A couple of years ago, Clare and I decided that since our eyesight is slowly getting worse, we ought to do the premier macro diving location before we can’t see it anymore. Lembeh did not let us down, it was amazing!
We booked through Dive Safari Asia with Ben Stokes. Ben’s team is very small, but he provided excellent service and charged us the list prices from the relevant dive resorts. He has dived from all the resorts he recommends and can therefore provide great advice. There are resorts available in and around Lembeh and Manado to meet most budgets, recognising that the location is a days travel away with the related cost of travel…
Lembeh is located in North Sulawesi in Indonesia. Most people from the UK will travel there via Singapore’s Changi airport (which is very impressive). All told, door to door it took us about 28 hours in each direction. We were met at Manado airport and taken by car to Kungkungan Bar Resort about two hours away. The journey gives you a chance to look a little bit into the hustle and bustle of the various towns you drive through. North Sulawesi is Christian in the most part, which is obvious from the large number of impressive churches on the roadside.
On arriving at KBR, you step into a different world, a world of peace and calm, and the regular statement of ‘Your welcome’. You do truly feel welcome at KBR. You are taken through a brief about how the resort is run by one of the onsite managers, and then taken to your room. We found we had been upgraded, which was a lovely surprise!
The resort is laid out along the water front, with all rooms only short walk to water and the central restaurant area. The resort take a maximum of 25 guests. They also have onsite masseurs (very cheap), essentially some of the ‘girls’ who wait on table at meals. It’s a small community with many of the staff having been there for many years, in fact some of the dive guides have been there since the resort opened.
Diving is done from small 6-8 person boats, with a backward roll entry (mind your calves) and a ladder back in. All diving is within 15 minutes of the resort, much of it less than 5 minutes away. And you will not be disappointed.
The first day starts with a briefing about the facilities at 7.30, also setting up gear, etc, which is then all done for you from then on. All other days then start at 8.15 for a briefing with the boats leaving at about 8.30. The other two dives are at 11:15 and 14:45. Leaving time for hot chocolate and lunch in between, so the afternoons are free for a massage or a shore dive.
Diving is typically two to four guests per dive guide. Whilst we were there the most we ever had was three. In fact on one dive when we were trying to find mimic octopus, we had three dive guides to ourselves!
Clare and I did every boat dive available to us, plus a couple of extra evening/night dives. To be honest we didn’t do any shore dives, since every dive is a minimum of an hour we felt that roughly 200 minutes diving a day was probably enough!
When you first enter the water it can appear as if there is nothing to see. This isn’t Egypt with it’s schools of fish and turtles and rays going by. A dive guide is essential, they know where to look… Usually they will be working ahead of you, pretty much everyone had a camera in Lembeh (or a glass magnifying glass), so they’ll find something for you to start with and then try to keep ahead of you. You have to judge the intensity of the tapping as to whether what they have found is exciting enough to leave what you are already looking at. The top items are always worth a look.
There are endless Nudibranch, you will undoubtedly see one you never seen before every day. The shrimps, frogfish, octopi, ribbon eels, crabs, devil scorpionfish, sea urchins, ghost pipefish (robust and ornate), cuttlefish, lionfish and more. Below are just a few from the collection. The metal pointer in the photo is about the width of a thick pencil.
The dives are classified in different ways, muck, rubble, reef, etc. at the dive briefings the guides will give you an idea of what you might see, but in the most part it is possible to see most things on most dives. Angel’s Window however is particularly good for Pygmy Seahorses. Whilst we saw them on most days, the greatest abundance was at Angel’s Window reasonably deep.
Diving is pretty much driven by the Wish List Board, typically groups will write up a list of what they want to see during the week, and then tick items off as they go along. This allows some level of planning and aiming for sites that are particularly known for a particular type of critter.
It has to be said that wish lists don’t normally look this one, but this is one we put up and then elaborated on after a brief sojourn at another resort in the middle of our holiday.
To be honest, people who fly into Manado are pretty much there for the diving. If you like lying in the sun, there is a pool and the like to lie by. Also you can go out for walks, but the area isn’t really known for it’s tourist attractions, so primarily diving is what happens.
The view out of the restaurant window is stunning, who wouldn’t want to have breakfast in front of this panorama!
On our last night there, it being our wedding anniversary, KBR laid out two tables for us (one in the main restaurant, and one on the balcony upstairs), with flowers and even brought a cake to us with everyone singing. A wonderful evening topped off with being able to sit on the wall of the balcony watching the fishermen at work in the dark. Great memories!
With great staff, brilliant diving, a lovely location and loads of sun. What’s not to love!! We’ll be be back at the end of 2016….
Roger & Clare Selwyn