Diving in Lembeh Strait - Bluewater Dive Travel

Lembeh Strait

A pygmy seahorse in lembeh
Lembeh strait rhinopia
lembeh strait muck diving
lembeh strait diving
lembeh strait ghost pipefish
A nudibranch in Lembeh.
A frogfish in the Lembeh Strait.
Harlequin shrimp on a sea star is a highlight of diving in the Lembeh Strait.
A juvenile batfish in Lembeh Strait, Indonesia.
A seahorse at a dive site in Lembeh.
Diving in Lembeh, Indonesia.
An octopus in Lembeh Strait, Indonesia.
A nudibranch at a dive site in Lembeh, Indonesia.
A pipefish at a Lembeh dive site.

Scuba diving in Lembeh Strait, Indonesia

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Lembeh Strait diving highlights

Lembeh Strait is the muck diving capital of the world and, is definitely one of the best macro photography destinations in 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 coral reefs in Lembeh itself, but very scenic reefs exist at nearby islands.

Scuba diving in Lembeh is usually done via a dive resort, although you'll find liveaboard trips here and there then include Lembeh as one of the featured stops. The dive guides in Lembeh are renowned their ability to spot the tiniest little critters for macro photography enthusiasts.


Intro to Lembeh Strait

Lembeh Strait in North 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 to mid-1990s. KBR Lembeh Dive Resort 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, and it's really a matter of choosing a great dive operation. 

Lembeh's low surge and mild currents make it ideal for macro and super-macro photography - don't forget your underwater camera. 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 of wide-angle spots to the north.  

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Sulawesi Trip Recap Sulawesi Trip Recap


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Diving Information 

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Marine Life & Critters in Lembeh Strait

Lembeh Strait 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.

Some of the species that you can see include 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 list of some of the marine life and critters that you can see and photograph while diving Lembeh Strait:

  • Many different seahorses including several species of pygmies
  • Various squid species, 
  • Broadclub, pygmy and flamboyant cuttlefish
  • Many different octopuses including blue-ring, mimic and wonderpus
  • Ornate, robust and Halimeda ghost pipefish, pipehorses
  • Many different filefish, boxfish and puffers
  • Crinoid shrimp, Harlequin shrimp
  • Bubble-coral shrimp
  • Mantis shrimp and many other shrimps
  • Orangutan crabs, decorator crabs, and other crabs
  • Banggai 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
  • Tremendous variety of nudibranchs
  • and the list goes on…    

 Sulawesi Trip Recap


Lembeh Strait Diving Conditions

Water Temperature: Lembeh gets colder around July and August with water temperatures averaging at 25°C (77°F). Bundle up! Some people think the most critters are out during the cold months. Water temps get up to 28° C (82°F) 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 dive in lembeh Strait

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.

To learn more, read about our latest trip to Lembeh here.

Sulawesi Trip Recap Sulawesi Trip Recap Sulawesi Trip Recap


Lembeh Strait's Dive Sites

The dive sites in Lembeh are generally sand, rock, muck, or rubble, but there are a couple of sites with nice corals and walls. Marine life is generally prolific from 3-4 meters depth down to 25 meters depth. 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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lembeh travel information

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How to Get to Lembeh

Most people fly to Manado (MDN) through Singapore (SIN) on a 3.5-hour flight. Silk Air has regular flights.

You can also get a direct flight from Jakarta (CGK) or Bali (DPS) - see our guide to Indonesia's domestic flights for more information. Resorts will usually pick you up at the Manado airport. Two hours after you get your bags, you should be at the resort.  


Dive Resorts in Lembeh Strait

There are a lot of excellent dive resorts in Lembeh Strait with a wide range of pricing. Lembeh Resort is a popular luxury boutique dive resort, famous for its cliffside villa, beautiful ocean-view cottages and excellent diving and hotel services. NAD Lembeh Resort is also a popular option among underwater photographers, featuring comfortable accommodations, photographer-friendly facilities, and experienced well-rounded dive staff.

For more dive resorts in Indonesia, check out our page here...

Where to go AFter Lembeh

Bangka, Siladen, Manado, and Bunaken diving 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.  

Need help choosing a resort and planning your trip to Lembeh? Contact our experienced travel advisors for assistance!


Best Time to Dive in Lembeh Strait

The diving season in Lembeh Strait runs year-round. September to October is a popular period of time. "Rainy season" is technically December to February, but visibility is not bad then, and the rain is not as heavy as you would expect in most parts of Indonesia. 


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 (IDR)
  • Electricity: 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: Visitors from most countries can purchase a 30-day visa upon arrival to Indonesia. Make sure your passport has a blank page and is valid for 6 months.
  • Language: Bahasa Indonesia (literally translates to 'Indonesian Language' since "bahasa" means language) is the official 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. English is commonly spoken at dive facilities. Like in most of Indonesia, people in Lembeh also have their own local dialect.
  • Safety: Lembeh is a pretty safe place. Use common sense in Manado, like you would in any city.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Reviews (10)


The muck diving capital of Indonesia attracts the curious diver and macro underwater photographers. This type of diving rewards the patient, slow moving diver having near perfect buoyancy and good air consumption with amazing critters and their habitat on a black sand or silty bottom. Good buoyancy control and etiquette is essential for good visibility and diver harmony to take care not to stir up the bottom with your fins.

Most of us depend on dive guides that know the sites well and have a super-power for spotting the sometimes miniscule, well camouflaged and unusual bottom dwelling creatures.

My favourites seen are the velvet Rhinopias, hairy frog fish, well any frog fish really, ghost pipe fish, seahorses and coconut octopus as they are all a good size for my camera set-up. The blue-ring octopus and mimic octopus are amazing to watch and so much smaller than one expects.

Most dive sites seem to be a special hangout for a particular species. You may spend 20-30 minutes searching before it is found by your guides. So meanwhile you mooch around until your own eyes become accustomed to the black sands and the small bits of fluff that hide their special jewels, just like a treasure hunt really.

Visited on 10/2022 - Submitted on 03/12/2023

The best muck diving in the world! I only did 2 days of diving here, 8 dive total, but i've seen pygmy seahorse, pygmy cuttlefish, pygmy squid, mimic octopus, coconut octopus, longarm octopus, flamboyant cuttlefish, blue ring octopus, ambon scorpionfish, giant frogfish, painted frogfish, hairy frogfish, pipefish, pipehorse, mandarinfishm the endemic banggai cardinalfish, so many nudibranchs, and a lot more that I don't recall.
The port town of Bitung is the 3rd largest port in Indonesia, and the waters around Lembeh can have a lot of trash, but don't let that stop you from diving here and seeing all the critters.
It is also very easy to combine a trip to Lembeh with a trip to Manado about 90 minutes by car where you can dive the Bunaken National Park.

Visited on 01/2022 - Submitted on 01/27/2022

From our first contact with Tim at Bluewater Travel we were expecting an outstanding trip and we were not disappointed. Everything advertised in the description on the website was accurate. Booking was easy and Tim responded to all of our queries quickly.

NAD Lembeh is a wonderful place for underwater photographers. The boats are easy to dive from, the dive guides know where the critters hide and assist you in every facet of diving. Darn close to complete valet service. The boat crew is very accommodating and works seamlessly with the dive guides to make the experience the best it can be.

As for the diving, well it is Lembeh. Strange and wonderful critters abound. You never know what you are going to see on any dive. The mandarin dive and the black water dive were in addition to our package, but well worth it.

Overall, this is right at the top of our dive travel experiences. Outstanding service all around.

Visited on 10/2018 - Submitted on 11/06/2018
  • 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


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