A wholesome coral reef typical of Lembeh’s east facet
After the protection cease on the highest underwater peak of Batu Kapal, we drifted into the blue water to the ready tender. “Man, that is Raja Ampat degree!” my good friend Dennis shouted out with a giant smile on his face as I climbed the ladder to the boat. We had simply accomplished an hour of world-class reef diving on the northern tip of Lembeh Island and encountered 4 eagle rays; quite a few patrolling grey, whitetip and blacktip reef sharks; plus giant faculties of huge mouth mackerel, rainbow runners, fusiliers and longfin bannerfish.
Untouched gentle and exhausting corals, and a wide ranging underwater panorama embellish the top of Batu Kapal, which is roughly 330 toes vast, 820 toes lengthy, and lies at a median depth of 65 to 95 toes. Across the plateau, the ocean drops steeply to effectively over 330 toes. This excellent dive web site is doubtless one of many absolute highlights of our ongoing Lembeh exploration challenge, however it is just attainable to dive it at sure instances of the month, relying on the tide tables, resulting from its unpredictable situations and robust currents.
However wait a minute. Is that this the identical Lembeh that’s world well-known for its numerous weird critters and muck diving on black sandy slopes? It most definitely is! However that is Lembeh’s wild east facet, and in full distinction to the macro mecca within the Strait, it affords action-packed drift dives and wide-angle photograph alternatives galore.
Barrel sponges man excessive at Batu Kapal
Two eagle rays circling the underwater mountains of Batu Kapal
We took benefit of the guest-free interval throughout the pandemic to discover, along with the tourism division and the mayor of Bitung city, the east facet of Lembeh Island in addition to the northern and southern ideas. For 11 days and a complete of 33 dives, we explored 27 comparatively unexplored dive websites. Batu Kapal within the north was not the one spotlight.
Roughly midway up the east coast of Lembeh Island lies a bay by which the seabed drops to over 425 toes, simply lower than 300 toes away from the shore. This appeared like an awesome place to begin our exploration, the place underneath the floor we discovered a steep slope coated with large sponges and gorgonian sea followers. At a depth of 95 toes, we encountered an eagle ray and somewhat later two grownup whitetip reef sharks, and diving out on the reef high, we found fields of staghorn and desk corals so far as the attention might see.
The bay is way too huge to discover in only one dive, so we tried a couple of totally different areas within the first few days and loved the same expertise on every dive. Steep slopes, giant faculties of fish and large sponges as much as 10 toes excessive. The additional you method the sting of the bay, the present shortly will increase, and an increasing number of fish cavort within the blue water. After totally exploring the world, we divided the bay into three sections and named it Filmishmish One, Two, and Three. Filmishmish is an Arabic time period that’s equal to “in your desires” in English—a really apt identify for the epic blue water diving we skilled.
Our dive boat anchored at Filmishmish Bay
Gorgonian sea followers at Filmishmish
Filmishmish is without doubt one of the greatest dive websites on Lembeh’s wild east facet
A bit of additional north, about 500 yards from the island, a number of small rocks break the floor of the water. Right here we uncovered the subsequent gem of our discovery tour. Straight after leaping in for a dive behind the rocks, we discovered ourselves in an exquisite canyon, surrounded by a rocky panorama utterly coated with orange and crimson gentle corals. As well as, lush gorgonians adorned the shining partitions. The dive web site is appropriately named Fireball.
Heading north, we left the canyon and obtained a transparent view into open water, the place an enormous faculty of surgeonfish was already swimming amongst grownup whitetip sharks that patrol the reef. From there, you may flip proper or left and dive both the east or west facet of Fireball. Within the east, we found a beautiful plateau at round 100 toes, adopted by an exquisite wall stretching over virtually your entire japanese flank and dropping vertically to over 165 toes. Steep wall diving in Lembeh, who would have thought it?
