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)

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

Ten years ago, I visited a website called Dancing Fish, created by a woman who enjoyed UW photography and published it on her webpage. I could not believe the creature that were featured on her site! The destination was called Lembeh Strait, and strange creatures that I never even imagined existed covered page after page of her site. A tiny but deadly octopus with iridescent blue rings? Another octopus that could change shape in an instant to imitate other creatures? Beautiful, tiny, colorful seahorses that were no larger than a grain of rice? Frogfish of every size and every color, even hairy ones? Hundreds of beautiful, colorful worms. I knew I could never see these creatures anywhere in the US or in the Caribbean. From this day, ten years ago, I have dreamed of going to Lembeh!

In 2012, I visited Lembeh Strait with my husband and I was blown away. Diving Lembeh Strait was not just what I expected, it was more magnificent than I could ever dream! During every single dive, our dive master, Opo would keep a list of the critters we saw on our dive. On our first dive alone, I saw 20 critters that I had never seen and, quite frankly, most of them I had never even heard of! The diving continued, and after 14 days our list still contained amazing critters that I still had not seen! Oh, and THE NIGHT DIVING!!!! WOW!!

We loved diving LS so much that we returned again this year for another two weeks. Amazingly, we saw just as many new and interesting critters this time around! I have to say this is my very favorite diving destination. I cannot imagine that I could love another place more!

The majority of diving in Lembeh Strait is muck diving. When I first jumped in and reached the bottom, I thought, “What can I possibly see in this black sand with hardly any coral?” I was absolutely amazed at what seemed to pop out of plain nothingness! Frogfish, clownfish, scorpionfish, blue ring octopus, mimic octopus, wonderpus, flamboyant cuttlefish, nudibranchs, and more varieties of crazy shrimp and crabs than you could ever imagine! Most of the critters in Lembeh Strait are tiny. Possibly the largest creature you would see would be a small cuttlefish, a giant frogfish about the size of a small child’s baseball mitt, or a small blue spotted stingray. If you love macro photography, love the thrill of discovering new critters, or love observing AMAZING marine life behavior, then you will absolutely adore Lembeh Strait.

I would not necessarily recommend visiting Lembeh for the non-diver. There is not a lot to do on the island itself, but many visitors travel to the mainland and visit Tangkoko National Park, where visitors can see the smallest primate in the world, the Tarsier, and also the dramatic Black Crested Macaques. A short boat ride, and 1.5 hours by van can get you to the park. You must be able to hike quite a way to find the Tarsiers.

Lembeh Island is located off of the North East tip of Sulawesi in Indonesia. It is not always easy to find flights to Lembeh. From the US, you may need to fly into Singapore, Denpasar, or Jakarta and then chose an Indonesian airline to get you to Manado. A two hour shuttle ride and a short boat ride will bring you to the island of Lembeh. Indonesian Airline tickets cannot be purchased in the United States. Your tour operator or resort will often be able to arrange your flight for you. Because of the multiple flights that are necessary, airfare to Lembeh can be a little pricey, but SOOO WORTH IT!!!

Here are a couple of tips if you are interested in diving Lembeh Strait. Make sure you have good buoyancy control. Black sand is easy to stir up and it is difficult for other divers to see the amazing critters! BRING A CAMERA!!! You will be glad you did! Do your research and plan your trip well in advance. Make a budget for all expenses including inter-island flights and shuttles. Pack sparingly!!! The inter-island flights have a VERY small luggage allowance and charge high prices for overage.

Visited on 11/2013 - Submitted on 01/25/2014

I visited Lembeh in October 2013, making 22 dives over the course of eight days. All of the rave reviews of the area I had read are fully justified; it really is a macro photographer's paradise. I came to Lembeh with quite a long list of critters that I wanted to see, and our accommodating dive guide found all of them bar one, plus many more besides. Only the mandarin fish eluded us, but I think this was more due to our dive resort being somewhat protective of their dwindling habitat.

Just a sample of the creatures we saw would include seahorses, wunderpus, mimic octopus, blue ringed octopus, rhinopia, harlequin shrimp, flamboyant cuttlefish, many type of frogfish (including hairy) and countless exotic nudibranchs. Every dive was within a 15 minute boat ride from the resort, and there really never was a dull moment, with our dive guide constantly finding us something new to check out. Every single dive was a highlight, but I particularly enjoyed Pantai Parigi, Nudi Falls and Nudi Retreat.

Max depths ranged from 5m to 28m, and the visibility was better than I expected - 10-20m.

Highly recommended to lovers of small critters, and if at least one your party doesn't bring a camera you'll seriously regret it. Don't expect any large pelagic life - the largest fish I saw was a pinnate batfish.

Flight were via Singapore with SilkAir.

Visited on 10/2013 - Submitted on 01/27/2014

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

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


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