Lembeh Strait in a Nutshell
Lembeh is without doubt the muck-diving capital of the world. Underwater photographers flock here from all over the world to see a myriad of critters, frogfish, pipefish, nudibranchs, sea horses, juvenile fish, and other exotic animals. Don't expect beautiful reefs in Lembeh itself, but very scenic reefs exist at nearby islands.
Intro to Lembeh
Lembeh Strait, situated in northern Sulawesi near Manado Indonesia, is a dive area rich with life. You can see more macro subjects here than you ever dreamed possible. The area of Lembeh is rich in dark volcanic sand, which is partially responsible for the rich marine life.
Larry Smith pioneered diving in Lembeh Strait in the early/mid 1990's. KBR was the first resort in Lembeh, followed by many more. Some people now think Lembeh is getting a little crowded but there are a lot of dive sites to visit.
Lembeh's low surge and mild currents make it ideal for macro and supermacro photography. Visibility is usually never great, but is always good enough for macro. While most famous for macro, Lembeh also has a decent number of wrecks, and a couple wide-angle spots to the north.
Typical Lembeh Dive
Your dive boat will usually go out for 1 or 2 dives at a time. Generally you will be in a small boat with 1 guide and 1-3 other divers. Depending on the dive site, you'll start your dive in 50 - 80ft of water and then start to work your way shallower on a sandy slope. As you are photographing one amazing subject, your dive guide will be busy finding your next subject. A supermacro lens will often come in handy. Other divers swimming by may silt up your area, causing you to curse underwater. You take so many shots that your memory card fills up, or your battery dies, causing you to curse underwater.
Lembeh Strait Marine Life & Photography Subjects
Lembeh straits has a great assortment of strange fish, macro critters and nudibranchs. You can view photos and a list of all the Lembeh marine life in the muck diving critter guide.
It is common to see subjects such as hairy frogfish, flamboyant cuttlefish, juvenile barramundi cod, juvenile pinnate batfish, rhinopias, harlequin shrimp, mandarin fish, snakeblennies in the open, and large beautiful stinging anemones.
Here is an example of what you can see on just one trip:
Here’s a sampling of the wide range of creatures seen on a typical trip: many different seahorses including several species of pygmies, various squid species, broadclub, pygmy and flamboyant cuttlefish, many different octopus including blue-ring, mimic and wonderpus, ornate, robust and halemeda ghostpipefish, pipehorses, many different filefish, boxfish and puffers, crinoid shrimp, bubble-coral shrimp, mantis shrimp and many others, orangutan crabs, decorator crabs, Bangaii cardinalfish, assorted anemonefish, gobies and blennies, snake eels, garden eels, ribbon eels and various morays, razorfish, schooling striped catfish, frogfish in every size and color, flying gurnards, spiny devilfish and other scorpionfish, Bobbit worms, and a tremendous variety of nudibranchs. And the list goes on…
Underwater Video of Lembeh's Critter Population
Best Time To Dive Lembeh, Water Temps And Visibility
Lembeh can easily be dived year-round. "Rainy season" is technically December - February, but visibility is not bad then, and it is not too rainy. Visibility is around 30ft (10m) year round.
Lembeh Straits water temperatures
July and August have the coldest water temperatures, getting down to 25 celsius (77F). Bundle up! Some people think the most critters are out during the cold months. Water temps get up to 28 celsius (82F) in Jan-Feb. Wear a full wetsuit year round to protect against cuts, jellies, and getting cold during long dives.
Lembeh straits top dive sites
The dive sites in Lembeh are generally sand, rock, muck, or rubble, but there are a couple sites with nice corals and walls. Marine life is generally prolific from 3-4 meters depth down to 25 meters depth. Nitrox is widely available, and is recommended. Police pier, Nudie falls, Nudie Retreat and TK3 are definitely target-rich environments that you want to dive early and often. California Dreaming and Angel's Window offer good wide-angle opportunities.
Most people fly to Manado through Singapore on a 3.5 hour flight. Silk air has regular flights. You can also get a direct flight from Jakarta or Bali on Garuda or Batavia. Resorts will usually pick you up at the Manado airport. Two hours after you get your bags, you should be at the resort.
Manado, Bunaken, Bangka and Siladen are nearby Lembeh, and we highly recommend you consider doing a "combo" trip, shooting mainly wide-angle in the Bunaken area, and shooting macro in Lembeh. Many divers also combine Lembeh with a trip to Raja Ampat.
A trip to nearby Tangkoko National Park is a must, to see the amazing Tarsier monkey (a very cute small monkey with huge eyes, best seen at dawn or dusk), and Celebes Crested Macaques.
Lembeh Essential Facts
- Money - Indonesian Rupiah. A dollar or Euro will get you a lot of them.
- Electricity - generally is 220 volts, with 2 round pin plugs (European Standard)
- Vaccines - none are essential for US visitors. It is recommended that you are up to date with Typhoid, Tetanus/Diphtheria, Hepatitis and Polio for any trip to the tropics.
- Visa - most countries can receive a 30-day visa ($25) upon arrival to Indonesia. Make sure your passport has a blank page, and is valid for 6 months.
- Language - Bahasa is the language of Indonesia. It is very easy to learn, and we suggest you learn hello, thank you, how are you, and what is your name before your trip.
- Safety - Lembeh is a pretty safe place. Use common sense in Manado, like you would in any city.
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