The west facet is simply as overgrown, however not as steep, as a substitute dropping down in terraces to round 130 to 145 toes, earlier than leveling out to a flat, sandy backside. Right here, there are some cracks within the rocks the place whitetip reef sharks have discovered shelter for the day. Regardless of which facet you select to go, you may be handled to wide-angle photograph alternatives of the very best order. To the south of that fantastic submerged pinnacle, we dove out on the rocky reef high, additionally richly embellished with gentle corals.
The canyon at Fireball offers an explosion of coloration
In virtually each crack and crevice, we discovered whitetip reef sharks
Fish soup at Fireball
Persevering with our pursuit of comparable particular reefs, we went looking for a spot on the northern tip of Lembeh Island, not removed from Batu Kapal, named Dante’s Wall. Not many individuals know the true location of this hard-to-find dive web site, and our first try and dive it failed. We discovered a pleasant reef that might maybe be named Dante’s Slope as a substitute, but it surely wasn’t the steep wall we had heard about. With the assistance of one of many skilled native dive guides, we tried our luck once more the subsequent day—and this time we hit the jackpot!
Extending vertically downwards till you can’t see the underside, Dante’s Wall jogged my memory of well-known websites in Egypt such because the Brothers Islands or Daedalus Reef. The wall is totally blanketed with gentle corals, sponges and gorgonians, and within the blue water, we photographed whitetip and blacktip reef sharks from a distance. To everybody’s amazement, even a whale shark swam previous us slightly below the floor. A whale shark! In Lembeh!
Dante’s Wall is roofed in gentle and exhausting corals and large gorgonian sea followers
An surprising whale shark encounter at Dante’s Wall
Heading additional south, we used sonar maps to seek out an underwater mountain that reaches from a depth of 165 toes to 50 toes beneath the floor. This space appeared promising, and with cell phone in hand, I directed the captain to the spot indicated on the map, whereas Dennis stood on the bottom rung of the boarding ladder along with his face within the water attempting to identify one thing of curiosity. “It must be right here. Do you see something?” I known as out to Dennis. “Sure, there’s something!” he replied. “I can see a reef!”
Leaping in, we might see the highest of the top as anticipated at 50 toes, dropping all the way down to 80 toes on the surface. To the south, there’s a ridge, 50 toes vast and 330 toes lengthy, earlier than it breaks off abruptly and the underside disappears into the deep. This was extraordinarily thrilling topography to discover, however sadly we didn’t discover what we had hoped for. Sadly, every part right here was destroyed by dynamite fishing a very long time in the past, and we discovered solely barren rocks and hardly any marine life. We observed that a few of the corals had been slowly rising again once more, however it can take many years for this place to get better. We might solely think about what it as soon as will need to have appeared like.
A large frogfish hanging out on one of many east facet’s beautiful reefs
Lovely exhausting corals with hundreds of reef fish at Kimbas Backyard
Of the 27 dive websites we explored, seven had been equally bombed and even mined utterly—that’s, all of the coral had been cleared by the villages on Lembeh Island and used as constructing materials. The affected areas resemble a desert panorama. Like dynamite fishing, this has been unlawful in Indonesia for greater than 20 years, however the penalties can nonetheless be seen. However, the constructive impressions far outweighed the damaging ones: Though it was unhappy to see destroyed reefs, a ratio of 20 excellent dive websites to seven unhealthy ones nonetheless made the exploratory journey greater than worthwhile.
It appears then that the picture of Lembeh as purely a macro and muck diving vacation spot must be reconsidered. Moreover the well-known critters, there’s additionally blue water diving with nice visibility, wholesome exhausting and gentle coral reefs populated by numerous reef fish, and thrilling partitions and drop-offs all ready to be explored on Lembeh’s wild east facet.
We encountered reef sharks on virtually each dive, and though most of them stayed too far-off to be photographed correctly, the very fact they’re there in any respect is a pleasing shock. Mix these unknown dive websites stuffed with wide-angle prospects with one of the best macro topics you may hope to shoot, and Lembeh’s popularity as one of the productive underwater images locations on the earth simply obtained even higher!
A juvenile eagle ray at Filmishmish Bay
Blue water reef dives teeming with fish await wide-angle lenses on Lembeh’s east facet