Introducing Muck Diving and the Lembeh Strait

What is “muck diving”?

The term muck relates to the fine, black volcanic sediment which can be found at many of the dive sites in the Lembeh Strait. This black sediment, combined with Lembeh’s nutrient rich waters means that it is home to some of the rarest and most unusual marine life in the world. The Lembeh Strait has become known as a “muck mecca” to many divers and has even been coined the “Critter Capital of the World”.

At our muck diving sites you’ll often find corals in the shallows which give way to sand as you descend down the slopes. The slopes are punctuated by much smaller, occasional corals, sea urchins and individual anemones that sit on the sand. Due to a lack of reef for the critters to take residence in, they are often “hiding in plain sight”, relying on their impressive camouflage skills to remain undetected by predators.

Many of our critters are extremely adaptable and where there is no coral they will utilize other items on the sand and turn it into their home. Natural debris such as coconut shells or tree branches are all fair game, as are bottles and man-made debris which has found its way into the ocean.

muck diving Lembeh
Coconut octopus are masters at utilizing items to hide in
What can I expect when muck diving in Lembeh?

When you first enter the water it may seem a little murky due to the extremely fine sediment which is easily stirred up. Give your eyes time to adjust and then the fun begins. Muck diving is all about going slow and taking your time to carefully inspect everything you find – you may be surprised by how much there is to see when you really start looking!

Some of Lembeh’s most iconic critters include pygmy seahorses (Hippocampus bargibanti), hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus), harlequin shrimp (Hymenocera picta), flamboyant cuttlefish (Metasepia pfefferi), Wunderpus (Wunderpus photogenicus), mimic octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus), ornate ghost pipefish (Solenostomus paradoxus), blue ring octopus (Hapalochlaena Sp.), rhinopias scoprpionfish (Rhinopias Sp.),  and a multitude of nudibranch species – the list is quite literally never ending.

Hairy Frogfish Lembeh
The hairy frogfish is one of Lembeh Strait's most sought after critters

We were recently joined from the team at Dive Into Life who spend their time globe trotting in search of “Chic travel and tropical diving”. Here’s what they had to say in their recent Blog about muck diving in the Lembeh Strait…

“If you are a muck diving addict then behold, the Lembeh Strait in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, is a treasure chest packed with the most peculiar creatures.  

Established as the critter capital of the world, Lembeh has a remarkable biodiversity. The black lava sand and rubble in the Strait reveal a crazy concentration of unique and exotic marine animals. Every dive is a marine biology workshop, observing bizarre creatures you would only see on the covers of dive magazines… In Lembeh, you will most definitely find some of the best muck diving in the world!”

The Lembeh Strait certainly delivered on the critter front while they were here – sightings were abundant and some of the highlights included bargibanti pygmy seahorses, warty frogfish, coconut octopus and hairy frogfish (pictures in this Blog).

Warty frogfish Lembeh
This yawning warty frogfish was shot by Dive into Life
Can anyone muck dive?

Yes. Lembeh’s dive sites are predominantly sloping sites which start from around 5 meters making them accessible for all levels of divers. The waters of the Lembeh Strait are protected by the surrounding land masses and currents here are non to minimal. Although we do have currents from time to time, they are the exception and not the norm. Water temperatures are consistently between 26 and 29 degrees with a slightly cooler period around September.

No prior muck diving experience is required, all of our dives are guided by our experienced dive guides who give full dive site briefings prior to every dive. Good buoyancy control is important when muck diving so that the fine sediment remains undisturbed. If you have any concerns about your buoyancy talk to our team when you are here for tips and advice. Our guides are all marine biology and underwater photography trained so if you’d like to practice your underwater imaging skills, Lembeh is the perfect place to do so.

Tips for Muck Diving in the Lembeh Strait

PADI Courses

Are you an Open Water Diver? Why not take your PADI Advanced Open Water Course during your stay? You’ll make 5 dives with your instructor in the Lembeh Strait, work on your buoyancy and general dive skills as well as becoming certified to dive to 30 meters. If you are already an advanced diver and would like to focus on buoyancy, the PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy Specialty Course will give you an indepth understanding of buoyancy and factors that affect it.

Dive and Stay at Lembeh Resort

Are you ready to dive into the Lembeh Strait? Stay at Lembeh Resort and enjoy the wonders of the Lembeh Strait in comfortable accommodation with a touch of luxury. Our secluded location on Lembeh Island, combined with our exclusive service and exquisite dining make Lembeh Resort a wonderful home away from home in North Sulawesi. For more information, or to make a reservation contact us at: [email protected] 

To read more about Dive into Life’s trip to Lembeh Resort and diving in North Sulawesi, click here.

Sunset at Lembeh Resort