The Bizarre World of Lembeh Strait Diving, Indonesia

“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.

blue ring octopus, Lembeh Strait diving

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.

Lembeh Strait diving, Kungkungan Bay Resort

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.

Lembeh Strait diving

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.

nudibranch, Lembeh Strait diving

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!

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About Maria Alexandra

Maria Laborde, aka latinAbroad, is an open-minded, highly-energetic woman with the spirit of a child. A world citizen, Puerto Rican at heart, carrier of an American passport. A passionate translator and writer, sprinkling Latin spice around the world!

6 thoughts on “The Bizarre World of Lembeh Strait Diving, Indonesia

  1. Wow. I can see why this was such a transformative experience. The colors and the creatures are amazing. Was the ginger tea for nausea ? It’s one on my fave remedies for sea sickness.

    • OMG how was diving in Komodo?! I’m planning on booking a liveaboard this summer around there! you got any recommendations or contacts by any chance?

      You guys have to come back to make it to Lembeh Strait by the way, it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen — and I got certified in the Red Sea!

    • snorkeling is difficult when it comes to muck diving such as Lembeh Strait, Bunaken island would be perfect for you! I will be writing about it soon 😉

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