Lembeh Strait: Diving with the “Aliens”
Everyone has their first time did something special and keep that moment for life. So does a scuba diver. During my diving trip, I have encountered several first time moments that made me smile everytime remember those days. From the first time diving with tens sharks, to a long dive with mantas. And in Lembeh strait is the place where for the first time I encountered the aliens look-alike marine species, from hairy frogfish to just “normal” looking cardinalfish. The diving in Lembeh Strait was addictive, and I wish someday I will return again, to dive with these “aliens.”
We took Lion Air from Denpasar Airport, Bali, to Sam Ratulangi, the International Aiport in Manado, the capital city of North Sulawesi Province, Indonesia. Despite the province’s location on the far north-east portion of Sulawesi Island, Manado, its main city, has became an efficient entry to visit the province. Sam Ratulangi Airport provides a direct connection from and to Singapore, Bali, Cebu, and connecting several flights to the Eastern part of Indonesia such as West Papua and Ternate. Strategic location, easy access internationally, combined with beautiful nature of its terrestrial and marine, without no doubt, North Sulawesi has tourism potential for foreign visitors from all over the world. The province has at least three famous areas for scuba divers to visit: Lembeh Strait (Bitung), Bunaken Island, and Bangka Island.
It was nearly midnight when we arrived in Manado, and we still had to continue our trip to Bitung. It took us of one and half hours driving to reach our hotel, Lembeh Hills Resort, which is recently re-named to Dabirahe. The resort is located in the hills area where each guest cottage has sea-view to the beauty of Lembeh Strait and Island. Its seclusion made the resort perfect for a luxurious retreat for honeymooners and couple who wish a peaceful holiday surrounded by nature.
The Muck Diving
Lembeh Strait is well-known for its muck diving, a critters paradise for scuba divers. In this area, the scuba divers will dive in shallow water 10 to 15 meter of flat black sandy bottom. One should expect no coral reefs during the muck diving. However, the interesting part of muck diving is, the sea critters live in the muck salt waters are rarely seen in another part of the ocean with coral reefs. Sea critters such as hairy frogfish, octopus wonderpus, mimic octopus, or box crabs could easily spot on.
The first time I saw hairy frogfish and Helmut gunard was at the dive site called Hair Ball. It was addictive seeing such unique creatures, on the following dives I kept looking on the sandy bottom, searching for the next weird looking critters. I feel like I did an underwater hunting to find them. In dive site Nudi Retreat 2, and perhaps my most favorite dive site in Lembeh Straits during our stay, where for the first time I saw pygmy seahorses, and electric clamp.
We also did a Mandarin dive, a sunset to dawn dive, at Tanjung Kusu-Kusu dive site. It was my first sunset, semi night dive, and we had to wait for quite some time in front of Mandarin fish’ nest. Mandarin fish usually live and hide in a broken coral area, until the sunset they will come out for mating.
If Muck Diving gets Tiring…
In addition to muck diving, Lembeh Strait also offers shipwreck diving at the dive site called Mawali Wreck, a Japanese cargo ship from the Second World War sank at the depth of around 25 to 30 meters. In addition to that, a dive site Batu Kapal in the northern part of Lembeh Island offers beautiful corals reefs with clear visibility. However, it could be expected to experience strong current. If you were lucky, you could see some dolphins swimming around your boat in the area. I was fortunate to see a group of dolphins following our boat until we reach the dive site. A good start before back-rolling to the ocean!