07262014Sat
Last updateTue, 22 Jul 2014 11am

A Kungkungan Bay Escapade: “Lembeh Strait to Heaven”

White V Octopus. Photo courtesy Stephen Wong
 Thorny Seahorse. Photo by Takako Uno
Robust Ghostpipefish. Photo courtesy Stephen Wong
Rhinopias Scorpionfish. Photo courtesy Stephen Wong
Mandarin Fish mating. Photo courtesy Stephen Wong
Longhorned Cowfish. Photo courtesy Takako Uno
Kalinga ornata Nudibranch. Photo courtesyTakako Uno

By Takako Uno & Stephen Wong

Divers can somewhat be daunted by their first glance of the underwater topography of this North Sulawesi hot-spot as surging tides can be nauseating.  Visibility here is usually less than 30 feet, 20 being the average.  The already turbid water conditions easily further deteriorate with the mindless kick of a fin, which raises clouds of fine black silt that never seems to settle.  Terrestrial and man-made objects alike – tree trunks, coconut shells, glass bottles, tin cans, linen sacks – add to the unique backdrop of the ocean floor.  Memorably, we once found a radio cassette player, rather new, with large stereo speakers still attached.  Not to forget that the gradually sloping bottom usually has no coral – it’s just plain old muck.

 

Yet, some refer to the Lembeh Strait as the ‘Weird Critter Capital of the World’ – and you can be sure it lives up to its reputation.  Don’t let the presence of litter or the absence of coral turn you off.  Any hesitation will soon vanish when a zipper-mouthed Stargazer reveals itself beneath the black sand, when a Mimic Octopus emerges from its lair, or when a Flamboyant Cuttlefish does it curious elephant walk.  This is a macro paradise, just waiting for you to discover it.  And, Lembeh Strait never fails to disappoint anyone.  In fact, if anything, it always manages to exceed expectations.

On our first dive there recently, we saw the spiky Tiger Shrimp, an Ambon Scorpionfish, an unidentified Phyllodesium Nudibranch and a variety of frogfishes.  At one point, our divemaster, Liberty, located a minute Gnathophylloides mineri Shrimp on a sea urchin.  The cigar-shaped crustacean was like a speck of dust dangling on the host urchin’s spine.  It was barely half a centimeter long.  We were amazed that anybody could find anything as tiny as that.

Our second dive was a night one at ‘Lettuce-Surprise-U’.  This was known as ‘Mandarinfish City’ some years ago, but due to the numerous diver’s visits, the clownish fish had since disappeared.  But luck was on our side.  The Mandarinfish were finally back, we were told, and we boated over just before sundown.  Not only did we see more than a dozen of these cartoon-like fish, we saw Bobtail Squids, Porcupine Pufferfish, Olivia Shrimp and Pea Crabs.  The Lettuce Coral colony that the site was named after was growing profusely as well.

Then there was ‘Police Pier’ where we did many dive, both days and nights.  The pier is always rewarding, especially if you are an octopus lover.  Though it is hard to find the White-V Octopus and Wunderpus elsewhere in the Straits, they popped up frequently around the pier.  On one dive we ran into a group of divers who, to our envy, informed us of a juvenile Blue-ringed Octopus they found near a jetty pylon.  This is also a nice spot to locate the night Red Luteus Octopus.  It was also here that we observed some papa Banggai Cardinalfish with hatched babies in their mouths.  The Banggai Cardinalfish father is one of the most dedicated parents in the animal kingdom, as they devotedly mouth-breed fertilized eggs.  Even after the babies are hatched, the males still play the protective paternal role.  They collect all their miniatures should danger become imminent.

We managed to fit a number of dives at our favorite sites, ‘Hairball’ and ‘Jahir’.  The former’s name is descriptive: for camouflaging purposes, its critters sport massive hair-like growth, such as moss and other appendages.  There, the frogfish, seahorse, ghostpipefish, scorpionfish, filefish and other hirsute species are easily found.  We remember staring in puzzlement for a long time at a hairy rock a divemaster kept pointing, only to realize a Striated Frogfish when it suddenly unreeled its fishing pole.  Also blessed with a variety of fish species and a diverse assortment of weird-looking nudibranchs - it was here that we chanced upon the hatching of a baby Flamboyant Cuttlefish and a Hispid Frogfish feeding on a Panther Sole.

Divers who spend a week or two at the Straits will not have to dive the same site often, nor will they get bored of the diving, as Lembeh contains over 50 dive sites.  Apart from the rewarding muck dives, the Lembeh Straits has lush coral gardens pulsating with a vast diversity of marine life.  Exuberant gorgonian seafans and plate corals can be seen at some dive sites like ‘Goby-A-Crab’, ‘Batu Sandar’, and ‘Serena Kecil North’.  To add more flavor to the diving, there are a couple of shipwrecks in the neighborhood - the ‘Rinas Wreck’ and the ‘Mawali Wreck’ are abounded with colorful soft coral and enormous black coral trees.  The Barramundi Cod and rolling balls of Catfish are easily found on these sunken ships.  Tozeuma Shrimps can be found on the black coral bushes on the side of the hulls.

