Simon Rogerson in Lembeh
I have been diving all over the world for 21 years, 15 of them as a photojournalist working for diving magazines. But for various reasons Lembeh was a startling omission on my diving curriculum vitae. This year I decided to put that right and chose Critters@Lembeh and the Lembeh Resort at the recommendation of my friends, photographers Steve Jones and Saeed Rashid.
I sometimes find that the anticipation of an experience can exceed the reality, but over six days I came to realise just how special the Lembeh Strait is. As a body of water, it is tiny… but its diversity and concentration of benthic marine life is simply off the charts.
Every dive in Lembeh is intense, revealing between 15 and 20 macro supermodels (and many other ‘standard’ sea creatures) on black sand, rubble, algae, coral and seagrass. Although the sites often look the same, they all yield different critters – but to make the most of this place you need a well organised operation, a diligent crew and a guide at the top of his game.
The team at Critters@Lembeh have got the experience and resources to put you in front of some of the most amazing marine creatures you will ever see. The roll call of subjects is too long to replicate here; a long list of the bizarre and fantastic. But here’s a telling example: over six days and 22 dives, I saw five famously elusive species of octopus: wonderpus; mimic; algae; blue-ring and the amazing starry night.
I saw tiny emperor shrimp riding nudibranchs across the sandy wastes; I saw the wispy forms of ghost shrimps dueling on whip corals; I saw a perfectly formed flamboyant cuttlefish emerge from its egg and start hunting on the seabed; I saw inimicus and Ambon scorpionfish scuttling across the sand on modified pectoral fins. All this and much more I saw thanks to the preternatural spotting skills of my guides, Opo Kecil and Jhoe Joho Wongkar.
But these guides were just the tip of a pyramid of a team of compressor operators, coxwains, maintenance crews and office staff who all worked hard to make my diving as effortless as possible. Critters@Lembeh customer care is as comprehensive as any I have experienced over the years, and like the tiny terrors of the Lembeh Strait, it has evolved perfectly to suit this type of diving. They work a simple, practical system that leaves the guests with little to do but prep their cameras, slip on their wetsuits and go diving.
Dives sites are always a short distance from the Lembeh Resort, so there was always time to return to the serenity of its lush gardens and spacious villas. I really enjoyed my stay here and was particularly impressed with the excellent food and friendly atmosphere. It is my habit to keep visiting different dive centres and places in order to have new experiences to write about, but some places are so special I make a point of returning. Critters@Lembeh I will be back!
Click here for Simon’s gallery on lembehresort.com