Diving Lembeh
September ~ October 2008




The first map below gives you an idea of where Lembeh Island is in relation to Manado.  The second map shows the dive sites in the strait that we dove during our stay.  We did multiple dives at several sites looking for that Hairy Frogfish and a Flamboyant Cuttlefish.  Two critters on our "wish to see" list that we didn't find.  I think we were the only guests that week that didn't see the Hairy Frogfish.  Oh well, if we needed a reason to return there we have it.  We dove with Aluminum 80's and a consistant 32% Nitrox mix all week.

Below the maps is a summary of our dives during our stay on Lembeh Island with links to the photos from each dive.



Saturday, September 20th Diving

Bulau Abodi ~ Mainland Sulawesi - We had some lunch and headed out with our guide Atu in the Indah V boat and were diving at our first site by 1:50PM.  Our crew of Ondos and Fadly were there to help with anything we needed and there was an ease and comfortable fit right off the bat.  This was a murky sloping site with lots of coral and crevices for hiding Cuttlefish and Ringed Pipefish.  We saw several Nudibranchs, Filefish, Spiny Lobsters, Black Spotted Puffers, Lionfish and Spine Cheeked Anemonefish.  The highlights were the really BIG Burrfish with a suckerfish stuck to him and the tiny Pigmy Seahorses that Atu pointed out.  An easy dive for one hour and 6 minutes with a maximum depth of 78 feet.

Police Pier 2 ~ Mainland Sulawesi - Our second dive this afternoon started at 4:11PM down a bit from the main Police Pier.  Here we saw some cute Balloonfish in the rubble, lots of urchins and Zebra Lionfish, Nudibranchs and a Juvenile Many Spotted Sweetlips.  There were Benggai Cardinalfish, some nice Frogfish, a Spiny Devilfish and Mantis Shrimp as well as Zebra Crabs, Filefish and Gobies.  Everywhere we turned was another critter.  It was good dive for one hour and 7 minutes with a maximum depth of 86 feet.

Click the album below to see the photos from September 20th.

Or the movie camera for a video.



Sunday, September 21st Diving

Nudi Retreat ~ Mainland Sulawesi - Our first full day on the boat (changed to Indah III boat for the rest of the week) in Lembeh  was warm and sunny and we started off with a dive at 8:36AM.  This site starts on sloping sand to a cliff drop off and even an underwater cave with a great view of a Disco Clam, actually called a Flashing Fileshell Clam.  We saw Pegasus Seamoths, Flying Gurnards, Winged Pipefish, Anemonefish, Frogfish, Black Spotted Puffers and lots of Nudibranchs.  Also saw a Cockatoo Waspfish and a Moray Eel.  The waters are a bit colder than they were in Bunaken and we are glad we have 5mm suits and would be wearing our beanies or hoods for the entire week.  This dive was one hour and 13 minutes with a maximum depth of 90 feet.

Kuda Laut 2 ~ Mainland Sulawesi - Our next dive on this morning would be close by against the mainland again at 11:08AM.  It was another black sand site where we saw more Seamoths and Gurnards as well as a Cuttlefish, a Thorny Seahorse, Nudibranchs, Lionfish, Trumpetfish and a juvenile Blue Ribbon Eel.  We spotted a tiny baby Guineafowl Puffer.  The size of a big marble, she was just starting to get some shape other than round.  Our dive was one hour and 12 minutes and 71 feet for a maximum depth.  And then it was lunchtime parked in the cove where I got some rays laying on the front of the boat.

Teluk Kembahu 3 ~ Mainland Sulawesi - This cove would be a regular dive spot this week and with the various sites known as TK 1, 2 and 3 would offer some diving variety in close proximity.  It is also a favorite place to spend lunchtime surface intervals and we often saw other Divers Lodge boats as well as other operators anchored here.  The village on the shoreline was usually peppered with children playing in the sand and waving and watching all the scuba divers.  We dove at 1:30PM for an hour and 16 minutes.  Also a sloping black sand site with lots of Scorpionfish, including an Ambon Scorpionfish and Spiny Devilfish.  There were Ornate Ghost Pipefish and Robust Ghost Pipefish, tiny Nudibranchs, the ever present Lionfish, Puffers and Waspfish.  There were several Painted Frogfish from Orange to Red and even a grey-ish, lavender one.  Our maximum depth was 62 feet.

