Some Tips on diving at Lembeh
A tiny Hairy Frogfish Antennarius striatus roaming around the black volcanic sandy bottom of Lembeh.
By Asher Ang, K2 Lembeh Dive Resort
Original publication date: September 20, 2020. Updated: 19 May 2022.
Get a good Dive Master
The most important tip is to get a good dive master (DM). It is essential, as most of the critters are very small, and they are fairly dispersed in the environment. The DMs of Lembeh, the good ones, are literally eagle-eyed. They will spot the smallest of critters, and would know where to locate the good finds on any given day.
Master Your Buoyancy Control
Many dive sites in Lembeh have somewhat silty bottom. The way to annoy the next diver is to fin to get off the bottom, and behold desert storm! Inhale and wait a moment to let buoyancy lift you off the seafloor, and gently swim away, so that the next photographer can get in to take the photographs of his or her trip!
Look Before You Land
It would do you well before landing on the sandy bottom to have a good thorough look about where you are about to land – there could be some venomous, toxic or otherwise harmful critter right there, that can inflict serious pain on you.
An urchin that can inflict serious pain on unsuspecting divers.
Observe but Don’t Touch
There are many critters that rely on toxins, or other mechanisms to defend themselves. This is especially so on sandy dive sites, where there is no place for many critters to hide. Do not touch anything, and when something is flashing at you, like the blue ring pulsating on a blue-ringed octopus, back off!
The Blue-ringed Octopus (Hapalochlaena sp.) has a powerful concoction of neurotoxin that can kill an adult human within minutes if not treated.
Bring your macro lens
That is the standard setup, macro lens that will go to 1:1 and beyond. I was shooting up to 1:1.4, using a TC1.4 on a 60mm and a 105mm macro. Many photographers these days go beyond 1:1.4, and use snoot – slow moving critters, like nudibranchs, are ideal for snooted shots.
Xenocrab Xenocarcinus tuberculatus.
That said, there is actually a place for wide angle, even fisheye lens, for a technique called CFWA or close focus wide angle, where the smaller (not smallest) critters can be shown in their environment. See our cover photo of a tiny Hairy Frogfish roaming the sea bed at the start of this article.
Diving in Lembeh
There are many excellent dive centres around Lembeh, either on the mainland side, or on Lembeh Island side. I am part of a team that directs the operations of K2 Dive Resort on Lembeh Island. If you have enjoyed reading this, and are considering going to Lembeh for your dive experience, perhaps you would visit the K2 Lembeh Dive Resort website?
K2 Dive Lembeh, named after the village in which the dive resort is situated in – Kelapadua (2 coconuts) – is a fully equipped boutique dive resort situated South of Lembeh Island along the Lembeh Strait, Bitung, North Sulawesi, with its closest international airport situated in Manado.
I hope you have enjoyed this write-up, I know I have enjoyed writing it. Perhaps you will come to Lembeh to see for yourself firsthand what the weirdest critters would look like, and then find the next weirder creature, and the next, and the next. I can guarantee that you are likely to get hooked and want to come back for more!