Destination Fact File
A true wonder of the diving world. Black sand and crazy critters. A top 10 dive destination.
The Lembeh Strait is known as the muck diving capital of the world. This means that there are a lot of sites which are sandy slopes, often with black sand, and the visibility is 10-15m. Due to the black sand it is perfect for photographers as this reduces back-glare, and this is why many photographers like coming to dive Lembeh.
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. The 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, than Lembeh. 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.
Top Dive Sites:
“Hairball” - As you listen to the dive briefing for this Lembeh dive and look at the dive map you may feel a sense of déjà vu. The muck diving sites all sound the same - gentle slope, black sand, patches of activity, and a few sunken logs. Hairball however, often emerges as a king among kings in the Lembeh Strait.
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.
“Nudi Falls” - Your Lembeh 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 2 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. These tiny, cute, little creatures must be the highlight of any dive as they seem to stare impassively ahead puffing their cheeks.
As you'd expect from the dive site's name, there are loads of nudibranchs. Gliding over gooseberry ascidians and stinging hydriods, nudibranchs sense water movement with horn-like organs on their heads called rhinophores. The colourful frills on their backs are their gills. These shell-less members of the snail family eat sponges, hydroids, and ascidians that are poisonous to other creatures, incorporating their toxins. Like many other animals, nudibranchs advertise their toxicity with bright colourations.
“Angel’s Window” - If, during your diving in the Lembeh Strait 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 with more orange and green on display than St Patrick's day in Dublin. 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’ which are often 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 feather stars so it is advisable only to swim through if you can be sure of a contact free penetration.
The topography of the site allows for a spiral downwards to a possible depth of some 30 metres and a similar spiralled ascent past the golden trevally and snappers into swarms of square-spot anthias as you reach shallower water. Totally different from the usual Lembeh scuba diving experience and a wonderful site in its own right, be sure to include it in your dive plan.
“Jahir” - one of the newest dive sites discovered in the Lembeh Strait and was named after the dive guide who first found it. Jahir is a site that in many ways typifies scuba diving in the Lembeh Strait with black volcanic sand that you will slowly cruise over with your nose close to the sea-bed. In fact, perhaps your nose should not be too close, since the site features large numbers of purple-heart urchins and therefore a thousand sharp spines. Among the spines you can look out for beautiful little zebra crabs sheltering among the safety of these protective spears.
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.