Scuba Diving in Manado – Lembeh Straits

In Indonesia, Scuba Diving by Jaclynn Seah0 Comments

Lembeh Straits Manado’s Sulawesi region is one of the more well-known places to dive in Indonesia, and now I understand why – it truly is as awesome as people describe. The waters in the Lembeh Straits 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.

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.

Here is the list of dive sites that we checked out in the Lembeh Straits:

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

Want to see more of my dives in Manado? Check out my trip recap, as well as my Bunaken and Manado Dive Logs from Days 1 and 2 where I saw a whole bunch of cool stuff including Mandarin Fishes and Mantis Shrimps.


Lembeh Straits – Nudi Retreat

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.

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!)



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




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!


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


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


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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