The Strait has a deep channel over hundreds of meters deep, and whales, Whale Shark, Manta, and even Dugongs have been observed passing through the channel.  Because of its geography, currents can sometimes be rather strong, which is both a blessing and a curse.  ‘Angel’s Window’, for example, is a pinnacle rising from the deep, which nearly breaks the surface.  It has a ripping current, which sometimes results in cancelled dives.  But the upwelling of nutrients means that it is absolutely teeming with fish.

If you find yourself all dived out or in search of terrestrial entertainment, Kungkungan Bay Resort here also organizes trips to the 22,000-acre Tangkoko-Batuangus Dua Saudara Reserve.  It holds lots of wonderful creatures, including Hornbills, Crested Macaques, endangered Melo Birds, Black Monkeys and the endearing endemic Tarsiers (a tiny primate that is sized as your palm and with huge eyes).  Or, you could opt for highland tours to the volcanoes and hot springs on horsebacks.  It is clear to see that Lembeh Strait possesses many wonders to satisfy all nature lovers.  Looking at the great variety of animals in Lembeh, in the sea and on the land, is like looking into a kaleidoscope of colors – and catching a glimpse of Heaven.

Honestly, we don’t remember how many times we have bothered KBR (guessing 10 times).  Coming to KBR always feels like ‘home away from home’, and we may soon re-visit again.  Looking forward to that!

About the Photographers:

Stephen Wong
Marine Photojournalist
Born in 1961, in Hong Kong, Wong studied abroad from 1975 to 1987 in Canada & USA.  Stephen has been a full time marine-related photojournalist since 1997. He is now based in Hong Kong and has more than 40-years of scuba diving experience (yes, he started in late 1960s)Wong has been capturing underwater images since 1990.  

Takako Uno
Marine Photojournalist
Takako Uno, an avid diver since the mid-80s, is a fulltime underwater photographer.  She has traveled to numerous marine locations worldwide and substantially in her native country, Japan.  
Takako now journeys with husband and Hong Kong marine wildlife photojournalist, Stephen Wong, on locations being Stephen’s assistant cameraman and, at times, modeling for him.

Special thanks to the following for their contributions:

Kungkungan Bay Resort & Spa
made with love from Fuerteventura
Exploring Virginia: Inland and Offshore

Exploring Virginia: Inland and Offshore

The waters of Virginia are ever-flowing: both figu...

Inland Seas -  Navigating Wisconsin's Waters and Wrecks

Inland Seas - Navigating Wisconsin's Waters and Wrecks

Wisconsin is located in the north-central United S...

 Confessions of a NorCal Kayak Diver

Confessions of a NorCal Kayak Diver

My name is Jim Russell and I am addicted to the oc...

The History of Diving Museum

The History of Diving Museum

The History of Diving Museum is located in a moder...

Reefs and Wrecks: Jax to the Max!

Reefs and Wrecks: Jax to the Max!

Nestled in Northeast Florida near the Georgia bord...

Rebreather Diving: Going Deep Down in Lake Huron

Rebreather Diving: Going Deep Down in Lake Huron

Henry Fleuss designed the first self-contained app...

News

SETTING
Project AWARE Heads to Capitol Hill for OurOcean2014

Project AWARE Heads to Capitol Hill for OurOcean2014

As part of its dedicated environmental pursuits, Project AWARE will participate in an upcoming Our Ocean International Ocean Conference slated to take place on Capitol Hill June 16 and 17. Hosted by the U.S. Department of State, the conference will bring in some of the world's most talented minds in the fields of environmentalism, science, law, and policy. Together, these experts will "chart the w...

Readmore

Inside Cousteau's Mission 31: An Interview with Dive Chief Billy Snook

Inside Cousteau's Mission 31: An Interview with Dive Chief Billy Snook

Approaching the habitat's portal window, a unique photo opportunity has presented itself. There, at a table 63 feet below the water’s surface, sits explorer and conservationist Fabien Cousteau with his father, Jean-Michael. Both smile for the camera as Jean-Michael holds up a picture of his father, scuba diving icon Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Where they are sitting is distinctive as well. They are ins...

Readmore

“The Sinking World” Comes to LBTS

“The Sinking World” Comes to LBTS

Austrian artist Andreas Franke has wowed the world with a unique series of artificial reef art installations dubbed “The Sinking World”; and now Floridian art lovers and divers can enjoy the work at its latest exhibit from July 25 to September 20. Heralding in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea’s Bugfest-by-the-Sea festival, the Sinking World will take guests on a magical journey into another place and time.

Readmore

Columns

SETTING
Sometimes Fishing Isn't About the Fish!

Sometimes Fishing Isn't About the Fish!

“Many men go fishing all their lives without knowing it is not the fish that they are after.”

