On the road again
On Saturday, September 20th we left Lumbalumba by car and driver on the road to Bitung where we would board a boat for our crossing to Lembeh Island. We would be staying at Divers Lodge Lembeh with Rob Sinke, his wife Linda and their son Adrian.
We enjoyed the drive through the countryside, snapping pictures along the way. There was such variety of life from the church with the "flying Jesus" and modern malls in Manado to villages with tin homes and cows in the front yard. Horse drawn carriages fought for space on the roads with scooters, cars and trucks. Motorcycles and scooters were used to transport all kinds of goods.
As we neared Bitung it was apparent that school was letting out as there were uniformed school children everywhere. I snapped pictures as we were stalled in traffic through the busy harbor city and the kids seemed to love to have their photo taken, waving and smiling and posing as soon as they saw the camera.
The harbor in Bitung was a sight to see. The chaos and hustle, the tiny streets lined with repair shops and people everywhere. It was noisy, bustling and hectic. Our driver spotted our transport boat and instantly Divers Lodge staff began loading our luggage and Rob (on his way to Manado) stepped up to say welcome. We had to walk across the top of other boats and step down into the new fiberglass boat that would transport us across the strait to Lembeh Island.
It was a comfortable ride in a fast boat and we arrived at the beach in front of Divers Lodge in about fifteen minutes.
Divers Lodge Lembeh
Divers Lodge Lembeh is situated on the south west tip of Lembeh Island. There are no roads on the island and only a scattering of villages, none of which are close to the resort. There are six guest bungalows and the lodge only accommodates 10 guests at a time. The bungalows are large with tables for your cameras, comfortable beds, extra chairs, large bathrooms with solar hot water showers and balconies overlooking either Lembeh Strait or the Bay of Walenokoko. The dining room and lounge are quite comfortable with wireless internet, HDTV and an assortment of DVD's and books. Its a good place to review your photos from the day and try to find the name of that weird creature in the many marine ID books available. There is beer and soda available and tea and coffee are always at hand. If you sit in the lounge very long some one will put a plate of fried sweet potatoes or other snacks on the table in front of you. There are cats sleeping on the chairs and Adrian's dog is usually about. The staff at Divers Lodge as well as Rob and Linda will make you feel like part of an extended family, friendly, personable, always smiling and eager to make your stay enjoyable.
The food was always good and a huge variety of Indonesian, western and Dutch dishes. Dinners were generally several entrees, soups every day, rice and noodles, many side dishes, breads, fruit and deserts. Breakfast was made to order eggs, crepes, toast, jams and fruit. We had lunch on the boat most days and it was always similar to the dishes served at dinner and always plenty. Ok I have to admit I wasn't crazy about the eggplant dish but Bill liked it. It was disappointing to come home and not have someone serving me sliced fresh pineapple at every meal.
Here we are with some of the ladies on staff, there are many photos of the resort in the album below.
The diving at Lembeh is offered in two ways either you join a group on a boat each couple people with their own dive guide or for a little extra you go for the unlimited diving option. The unlimited option gives you a boat, a crew, a guide and whatever schedule you want to dive. Bill and I opted for unlimited. The boats are plenty roomy with covered inside space to get out of the sun, gear storage areas, camera buckets, towels, a solar panel so you can charge batteries, a bathroom and of course your lunch. There is really no reason to go back to the lodge until dinner. And if you opt to dive late and arrive back to the lodge late they will have a full dinner meal waiting for you no matter the time.
We started the week out with Atu as our guide and Ondos and Fadly as our crew. Although the first day we were on the larger Indah V boat the rest of the week Indah III was our daily commute to dive. Atu was a great guide, he not only easily found many many creatures for us to see, he paid attention and styled the diving the way we like to dive, slowly moving from one thing to the next, studying the tiny things and taking photos. He was constantly close by when visibility was poor and his tendency to hum throughout the dive meant we never had to go looking for him or worry about stopping for a bout of picture snapping. During surface interval times some of the crew and guides would break out the chess board for some intense though quiet compitition. Bill got into the act playing a few games with Atu and Fadly. He hadn't played in quite awhile so he didn't fare well all the time.
Part of the time Ondos left for another boat and Iwan joined our crew and at the end of the week, Atu was off for two days and Iwan was our guide for our last six dives on Thursday and Friday. Iwan it seems is not as experienced as Atu and we didn't really enjoy him as our guide. Many times he didn't find much and often we found more things on our own. He seemed in a hurry and just did not seem to enjoy himself. He tended to stir up the sand and many times we had no idea where he was. We tended to just look for things ourselves and not pay much attention to him. I think he needs a lot more experience.
The flexibility of diving your own schedule and working one on one with your own guide for a week of diving makes Lembeh Lodge truly unique and special. We dove Nitrox and four dives a day on the full diving days and two on the half days that we had available to dive. Most of our dives were 65 to 90 minutes long and most were 60 to 80 foot depths.
At the top of the page is a tab to the details of our dives while at Lembeh including the names of the dive sites, conditions, stats, descriptions of the site and what we saw as well as the pictures we took on each dive. Also pictures of the boat, the crew and the scenery taken during surface intervals. I put together a short photo album of some of our favorite photos from Lembeh if you just want a peek click here.
Click on the album below for some more photos from the drive through the countryside and the resort.