“How am I going to describe this place?” I pondered, as yet another stunning Indonesia sunset glistened over the water. Cup of hot ginger tea in hand, I repeated this to Paco Santiago, marine biologist and Lembeh Strait diving manager.
After he went on to describe the “beauty of the small,” I begged him to please write those words down. Somehow, his own reflections perfectly described how I felt about the dramatic landscapes and tiny creatures that had left me speechless the past few days.
So here is what the Kungkungan Bay Resort and Lembeh Strait’s “muck” underwater world mean to us, translated from Paco’s original Spanish article. All underwater photos by Mr. Santiago as well.
The Beauty of the Small: Lembeh Strait Diving
Everything is tranquil. Only a few small local boats, known as kantinting, transit the gentle waters of Lembeh Strait. To the sides, the island of Sulawesi is covered in intense greenery. The warm waters flow north to south, depositing nutrients at the bottom of the narrow strait.
From the surface, one can point out a few areas with coral, others with ocher. Then, there’s this strange sand: what looks like black mud, of volcanic origin, which doesn’t look very attractive. On the contrary: just looking at it makes us think of dark, lifeless wilderness.
These ocean bottoms are known as “muck.”
We are determined to take a closer look, so donning diving equipment, we gently descend five meters deep. We follow a local guide, who slowly moves across the black sand, looking for something.
It’s hard to believe that there could be something to see there.
But shortly after, the guide points out a camouflaged crab, a shrimp, an octopus, a nudibranch, a worm. They move slowly, lonely. Two seconds later, the guide shows us more, and more… And then we realize what hides in there.
Everything that is slowly revealing in front of our eyes is the product of a long evolutionary process—thousands of years long. In that time, these strange, interesting creatures have become experts in the art of camouflage.
Doesn’t matter how many times you have experienced Lembeh Strait diving, how many photos of strange creatures you have captured or even how much you know about marine biology. This narrow strait always surprises, always amazes.
Due to its degree of biodiversity, to the presence of species with unusual behavior, to the transformation it evokes on divers swimming right in front of it.
It is as change of focus: of concentrating in the small, even the minuscule. The majority of the creatures living here are small, but sometimes too small:
From octopus surrounded by blue rings to pygmy seahorses: everything in the Lembeh Strait is full of bizarre, magical nuances. In turn, visitors are transformed—makes them concentrate on the details, leaving the surrounding “noise” far away.
Time dilates; seconds pass by quite slowly, staring at these unique creatures.
Lastly, we realize we are due to surface. Suddenly, time passed quickly—too quickly.
Now we’re changed: we understand the beauty of tiny creatures. The beauty of the small.
I was offered a complimentary, all-inclusive five-night Lembeh Strait diving package at the Kungkungan Bay Resort. However, all opinions are my own. The unique, tiny creatures I met there completely changed my perspective not only as a diver, but as a traveler. Such an eye-opener, revealing the unknown worlds around us!