Nudi Retreat / dusk ~ Mainland Sulawesi - We went back to Nudi Retreat for a early dusk dive at 4:25PM hoping to see the Hairy Frogfish (he evaded us the entire trip).  The water was much rougher and there was a lot of trash in the surge.  We still managed to see a lot of critters including an orange Spearing Mantis Shrimp in his hole, a tiny orange Cuttlefish, some nice Nudibranchs and Shrimp.  There were big Sea Cucumbers of course and one had a great Emperor Shrimp specimen in his back.  Ghost Pipefish and a Seahorse were both present.  Our dive lasted one hour and 2 minutes and we kept our depth at 65 feet or less.

Click the album below to see the photos from September 21st.

Or the movie camera for a video.



Monday, September 22nd Diving

Pantai Parigi ~ Lembeh Island - Today we lost Ondos to another boat and met our new crew member Iwan.  We dove in front of a village on the shoreline of Lembeh Island at 9:36AM.  The sloping gray sand was home to Ambon Scorpionfish, Flying Gurnards, and Frogfish.  In one spot there was a large tube Anemone with a big hairy Orangutang Crab on one side and a little Swimmer crab on the other.  There were lots of Flounders, some Blue Spotted Rays, and both Ornate and Robust Ghost Pipefish.  Saw a nice pair of Leaf Scorpionfish one yellow and one brown.  At the end of the one hour and 13 minute dive we noticed the really odd sight of a large Anemone with half a fish sticking out.  The anemone's are poisonous and apparently this one was eating the fish...very weird.  Our maximum depth was 74 feet.

Air Prang ~ Mainland Sulawesi - Straight across from the first dive we dove against the mainland in some choppy waters at 12:14PM.  This site is covered with Leather coral and Flower Pot Coral.  There were swirls of colorful juveniles and lots of Banggai Cardinalfish and Scorpionfish.  We saw a tiny juvenile Cowfish, lots of Burrfish and Nudibranchs.  There was a great colorful Peacock Smashing Mantis Shrimp in a soda can and the star of this dive was the big purple PaddleFlap Scorpionfish that just posed for picture after picture.  It was a nice dive for one hour and 20 minutes and a maximum depth of 66 feet.

Teluk Kembahu 3 ~ Mainland Sulawesi - After lunch at 3:45PM we headed back up to TK 3, to see if the Hairy Frogfish could be found.  He couldn't.  But we did see a couple of Octopi.  Both a Mimic and a White Octopus were on hand to show off.  There were Scorpionfish, Hermit Crabs, Boxer Crabs, Waspfish and Blue Dragon Nudibranchs.  We also saw our first Melibe viridis Nudibranch and those guys are weird.  They are big with about 8 large lobes arranged in two rows along the length of their body.  They trap small prey with an expandable 'hood' for a mouth.  Its creepy to watch them crawling along the sand.  There were  Flounders and Dragonets and Snake Eels as well.  As we were heading back up toward the shallows to end the dive a juvenile Burrfish decided to adopt us.  He swam between Bill and I all the way to the surface, lost and confused.  Atu took him back to the sand as we got out of the water but he just came back to the surface.  Hopefully he made it back to a safe place.  We kept it shallow with a maximum depth of 48 feet on this one hour and 20 minute dive.

Air Prang Shallows ~ Mainland Sulawesi - We decided to do a night dive at 6:15PM back at the sandy shallow part of Air Prang.  Saw several free swimming Moray and Conger Eels.  An Ambon Scorpionfish some Box Crabs, Mantis Shrimp, Flat Heads, Nudibranchs, Flounders and watched a StarGazer bury itself and wait for prey to swim past.  It was a nice hour and 7 minute dive with a maximum depth of only 38 feet.  It was our first and only sighting of Stargazers on the trip.  we headed back to Divers Lodge for a late dinner with smiles from a good day of diving.

