Diving In North Asia - Dive Indonesia
Indonesia has been termed the “Cradle of Diversity” by marine biologists, and with good reason. A recent survey counted more than 3,000 fish species here. Crowning it all is North Sulawesi, and the jewel in that crown is the Lembeh Straits. North Sulawesi is formed by the long, thin peninsula that juts out from Sulawesi Island into the Celebes Sea. The marine species diversity of this region is unparalleled, a fact recognized by the locals, who have set up a number of reserves, and by the divers who flock here. The careful approach to the marine environment here by local government means that 90 percent of the coral cover is alive and in good condition, a remarkable statistic considering the pressure the remainder of the Indonesian archipelago experiences from destructive fishing methods.
The Lembeh Straits is the channel between the island of Lembeh and the northern lip of Sulawesi. It is quite a shallow body of water ranging in depth front 16 ft (5 m) to 98ft (30 m) – so divers need to be aware of the large vessels that pass regularly overhead, as well as the periodic strong currents. But while at first glance this may seem merely an unprepossessing shipping channel, closer inspection reveals a world of tiny riches.
The magic that draws divers to this area is the extraordinary range of tiny but beautiful reef animals that can be found in the shallow coastal seas off North Sulawesi. The sheer diversity of “macro life” (small marine creatures) here, and the sometimes bizarre forms it takes, has led to the area being dubbed “God’s wastebasket.” Outlandish species like the hairy frogfish make amazing photographic subjects.
The Straits have a big name for small things-this is the finest site in the world for encountering the most exquisite, delicate, and unusual inhabitants of tropical seas. Diving in the Lembeh Straits goes by the unpromising name of “muck diving” – so called because of the dark sand that covers the seabed and the necessity to examine it closely for target species during the course of a dive. But the effort involved in diving here is well rewarded. Mimic octopus, pygmy sea horses, ghost pipefish, leaf fish, frogfish, and blue-ringed octopus can all be found here.
The Bunaken Marine Park is one of the driving forces for conservation on North Sulawesi. It surrounds five islands, on which are a few small fishing villages, and covers over 290 sq miles (750 sq km). The park offers fantastic muck diving and also some tremendous walls, the most notable of which are Lekuan II and Mandolin on Bunaken, and Panguilingan in Mahado Tua.