography. In most of
my dives in Lembeh, there was little current or almost none. The dive site has healthy surroundings that allow critters to exist in more than a fair number. So, as you dive deeper into the ocean, prepare yourself for a real chance to encounter some of the rarest critters in the world which may not normally be seen elsewhere.
Rare crustaceas, unique molluscs and colourful shrimps such as Boxer Crabs, Tiger Shrimps, and Blue Ring Octopus will greet divers in the deep. Lembeh waters are also home to rare bottom dwellers such as hairy frogfishes – if you’re lucky, you can capture a photo of the elusive Black Hairy Frogfish. Families of nudibranchs also swim freely around the Lembeh site, with the uniquelyshaped Melibe Colemani being one of the stars.
Diving in Lembeh is not only a normal dive trip where you can just book, come, dive and go home, but it is also a getaway where underwater photographers, amateurs or professionals, meet – which means, your non-diving time can be just as exciting as your diving, if not more, with all the discussion about underwater photography.
Most of Lembeh dive establishments are located along the coastal area on North Sulawesi in close proximity to Bitung Port that overlooks the small island. There are also dive resorts available on Lembeh Island. And after having a spectacular diving experience, don’t forget to visit the nearby Tangkoko National Park to see other unique creatures. Here, the world’s smallest primate Tersier as well as other rare mammals and birds such as Black Macaque, Cuscus and Maleo birds await to greet you in their natural habitat.
HOW TO GET THERE:
Fly to Sam Ratulangi Airport in Manado either from Bali, Jakarta, Surabaya or Singapore. Lembeh is about one and a half to two hours away by car with additional five to fifteen-minute boatride if you are staying in one of the island-based resorts.
THE DIVE SPOT:
Accesible by boat directly from each resort, Lembeh dive sites have acceptable water clarity with gentle or no current, making diving in Lembeh relatively easy and quite relaxing. The main dive areas are between 10-25 meters deep.
Yellow Pygmy Goby with eggs
Sponge Coral Crab with eggs
Blue Ring Octopus