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What it’s like diving in the Mecca of Macro – Lembeh

Article by Roy Kittrell. 26 Aug 2022.

Dubbed as the mecca of macro diving, the holy grail for photographers all around the world – Lembeh is one of the most exciting locations to recce for our Flow Dive Center Macro Squad! Living up to the glory of its name, Lembeh certainly did not disappoint! We can’t wait to share what we experienced and saw this trip to whet your appetite for our trip there next year! Be sure to keep a close eye on our trips for 2023!

The Lembeh Strait is located in North East Sulawesi, Indonesia. The area is not your usual dive destination; it is a heavily industrialised port space and there are no sunny beaches and beach resorts for tourists. Very little pelagic life such as sea turtles or sharks come through here, but in spite of the industrial activity Lembeh has an astonishing diversity of underwater wildlife that makes it amazing for macro and underwater photography.

The journey to Lembeh was a long but rewarding one. We had to take a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore and then Singapore to Manado. From there, we had to take a 45 minutes car ride to the straits and then a 15 minutes boat ride to the resort. But trust me, it was all worth it!

One of the stars of the show for this area are the Pygmy Seahorses (Hippocampus bargibanti) who live on gorgonian sea fans. They are incredibly colourful, mimicking their colour and texture to an amazing degree.

We encountered many cephalopods; prized octopus such as the stunning Wunderpus and the Mimic Octopus are known to inhabit the area, and we were lucky enough to see the former. It floated over the seabed hunting for small crabs and shrimp, and even dug into several mantis shrimp’s burrows looking for food and overnight accommodation!

We were also lucky enough to see the Flamboyant Cuttlefish (Metasepia pfefferi) whose incredible colourful displays were mesmerising to watch. As an avid underwater photographer we never get tired of seeing this amazing animal in person.

Some of the residents of this straits were very small. Apart from the hundreds of different nudibranchs available to photograph, the Hairy Shrimp was certainly one of the most popular subjects we found to photograph! This absolutely minuscule shrimp lives on the sea floor and is almost impossible to spot unless you are used to seeing them, and taking a picture of them is a real challenge, however nothing is as satisfying as getting that one clear shot of an otherwise tiny and hidden creature.

Other shrimp were larger and still just as impressive. Anemone shrimp, colourful Emperor Shrimp, and a dozen different varieties of sea star shrimp all kept us and our cameras fully occupied for the entirety of each dive. Photogenic crabs too were plentiful, almost every anemone with clownfish seemed to have it’s own resident porcelain crab out filter feeding. 

Probably one of the most colourful residents of Lembeh Straits is the Mandarin Fish (Synchiropus splendidus), a dragonet around 7-10cm long who have an amazing mating ritual. You can read more about them in next month’s issue!


All in all, a very worthy destination for our future underwater photography trips, and plenty more critters still to find on our future excursions! Be sure to keep your eyes peeled on our upcoming trips!


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