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Friday, October 28, 2016

Lembeh Strait: Muck Diving at its best!

I first heard about diving in Lembeh Strait ten years ago. Since then I spoke to many enthusiastic divers. From their descriptions I expected to find sandy patches covered in trash and in the middle of the trash all sorts of strange creatures. So it was a bit of a surprise, when I started diving how unpolluted the dive sites actually were. Of course there was a bit of trash here and there but no way the amount I expected. It took a couple of days of diving until I managed to snap a picture which represented my expectations ;)

Knowing what was possible to see at Lembeh, I arrived with a short list of creatures I'd like to encounter. On the very first dive we met two of them: A Flamboyant Cuttlefish and a Hairy Frogfish!

A couple of days later we encountered another Hairy Frogfish that wasn't just sitting around, but walking across the sand shaking its lure in hopes of attracting prey.

Some creatures were so abundant that we encountered them on most dives. I especially enjoyed seeing the Banggai Cardinalfish over and over again. They have such a peculiar shape and had formed a habit of living in Anemones, where strangely enough the Anemonefish tolerate them. On the other hand, when I got too close to take a picture an Anemonefish bit me in the finger!

One fish that I always enjoyed looking at in Fish Identification Guides was the Juvenile Many-Spotted Sweetlips, with its big white dots and it's bright coloring it looked so different from the adults. So I was extremely happy to encounter them in all sizes, from tiny (less than 1 centimeter) up to almost adult (15 centimeters).

The smaller ones were very difficult to photograph because they always moved around in a shaking pattern, probably trying to mimic a poisonous flatworm. After a dozen tries I managed to get one picture with the juvenile in focus :)

Night dives were a special highlight, there was even more going on than during the day. And on one night dive I encountered one of the strangest creatures I met so far, a pair of Dragon Sea Moths

The dive guides had excellent eyes and spotted the interesting creatures often from afar. Some of the creatures I had seen previously during this trip were present in Lembeh as well, but in much bigger variations, such as this Emperor Shrimp:

Or these two Harlequin Shrimps

Even though most crabs only came out during the night time, I spotted this strange looking Sea Urchin Carry Crab during an afternoon dive.

During my time at Blue Bay Divers two Bluering Octopi were seen, unfortunately for me I was always in the wrong spot. So I told my dive guide that I'd like to see a Bluering Octopus here. Two times we headed to dive sites where Bluerings normally were seen. The second time we got lucky :)

To round off a perfect Octopus day, we spotted a Poison Ocellate Octopus

and a Starry Night Octopus, which walked along the ocean floor in a very laid-back manner ;)

Another instance where we noticed that some critters just were bigger at Lembeh than elsewhere was when we did a dive at Police Pier, where we spotted very big Mandarinfish darting around the reef.

Or on another day when we spotted this Tryon's Risbecia

One day we were very lucky to spot a Wonderpus Octopus at the end of the dive. Since it was relaxed we ended up spending ten minutes with him :)

This meant that only one Octopus from my list was still missing. The Mimic Octopus. And so we went to a specific dive site to take a look. One of the groups spotted it early in the dive and tried to alert us. While I heard nothing I noticed our dive guide heading very directly back to where we started the dive and so we also got a good luck. Unfortunately, the Mimic Octopus was in a hurry and so we managed to snap only a few pictures.

Another creature we had many encounters with was the Mantis Shrimp. Two of those encounters stood out. One day our dive guide spotted a Peacock Mantis which had a large number of eggs under its belly

and during the last dive we encountered the beautiful Golden Mantis :)

To round up the Octopus Sextet we again had many encounters with Coconut Octopi. From one of those my favorite picture emerged

All in all my one-week stay at Lembeh was a phenomenal success and I can highly recommend it to divers who enjoy muck dives (even if it means staring at sand for ten minutes, without seeing anything) and want to see special creatures. If I get back to Indonesia, then I'll definitely try to dive in Lembeh Strait  again :).

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