Scuba Diving in Manado – Lembeh Straits

Lembeh Straits is one of the more well-known places to dive in Indonesia, and now I can say that it truly is as awesome as people describe. The waters there are quite calm as it is a sheltered stretch between the Manado mainland off the coast of Bitung, and Pulau Lembeh.

You mostly get muck diving here, which means fine sandy bottoms with little coral reef where you can find all sorts of creatures hidden in the sand. It also means that if you accidentally kick up the sand, you need to wait for the sand to settle before you can see anything!

Map of Lembeh dive sites – we mostly dived on the Bitung side

Lembeh is about 1.5 hours drive from our resort at Cocotinos. We left the resort at about 7am every day to the jetty where our little dive boat awaited. We would spend all day out doing 3 dives before returning around 4-5pm, where we would take the long rush-hour drive back to Cocotinos in time for dinner. See my Cocotinos review here.

View from the harbour where our boat awaited



  1. Nudi Retreat
  2. Hairball
  3. Police Pier
  4. Pante Parigi
  5. TK3
  6. Jahir

Diving in Manado is also famous for larger creatures in the Bunaken area on the western coast – head here for Part I of my dive logs, and Part III here.


Dive 6/16 (#65)
12th Nov 2012
9.45am (54 mins)
Lembeh Straits – Nudi Retreat

another boat joined us later, but it was quiet at nudi retreat that day

It’s sandy bottom in a sheltered bay – we were the first boat out there that day and we saw a lot of interesting creatures here, different from that we had encountered on the Bunaken side! Lots of pictures ahead…

Some interesting things I didn’t manage to get good pix of: We spotted a large octopus under a rock, and when it saw us, it darted very quickly to another hole, squashed itself in there while rapidly turning from dark  brown to white and as we swam closer it shrank further into the hole.

Yellow frogfish is the exact same colour as the coral around it
I like the way these particular nudis look like they’re glowing
On a seafan at 30m, check out the pygmy seahorse, size of your pinky fingernail! (can you see the tail of another pygmy next to it?)
Here’s a zoomed out version to give you an idea of scale. The silver line on the left is your typical pointer, so imagine the size.
Dragon seamoth – also called a pegasus after the mythical flying horse. It ‘walks’ or in this case, runs on its side fins.
Peacock mantis shrimp
not very clear shot of a pygmy cuttlefish! It was very small – perhaps if you put your thumb and index finger together?
I like this pretty fish – the Banggai Cardinal

And here’s a treat at the end of the dive – an electric clam! No idea if it will actually shock you if you touch it, but I wasn’t about to test it out… (Added about 50 dives later: the electric effect is just a trick of reflectors and light! You won’t actually get shocked!)



Dive 7/16 (#66)
12th Nov 2012
12.03pm (78 mins)
Lembeh Straits – Hairball

This was a purely black sand dive – there was little to no coral at all, just plain black sand, so it needed some careful spotting to look for creatures. Underwater currents were also a little strong at places, so taking pictures was tricky especially when you’re trying to stay still and not kick up sand.

Hairy frogfish! Check out the lure on top of its head
Spiny or cockatoo waspfish. Saw this in dark brown as well, it really looks like a leaf blowing in the current!
Close up of the face
I still can’t identify this creature for the life of me
Flying gurnard! When it feels threatened, it opens its wings and makes a dash for it, hence why this pic is so blurry
This scary looking thing is called a fingered dragonet
Seahorses for lack of a better word are kinda floppy, and flop all over the place
Moray on the move! This one is a snowflake moray
In my head i call this the evil shrimp.

This dive was the first one that I manage to spot something awesome! Check out the octopus I found:

This is a rather blur picture of the octopus that I spotted in the sand! All you see are its eyes poking out of the sand


Dive 8/16 (#67)
12th Nov 2012
3.03pm (68 mins)
Lembeh Straits – Police Pier

Last dive of Day 1 – it was at a place called Police Pier where there were a lot of boats moored. It was also a bit murkier and you had quite a bit of trash floating around – the water didn’t feel as clean here but you still had lots of great critters hidden here.

Boats at Police Pier
Backview of a lionfish
Yellow painted frogfish. Love it’s side ‘legs’
Front view of the frogfish
Hermit crabs!
This spotted fish is a baby barrimundi, that flips and flops around like a ribbon in the wind
Moray eel poking out of hole
Bubble coral shrimp
Giant frogfish! Most other frogfish are about palm sized, but this one was huge , about the size of a gardenia bread loaf
Took this nudi with a macro lens held in front of my camera, guerilla style!
Blue ribbon eel – blue ones are male, yellow ones are female. I saw a black juvenile one too but it disappeared before I could get a shot
Swimming back after Day 1 of Lembeh!


Dive 9/16 (#68)
13th Nov 2012
9.44am (78 mins)
Lembeh Straits – Pante Parigi

This place had a sandy bottom and had lots of blue spotted stingrays quietly swimming along the seabed. They would come quite close – I would turn around and there would be a ray floating past my fin! Didn’t see anything particularly new here, lots of creatures we came across the day before – waspfish, ghost pipefish, frogfishes… still awesome though.

blue spotted stingray… this one oddly has black eyes
thin ghost pipefish
Fat nudi
brown banded pipefish
some sort of crab
Corally-orange frogfish
white frogfish


Dive 10/16 (#69)
13th Nov 2012
12.17pm (83 mins)
Lembeh Straits – TK 3

Sloping reef with black sandy bottom.

Thorny seahorse
Dragon nudibranch
I liked the colours of this fat nudi
Banded sea snake! Also poisonous if you provoke it, but it’s really more likely to swim away than attack.
Frogfish with a dragon nudi on its head
Spiny devilfish from the front
Spider crab looking rather mossy
some sort of scorpion or stone fish?
Robust Ghost Pipefish
Yellow thorny seahorse, about the size of your finger
This one really looked like a leaf


Dive 11/16 (#70)
13th Nov 2012
3.03pm (62 mins)
Lembeh Straits – Jahir

The theme of this dive was OCTOPUS. It was a black sandy dive, and really we didn’t see that many creatures, but we spent quite a lot of time being enamored with the various octopi we came into contact with, including the elusive blue-ringed octopus that we came across quite by accident!

This was a bit of a decomp dive as we spent a bit too much time too deep, so we had to spend more safety stop time to get rid of the nitrogen. Things like these make me more aware of myself and my buddy and hopefully a better diver for the future.

Snake Eel
Coconut octopus hiding in clam shell. HOW CUTE IS THIS
Close up of octopus
After it got a bit annoyed with us, the octopus stuck its legs out, picked up its clamshell and carried it along with it as it hurried away. SO CUTE.

Octopus are mad smart. The one above carried its shell underneath its body to prevent any bottom dwellers from taking it by surprise!

A smaller octopus lay nearby and tried to disguise itself by looking like a rock and even made its tentacles look like plants.

You have to check out the video below that I caught of this octopus making a dash for it. It decided to still be in disguise and stuck out 2 tentacles to ‘walk’ away.

And then finally… the blue ringed octopus! Looks harmless and quite a lot smaller than I thought it would be, but totally poisonous so I took my pix from a distance and zoomed in. The poison can apparently kill you in a few minutes so I wasn’t taking any chances!

See the little blue rings all over it? Brown is a calm state – if it turns pale that means its getting agitated
Front view of octopus

I definitely want to come back to Lembeh again some day! So many things here to see and some we didn’t get a chance to, like the flamboyant cuttlefish and the mimic octopus/wonderpus and the rhinopias… I could go on! Perhaps in future we’ll stay at Lembeh so we can dive more of it…

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