Scuba Diving in Manado – Lembeh Straits

The Lembeh Straits in 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

Check out more of my dives in Manado or read my trip recap for an overview of my scuba diving experience in Lembeh Straits.


Nudi Retreat

Nudi Retreat is in a sheltered bay with a sandy bottom. 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.

Lembeh Diving Devilfish
Devilfish is pretty well camouflaged
Lembeh Diving Frogfish Orange
Can you see the frogfish which looks almost exactly like the coral next to it, save for its funny face?
Lembeh Diving Pegasus Seamoth
This weird creature is a dragon seamoth or pegasus seamoth. it doesn’t actually swim but scuttles around using its ‘fins’ as feet of sorts. super weird.
Lembeh Diving Nudibranch Pair Spotted
The nudis look like they are glowing!
Lembeh Diving Pygmy Seahorse Pair
Tiny pygmy seahorse found on a seafan at 30m deep – this is pretty zoomed in, it’s the size of your pinky fingernail! can you spot its partner on the left hiding?
Lembeh Diving Pygmy Cuttlefish
A slightly blurry shot of a pygmy cuttlefish, which is also pretty tiny – press your thumb and forefinger together to get a sense of its size, which is pretty small by cuttlefish standards
Lembeh Diving Flatworm White
pretty flatworm
Lembeh Diving Banggai Cardinal Fish
I like these pretty banggai cardinals
Lembeh Diving Peacock Mantis Shrimp
A peacock mantis shrimp popping out of its hole

And here’s a treat at the end of the dive – an electric clam! It’s not actually electric – the electric effect is just a trick of reflectors and light, you won’t actually get shocked if you touch it.

Lembeh Diving Electric Clam
bzzt bzzt electric clam


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.

Lembeh Diving Frogfish Hairy
Hairy frogfish! Can you see the lure it uses to bait fish on top of its head?
Lembeh Diving Spiny Waspfish Yellow
The spiny waspfish, also known as the cockatoo waspfish because of its headshape. If you don’t pay attention, they look like leaves in the current
Lembeh Diving Spiny Waspfish Brown
look at its widdle face
Lembeh Diving Flying Gurnard Wings
The flying gurnard opens up its wings and makes a dash for it when it feels threatened, which is why the picture is kinda blurry
Lembeh Diving Whitemask fish
What on earth is this fish? It looks like a Hollow from the Bleach anime
Lembeh Diving Fingered Dragonet
This scary looking thing is called a fingered dragonet
Lembeh Diving Crocodile Fish
Lembeh Diving Crocodile Fish
Lembeh Diving Seahorse Yellow
Seahorses are kinda floppy when they aren’t clinging to something
Lembeh Diving Seahorse Brown
This one looks like it has given up on life
Lembeh Diving Moray Eel Snowflake
Moray on the move! One of the rare times you see all of the moray eel – this one is called the snowflake moray
Lembeh Diving Crab Sponge
Tiny crab on a sea cucumber
Lembeh Diving Shrimp Sponge
Its glowing red eyes makes it look evil!

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

Lembeh Diving Octopus Head Sand
I spotted it hiding in the sand with just its eyes poking out at first. Here it has its head stuck out further
Lembeh Diving Octopus Spread
The octopus decided to make a dash for it. look at how much bigger it is when it emerged!

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.

Lembeh Diving Frogfish Orange Big
This was a big-ass yellow frogfish. Look at its side legs!
Lembeh Diving Nudibranch Pink Tendrils
Such a pretty little nudibranch
Lembeh Diving Juvenile Barrimundi
This spotted juvenile barrimundi is hard to photograph because it’s very ‘flippy’ and keeps moving non-stop
Lembeh Diving Moray Eel Head
Moray eel sticking its nose out
Lembeh Diving Bubble Coral Shrimp
I couldn’t quite get a clear shot of this shrimp in bubble coral
Lembeh Diving Nudibranch White Rock
Pretty nudi with a ‘butt flower’
Lembeh Diving Frogfish Black
Giant frogfish! Most other frogfish are about palm sized, but this one was huge , about the size of a gardenia bread loaf
Lembeh Diving Blue Ribbon Eel
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

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.

Lembeh Diving Stingray Blue Spotted
cruising across the sand
Lembeh Diving Ghost Pipefish
This ghost pipefish looks just like a tattered leaf
Lembeh Diving Nudibranch Fat White
Here’s a plump white nudi
Lembeh Diving Nudibranch Fat Pink
Look at this fat pink and frilly nudi
Lembeh Diving Seahorse Brown Leaves
Spot the seahorse!
Lembeh Diving Brown Banded Pipefish
Love the cute tiny face of the Brown Banded Pipefish
Lembeh Diving Frogfish White
Can you see the face of this white frogfish?
Lembeh Diving Frogfish Orange Small
They really do look like lumps of coral

TK 3

This site was a sloping reef with black sandy bottom.

Lembeh Diving Seahorse Yellow Horizontal
Little thorny seahorse
Lembeh Diving Seasnake
Banded sea snake! Also poisonous if you provoke it, but it’s really more likely to swim away than attack.
Lembeh Diving Frogfish Dragon Nudi
2 in 1 – frogfish with a dragon nudi on its face
Lembeh Diving Devilfish Black
Scary face of the spiny devilfish
Lembeh Diving Ghost Pipefish Sand
another ghost pipefish
Lembeh Diving Ghost Pipefish Pair
There are 2 of these ghost pipefish and they look really leafy

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.

Lembeh Diving Snake Eel
Snake eel with its head poking out the sand
Manado Diving Coconut Octopus
How cute is the coconut octopus hiding in a shell!
Lembeh Diving Coconut Octopus Shell
Look at it pretending not to be there
Lembeh Diving Coconut Octopus Walking
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.
Lembeh Diving Coconut Octopus Spirally Tentacles
A smaller octopus lay nearby and tried to disguise itself by looking like a rock and even made its tentacles look like plants.

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

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!

Manado Diving Blue Ring Octopus
See the little blue rings all over it? Brown is a calm state – if it turns pale that means its getting agitated
Lembeh Diving Blue Ringged Octopus
A slightly different view

I definitely want to go back to Lembeh again some day, there were 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…

Want to see more cool underwater creatures? Check out my scuba diving posts, or read more about my time scuba diving in Manado, or why not check out other spots to visit in Indonesia.

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