Click the album below to see the photos from September 22nd.

Or the movie camera for a video.



Tuesday, September 23rd Diving

Mawali Wreck ( or Tanduk Rusa) ~ In the Strait - Atu suggested we start our day of diving at 8:18AM with the Mawali wreck in the middle of the strait.  This 300 ft long Japanese freighter was sank in 1943 and lies on its port side in about 100ft.  Because it has been there for so long it has massive coral growth and is home to a number of creatures.  There was quite a bit of particulate in the water so the visibility wasn't great for pictures but without much current it wasn't bad.  There were Lionfish everywhere around as well as schools of Batfish, lots of Angels, Damsels and Triggerfish.  Large Anemones dotted the wreck and were home to Porcelain Crabs and Anemonefish.  There were several Scorpionfish and along the side was home to a few Pigmy Seahorses.  We saw a lot of Nudibranch activity and variety as well.  It was a nice change of scenery from the black sand muck diving prevalent in Lembeh.  Ondos was back in our crew and after the one hour and 3 minute dive, asked if we saw any zoombies (said with a strong Indonesian accent).  I'm glad he didn't tell me about the zombies before the dive....  Maximum depth was 103 feet.

Hairball 2 (or Hairball Too) ~ Mainland Sulawesi - The second dive at 10:51 that morning was back to the sloping black sand.  Again we saw several Lionfish and Orbicular Burrfish.  When we dropped in we watched several large white squid laying eggs on the mooring line.  There were Ornate and Robust Ghost Pipefish, a big Map Puffer, Flounders, Porcelain Crabs, Nudibranchs and a nice Shortnosed Boxfish.  The surface was a bit choppy from the wind but underwater there was little surge.  The dive was one hour and 18 minutes and had a maximum depth of 66 feet.

Teluk Kembahu 1 ~ Mainland Sulawesi - After lunch on the boat anchored in front of the village, where the water was calmer we dove at 1:43PM to find a very large green Frogfish that is known to hang out at the TK1 site.  We also watched the Helmut Gurnards and Spiny Devilfish pecking around in the sand.  Ornate Ghost Pipefish, Scorpionfish, Nudibranchs and smaller Warty Frogfish made appearances as well.  There were some nice Blue Ribbon Eels here both juvenile and adult and a Snowflake Moray Eel swimming among the seaweed.  It was easy diving for one hour and 18 minutes (same as the previous dive) and a maximum depth of 61 feet.

Teluk Kembahu 3 ~ Mainland Sulawesi - After our boat crew helped the locals in the village pull in their fishing nets (quite fun to watch the cooperation to achieve this fete), we dove again at 4:33PM looking for that Hairy Frogfish.  And again he didn't appear.  Atu found an Octopus trying to hide in a clear plastic bag and coaxed him out for a bit of fun.  Once he realized there was no food involved he slithered right back to his illusion of safety.  We found a Smashing Mantis Shrimp very willing to pose for photos, lots of Nudibranchs and a bright orange Painted Frogfish as well as Spiny Devilfish, Lionfish and Waspfish among others.  This last dive of the day was one hour and 11 minutes long with a maximum depth of 46 feet.

Click the album below to see the photos from September 23rd.

Or the movie camera for a video.



Wednesday, September 24th Diving

Police Pier 1 ~ Mainland Sulawesi - We started our morning diving at 8:18AM right next to the main Police Pier, where there was quite a bit of activity cleaning fish traps and milling about.  It was a sandy slope with lots of trash for colorful critters to hide in.  There was a big yellow Seahorse and a bright Orange Box Crab and a Painted Frogfish.  Scorpionfish and Spiny Devilfish were hanging out here as well.  Saw a nice Blue Ribbon Eel, a Snowflake Moray Eel and a Cockatoo Waspfish along with the many Lionfish and some new Nudibranchs.  Another posing Mantis Shrimp and a tiny white Cuttlefish were highlights.  The dive was one hour and 7 minutes and had a maximum depth of 78 feet.

