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Lembeh & Bunaken Trip Report, July 2012

Lembeh & Bunaken Trip Report, July 2012
Equator Diving recently travelled to one of the birth places of macro diving – the Lembeh Strait. This was our second time diving at this critter wonderland and we had high expectations especially as we were visiting during prime Blue Ring Octopus season! For our trip we would stay with Eco Divers, both at their Lembeh Resort and at Minahasa Lagoon (Eco Divers base in Manado/Bunaken). With five nights in each location this would give us plenty of time to capture some great critter shots! Starting out in Manado we would spend five nights diving on the critter sites of the North Sulawesi coast and the deep walls out at the offshore islands of Manado Tua and Bunaken.

We started with a check dive at a dive site called Tanjung Kelapa where we were overwhelmed to see the healthy reefs and when we went to 20 metres there we’re lots of big fish, including huge Pufferfish and the photogenic Sweetlips we so love in Indonesia. Following our check dive we sought to explore some of the coasts best macro sites including Bethlehem, Circus Critters and Rumah Ikan. Here we found an amazing array of critters including, Dartfish, Sailfin Goby, Jawfish, Soft Coral Crabs, Hairy Squat Lobster, Mantis Shrimp, the rare and beautiful Sargassum Frogfish, Halimeda Ghost Pipefish, Porcelain Crabs, Emperor Shrimps, Coleman Shrimps, Striped Catfish, the very cool Orangutan Crab, plenty of Nudibranchs and various colours of Leaf Scorpionfish. At Circus Critter another group got lucky spent around 10 minutes with a Dugong!

Following our exploration of Sulawesi’s costal critter sites we next moved out to Manado Tua and Bunaken Island. These islands showed us an entirely different side of diving in this region, with deep walls offering great visibility and lots of big schooling fish to entertain us. But it was not all about big fish, on one dive our dive guide suddenly came to get us, pointing to a shape on a coral – it was our first Blue Ring Octopus of the trip!

Leaving the Manado region it was time for us to move on to Lembeh, a region we had visited once before and were very keen to get back to. For macro photography it is hard to compete with Lembeh in North-East Sulawesi. Open up any coffee table book featuring macro critters and you can be sure Lembeh’s name will appear again and again. The list of critters that can be encountered at Lembeh is endless.

During our stay Lembeh blew us away – it was even better than our first visit and the Blue Ring’s we had come to see were there in abundance. It definitely pays to do your research if you want to photograph a particular critter! Our dive sites included famous names like Nudi Retreat, Hairball and Nudi Falls and the array of critters our guides found was spectacular – Hairy Frogfish, Juvenile Warty Frogfish, Robust Ghost Pipefish, Hairy Octopus, Flamboyant Cuttlefish, Wunderpus, Mimic Octopus, Hairy Shrimp, Lembeh Sea Dragon, and Pontohi Pygmy Seahorse all made their way in front of our camera! But in places like Lembeh it is not just about finding and photographing these critters, if you stick around you can easily watch each of their unique behaviours – Pygmy Cuttlefish feeding, Lizardfish hunting their prey, Goby and Shrimp living together and our highlight – two Blue Ring Octopus feeding and mating!