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Lembeh Straits Trip Report

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#1 ColinZylka



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Posted 01 October 2006 - 04:11 PM

Kasawari-Lembeh Resort Trip Report
Kasawari-Lembeh Resort

We spent the past week diving with the new Kasawari-Lembeh resort, located in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. After landing in Manado, one of the gateway cities for SilkAir, the regional carrier of Singapore Airlines, we were met by a representative of the resort. We got our bags claimed and loaded into vans, and were off for the one hour drive to the marina where the resort’s dive boats were waiting for the final transfer to the resort. This part of the transfer only took about 15 minutes, and was a welcome relief from the potholed and curvy road from Manado’s airport. As a side note, while we were at the airport in Manado, we met Kung, the owner, who also owns the Thai-based liveaboard vessel AquaOne.

The resort has been open about a month, and still shows some minor growing pains, none of which was evident, unless one was really looking for them. As an example, there were no cushions on the chairs near the pool…not a big deal for us, since we came to dive and photograph the marine life, not sit by the pool. Anyway, the resort holds a maximum of 20 people, and has eight “Villas”, which are small houses surrounding a small central area, and two “Kasawari Villas” with a balcony overlooking the water. The villas were very comfortable and spacious, with tile flooring throughout, and a huge bathroom. Each had either a queen bed or two twin beds. There was plenty of storage space in the main area of the villa, with a mini-bar/fridge along with air conditioning and a ceiling fan. The bathrooms had both an indoor and an outdoor shower, with soap and shampoo supplied in dispensers. The beds each have a large and thick comforter, which upon arrival seemed incongruous considering the climate, but after the diving days, were quite welcome. There are photos of the grounds and villas on our website.

The dive operation is quite organized, considering it’s new. When we arrived, we were issued large baskets in which we placed all our dive gear. The crew then picked up all the baskets from the front porch of our villa, and set up our gear on the dive boats. We also got a smaller basket for our cameras. For the entire time we were there we never changed a tank, as the crew did all that for us, along with rinsing our gear every evening. After the diving day was finished, all we had to do was walk up to the large gear storage area, and doff our wetsuits and hang them up. There were large rinse tanks for both suits and cameras. The dive crews would bring up our cameras in the small baskets and place them into the designated rinse tanks for cameras. See the website for the photos of the rinse tanks.

Here is a rundown of the days’ schedule:
6am: a light breakfast consisting of cereals, toast, juices and fruit was available for the early risers.
7:30am: Fist dive briefing, with a 7:45 departure for the first dive.
After the first dive, there was a full breakfast available, with various hot foods, like eggs, fried rice, bacon/sausage, noodles etc. along with all the same items from the early first breakfast.
10:30: Second dive briefing and dive followed by lunch.
2:30: Third dive briefing and dive, with a snack available.
For later dives, we had a choice of either doing a Mandarin Fish dive at 5pm, or the night dive at 6pm. Dinner followed the night dive, or was at 7pm if there wasn’t a night dive. All the meals were served buffet style, and the bar has limited selection of beer and wine, sine they are waiting for their liquor license.

As far as the diving goes…well, let’s say it is certainly a joy to only have a maximum of six divers on the boat, with two divemasters guiding every dive. We were limited to a maximum of 60 minutes bottom time, but if we were finding lots of critters, the DMs generally led the dive into 70-80 minutes duration. They run the dives just like being on a liveaboard. Water temperature was a consistent 81 degrees, so we were both warm enough in our 3mm Henderson Insta-Dry suits, but there were some on the trip who wore 5mm suits with hooded vests. It’s not that the water is cold; quite the opposite for those of us used to diving in drysuits. It’s the fact that you move very slowly so your body core temperature tends to fall after a few days diving. Hence the need for the big bed comforters. It was truly amazing how the DMs found things….from generally featureless sand and rubble bottoms came finds such as mimic octopus, wunderpus, hairy frogfish, ghost pipefish, banded pipefish, pipehorse, pygmy seahorses, and more.
Once the dive was over, and before heading back to the resort, the boat crews would offer fresh water, fruits, and hot towels! Each of the boats was equipped with emergency oxygen kits. The dive gear was kept on the boat, and the tanks were filled right on the dock in between dives. Visibility ranged from 30 feet to well over 80 feet on some of the outer dive sites.

There were some folks at the resort who had been to this area before and they all said the accommodations and food were much better than other places at which they stayed on previous trips.

Would I go back? Absolutely, for many reasons, including the limited size of resort itself, the limited number of divers per boat per Divemaster, and especially the marine life!

#2 AllisonFinch


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Posted 24 November 2006 - 08:07 PM


I'm so glad to hear this. In January I will be heading for about month in the area. I will be on the Odyssea in Raja Ampat and then staying at Kasawari diving Lembeh Straight. There is very little first hand I have been able to get from the various boards.

#3 RebreatherDave


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Posted 24 November 2006 - 10:27 PM

Great report Colin, I talked with the owner of Kasawari at DEMA, he was quite a pleasant fellow......left one with a good impression...