Henry David Thoreau

Ok, I admit it – I went fishing this month. I know many disapprove and even object to it; maybe I’m not politically correct enough. But it wasn’t really about the fishing.

Readmore

Incoming 7 2014: Response to

Incoming 7 2014: Response to "Local Diving"

This month we received a number of comments about last month's editorial about local diving. It was a “spirited discussion” where some people thought that I had “dissed” local diving. Quite the contrary; I am a passionate local diver and committed to supporting and promoting this little known and loved segment of the sport.

Readmore

Psolus Sea Cucumbers - An Unusual But Successful Design

Psolus Sea Cucumbers - An Unusual But Successful Design

At first glance, a species in the genus Psolus does not resemble a typical sea cucumber. By far, a tubular or sausage shape, represents the most common and recognizable body form for a sea cucumber. Known by the common names creeping pedal, armoured or slipper sea cucumber, the Psolus sub group contains nearly 60 species worldwide. Attached to rock or other hard substrates, its visible dorsal surf...

Readmore

Dive Sites

SETTING
Thousand Islands; Infinite Adventure

Thousand Islands; Infinite Adventure

"The beauty of this noble stream at almost any point but especially in the commencement of this journey, where it winds its way among the thousand islands, can hardly be imagined.” - Charles Dickens, 1910

Few places in North America can compare with the almost unchanged beauty the islands and waterways have maintained for centuries. From the Iroquois Indians to present day, Alexandria Bay and the...

Readmore

Descending Into God’s Back Pocket: Queen Charlotte Strait’s 10 Best Dive Sites

Descending Into God’s Back Pocket: Queen Charlotte Strait’s 10 Best Dive Sites

Imagine if you will a spectacular ocean wilderness where marine life is as exotic and profuse as you would find in a tropical sea. A place where giant Pacific octopus, wolf eels, orcas, humpback whales, Pacific white-sided dolphins, steller sea lions are not uncommon, but plentiful. British Columbia’s Queen Charlotte Strait undersea realm is akin to being a holy grail for divers.

Readmore

Sunshine, Lollipops & Tiger Beach!

Sunshine, Lollipops & Tiger Beach!

Located near West End, Grand Bahama Island, in the shallows of the Little Bahama Bank, there is a reef flat mariners and salvage divers for decades called, the Dry Bar. Shark divers now call this half square mile stretch of powder white sand Tiger Beach in tribute to its fintastic star attraction, tiger sharks!

Readmore

Scuba Reviews

SETTING
Therm-a-Rest® Mira™ 15F | -9C | Women's Down Sleeping Bag and Women's NeoAir™ XLite®

Therm-a-Rest® Mira™ 15F | -9C | Women's Down Sleeping Bag and Women's NeoAir™ XLite®

The Therm-a-Rest® clearly understands the design of outdoor adventure and comfort with their latest sleeping bag and mattress. A women’s-specific cut bag minimizes excess space, ultralight and compressible, reflective ThermaCapture™ lining and mattress integration assure you’ll stay warmer, sleep better and go farther with less to carry. The bag is designed to follow the contours of the woman’s bo...

Readmore

Dive Into Adventure with Beach Camp at Sunset Bay

Dive Into Adventure with Beach Camp at Sunset Bay

Journey into a Pacific Northwest land of discovery; a hidden gem of sandy beaches, and breathtaking sunsets nestled in the city of Edmonds, Washington. Sunset Bay, located in a protected bay along a stretch of beach at the widest part of Puget Sound across from the Pacific Ocean. Sunset Bay is also home of Beach Camp, a one of a kind adventure water sports residential summer camp for kids. Atypica...

Readmore

Lifestyle

SETTING
Flying After Diving

Flying After Diving

When it comes to safety we each have our own ideas about what constitutes acceptable risk. For some divers it means diving within recreational limits, while for others it means seeking various types of advanced training to dive beyond those limits. As your dive safety association, we work hard to provide you with the information you need to be a prepared diver and to make informed decisions about ...

Readmore

The Philosophy of Scuba Diving Fitness

The Philosophy of Scuba Diving Fitness

I had a terrific time catching up with you, my fellow divers, at the Scuba and H2O Adventures show in Seattle. I can’t tell you enough how valuable your feedback is in directing the nature of the content I create.

Readmore

Beer Takes a Historic Leap: Bone Dusters Paleo Ale

Beer Takes a Historic Leap: Bone Dusters Paleo Ale

Step Back in Time
Beer is the nectar of humankind, one of the oldest beverages dating back to Ancient Egypt and Greece. Written annals on clay tablets from ancient Mesopotamia indicate that brewing was a fairly well respected occupation by women. Beer was also part of the Egyptian Pharaoh daily diet over 5,000 years ago; the Greeks adopted barley wine as part of a balanced diet; Europeans adopted p...

Readmore

  • Latest Post

  • Most Read

Advertisement

Featured Links: