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Downey Duck North Sulawesi, Indonesia

Can “muck” diving possibly be worth 30 hours of travel time and 12 times zones? The answer is YES! We stayed at the new Lembeh Resort, built into a hillside on the island of Lembeh, with views from our rooms overlooking Lembeh Strait and the mountains of North Sulawesi. The rooms are bright and spacious, with doors opening onto a porch, open air bathrooms, and built-in stairmasters (also known as steps). The dining area is open-air, with great-tasting food served buffet style when the resort is full and ordered from the menu when there are fewer guests. The staff is extremely friendly, always smiling and saying hello.

The lower level of the resort includes a pool with warm 84 degree water with the same gorgeous views. The dive shop itself is not very big, but it has several fish ID books sitting out for guests, and the camera room next door is large, set up with individual 110 and 220 volt charging stations. Next to that is a covered, open area with wood slat booths for gear drying. There are several boats used for diving, with group sizes ranging from 2 to 10 divers; we never had more than 6 on our boat, plus crew. There are 3 large rinsing tanks, one for cameras and two for gear and the water is actually changed when needed, not just once a day. The entire crew is very helpful.

The diving is stupendous, especially for those of us who love looking for unusual fish and critters in the sandy mucky bottom. And we sure found them, although our two guides actually did most of the finding. We saw many things we’ve never seen before, like the hairy frogfish, the coconut octopus, the wonderpus, the flamboyant cuttlefish, and the lacy scorpionfish. And the boat night diving was non-stop critters. The house reef is good, too, with mandarin fish rising from the rubble looking for partners at 5:15 each afternoon. The only downer is the amount of trash floating in the water, but some of it is put to good use by the critters, such as the coconut octopus living in the discarded coffee mug. Our package included 3 boat dives plus unlimited shore diving each day; a day dive could be switched for a night dive. Other types of diving are available, like wreck and reef, but this time we were there for the uncommon stuff.

Yes, there will be a next time. North Sulawesi is mostly Christian and far away from the troubled areas. We felt comfortable and welcomed by the locals we met. We also met quite a few people from around the world. We’ll also stop over again in Singapore, which is a compact, clean city with many green public areas, a pretty cool zoo, ethnic areas like Chinatown and Little India, and lots and lots of shopping.