A beautiful purple rhinopias, photographed in the Lembeh Strait. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)
A beautiful purple rhinopias, photographed in the Lembeh Strait. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)

The strange creatures of Lembeh

#Sulawesi # Indonesia

  Indonesia: Sulawesi - July 2007

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text: 


I moved to Lembeh Island, on the west coast of North Sulawesi (Indonesia), just opposite the big port of Bitung. At the bottom of the strait, hidden in the black sand, live small underwater monsters which are the joy of the photographers divers.

In the heart of the Lembeh Strait

In this month of July 2007, I put down for a few days my bags at the Divers Lodgeon Lembeh Island (North Sulawesi, Indonesia). Rob, the Dutchman who runs this small diving resort with his Indonesian wife Linda, picked me up by car in Manado and drove me to the port of Bitung.

Then the crossing of the strait to the resort on Lembeh Island takes 15-20 minutes.

Small boats come and go in front of the docks of Bitung port. (Sulawesi, July 2007)
Small boats come and go in front of the docks of Bitung port. (Sulawesi, July 2007)
Attached to our boat, one of those innumerable little wooden "ferries" that shuttles with the island of Lembeh, opposite. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)
Leaned against our boat, one of those countless small wooden "ferries" that shuttle to Lembeh Island, opposite. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)
Atmosphere on one of the many pontoons of the port of Bitung. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)
Atmosphere on one of the many pontoons of the port of Bitung. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)

I had booked from France, just before leaving, a small package "3 days of diving + 4 nights" via her website, having learned, during my email exchanges with Christiane de Froggies that Rob was full for the month of July from the 6th ...

Oh, dear! That was close. I thought I'd show up like that and advise on the spot, as I often do, I almost missed the opportunity to dive in the Lembeh Strait.

And it would have been a shame, really. It will be the most extraordinary dives of my stay in Sulawesi ...

A beautiful purple rhinopias, photographed in the Lembeh Strait. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)
A beautiful purple rhinopias, photographed in the Lembeh Strait. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)

In Lembeh, there are almost only luxury resorts, not within my means. Divers Lodge is one of the few affordable diving structures, with the Sulawesi Dive Quest neighbour.

Rob and Linda's little resort is a haven of peace, nestled in the middle of greenery. Its pretty wooden bungalows, tastefully furnished, are equipped with all the comforts (real shower and hot water, aaaaahh!). They all have huge bay windows with an exquisite view of the small bay with jade waters, on the ocean side, lined with coconut trees.

Clarification. As a reminder, this article dates back to 2007 and the offer to Lembeh has grown considerably since then. There are now more choices of dive centers, for all budgets. In 2010Then in 2017, I returned to the Divers Lodge, which has kept very affordable rates, always with the possibility of a private guide under water or in small committee, a happiness for underwater photographers ...

Delicate attention for underwater photographers: there is a real power strip in the chamber, to recharge the batteries.

I'm enjoying the peace and quiet. Here, we are far from the crowds and the bustle of the port. Simple luxury, calm and pleasure...

Unobstructed view of the small bay, ocean side, from the terrace of my bungalow at Divers Lodge Lembeh. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)
Unobstructed view of the small bay, ocean side, from the terrace of my bungalow at Divers Lodge Lembeh. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)
My room at Divers Lodge Lembeh, simple but provided with all the comfort I need. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)
My room at Divers Lodge Lembeh, simple but provided with all the comfort I need. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)
The spectacular silhouette of Klabat Volcano dominates the Lembeh Strait. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)
The spectacular silhouette of Klabat Volcano dominates the Lembeh Strait. (Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)

Extraordinary dives

the Divers LodgeThe resort is isolated on the southern part of Lembeh Island, so we live in a closed area, between divers. I immediately get on well with Teresa, a very funny Swiss girl from Zurich, who has been coming here for many years to do underwater photography.

She's a biter, with more than 700 dives in the strait... Teresa is equipped with a much larger camera than my compact, with a big housing and external flash. She makes superb images, which she also puts online. Her personal website, here: Starfish.ch.

