The Lembeh Strait: Mecca for Macro Underwater Photography

November 12, 2022

The Lembeh Strait in North Sulawesi is world famous for its wonderful, photogenic underwater critters. In fact, the Strait is only a long and narrow strip that separates the mainland from the Lembeh Island. But look closer and dive into its blue waters and discover a completely different world filled with fascinating and most colorful tropical underwater life that is loved for its wide range of small critters.

Administratively part of the municipality of Bitung, the harbor town of Manado, capital of the province of North Sulawesi, the Lembeh Strait stretches 16 km long and is only 1.2 kilometers wide, yet in these narrow waters no less than 88 diving spots have been discovered. Although Lembeh Strait is not as world renowned as the Bunaken National Park, one should in no way underestimate its outstanding beauty.

Dive sites here go to a depth of of between 15 to 25 meters. There are hardly any currents, and throughout the year the waters remain a warm 24 to 30 degrees Centigrades only. Its visibility is not too clear reaching between 4 meters to 20 meters only when one happens to be lucky, since its floor is sandy, and there are few corals.

Strangely enough this area is habitat to giant fish that are found almost nowhere else on earth. But among professional divers, the Lembeh Strait is better known as “The Best muck-diving site in the world”.

Its unique ecosystem has made this the home of nudibranch, flamboyant squid, and mimic octopus to furry frog fish. Their exceptional beauty have made these creatures rare subjects for underwater photographers. For this reason marine photographers the Lembeh Strait is also known as “The Mecca of Macro Photography”.

Aside from this natural wonder, from its surface the Lembeh Strait remains used as a harbor for local transport, fishery, marine industry, tourism and as a natural laboratory.

On a hill by the coast of the island of Lembeh stands the Trikora (Tri Komando Rakyat) monument and a DC3 aircraft of the Indonesian Air Force, in commemoration of battles held towards the end of the 1980’s in the fight to recover the territory of the former Dutch East Indies’ Papua back into the fold of the Republic of Indonesia. The port of Bitung was the air base from which fighter planes made their sorties to Papua. From this location one can have a panoramic view on the Strait of Lembeh.

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