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Dive Review of Kasawari Lembeh in
Indonesia/Lembeh, Sulawesi

July, 2009, an Instant Reader Report by Doug Segar and Elaine Stamman, CA, USA (2 reports)
Report Number 5285
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
Over 1000 dives
Where else diving
Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Solomons, Philippines, Vanuatu, New Caledonia,
Palau, Australia, Hawaii, Red Sea, Caribbean (various), California, UK
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, windy, dry  
Water Temp
78   to 83    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
10   to 60    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  3 stars
Tropical Fish
4 stars  
Small Critters
  5 stars
Large Fish
3 stars  
Large Pelagics
  1 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
5 stars  
Boat Facilities
5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
5 stars  
Shore Facilities  
5 stars  
The camera room is a photog's delight with 21 individual spaces, shelving
underneath, towels, outlets with both 110 and 220, and compressed air.  It
is well-lit and locked at night with security guards nearby.  You signal
that your camera is ready by putting it in a bin in the camera room, the
staff carry it to the rinse tank for your water inspection, take it to the
boat in the bin where it is well protected, hand it to you in the water,
and then repeat the process, taking it to the camera room for you after its
rinse.  Computer is now available in camera room.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
5 stars
5 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
4 stars
Dive Operation
Shore Diving  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
5 stars    
2 stars   
5 stars    
 We'll let our actions speak for our complete endorsement of Lembeh Straits
and of the Kasawari Resort for discriminating divers and photographers.  We
are looking forward to our 9th trip to Lembeh, 4th trip to Kasawari.  Each
trip, we spend 2-3 weeks diving at Kasawari.  We love the resort, staff,
and diving!

Rather than repeat ourselves, we refer you to our very extensive report
from our first visit Dec 2007.  The resort has maintained its high
standards of comfort and service, and remains a photographer's paradise. 
As said in our earlier detailed report, the resort is centrally located in
the strait which makes for short rides to all the best sites on very
comfortable boats.  It is compactly laid out so trips to your room, dive
shop, camera room, dining and dive boats are mercifully short.  Nestled
between lush rainforest and the local village, you feel safe while still
feeling tucked away in an ideal setting overlooking the strait.

The villas are very comfortable, spacious, and offer all the comforts of
home.  The dive area is huge and there is plenty of room, even when the
resort is full.  The same spaciousness and thoughtful layout is also true
of the camera room.  

The resort is able to accommodate any number of guests - we have been there
when we were close to the only guests and other times when the resort was
at capacity.  The resort adjusts staff, boats, and dining to ensure that
things go smoothly and that people are not crowded.  In truth, the personal
attention to the guests is the resort's hallmark.  They work very hard to
keep diving groups small so that guests have the luxury of the personal
attention of the resort's  truly remarkable dive guides.  It was hard to
keep from being smug when we would see other groups of 10 or more
divers/photographers from other resorts in the strait following one dive
guide and swarming all over any "critter" that he found.  Usually
at Kasawari, it was a maximum of 4 divers per guide, and often 2 guides
would work together for 4-6 divers.

One of the owners was visiting the resort. His passion and commitment to
the resort and the staff were impressive.  He worked with all the staff to
hone their service - we even caught him trimming bushes one morning!  He
worked with the kitchen to bring significant diversification to the menu
and to improve the quality of the food, which is generally excellent.  We
were very impressed with the new offerings and regretted not having more
time to try the new dishes.  When the resort isn't busy, you order from the
menu.  When they are busy, a buffet is set up.  The buffet ensures that
diners can get their meals within the time allotted between dives.

Lembeh is the muck capital and divers going there must understand what the
diving is all about.  Visibility is poor, the substrate is silty and easily
stirred up, the critters are often incredibly camouflaged, and coral growth
is site-specific.  But, the critters that are found there are many of those
on the "lifetime wish lists" for long-time divers and photogs. 
Luckily, the dive guides at the resort are incredible and can see and find
even the rarest,  tiniest, and best hidden animals.  It says something when
you simply pass over flamboyant cuttlefish, coconut octopus, Pegasus,
fingered dragonets, and many other animals as simply too "been there,
done that."  

On our last trip, we had an incredible encounter with an over foot-long
cuttlefish who simply would not leave us for over 20 minutes. 
"Cuddles" came over to us, strobing an unusual display, and then
kept in our face such that we couldn't photograph "her."  When
she made it very clear she wanted to "play," we gingerly stroked
her tentacles and her body and she kept coming back for more.  She only
left us when we were below the boat's ladder, out of air!

Other amazing encounters were a remora trying desperately to attach to a
burrfish, a decorator crab pinching and eating the algal growth off his
legs and back, frog- and puffer-fish mating behaviors, a coconut crab
trying to cover himself with a potato chip bag, several species of mantis
shrimp with eggs, jawfish moving rocks to clear a den, a black and yellow
mottled ribbon eel, a crocodile eel hunting, a scorpionfish and frogfishes
devouring unsuspecting prey, numerous cuttlefish  reaching out and zapping
their prey, and simply too many others to describe.  One day we had an
exhilarating experience when we were crossing the strait and saw a large
school of dolphins coming toward the boat.  Soon we were surrounded on both
sides with hundreds of dolphins extending in both directions up and down
the strait.  We estimated that there was 500-1000 in the school.  This was
an incredibly rare occurrence for the strait, but proof that anything can
happen in Lembeh!

A final word on the staff.  They are like a family and it shows.  The
turnover is very low, so you see the same friendly faces on return trips. 
All the staff are terrific, including manager Nus, the office girls,
groundskeepers, housekeeping staff, chef and waiters, and those fabulous
dive guides!  Some of the guides we have known for 10 years and have shared
some amazing experiences with over the years.  We have many photographs and
videos that we owe to these remarkable professionals.  Others of the guides
are relatively new to the game, but already demonstrate an incredible skill
in finding animals that is very impressive.  It truly is a place where you
could skip the dive briefing and simply remain glued to your guide!
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