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Diving the Lembeh Straits | Eastern dive sites | Sulawesi, Indonesia
Mawali Wreck

The Lembeh Straits have become a given for scuba divers who are marine biology enthusiasts and underwater photographers. With Sulawesi to the west and Lembeh Island on the east, the narrow channel between is fed by rich coastal nutrients supporting incredible numbers of rare and unusual marine creatures.

Most divers would regard the Straits as a single destination – and indeed, diving here is never restricted to one side or another – yet the narrow channel between Sulawesi and Lembeh Island divides the Straits into two zones with some noticable differences, those that border Lembeh Island and those that run along the Sulawesi coast.

No matter which side you stay on, the marine life is quite incredible. Divemasters have spent years watching their guests and know just what to supply. Don’t get in the water and expect to have to look for something – just keep your eye on the leaders and wait for them to point out yet another marvellous critter. They know where they live, track their movements daily and compare notes on what happens on dive sites.

Lembeh Straits dive photo gallery Scuba diving features

Marine Life Pygmy seahorses
Hairy frogfish
Top dive site Angel's Window
Seasons All year
Visibility 10 – 25 metres
Water temperature 23 – 29º C
Deco chambers Manado
Flights to Manado then 1.5-2 hours transfer by car
Dive operators and accommodation: There is a large selection of dive resorts on Lembeh Island with choices from top class to budget. Several dive operators also have centres on both sides of Sulawesi so you can do a twin-centre with one near to Manado. Check Two Fish Divers and Eco Divers for options.

Lembeh Island is about 12 km from Sulawesi. The topography is hilly but less so than the mountainous landscape opposite. Because the prevailing winds and currents come mostly from the north west, dive sites along the island's coast have developed differently to those on the other side of the Straits – there are pinnacles with steep walls that drop to 40 metres and many dives in small inlets rich with hard corals and many hues of soft coral trees. There are pristine fans, plenty of fish swimming off the walls and even the occasional manta ray. Of course, there are still untold numbers of small and whacky creatures but these are often seen on lighter-toned sand, giving this side a more typical reef feel.

The channel is also a busy shipping lane and there are several wrecks to dive near the southern end of Lembeh Island. These include the Mawali Wreck, a World War II Japanese steel freighter and the Kapal Indah Wreck, a cargo ship. A third wreck, the Bimoli, is much closer to Bitung on the west of the Straits.


If you are interested in marine biology or underwater photography this is THE place to dive. Since the Lembeh Straits were first discovered, they have become quite busy but operators cooperate with each other so you won't find the dives crowded. For those of us who went before it became popular, the Straits seem rather lively.


Visibility is never brilliant and there can be currents and rough water but this is just about the best muck diving you will find and seeing all or most of the unusual animals that live here is pretty much guaranteed.

We first dived the Lembeh Straits well over a decade ago when it was an unknown dive destination – and we have to credit the area (and the great Larry Smith) as being the instigator of our interest in marine biology. Choosing between staying on the mainland coast or on Lembeh Island can only be a personal thing. The views from Lembeh looking west can be stunning, but sunrise from the mainland isn't half bad either.
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Complete reports on this area are in Diving Southeast Asia.

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