Lembeh is a small island off the coast of North Sulawesi, separated from the Minahasa district by a waterway. The waterway is called Lembeh Strait. At sea, waterways are not called ‘streets’ but ‘straits’! As incredible as it sounds, the actual diving area with its unique macro world is not located on the shores around the island of Lembeh, but exclusively in this waterway. This is where ships sail and sometimes throw things overboard that have no business in the sea. Where local residents discharge their waste water, where the underwater environment near jetties and boat harbours looks like Hempels under the table. And you're supposed to be able to dive there and take good macro shots? Maybe even the best in the world? You can! And how!!!!


It is the contradictory nature of the Lembeh Strait, which is over 100 metres deep, 19 kilometres long and a maximum of 4 kilometres wide, that makes it so fascinating. Large parts of the underwater landscape are covered by vast expanses of ubiquitous lava sand. Bare, desolate and yet full of life. The sand is home to an animal world that is unrivalled anywhere in the world. Some areas look like the shores of an algae-covered mountain lake. Green slime algae overgrow all vegetation, with iridescent lionfish swimming in between. Unreal, breathtaking, bizarre.

There are said to be around 300 different species of nudibranch here. Many of the things we had seen and photographed could not be found in any underwater guide, no matter how good and detailed the descriptions of strange and little-known marine creatures were.

Bastianos Diving Resort - Our resort in Lembeh

Bastianos Lembeh Diving Resort is a relaxing resort located directly on the Lembeh Strait. The friendly and helpful staff and the professional diving team ensure an unforgettable stay.

Explore the world's best mud and scree dive sites with varied encounters of frogfish, ghost pipefish, pileated woodpeckers and unique critters with a professional PADI dive team. The Lembeh Strait is a unique marine habitat, a macro paradise and a fascinating place to dive! It offers over 25 dive sites with mostly black sandy bottoms, where you can discover a variety of creatures that can hardly be found elsewhere, if at all. Reef diving is also possible here, contrary to what you sometimes read elsewhere about the Lembeh Strait.

Lembeh - The diving

This type of diving really does exist. It is very different from guided dives in other seas. The dive guides are not there to nag the holidaymakers and point out permanent mistakes. Their primary task is that of an underwater scout who looks for interesting animals and presents them to photographers and filmers, preferably in a photogenic position. As there are hardly any currents or waves in the Lembeh Strait and the dive sites rarely exceed a depth of 20 metres, it can be described as almost risk-free easy diving, which is also easy for beginners to master. This assessment can also be upheld, even if you take the modest visibility into account. 

Never before have we met dive guides with such enthusiasm for strange creatures, exotic creatures and bizarre life forms. Like sniffer dogs, they find poisonous fish camouflaged in the lava sand, nudibranchs in algae, bizarre frogfish in corals, pygmy seahorses, the famous and extremely difficult to photograph mandarin fish, scorpion fish camouflaged beyond recognition, rare shrimps, colourful flatworms and octopuses with never-before-seen colours. They track down the animals in their hiding places with astonishing naturalness.


Everything is a little different here in North Sulawesi.

The aliens of Lembeh include the various octopuses and cuttlefish. The Flamboia, a small cuttlefish with the ability to transform its body into a flame-like mass when it feels threatened, is difficult to track down. The fact that it can extend a lance-like weapon for feeding and defence purposes seems to be rather normal. The mimic octopus has only been seen by a few humans so far. Its ability to transform is unique among marine animals. If it feels threatened or pursued, it can imitate the body shapes of other animals. Sometimes it swims like a ray-finned lionfish, or it imitates a sea snake, occasionally looks like a mussel or takes on the shape of a sea anamone. The mimic is harmless in contrast to the blue-ringed octopus. This small, attractive octopus appears to be helplessness itself until you touch it. Then it turns out to be the devil's spawn. Its bite is as deadly as a cyanide capsule. Hands off if you encounter it.


Critters are not only scary, they are also one of the most fascinating creatures in the sea. Little is often known about their lives, and laypeople are often unclear about how the little monsters feed on the seemingly barren lava sand beds in the Lembeh Strait. But the lava sand is not dead, it is alive and pulsating like a primordial mass. Small black fish scurry across its surface. What are they called? Who knows their species? Small yellow and orange crabs burrow into it, brittle starfish stretch out their arms, sand eels let themselves be cleaned by cleaner shrimps, colourful nudibranchs crawl across the sand... Life here is like a fire engine.


