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Dive Review of Lembeh Resort in
Indonesia/Lembeh Strait

January, 2011, an Instant Reader Report by Mark Gillie, TX, US (1 report)
Report Number 5921
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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

sunny, dry  
Water Temp
81   to 83    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
10   to 75    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Generally, about an hour  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  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  
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):
4 stars
4 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  
4 stars  
3 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
5 stars    
5 stars   
5 stars    
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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