LEMBEH RESORT & critters@lembeh
By Janet Czapski
Our group of 16 arrived at Lembeh Resort in Sulawesi, Indonesia, with just a couple of missing pieces luggage (some not so happy travelers, of course), but with great anticipation of enjoying all the critters Lembeh Straits has to offer. The dive operation and Steve Fish, the Photo Pro, assured those missing dive/camera gear that they would be able to get right in the water with gear furnished courtesy of Singapore Air! (Missing luggage arrived safely on Silk Air a few days later) After a cool cloth dipped in fragranced water and a refreshing fruit drink, each group of travelers was personally guided by the Lembeh staff to their lovely cottage and settled in. Dive gear was unpacked and hung in the individual lockers in the dive centre area, camera gear was unpacked and everyone settled into their individual camera stations with batteries a-charging! After a lovely dinner and a good nigh''s sleep, everyone was ready and raring to get down to business...the business of finding critters!
The critters@lembeh staff specifically asks each guest to provide a "critter wish list" when they complete their pre-dive paperwork. All of the critters guides are extremely well-trained in finding the most obscure and elusive critters imaginable. My group was divided into two boats for the duration of our stay and dive guides were assigned. Every critters dive guide carries two slates...one to name each critter as its discovered, the 2nd to keep a running tally of the creatures sighted during the course of the whole dive. It was a piece of cake after each dive to take Fandy's slate and make a list of our sightings on my iPad...dive log completed with only time/depth required to fill in! Each guide prides themself on trying to check off as many critters from the guests' wish lists as possible during your stay. Nudibranchs are named with their scientific names, by the way! I can't tell you how many hours previously I've spent hunting thru nudi id books looking for species names...it was all done for me this trip...what a lovely addition to an already top-notch dive team!
Cottages at Lembeh are all air-conditioned and most overlook Lembeh Straits with lovely balconies for viewing sunsets. There are a few brand-new garden rooms that are situated more toward the rear of the property and they are lovely as well, just no water view. These are perfect for guests wishing for a slightly less expensive room option than the water-view rooms. All meals, coffee & tea are included in the accommodation package. Breakfast and lunch are served buffet style with both Western & Indonesian offerings. Dinner, with the exception of one barbeque night, is ordered off the daily menu and is served plated. Diabetic, vegetarian and gluten-free diets can be accommodated. Fruits and vegetables abound! Soft drinks, beer, wine & mixed drinks are available from the bar for an additional charge which can be settled onto your hotel bill at the end of your stay.
Dive packages can be arranged with or without Nitrox and are part of the guest's hotel/dive package purchased before arrival. Taxes and airport transfers from the Manado airport are also included in the total package. Additional guided house reef and/or mandarin or night dives may be added for a small additional fee added to your dive centre tab at the end of your stay.
Dive sites range from 5 minutes to one hour away...most are within the 10-15 minute boat ride range. Boats accommodate a maximum of 8 divers with two dive guides and a captain and deck hand. Entries are backward rolls and exits are on good, flat ladders with all gear handed up to the crew prior to climbing up the ladder. Cameras are exceptionally well handled by the critter crew. They carry them to/from the boat and place them in fresh water tanks at the edge of the water after you return from the dive. Once you've completed any battery/card/lens changes you place the camera back into the fresh water rinse tank and it magically appears back on your boat prior to your next dive! All camera equipment remains in the huge, well-equipped camera room overnight where individual stations with charging takes place.
Dives range in depth from 5' to about 75' -- sites can be "muck" black sand slopes or white sand sloping reefs. Blue water dives with colorful reefs/walls and more pelagics can be arranged with a 3-tank trip up a bit north to the Bangka area. Critters we saw during this visit include blue ring octopus; coconut octopus; longarm octopus; broadhead cuttlefish; needle cuttlefish; flamboyant cuttlefish; pygmy cuttlefish; pipefish of all varieties; frogfish in many size/shapes/colors; nudibranchs too numerous (and SO beautiful) to itemize; batfish in all stages of life from juvenile pinnate to schools of adult batfish. Ribbon eels, moray eels, snake eels in many varieties; so many different species of fish it's hard to remember all of them (thank goodness for my lists)! Hard and soft corals with schools of glassfish and cardinal fish are enjoyed at almost every 15' safety stop. Critters offers mandarin fish dusk dives several nights a week and night boat dives are offered nightly as well. Crabs/lobsters/dozens of species of shrimp/snails/squid including bobtail squid; stargazers and bobbit worms were photographed on numerous night dives! Lembeh Straits has over 45 dive sites to choose from -- black sand/white sand/sloping reefs/patch reefs/walls covered in soft coral (California Dreaming) and even shipwrecks.
Everyone had a fabulous 11 nights/10 diving days and we can't wait to get back again...I'm putting it back on the calendar for September/October 2015 so plan on joining us in our little patch of Heaven!