Many dive sites near jetties look like someone has dumped their rubbish there. This may not be attractive from the outside, but it is immensely exciting and thrilling. A discarded tin can may contain a large crab, while an improperly disposed of Coke bottle may contain a small octopus or an unknown fish. In our experience, the diversity of species is particularly high near piers, jetties and small harbours.


There are only a few places in the Lembeh where there is coral growth. But when there is, it is particularly beautiful and rich in species. Ghost pipefish, which take a long time to find elsewhere, swim in front of the lens as if trained to do so. If you head north from Bitung harbour, the Lembeh Strait splits into two worlds. One side of the waterway is overgrown with coral, while the other side offers only lava sand. What you see in the sand is missing in the coral and vice versa. Due to these morphological differences, the Lembeh Strait is one of the most biodiverse areas in the underwater world. Some experts believe that Lembeh is also home to the most unique marine life due to its exceptional geographical and biological position. Anyone who has ever dived there can only agree with this assessment. It is like this!


How this uniqueness may have come about is a matter of speculation. But the fact is that the lava sand plays a not insignificant role. The loose substrate is perfect for predators, shelter-seekers and animals that fall out of the species. On the grey surface, hunters and prey merge with the substrate once they have taken on its colour. Perhaps special minerals are also responsible for the extreme colour variations, shapes and lifestyles of the Lembeh inhabitants. The camouflage dresses of the bottom dwellers are a miracle of nature.          

Lembeh - Good for whom

If you enjoy small things, strange fish and mini monsters, if diving over lava sand and fields of algae with limited visibility is not mentally demanding, you will be more than satisfied with two weeks in Lembeh Strait. However, if you are looking for coral walls, schools of fish and clear water, you would be well advised not to spend more than a week in the Lembeh Strait.


Check carefully whether you are a macro freak. Normally, Lembeh Strait is only recommended for underwater photographers and film makers. Of course, the Lembeh can also more than satisfy non-photographers and non-filmmakers, but you should ask yourself and your partner very carefully whether you can be happy looking for mini monsters, otherwise disappointment can gain the upper hand after a few days. Because there is little to be done with big fish in the Lembeh Strait, nor with exorbitant visibility.


In this waterway there is also a wreck (Malawi wreck), beautifully overgrown and full of life, at a depth of around 35 metres.



Luxembourgers do not need a visa for Indonesia. A passport valid for six months is sufficient. The entry formalities are humane and, depending on the rush, are even completed quickly.

You usually fly from Frankfurt to Singapore and from there to Manado. The total flight time is around 15 hours. However, you can have a few hours layover in Singapore. If the journey in one go is too strenuous, you should make a stop-over in Singapore for one or two days. The city has a lot to offer.


Normally you don't need Indonesian money. Almost all costs are covered when you pay the tour operator for your holiday.

A fee of $35 is payable on arrival in Manado

The airport fees in Manado also have to be paid on departure, but rupiahs are required, namely 200,000 per person. (As of 2024 = about 14 €)


Diving in the Lembeh Strait takes place at least twice a day, with night dives on request (usually three per week).


The dives are almost all between 5 and 30 metres deep. There are hardly any currents or waves. You won't get seasick. All dives take place with an escort, the motifs are served as if on a silver platter.


The most important thing about diving in the Lembeh Strait is the dive guides. Without their keen eye and phenomenal local knowledge, you would not discover much. This is why foreign diving instructors have little chance of breaking into the phalanx of the local guides.


Vaccination is not absolutely necessary, unless you are going on a jungle safari. But take something with you for earache. The plankton-rich water of the Lembeh Strait can cause unpleasant external ear infections. Always rinse your ears with fresh water after diving. It can do no harm to put a few drops of baby oil in each ear before diving. If the earache comes on anyway, you can keep it at bay with the following remedy: 30% acid clay mixed with 70% ad 70% alcohol. Any pharmacist will mix you this home remedy.


Dive sensibly in North Sulawesi, i.e. no deco dives if possible. The nearest decompression chamber is in Manado (2 hours by car from Bitung) at the Murex diving resort.