Magic Rock ~ Mainland Sulawesi - We moved north for our second dive at 11:05AM to a site near Nudi Retreat.  There were many Nudibranchs and  along the wall where the sandy slope ends some Pigmy Seahorses.  The Coral was abundant and home to Scorpionfish, Mantis Shrimp, Lobsters and huge Anemones with their Pink Anemonefish.  Found a nice Orangutang Crab in a Bubble Coral and saw lots of Juvenile, Butterflyfish, Anthias and Damsels.  It was a fun and relaxing dive with good visibility for one hour and 14 minutes and we went as deep as 90 feet along the wall.

Hairball ~ Mainland Sulawesi - We moved on north after lunch to a site with much less visibility to dive in some sandy muck.   We saw a lot of the weird Melibe viridis Nudibranchs here along with a nice brown Seahorse, some Cockatoo Waspfish, a lot of Lionfish and Orbicular Burrfish.  There were some Pipefish, Sandperch and Sap Sucking Slugs here as well.  The site was murky but we did see unusual Nudibranchs and a Stargazer Snake Eel that we hadn't seen before.  We dove for one hour and 14 minutes with a maximum depth of 64 feet.

Air Prang toward Jahir ~ Mainland Sulawesi - For our last dive with Atu (he would be off for the next two days), we did a dusk dive to see the Mandarinfish and into a night dive starting at 5:05PM.  We watched the Mandarinfish and were able to witness several pairs courting and mating.  We also saw a great Cuttlefish, a couple of Octopi, lots of Hermit and Decorator Crabs, a juvenile Sweetlips, Scrawled Filefish, a Spearing Mantis and a huge Flatworm.   It was a shallow, relaxing dive with a maximum depth of only 25 feet for one hour and 26 minutes.

Click the album below to see the photos from September 24th.

Or the movie camera for a video.



Thursday, September 25th Diving

California Dreaming ~ Lembeh Island - Since Atu was off we were diving with Iwan as our guide and Jhony joined Fadly as crew.  By the end of the day we realized just how important your dive guide is while diving in Lembeh.  Atu was, simply put, a much better guide and in general a much better diver.  This first dive at 8:46AM was far north and a nice easy wall with good coral.  The water was pretty clear and we saw a lot of pretty Moorish Idols, Butterflyfish, Damselfish and juveniles.  At one point a nice sized (BIG) Cuttlefish put on a show by changing his appearance and color many times.  We saw several Shrimp, Nudibranchs, Porcelain Crabs and a huge interesting Sea Cucumber.  We spent quite a bit of time at depth (maximum was 86 feet) and Bill's tank got very low.  When we couldn't get Iwan's attention we just surfaced together.  This was to be the norm while diving with Iwan.  The dive was just under an hour and the boat crew were right there to help when we surfaced.

Aw Shucks ~ Mainland Sulawesi - We moved over to the mainland to dive the far north area at 10:57AM before lunch.  We saw some Shrimps, Nudibranchs and Gobis here along with the usual Lionfish and Anemonefish.  There were some large interesting Coral heads but the hour and 3 minute dive was rather uneventful and we realized Iwan wasn't going to find a lot of things to show us.  Our maximum depth was 79 feet.  Our lunch was some weird eggplant dish I didn't care for-the only time in the whole trip I didn't eat much, Bill, however, ate my portion.  We decided we would not count on Iwan to find anything for us and just enjoy the remainder of our dives.

