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Dive Indonesia Part 3: Dive into Lembeh Trip Report

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lembeh

In January The Scuba Place visited Ambon, Raja Ampat and Lembeh hosting a group of friends and divers, and what a blast they had! They stayed at some amazing spots and saw some amazing things! This is their trip report on their third and final stop in Lembeh.

There are well-known diving destinations, and then there are places that have a reputation on a level all on their own. For critters and all things small, weird, and wonderful, there is no place better known than Lembeh.

Lembeh is a small island sitting off the north-eastern coast of Sulawesi, accessed by Manado Airport, then an hour’s drive. Getting to Manado is easy –flights from Jakarta, a major international hub, are direct to Manado and Garuda Indonesia airline gives divers 20kgs of checked baggage plus another 23kgs for scuba equipment, free of charge! What could be better than that?!

Arriving in Manado is civilised – this is a sizeable airport and well-organised. Our baggage came out promptly, and we were met by our resorts’ drivers, popped into lovely, air-conditioned SUVs, and off we set on our journey to Dive into Lembeh.  The first 30 minutes or so of the journey was on the new main road to Bitung – after having navigated the local traffic surrounding the airport of course. Then, we were in the hills and the rural landscape replaced the city buildings.

Passing through the final village, Kasawari, you soon arrive at the resort where a warm greeting from the staff, bearing cold flannels and a tropical punch, awaits! While we sat and chatted and drank our much-needed cold punch, our bags were swept away. We were then escorted to our rooms, and WOW! – they were beautiful!

The rooms are in three categories – Long House, Sea View Bungalows, or a larger Suite.  The Long House is exactly that – a terrace of three rooms in one building and is set back in the gardens. The Long House rooms are twins or doubles and have a shared deck with views toward the sea. The Suite is an oversized room with a bedroom and lounge area and a huge open-air shower room.

lembeh

We stayed in a Sea View Bungalow.  They are at the front of the resort and overlook the water and a few are in front of the beautiful swimming pool too. Each bungalow has a canopy bed (king or twin configuration), a neat storage area with wardrobes and shelving, a day bed for extra storage or a third occupant, and a huge desk with power points with a stocked mini fridge below. There is also an indoor/outdoor bathroom with a walk-in shower.

The rooms are beautifully finished – authentic wood floors, walls, and woven ceilings and all the bungalows and the suite have their own deck to the front with table and chairs, plus the real surprise – a lovely Japanese-style style hot tub. This is, and trust us, the perfect place to sit with a cold beer after a full day of diving!

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The swimming pool is beautiful, and the terraces surrounding it look directly over the strait to the island. If you get any downtime, this is the place to be!  Or there is always the bar! The bar is in the central building together with a comfortable lounge area and of course the restaurant. Cold beers are plenty, but let the expert barman make you a cocktail – the Lembeh Mojito was superb! Imagine a normal mojito and add fresh lemon grass, fresh ginger, and chilli peppers … amazing!

This leads nicely into the food. – a very important part of any dive trip! There is, simply put, loads of it, and it is delicious!

lembeh

The first breakfast is toast and cereals, juice, and hot drinks. This is available all day every day!  The second breakfast is served after the first morning dive, and this is an awesome meal.  A good blend of Western and Indonesian offerings, with eggs cooked to order. Manado porridge, a local dish of savoury oats was delicious, and supported by nasi goreng, mi goreng, rice noodles, waffles, pancakes, and good old bacon.  Everything was cooked beautifully, and we were spoilt!  Fresh fruit was plentiful and with numerous lime, mango and soursop trees on the property, getting your 5-a-day was easy!

Lunch started with the most amazing soups freshly made each day. Three or four main meal selections were served with rice, noodles, potatoes, and tofu – the choice was amazing and the food delicious. Dessert would be fruit at lunchtime and a more substantial offering, normally with ice cream, at dinner, following another amazing main meal!

The chefs are genius – the food is exceptional, and of course, supplied with a choice of hot sambals and chilli relishes ranging from the tongue tingling to the head-melting inferno versions only for the brave (or daft!). The highlight of our week was a hog roast – served with all the trimmings. We had guests with dietary requirements and vegetarian preferences in our group, and they were well catered-to.

After our afternoon dive, we were greeted at the dive centre with hot ginger and lemon grass tea or hot chocolate alongside donuts, cakes, or biscuits. Eat, sleep, dive, and repeat – it is a real way of life here!

lembeh

The lounge and bar area are also a venue for some presentations. Our dive guide, Agust, studied marine biology at university and is a bit of a nudibranch specialist.  He delivered a great 40-minute presentation on his favourite subject. And then Ben, the dive boss and professional photographer of international standing, gave an inspirational talk on creative lighting using torches.  A few of our gang ditched their strobes and tried out some of the techniques Ben taught us with some exceptional results!

The camera room has rinse tanks and airguns outside, with personal cubby spaces and plenty of power points, towels, and storage – the perfect setup for underwater photographers and videographers. Between dives, you do what you need to your camera, and then pop it into a basket back in the rinse tank and it is automatically taken to the boat in time for your next dive.

lembeh

The dive centre is as close to the water as you can get and provides each diver with space for a gear basket and plenty of hanging space. There are rinse tanks right next to the kit room, showers, drying racks, and plenty of benches for pulling on those wetsuits and boots.  Your BCD awaits you on the boat, so absolutely no humping of kit anywhere!

The diving – at last, I hear you say!  Sorry not sorry – the resort is amazing, and it needed to be said! Packages at Dive into Lembeh can be based on two dives a day or three. We say book the three-dive package – you will want to do every possible dive there is, and it is a little cheaper to book in advance than it is to pay for extra dives in resort. Nitrox is available in the resort ($7 per fill or $20 per day) and guided night dives are $35.  Spend a few pennies and do a night dive!  Octopus, bobbit worms, moon head sea slug, nebulose moon snail, stargazers, frogfish…we saw so much!!

lembeh

07:30 is dive one, 10:30 the next, and then the third is at 230pm. The house reef is open all day in daylight hours too and is well worth a dive or three! From the boat, you drop in on muck, black sand, or a sloping seabed with coral bommies and then get your eyes into focus…. there is so much to see.

lembeh

Lembeh is famous for critters – all things weird and wonderful and is well known for frogfish and various species of octopi. Every dive captures the simply amazing nature of the Lembeh Strait.  We saw hairy, striated, painted, and warty frogfish of all shapes and sizes – from the smallest imaginable to the pretty huge.

lembeh

We encountered mimic, wonderpus, reef, long-armed, blue-ringed, and coconut octopus.  There are shrimps of every variety – emperor, Coleman, hairy, skeleton, harlequin, and tiger!

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And crabs – porcelain, pom-pom, candy, and squat lobsters galore, including the amazing purple hairy ones you can find on barrel coral!  We found scorpion fish, sea moths, Ambon scorpionfish, flathead and crocodile snake eels out hunting. And then nudis – hundreds of them! And seahorses and pygmy seahorses and and and and! The list is endless, and we will let our galleries do the talking, but it is safe to say that Lembeh delivered – in buckets!

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The best dive? Getting to spend 45 minutes watching a coconut octopus decide on a new ‘house’ – a bigger and better shell than it was in, and watching it move from one to the other, and then disposing of the old shell by carrying it away from its territory! Just magical.

lembeh

Our guides were exceptional and stayed with us from the beginning of the week to the very end, getting to know our diving styles and preferences and photography skills.  Many of the guides have some experience with underwater photography and were happy to hold torches and make suggestions – underwater!!  They tried their very best to deliver our bucket list and did so for one diver when they found a harlequin shrimp on our last dive!   We were lucky to have one guide for every two divers and we are now ruined forever!

lembeh

I know that there are those who like big stuff and colourful reefs, and I understand that totally – I am like that too. My first proper muck dive was a few years back in the Philippines, and I have been addicted ever since! The ‘yield’ is phenomenal in Lembeh, that being the amount of magical stuff that you see, and I would encourage everyone to give this a proper go. For photographers, macro lenses bring a little frustration at first and then great results – and using a strobe or a torch brings great colour to your photographs. For me, it doesn’t get any better, and I remain addicted to critters.

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And Dive into Lembeh? I am addicted to this place too – it really is, quite simply, brilliant on all counts.

We’re heading back to Indonesia in January 2025 and will be returning to Lembeh after visiting Ambon and Triton Bay.  Check out our brochure with full itinerary here.  Come Dive with Us!

And our friends Anne and Phil Medcalf of Alphamarine Photography are hosting a Photography Workshop at Dive into Lembeh in August 2026. Click here for more information and drop us a line if you’re interested!

lembeh

Key Facts:

  • Getting there :We suggest flying with Emirates from Heathrow to Jakarta via Dubai. From Jakarta you can fly direct to Manado on Garuda Indonesia.  We prefer Garuda with their free 23kg dive equipment baggage policy and the flight is 3 ½ hours.  We were greeted at the airport and transported across the island in comfort.
  • Air temperature : Lembeh enjoys a tropical rainforest climate – average daily temperature throughout the year is 29 to 31°C. The warmest and driest months are August and September and the wettest months are usually November and December
  • Water temperature :An average of 30°C. A 1-3mm full suit or shorty will suit most.
  • Visa requirement : We purchased our Visa on Arrival at the Jakarta airport for $35USD (or 500,000IDR) The visa for an initial period of 30 days. Make sure you have pristine bank notes if paying in USD or exchanged GBP when you get to Indonesia. The bills must be unmarked and undamaged to be accepted.  The Customs Declaration must be completed online and the provided QR code is shown to the Customs officers.
  • Currency : Indonesian Rupiah(IDR) or US Dollar are accepted most places. We exchanged Sterling for Rupiah at the Jakarta airport for an attractive rate.
  • Electricity :230V with European style (round pin) two-prong plugs. Our room and the camera room had extension leads with UK plugs so no adapter was needed.
  • Internet and Wi-Fi :There is wifi in resort and worked well in our room. We were able to email, WhatsApp and post on social media without issue.

lembeh

Price Guide: Expect from £2499 per person based on two sharing a long house room for 7 nights with 18 Dives – 3 boat dives and night dives are offered daily, and the house reef is available during daylight hours. Full board basis with amazing food and includes flights and transfers. Extras : Indonesian Visa on Arrival, soft drinks and adult beverages, and tips.

Our Advice: Indonesia is an amazing destination.  Dive into Lembeh was the last top on our three-centre trip and we felt it was the perfect ending to an amazing holiday!

Packing tips :

  • Rechargeable fan(s) :If you’ve read any of our recent trip reports we recommend these over and over again. Perfect for warm planes, stuffy transfers and still evenings.  We can’t believe we travelled without them for so many years! Join the fan club and grab one off Amazon… you won’t regret it!
  • Travel laundry line :  We find this comes in handy for any mid holiday hand washing and definitely at the end of the trip to hang SMBs, reels, dive socks etc.
  • Insect repellent :We’ve made a habit of throwing some repellent in our dive bags every trip!

Sunscreen : Don’t forget to protect yourself when you’re in the sun and on the water!!

lembeh

Come Dive with Us!

The Scuba Place designs and builds custom scuba diving holidays.  With personal knowledge and experience diving in many of our destinations, there is no one better to help build your dream dive holiday.  Come Dive with Us!

Call us at 020 3515 9955 or email at reservations@thescubaplace.co.uk

Find us at https://www.thescubaplace.co.uk

Facebook :  https://www.facebook.com/thescubaplace

Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/the.scuba.place/

YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCH684OdioYirI-zzdT58Ceg

Flickr : https://www.flickr.com/photos/thescubaplace/albums

The Scuba Genies are John and Mona Spencer-Ades, owners and Directors of ATOL and ABTA bonded Tour Operator and Travel Agency, The Scuba Place Ltd. The Scuba Place design and custom-build exceptional diving holidays around the globe, and have been doing so since 2011. They provide travel services to groups, clubs, buddy-pairs and individuals, and have a wealth of hands on experience when it comes to destinations as they are fanatical divers themselves. John has been diving over 30 years and is a PADI Dive Master, having logged over 2600 dives. Mona started her diving career in 2004, and has logged over 600 dives – she is currently a PADI Rescue Diver. The Scuba Place also provide hosted trips to both new and their favourite destinations each year, providing expert support, under their banner ‘Come Dive with Us!’ Previous trips have been to the Philippines, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Bonaire, Florida, the Maldives, Malta, Bahamas, Thailand, Truk Lagoon, Grenada, St Lucia, Cozumel, Cuba and Egypt. For 2022 and beyond, Palau, Bali, Raja Ampat, Ambon and Coron are in the planning stage.

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The Ocean Cleanup to Complete 100th Extraction Live from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

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the ocean cleanup
  • The Ocean Cleanup marks 100th extraction of plastic pollution from the Pacific Ocean by livestreaming entire cleaning operation from start to finish.
  • Occasion brings together supporters, partners, donors and followers as the project readies its cleanup technology for scale-up.
  • Founder and CEO Boyan Slat to provide insight on the plans ahead.

