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Dive Review of Lembeh Resort in
Indonesia/Lembeh Strait

Lembeh Resort, Jan, 2011,

by Mark Gillie, TX, US ( 1 report). Report 5921.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 101-250 dives
Where else diving Cozumel, Hawaii, Fiji, BVI, Saba, St. Lucia, Wakatobi, Little Cayman
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, dry Seas calm
Water Temp 81 to 83 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 10 to 75 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile ?
Enforced diving restrictions Generally, about an hour
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales None
Corals 4 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish 1 stars
Large Pelagics 1 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 2 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 5 stars Shore Facilities 5 stars
UW Photo Comments Large camera room with multiple multi-voltage power strips next to dive locker facility and boat launch area.

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 4 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 4 stars
Snorkeling 3 stars
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments I was with a group of five people who were left stranded by the demise of Archipelago less than two weeks before we were to leave on our liveaboard trip to Raja Ampat. Not only were we out the money we had paid to Archipelago (and still are as of this writing) but we were left scrambling to find dive accommodations at the eleventh hour. Unwilling to alter other travel plans made far in advance including passage in and out of Jakarta on specific dates, another liveaboard was going to be out of the question. With great advice from a professional dive photographer friend (Thank you Don!) who has traveled extensively in the area, my having read countless reviews on Undercurrent, Scuba Board, and others, and having exchanged emails with a number of operators in Indonesia we ended up at Lembeh Resort. We were fortunate that early January is a slow time at resorts in general and there were a number of land-based options available despite the late date. In addition to the positive reports I had received about Lembeh Resort, very personable emails from Kerri at Lembeh were instrumental in our choosing the resort. She exhibited a personal manner and concern for what could be done to remedy the situation in a satisfactory way that made an impression on me and on our group. Once we booked, travel arrangements were handled very efficiently through their staff.

Our flight to Manado from Jakarta was relatively uneventful though if you have a lot of gear expect to pay a charge for excess weight with many if not most of the carriers in this part of the world. We found that this charge varies among different carriers and is potentially negotiable. We were booked on Lion Air from Jakarta to Manado because they had a non-stop flight available in both directions-- a most desirable arrangement. Lion Air has bought a number of the new 737-900ERs which they reportedly stack close to 220 people in (loading from both ends[!]-- a somewhat chaotic procedure....) The seat pitch was by far the tightest of any airline I've flown on-- a reported 28"-- and made for a very cramped 3+ hour flight to and from Manado. Though I have no first-hand experience with this, if I were to go back to Lembeh I believe I would opt for the non-stop Silk Air from Singapore in order to shy away from both Jakarta and Lion Air.

Lembeh Resort Staff picked us up at the Manado airport and we had an easy car and boat ride to the resort-- everything was handled very efficiently. The Lembeh Strait, particularly from the resort northward-- away from the more industrialized southern part-- is idyllic, lush and quite beautiful. The resort itself is in a very pretty setting. The arrangement of the resort is well-documented in the reader reports but I will reiterate that the cliff villas are a bit of a haul up the stairs, if that's a concern. We stayed in a traditional villa and while basic we found the decor pleasing and the accommodation more than adequate: the bed was comfortable, the a/c worked well, the plumbing was good with a strong shower and all the hot water that we needed. Most days we left the a/c off and just used the ceiling fan. The porch was a pleasurable place to hang out with nice views over the strait. The dining area was also pleasant and we found the food very good contrary to some reviews I've read. The only complaint I have of the restaurant, and perhaps not unexpected as it's Indonesia, is that the bar was very poorly stocked. This is hardly a deal-breaker, though, as this IS a dive resort. I was told new resort managers will soon be on the premises and perhaps can remedy the situation. The resort offers inexpensive massages in their spa building and these were quite good and a great value. The entire dive and resort staff was most friendly and very accommodating, offering outstanding service throughout our visit. Kerri and Hergen run the dive operation and from our first contact until the time we left were extremely accommodating and responsive to our wishes.

Despite the reviews and recommendations I still had some hesitations regarding a Lembeh Strait trip, centering around two things: first was that I never had any real desire to "muck" dive-- or so I thought. Clear water, good topography, beautiful corals in abundance, and plentiful fish life were what I was most intrigued by. The second was that we had one relatively inexperienced diver in our group and I had read that if you didn't have some experience with maintaining expert control of your buoyancy that you're better off elsewhere. While there's some basis to these hesitations I found that the diving and the conditions were such that I now would not hesitate to go back. After watching some videos of the diving on YouTube before the trip-- but after I booked the resort-- I found myself secretly thinking that it looked pretty dull. Subsequently, when we first entered the water at Magic Crack I looked down at the expanse of flat, black sand and thought "uh-oh"-- it just didn't have a lot of appeal at that moment. That was before Ronald began finding critters and I/we caught Lembeh fever. The strange critters in Lembeh are relatively plentiful and frequently astonishing in appearance. What people see there is well-documented in the reader reports but suffice it to say that I felt like I was going on a dive-safari every time we got in the water. And contrary to what you might expect having read reviews, if you desire some variety from the black sand, some of the more northern sites, e.g., California Dreaming, offer more tradition diving-- clearer water, walls, soft corals, schooling fish. I'm told Lembeh Resort has relatively fast boats compared to many of the other resorts in Lembeh and can make it to these sites within 20-30 minutes. Kerri was quite willing to take us there particularly as we had five divers in our group. In addition, many of the black sand sites have coral bommies that contain beautiful, healthy Indonesian corals and an abundance and variety of sea life-- these smallish patches of coral probably contain more variety than the vast Caribbean. In regard to the buoyancy issue, our novice diver had little problem staying off of the black sand, stirring up the silt; the conditions for us were actually very easy-- very little current, relatively shallow depths, and calm surface conditions. At one point, after we had been diving Nudi Falls I thought that it seemed like we were diving in a grotto-- it couldn't have been further from a wild, open-ocean current dive. In our experience we found the diving to be quite easy and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to less-experienced divers as long as they can keep themselves off of the bottom. The serious dive photographers we dove with went off by themselves anyway-- far away from anything we might have stirred up. It's no wonder that the photographers find this an incredibly appealing place to dive given the diving conditions and the photo subject matter. As an aside, I was also happy to discover a very helpful dive aid used by most everyone in Lembeh: a muck stick. These are roughly foot long metal sticks that help keep a diver off the bottom or away from the coral and help photographers hold still for macro subjects. They cost over $20 at the resort but can be bought on the internet for less or perhaps fashioned at home for much less. I wouldn't by choice dive without one now.

One final note: Lembeh Resort offers a "premium" service for departing divers at the Manado airport involving the "Coelecanth Lounge" (Is there a message there?). For, I believe, $15 per guest they will deliver you to a private security entrance of the Manado airport, check your baggage and obtain boarding passes for you, and allow you to wait in a lounge with comfortable chairs, free beverages, some food, free wireless internet, and private bathrooms (and while not exactly clean are a vast improvement over the public "bombsites" in the public areas of the airport...). Last but not least, the "facilitator" from the resort who checked in our bags was able to negotiate our over-weight fee down to zero from over $100 for our flight in. It was well worth the price of admission from that fact alone.

All-in-all, our stay at Lembeh Resort was a great time and may have been better suited for us and a better experience than what we would have encountered on the liveaboard to Raja. We'll definitely be back.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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