This trip, the first official Orca dive trip to the Lembeh Strait in Indonesia, saw students taking part in multiple PADI courses, including the PADI Open Water Diver course, the PADI Advanced Open Water course and PADI Enriched Air Nitrox course.
The 10 students were accompanied by three of our Orca instructors (abiding by Orca’s maximum 4:1 student to instructor ratio), as well as a teacher from SJII and four local guides from the resort who are qualified divemasters and instructors. This combination of supervision allowed the students to get the most out of their time underwater by creating the right environment for learning and applying their new skills.
Scuba diving in the Lembeh Strait is globally known as having some of the most unique dive sites anywhere in the world. The two main types of diving in the Lembeh Strait are ‘muck diving’ and coral reef diving, with an abundance of dive sites in both classifications. There are also a few wrecks in the area, including the Mawali wreck (a Japanese freighter sunk during WWII), which our PADI Enriched Air Nitrox certified group were able to dive on their last diving day. However our students didn’t need to go far to dive the beautiful reefs as just off the jetty at Orca Maka-Maka there is a fine, dark, volcanic sandy bottom, followed by a sloping coral reef wall that descends to about 30 metres which is the average depth within the strait.
The resort owns two specifically designed, fully dedicated dive boats that serve as the main transport to the best dive sites located within the Lembeh Strait. The waters within the strait are consistently calm due to the protection provided by Lembeh Island, with the currents within the strait being predictable and slow moving. This north to south current allows for easy to moderate diving conditions suitable for any divers of any level of experience The visibility underwater in the Lembeh Strait can vary anywhere between 5 to 20 metres depending on rainfall, wind conditions and cloud cover. However, during this trip the visibility was 20 metres or more on some of the dive sites, which made finding and seeing the marine life, both large and small, very easy.
The Marine Life
Some of the diving highlights during the trip were seeing rare families of fish, such as the Banggai cardinalfish, pygmy seahorse, striated (hairy) frogfish and the spiny waspfish. More common, but just as thrilling, species we saw where giant frogfish, white-tip reef sharks, hawksbill turtles, green turtles, ribbon eels, tassled scorpionfish, yellow-lipped sea krait and zebra lionfish. This is just a short list of the amazing critters that we encountered on both our muck dives and the reef dives. There were at least nine species of fish that I personally hadn’t seen before despite diving 2500+ dives worldwide. If you’re into marine life, this place is definitely worth adding to (the top of!) your list.
The Jungle Trek
On the penultimate day of the trip, the diving activities had to cease in order to allow for enough surface interval (recommended 18 hours+) before our flight back to Singapore. However, our camp didn’t end there. Orca had organised private buses that drove us an hour from the resort to the Tangkoko Nature Reserve, where we were met by a local guides who spoke excellent English.
We were given a list of animals that we may encounter including the black crested macaque, spectral tarsiers (the smallest primate in the world), the Sulawesi cuscus bear, the boobook owl and the Sulawesi hornbill, which are all endemic to North Sulawesi or the region. We were lucky enough to see most of the animals on the list in their natural environment and then some. The guides also provided instructions on how to behave around these wild animals; how to walk making as little noise as possible to avoid disturbing them, and how to avoid any interactions with the animals even if the interactions were initiated by the animals. This was to ensure everyone’s well-being and the groups’ safety in this primary jungle.
The journey to get to Orca Maka-Maka found at Dabirahe Spa and Leisure Resort was a very simple one. It is possible to fly directly to Manado daily, on a three-hour flight from Singapore using Silkair or fly via several airports in Indonesia, including Jakarta as a connecting flight. After arriving in Manado, private air-conditioned vehicles to pick you up for direct transfer to the resort. This journey takes about one-and-a-half hours. Orca are happy to organise transport for your entire trip from your nearest airport all the way to your room at the resort.
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