The Lembeh Strait in North Sulawesi is world famous for its wonderful, photogenic underwater critters.
In fact, the Strait is only a long and narrow strip that separates the mainland from the Lembeh island. But look closer and dive into its blue waters and discover a completely different world filled with fascinating and most colorful tropical underwater life that is loved for its wide range of small critters.
Administratively part of the municipality of Bitung, the harbor town of Manado, capital of the province of North Sulawesi, the Lembeh Strait stretches 16 km long and is only 1.2 kilometers wide, yet in these narrow waters no less than 88 diving spots have been discovered. Although Lembeh Strait is not as world renowned as the Bunaken National Park, one should in no way underestimate its outstanding beauty.
Dive sites here go to a depth of of between 15 to 25 meters. There are hardly any currents, and throughout the year the waters remain a warm 24 to 30 degrees Centigrades only. Its visibility is not too clear reaching between 4 meters to 20 meters only when one happens to be lucky, since its floor is sandy, and there are few corals.
Strangely enough this area is habitat to giant fish that are found almost nowhere else on earth. But among professional divers, the Lembeh Strait is better known as the” Best muck-diving site in the world”.
Its unique eco-system has made this the home of nudibranch, flamboyant squid, mimic octopus to furry frog fish. Their exceptional beauty have made these creatures rare subjects for underwater photographers. For this reason marine photographers the Lembeh Strait is also known as ”the Mecca of Macro Photography”.
Aside from this natural wonder, from its surface the Lembeh Strait remains used as a harbor for local transport, fishery, marine industry, tourism and as a natural laboratory.
On a hill by the coast of the island of Lembeh stands the Trikora (Tri Komando Rakyat) monument and a DC3 aircraft of the Indonesian Air Force, in commemoration of battles held towards the end of the 1980’s in the fight to recover the territory of the former Dutch East Indies’ Papua back into the fold of the Republic of Indonesia. The port of Bitung was the air base from which fighter planes made their sorties to Papua. From this location one can have a panoramic view on the Strait of Lembeh.
Since the island of Lembeh is world renowned and a haven for professional divers, there are many hotels and resorts that make available complete diving equipment and professional divers possessing PADI certificates. If you are looking for a different atmosphere, the local population welcome guests to their homes. Most are from the Sangir ethnic group who in the evenings love to dance the Ampa Wayer.
Among the 88 dive spots, the majority are sandy, have muddy floors with few small corals. But when you dive here, these are the must-dive spots:
Police Pier, Although the area has a deep incline dotted with ruins, just swim on until you see the hiding place of exotic creatures like the seahorse, waspfish, eels and squids. The area is also good for night dives.
Kembatu Bay and Hairball, Here look for the octopus. Divers have observed how these animals actually reach out for their prey with their long tentacles. And if you wish to meet up close with the frog fish or Ambon scorpion fish, you must reach the spot called Hairball. You must be patient since these animals love to camouflage themselves in the black sand of this ocean floor.
Shipwrecks, A cargo vessel called Beautiful Ship with a length of 46 meters sunk here onto the ocean floor. It has become an exciting place for divers, since the wreck is overgrown with sponges and nudibranch. There is also a Japanese cargo vessel that juts out above the surface of the sea. This wreck is close to the coast of Bitung and is called Bimoli.
California Dreaming, This is an excellent location to rest where you can admire a garden of large corals and beautiful red gorgonians.
You can hire boats to sail around the island of Lembeh. This will cost around Rp 300,000 for 3 to 4 hours.
Ask the boatsman to take you around the Strait. From here you will see Gunung Dua Saudara mountain, luxury resorts, ships at anchor and of course shoals of fish under the sea.
Most of the beaches are inside resort areas and can be enjoyed by their guests only. The only public beach here is the Pasir Putih Langi.
From Manado, capital of the province of North Sulawesi there are public buses available to Bitung. The fare is Rp 7,500 for non airconditioned buses and Rp 8,500 for airconditioned buses.
Among taxi companies that you can call are : Blue Bird, Trust Taxi and Celebrity Taxi.
You can also rent a car in Manado, charging for the trip to Bitung around Rp 300,000 one way.
Upon arrival at Bitung, continue to Ruko Pateten in the subdistrict of Lembeh to cross by boat to the island of Lembeh, which will take around 15 minutes. The fare is around Rp 7,500 per passenger. The crossing is relatively safe with few currents since the Strait is protected by the island of Lembeh.
En route you will see many different kinds of vessels with various sizes, from dugout canoes, traditional sailboats to large navy frigates and other warships.