Diving in the Lembeh Strait differs completely from that of Bunaken. Here is the muck-dive...literally "mud-dipping". That is to say that instead of diving on a drop-off or a reef, we explore a bottom that is not really mud, but a substrate of sediment and sand, here volcanic black, with its share of detritus related to the activity of the port and the nearby villages, in water often heavily laden with particles and debris ...

And by gently palming, above this background not very clear, we discover a thousand and one underwater creatures of the weirdest, as we found none elsewhere, stashed in the debris or under the sand ...

It is suddenly a sheet that starts to swim (fish-leaf). A hippocampus that surreptitiously detaches from a piece of yellow algae. A scorpionfish that emerges from a cloud of gray sand. A toadfish or frog fish (antennal, in good French), barely visible against a piece of rock, which shakes his lure, a kind of mini-fishing rod attached to his head, which allows him to attract his prey near his mouth ...

It's really extraordinary!

In the family of scorpion fish, I ask for yellow! (Lembeh, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)
In the family of scorpion fish, I ask for yellow! (Lembeh, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)
A toad fish in action. I triggered the battery at the right moment .... When it opens its jaws to catch its prey by sudden suction of water, it only lasts a fraction of a second! (Lembeh, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)
An antennae (toadfish or frogfish) in full action. I triggered just in time.... When it opens its mouth to catch its prey by sudden water suction, it only lasts a fraction of a second! (Lembeh, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)
Another toad fish, very small, that one, and "hairy"! (Lembeh, Sulawesi, Indonesia)
Another toadfish, this one very small and "hairy"! (Lembeh, Sulawesi, Indonesia)
A shy seahorse is trying to hide. (Lembeh, Sulawesi, Indo-Lesy, July 2007)
A shy seahorse is trying to hide. (Lembeh, Sulawesi, Indo-Lesy, July 2007)
A kind of sand eel, completely buried in the sand, which leaves only its head. (Lembeh, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)
A kind of sand eel, completely buried in the sand, which leaves only its head. (Lembeh, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)
A young fish-toad shakes its lure. (Lembeh, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)
A young fish-toad shakes its lure. (Lembeh, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)
Another scorpion fish, bristling with venomous spines. (Lembeh, Sulawesi, Indonesia)
Another scorpion fish, bristling with venomous spines. (Lembeh, Sulawesi, Indonesia)

Lembeh, a paradise for underwater photographers

Here again, the trained eye of our Indonesian guides is indispensable ... Teresa and I have a guide and a boat for us all. It is, as in Froggies, diving luxury, I must say.

My guide Atu is careful to always put a hood. That way, he does not catch otitis, he ... (Lembeh, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)
My guide Atu is careful to always put a hood. That way, he does not catch otitis, he ... (Lembeh, Sulawesi, Indonesia, July 2007)

Our guide Atu, is a young Indonesian with hesitant English, but super talented to find the critters we want. These ladies want a hairy frogfish (hairy frogfish, hairy or hairy, as you like) for the morning dive? Never mind, it is almost enough to place an order to have the beast... Atu finds everything!

Lembeh, this is truly an underwater photographer's paradise. I enjoy myself, in spite of the water rather "cold" to my taste, in this season, 25-26°C maximum. I go out shivering with each dive, in my too thin 3 mm suit (which is actually a surf suit bought cheaply, and not really adapted for diving).

All these particles in suspension in the water gave me an ear infection (a classic among the little ailments of divers). I treat it properly with the appropriate drops, which here bear the evocative name of Ottopain (the equivalent is marketed in France under the name Panotile). Atu is very careful to always wear a hood. That way, he doesn't get an ear infection...

Other articles on the Lembeh Strait

→ Rusty cargos and black sand
→ Nudibranchs forever
→ The mini-monsters of Lembeh

See also → All my articles about Lembeh

  Indonesia: Sulawesi - July 2007

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