Country: Indonesia

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Lembeh in a Nutshell

Lembeh is without a 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, seahorses, 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 super-macro 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.  

Underwater Video Of Lembeh's Critter Population


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Diving Information 

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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 cods, juvenile pinnate batfish, rhinopias, harlequin shrimps, mandarin fish, snakeblennies in the open, and large beautiful stinging anemones. 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 Halimeda ghost pipefish, 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…    

Diving Conditions

  • Water Temperature: 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.
  • Visibility: Around 30ft (10m) year round
  • Depth Range: 5 - 30m


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 super-macro 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's 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. I prefer to dive on nitrox. 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 falls offer good wide-angle opportunities.


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Travel Information 

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How to Get There

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.  


How to Dive Lembeh

There are a lot of excellent dive resorts in Lembeh. 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.  



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.


Topside & Non-Diving Activities

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.


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Other Useful Information 

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Practical Information

  • Currency: Indonesian Rupiah.
  • 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: Short stay Visa Free facility is given to travelers from 169 countries (including USA) for tourism purposes in 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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Reviews (7)

  • Reviewer
bozeman, MT
United States

Lembeh is not what it used to be. Although critters that blow your mind still exist they are not in the quantity they used to be. Nudi Falls no longer falls with nudis. Too many resorts and too many divers kicking up the black sand. It is still awesome for someone who does not remember it from a few years ago. And the night dives are spectacular. I won't tell you where the best night dives were.....

The surrounding villages are extremely noisy. We were there just before a drumming competition and there was drumming practice and "music" starting at 5:30AM. After the competition the drumming practices stopped but there was loud music coming from all directions all day long.

Electricity stll goes off intermittently and the internet is intermittant. If you are used to luxury this may not be the best destination but if you like night dives it is still spectacular.

Visited on 10/2014 - Submitted on 11/15/2014

Lembeh strait is the place where for the first time I encountered the aliens look-alike marine species, from hairy frogfish to just “normal” looking cardinalfish.

First time I saw hairy frogfish and helmut gunard was in the dive site called Hair Ball. Dive site Nudi Retreat 2 perhaps my most favourite dive site in Lembeh Strait during our stay, where for the first time I saw pygmy seahorses, and electric clamp.

We also did a Mandarin dive, a sunset to dawn dive, at Tanjung Kusu-Kusu dive site. It was quite nice and it did not take too long to see the mandarin fish.

In addition to muck diving, Lembeh Strait also offers ship-wreck diving in the dive site called Mawali Wreck, a Japanese cargo ship from the Second World War sank at the depth of around 25 to 30 meters. In addition to that, a dive site Batu Kapal in the northern part of Lembeh island offers beautiful corals reefs with clear visibility, however, it could be expected to experience strong current. If you were lucky, you could see some dolphins swimming around your boat in the area. I was lucky to see a group of dolphins following our boat until we reach the dive site. A good start before back-rolling to the ocean!

Overall, I do enjoy the diving in Lembeh and I would love to return for diving in Lembeh!

Visited on 12/2012 - Submitted on 10/19/2014

Lembeh is one of the world's muck diving havens. Lembeh's volcanic sands are home to an amazing variety of strange macro creatures. This includes all kinds of small fish, seahorses, cephalopods, sea slugs, crustaceans, etc. It is a great place for macro photography, where you can observe marine life and animal behavior up close.

The dive sites generally have either black sandy bottoms or coral reefs. Because the dive sites are all within a sheltered strait, the surface conditions are very easy and travel time to get to the sites is short. This makes the diving very easy and not strenuous. Most sites are relatively shallow, allowing you plenty of bottom time.

Overcrowding has become an issue in recent years. The dive operators have done quite a good job of self-regulation, with a maximum of 3 boats allowed at any one dive site (if you are the 4th boat to arrive, you have to head elsewhere). Also, the mandarinfish dives are highly regulated with a maximum number of divers allowed at any one site.

There are plenty of resorts in Lembeh to suit all tastes and budgets, from high end villa/spa resorts to family friendly and budget offerings.

What Lembeh is not so good for:
- Large animal life. Most of the marine life in Lembeh is quite small and best suited to macro photography.
- Topside activities. There is not a lot to do for non-divers.
- While the area is quite picturesque, the waters are filled with litter such as plastic bags, snack wrappers, plastic bottles, metal cans, etc.

Visited on 10/2013 - Submitted on 08/24/2014
  • Reviewer
San Francisco, CA
United States
Visited on 12/2012 - Submitted on 05/17/2014

If you are into underwater photography, chances are you would have heard of Lembeh Straits. Located 2 hours away from Manado, Lembeh Straits is full of weird and wonderful critters. It is a true macro photographers' dream. There are many species of nudibranchs here and they range from the tiniest to the largest nudibranchs that you would have ever seen. Some of the critters you could see here are skeleton shrimps, pygmy seahorses, wonderpus, flamboyant cuttlefish, scorpionfish, frogfish, bengai cardinal fish, electric file clams, emperor shrimps, Lembeh sea dragons, lizard fish, bobtail squids and the list goes on.

Most dive sites are sandy bottom so maintaining good buoyancy is important. You can do a day trip from Manado or there are accommodation choices in Lembeh Straits as well. The eagle eyed dive guides here are amazing at spotting super tiny and camouflaged critters and are great with photographers. Be sure to pack your macro lenses and extra memory cards.

Some of my favorite dive sites are Nudi Retreat and Nudi Falls. At these sites, you can almost spend all your bottom time in less than 12m of water and not get bored. The water temperature here is cooler than nearby Manado or Bunaken. Dives are usually shallow and long so a full suit would be my recommendation. I would recommend at least 4 days of diving and be sure to include some night dives as well. You will not be disappointed.
Bitung is the closest town to Lembeh. There are small supermarkets, ATMs, small eateries or warungs. My favorite place to eat in Bitung is Mutiara Minang for BBQ seafood.

Water temp: 26 - 28C
Recommended for: Divers of all levels with good buoyancy, macro photography enthusiasts.
Dive conditions: None to mild currents.

Visited on 11/2013 - Submitted on 02/22/2014


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