Allison, you have to let us all know how Raja Ampat is.....I heard there are lots of stronger currents which can make macro video difficult.....But Raja Ampat is on my long list, with Lembeh on my short list.

It is either KBR or Kasawari...I really like the idea of them carrying all you gear.....for me that is about 70lbs worth of rebreather and 50lbs in a video rig......guess I'd get my money's worth......

Edited by RebreatherDave, 25 November 2006 - 12:54 PM.

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#4 3@5


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Posted 25 November 2006 - 01:49 AM


It is either KBR or Kasawari...I really like the idea of them carrying all you gear.....for me that is about 70lbs worth of rebreather and 50lbs in a video rig......guess I'd get my money's worth......

just to give you another one to think about:
having stayed a number of times at lembeh resort, i'd recommend you consider these guys as well. the resort is smallish, the atmosphere is great, the food is good (both asian and western food) with the caveat that you are in a relatively remote part of indonesia!

as with all other dive resorts in asia, you don't worry about your gear. it is taken care of from the moment you get there, to the moment you leave. it's carried, setup, and rinced for you everyday. they learn the fisrt day any specifities you have in setting up your gear and it's then done for you. the crews are really great at camera handling as well.

the dive guides working there have been working the strait for the longest time. most of the older ones were trained by Larry Smith (Abner, Jandri, Ronald, Paulus...) and know the sites like the back of their pockets and will go out of their way to protect the nature while at the same time satistying your wishes as a visitor.
there is a maximum of 4 divers per guide and most of the time i have been there it has been on guide for 2 divers, and many times one guide for me. they work in teams making sure all guests get to see all the critters they find on the dive. they are even sometimes more excited than the guest when they find unusual critters

both Lembeh Resort and KBR coordinate which sites they will be diving on to avoid crowding the site and over diving them. unfortunately the other resorts don't participate. (i know danny from LR has been trying to get everyone to work together, dunno if he has succeeded yet)
i also want to point out that i don't have any financial interest in them, i just like the place.

now on to the soap box :)
in my opinion for the future of the strait this coordination has to happen, many new resorts have opened or are opening soon. this is putting a lot of pressure on the sites. one of the newer resorts even wanted to build a pier on what is a landmark dive site so that the liveaboard they work with could come and moor in front of the resort... thankfull that was stopped.

add to that liveaboards coming from outside the region, with dive guides who don't know the area, and for some that i saw with my own eyes jumping of a luxury boat that sails out of the land of a thousand smiles, land ON the coral at a site with their entire dive group of 8 people and just trample the ground, the dive guide putting his hands all over the place moving critters and generaly harrassing anything he found and trailing behind them a fog sand kicked up by the divers reminiscent of the worst days in london.

and i am not even counting the day boats who just diev 2 or 3 of the same sites constantly: nudy falls, nudy retreat and hairball...

ok rant over.... (can't help it, i really like the place and hate to see it potentially destroyed)

anyway enjoy the strait, it's amazing diving and the critters are absolutely fantastic. :) :D :)
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#5 MikeO


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Posted 25 November 2006 - 06:21 AM

Allison, you have to let us all know how Raja Ampat is.....I heard there are lots of stronger currents which can make macro video difficult.....But Raja Ampat is on my long list, with Lembeh on my short list.


There are many on this board who have been to Raja Empat. I've been twice and am considering a return this year. If your interest is truly macro video, then you may be challenged at many of the sites that are commonly dived in Raja Empat. While there is certainly good macro to be found (I can only think of one site we dived over the course of two years where I wouldn't have found a pygmy seahorse, for example), the main draw for many is the abundant fish and soft coral life. Most dive sites are much better for the coral and fish if there is some current and consequently, I would much prefer to dive there in the current for that reason. If you truly want a captive macro audience, you'll be hard pressed to top Lembeh. However, if you want some exciting, and (now not so) remote diving, then Raja Empat is quite nice but there are currents on many of the dives. Having said this, both of my trips to Raja Empat did prove fruitful for macro, but I would say that well over half of the dives we did there were really much better wide angle dives . . .


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#6 crcdiver



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Posted 25 November 2006 - 07:03 AM

I can give another thumbs up to Lembeh Resort and know the new manager and dive operations manager (Linda & Karl, they used to work on the Kararu). The place was well run and the food was very good. Dive operations were some of the best I've encountered.

#7 AllisonFinch


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Posted 25 May 2007 - 01:51 PM


Having now been to Kasawari, I can sing its cudos. It was lovely, elegant, and the service the best I've seen(and I seen a lot). The photo service is great. You are provided a photo room that offers all the amenities. You do not have to carry anything, including your camera rig. All is done for you. Here are a few pics of the place.

Attached Images

  • Kasawari_docks__2_.jpg
  • Kasawari_pool__2_.jpg
  • Kasawari_gardens__2_.jpg

#8 shark6047



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Posted 28 May 2007 - 05:14 AM

thanks for the great report. My wife and I plan on going next spring. You're report has just solidified our choice of resort to stay at.
Thanks Again


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