Recently I had the opportunity to return to Lembeh Straits in northern Suluwesi, Indonesia, to photograph the areas underwater biodiversity. The area, once again, delivered on its reputation of being one the world's most prolific established dive destinations for biodiversity. and during this trip we had the good fortune to photograph many species that are not yet in our library as well as species that we had not encountered before.
The strait which is situated at the most northern point of Suluwesi between the mainland and Lembeh Island acts as a fast flowing venturi that channels water through the channel. It has a multitude of small bays which water eddies into and provides a safe depository for ocean and reef life larve to develop into maturity.
The western side of the strait comprises mainly of black volcanic sand bays which constitute some of the world's best muck diving sites hosting some quite bizzare creatures and critters.
Police Pier 2, Police pier 1, Nudi Falls, Air Perang, Jahir, Nudi Retreat, Teluk Kembahu, Hairball 2, Hairball, Aw Shucks and Batu Angus constitute the main established sites. The bays play host to a gamut of species including hairy frogfish, pygmy seahorses, blue ring octopus, a plethora of nudibranch species, dragonets, mandarinfish, velvet ghost pipefish, halimeda ghost pipefish and halimeda crabs.
The eastern side of the strait offers a totally different experience. Fast flowing currents and the white sand of Lembeh Island provide for strong coral growth and area has some remarkable dive sites. A wealth of both hard and soft corals provide for the more classic reef experience but by adding the nutrient rich waters of the Sulu sea a veritable garden of delights is encountered. It is a huge contrast from the more well known western side of the strait. That contrast is not only from a habitat standpoint but also in regard to the resident species which are in attendance.
Sites of note on this side of the strait include California Dreaming, Angel's window, Batu Sandar, Tanjung Tebal, Pantai Parigi, Pulau Abadi, Divers Lodge Lembeh house reef, Beting Pasir and Batu Bunyan. The sites host a number of unusual species including, boxer crabs, fire gobies, pontohi pygmy seahorses, a plethora of nudibranch species, spider crabs, coleman shrimp and ghost shrimp.
To see more of the photographs of unusual species seen on this trip, please visit our online Gallery
The trip was made on Thailand's MV Panunee, a liveaboard yacht, that operates in the area for part of the year. The boat and owner/operator cannot be recommended highly enough. A special thanks goes to our dedicated dive guide for the trip, Khun Touch, whose eagle eyes and knowledge we could not have done without.