Batu Sandar ~ Lembeh Island - This site was at a pinnacle that breaks the surface near the northern part of Lembeh Island.  We really enjoyed this site, diving in at 1:32PM to a sandy area with spotty coral heads.  There were Garden Eels and Sea Pens in the sand.  The bottom of the pinnacle was covered with colorful coral and the visibility was really nice.  There were lots of juveniles, Anemones and interesting Nudibranchs.  The dive was one hour and 4 minutes and there was enough pretty fish and coral that Bill and I could occupy ourselves happily.  We dove to a maximum depth of 68 feet.

Teluk Kembahu 3 ~ Mainland Sulawesi - Back to TK3 for our last dive of the day at 3:52PM, we weren't hopeful of seeing the Hairy Frogfish this time though.  The visibility was quite bad and most of the time we couldn't even see Iwan.  We did, however, see several Scorpionfish, some Shrimps and Nudibranchs and a Snake Eel surrounded by Squat Lobsters.  Up in the shallows along with the rubbish we found a Toxic Flower Sea Urchin and watched the Cardinalfish swim amongst the spines of the Diadem Urchin.  We dove to a maximum depth of 56 feet.  At the end of the one hour and 8 minute dive we came up to the villagers blasting pop music from a boombox and cooking their catch of the day on the beach.  The children were playing in the water and it was a festive atmosphere as we climbed aboard the boat.

Click the album below to see the photos from September 25th.

Or the movie camera for a video.



Friday, September 26th Diving

Angels Window ~ Lembeh Island - We decided to add a couple dives this morning as we wouldn't be leaving Manado until the  afternoon on the 27th, easily allowing for a twenty-four hour off gassing period before flying.  The two Gary's (other guests at the lodge) had told us about a swim through at this site so we asked Iwan to take us there, figuring it would be a good alternative to cruising the muck for critters.  We descended into rough water and a current that increased dramatically as we went deeper.  We immediately entered a cave-like swim though that had an impressive amount of coral growth where we saw several Nudibranchs.  Coming out the other side, we went deep (maximum depth 104 feet) where I found a tiny little white cuttlefish clinging to a piece of coral in a strong current.  Iwan continued deeper but Bill and I moved up and around the outside of the rocky reef.  We could see Iwan below and ahead of us.  The current was picking up and so far the dive was not fun but becoming a struggle against the current.  Failing to get Iwan's attention we decided to end the dive and began to ascend with Iwan trailing.  It was a disappointing 39 minute dive that had possibilities if we had either followed the current or hung in the shallows where it didn't seem as strong.  The boat raced out to pick us up, surprised by the short dive.

Pantai Parigi ~ Lembeh Island - Wanting to end the trip on a higher note we opted to go back to this sloping sandy site that would allow for some easy diving and where we were sure to see something interesting.  We started the dive at 10:37AM watching the Flying Gurnards, some Blue Spotted Rays, swirling schools of Striped Catfish and a big Mantis Shrimp peeking out of his hole.  A tube Anemone was home to several big Spider Crabs, a very hairy Orangutang Crab and a Zebra Crab.  There were Snake Eels and Urchins and Shrimps.  There were Moorish Idols and Black Saddled Tobys and a Snowflake Moray.  At one point Bill put his hand down near a Tube Anemone full of Pederson Cleaner Shrimp and they proceeded to clean his hand and nails.  It was a nice relaxing dive of one hour and 8 minutes with a maximum depth of 72 feet.  A good ending to the diving.

Click the album below to see the photos from September 26th.

Or the movie camera for a video.



We relaxed in the lounge for the rest of that day with Bintangs, watching Dutch cartoons with Adrian.  The next morning we were packed along with the two Gary's and Rob, Linda, Adrian and some of the other girls into the boat for the ride across the strait to Bitung.  Gary and Gary were heading to their respective homes, Bill and I back to Bali, Rob had business to tend to and the girls were off to church.  Linda made jokes that we were traveling Indonesian style as we were really packed into the boat with all the luggage.  We said our good-byes and thanks to Rob and Linda at the harbor and got in with our driver for our ride back to Manado and our plane to Bali.  Back at the main page is a link to the write up and photos from the Sanur, Bali part of our trip.