The Ocean Cleanup is set to reach a milestone of 100 plastic extractions from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Extraction #100, scheduled for 28 or 29 May 2024, will be the first ever to be livestreamed direct from the Pacific Ocean, allowing supporters and partners around the world to see up close how the organization has removed over 385,000 kilograms (nearly 850,000 lbs) of plastic from the GPGP so far – more than double the bare weight of the Statue of Liberty.

the ocean cleanup

The mission of The Ocean Cleanup is to rid the oceans of plastic. To do this, the non-profit project employs a dual strategy: cleaning up legacy floating plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (the world’s largest accumulation of floating plastic), while stopping the flow of plastic from the world’s most polluting rivers.

The Ocean Cleanup captured its first plastic (the first ‘extraction’) in the GPGP in 2019 with System 001, following years of trials and testing with a variety of concepts. Through System 002 and now the larger and more efficient System 03, the organization has consistently improved and optimized operations, and is now preparing to extract plastic trash from the GPGP for the 100th time.

the ocean cleanup

Extraction #100 will be an interactive broadcast showing the entire extraction procedure live and in detail, with insight provided by representatives from across The Ocean Cleanup and partners contributing to the operations.

This is an important milestone in a key year for The Ocean Cleanup.’ said Boyan Slat, Founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup. ‘We’ve come a long way since our first extraction in 2019. During the 2024 season, with System 03, we aim to demonstrate that we are ready to scale up, and with it, confine the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to the history books.

the ocean cleanup

The livestream will be hosted on The Ocean Cleanup’s YouTube channel and via X. Monitor @theoceancleanup for confirmed timings.

www.theoceancleanup.com

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Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

Book Review: Plankton

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Plankton: A Worldwide Guide by Tom Jackson and Jennifer Parker

This is a book that jumps off the shelf at you. The striking front cover demands that you pick it up and delve further, even if you may not have known you wanted to learn more about the most diminutive life in our ocean, plankton!

Small it might be. Much of the imagery in the book has been taken under huge magnification. Revealing stunning beauty and diversity in each scoop of “soup”. There is lots to learn. Initial chapters include interesting facts about the different vertical zones they inhabit, from sunlight to midnight (the darkest and deepest areas). I loved finding out more about the stunning show that divers oft encounter on night dives – bioluminescence.

The black water images are wonderful. So this is a book you can have as a coffee table book to dip in and our of. But, these tiny organisms are also vital to our very survival and that of all the marine life we love. They provide half the oxygen produced on our planet. They are also responsible for regulating the planets climate. And for a shark lover like me – they are food for charismatic sharks and rays like the Basking Shark and Manta Ray, along with a huge number of other species. This book contains great insight into their biology, life cycles, migration, and how the changes in currents and sea temperatures affects them.

This is a book that is both beautiful and packed with information about possibly the most important group of organisms on our planet. Anyone interested in the ocean should have it one their shelves.

What the publisher says:

Plankton are the unsung heroes of planet Earth. Passive drifters through the world’s seas, oceans, and freshwater environments, most are invisible or very small, but some are longer than a whale. They are the global ocean’s foundation food, supporting almost all oceanic life, and they are also vitally important for land-based plants, animals, and other organisms. Plankton provides an incomparable look at these remarkable creatures, opening a window on the elegance and grace of microscopic marine life.

This engaging book reveals the amazing diversity of plankton, how they belong to a wide range of living groups, and how their ecology, lifestyles, and adaptations have evolved to suit an enormous range of conditions. It looks at plankton life cycles, the different ways plankton feed and grow, and the vast range of strategies they use for reproduction. It tracks where, how, and why plankton drift through the water; shares perspectives on migrations and population explosions or “blooms” and why they happen; and discusses the life-sustaining role of plankton in numerous intertwined food webs throughout the world.

Beautifully illustrated, Plankton sheds critical light on how global warming, pollution, diminishing resources, and overexploitation will adversely impact planktonic life, and how these effects will reverberate to every corner of our planet.

About the Authors:

Tom Jackson is a science writer whose many popular books include Strange Animals and Genetics in MinutesJennifer Parker is a zoology and conservation writer and the author of several books. Andrew Hirst is a leading expert on plankton whose research has taken him around the world, from the Antarctic to Greenland and the Great Barrier Reef.

Book Details

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Hardcover

Price: £25

ISBN: 9780691255996

Published: 9th April, 2024

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