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matt215

Lembeh vs Anilao

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Considering a trip at the end of December. Either lembeh or anilao. Been too lembeh and love it! Anilao seems easier to get to but how does the diving compare to lembeh? Same animals? What's at either location at that time of year. My heart says to stick with a known winner and go back to lembeh, but anilao would be some variety, and easier to get to. Thoughts?

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Given 8 trips to Lembeh over the past 10 years and 2 to Anilao here are my comments:

Today, Lembeh is a far cry from what it was 5, 10 years ago. Excessive diving pressure is now evident and fish trappers are working the area. 4-6 weeks ago the first rhinopeaus was seen in 4-5 years.

 

Anliao is now better in the Dec -April time period, but as the water warms in May and later the critters head deep.

 

Notwithstanding the preceding, you will not go wrong with either location.

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Been to both. Anilao is my favorite. But Lembeh is also very good.

 

Lembeh, probably has a slightly higher density of critters. But Anilao is so much easier to get to, and the viz is generally better, and better wide angle. Anilao has the greater variety.

 

Not to take anything away from Lembeh, but Anilao/Philippines has the most friendly people I have ever met. And the level of service is top notch.

 

In the future, my return ratio is 3:1 in favor of Anilao.

 

And...since you haven't been there, I would give Anilao a try.

 

Hope that helps.

 

Dustin

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I'm both biased and ill informed, since I have a house at Anilao and I have not been to Lembeh. What I can say is that the macro opportunities at Anilao have kept me busy for years, and there is enough variety to do other kinds of diving when I get tired of that. For even more variety you can combine a trip to Verde Island and/or Puerto Galera pretty easily too. The only thing you won't find near Anilao is big pelagics. December is a good time for diving as the habagat (wet windy season) will be finished and the ambient temps still relatively cool. Finally, there are lots of resorts at all price points (search the threads) and it is cheap to hire your own banca and guide for the day so you don't have to go with a larger group if you don't want to. I'll get to Lembeh some day but I don't feel that I am lacking for opportunity here.

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I have been to Lembeh, Anilao and Tulamben numerous times. Last month I dove Tulamben and the Liberty wreck and was disappointed. A big storm hit Tulamben this past winter burying many coral heads and the critter count was down. My wife and I prefer Anilao over Lembeh Straits, both have great macro, but Aniao is a day of travel from the States versus two days to Lembeh. This past spring our critter count at Anilao was 189 different critters.

 

Elmer

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Having spent way too much time in Indo and PI, I think the one has to go by the type of critters at each location. Both locations are great diving areas. However, as diversity goes, Lembeh has more critter diversity (for eg. Syngnathidae species etc) than Anilao (or most other places for that matter). As mentioned, Anilao has white sand/pebble and more normal coral reef type critters. Lembeh is famous for the volcanic dark sand critters. Some of the critters like octopuses are adept in both. In Secret garden in Anilao, we had 8 species of rarer octopus (Wunderpus, Mimic, 2 types of Blue ring, Mototi, white V etc) in one dive on certain days. Of course, Lembeh has alway been great for the little hairy octopus too, and in my trips there since 94, a whole lot more.

Which brings me to the point that everyone's opinion is based a brief anecdotal period. As we all know, life is cyclical and it is very possible that often hitting a location on the down cycle gives a bad impression of the area. I've had my unfair share of the wrong end of the life cycle. Moon phases, seasons, weather, anthropogenic influences all factor in.

Another point that you may wish to consider is that time of year you are choosing is also close to X'mas and New Year. The Pinoys culture is very big on x'mas celebration, many areas have noisy parties leading up to X'mas day and New Year. Fireworks and even gunfire aren't uncommon.

Another thing is that in Anilao, the dive boats are bangkas, which aren't comfy, eco or fast, and getting in and out with that small ladder and high hull can be tough for some. Still the bangkas are run by local fishermen, who then respect certain NFAs. So the dive sites are somewhat protected from overfishing by the dive industry. Lembeh is in the process of being declared a MPA but that seems a long way still.

 

All said, if you've never been to Anilao, it'd definitely worth a visit. Just know that late Dec is party month for the Pinoys. It's pretty quiet if you choose resorts neared Mahinit. Beware of the weekend dive crowd from Manila in Anilao. Lembeh gets a similar influx but nothing like Anilao. The more famous black sand dive site of Basura because pretty zoo like during weekends.

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Having been to lembeh more than anilao i would say i prefer lembeh especially since i travel out of singapore. silkair flies to manado and gives 30kg check in for divers so that's a big boost.

 

i also prefer the general topography of lembeh compared to anilao in terms of photography. I find photography easier there compared to anilao. also i feel lembeh is ahead in terms of guides as they started out in the macro game first. you generally have very good guides in lembeh while anilao can be hit and miss. any new and exciting critter also tends to be found by lembeh/indo guides first as well before those in philippines.

 

that being said, anilao is great as well as the comments above have shown with many plus points. just my personal preference.

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We have been to both places on multiple occasions. The macro/critter life is excellent at both places, and it is true that Anilao is easier to get to from the states. However, in my opinion, Lembeh has the edge in terms of resort quality, conditions, critter density - and especially (sorry, Dustin) wide angle sites. There are sites along the edges of the Strait and the backside of the island that are phenomenal, and there are a couple of nice shipwrecks in the Strait, as well. Steve Williams wrote an article on WP recently about returning to diving after a medical issue, and he posted lovely images as well as a trip video that demonstrate some of Lembeh's W/A.

 

Note - this is a matter of opinion - I know many divers who love Anilao and return often!

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Thanks for all the replies. I read one and think Anilao. I read anothe and think Lembeh. I think I'd rather go back to Lembeh, but it's such a pain to get there...

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thinking of going in april and wondered where you suggest to stay? I have not been to the area.

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thinking of going in april and wondered where you suggest to stay? I have not been to the area.

Where are you thinking of going in April? Lembeh or Anilao?

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Difficult to decide between 4 of the stronghold macro places in South Asia, i'd name Anilao, Ambon, Lembeh and Tulamben. As for a comparison I'd say :

 

Anilao pros : Fantastic for nudis and cephalopods, rhinopias sightings, clearer waters, great coral and fish sites like Beatrice, not so many divers on the sites (even on Xmas time)., easy to get to from MNL

Anilao cons : more expensive than the rest of the Phils, difficult to wander and go eating outside the resort.

 

Ambon pros : probably the best place in Asia for rhinopias, seasonally some of the most wanted critters are seen in loads like hairy frogfish or bumblebee shrimps, remote diving nobody on the divesites, variety of diving muck with Ambon bay, great coral/cave reefscapes on the south coast, tasty Moluccan food once you get out of your resort.

Ambon cons : quite difficult to get to, not a lot of dive options either too pricey like Maluku divers or less conveniently located (BRD, DIA), never could do a night dive, very seasonal critter density/variety (on 3 stays diving on the same sites, the critters had completely changed), a bit mundane for nudibranches.

 

Lembeh pros : lots of resorts to choose from, great variety and density of critters, lots of cephalopods and nudis, quality and knowledge of the dive guides, for some reason I find it's the best place for critter behavior shots, proximity with Bangka which is for me the #1 place for pygmy seahorse.

Lembeh cons : not the real feel of indonesia as you're tucked in one place, can't get outside your resort. too many divers on the dive sites.

 

Tulamben pros : The easiest to get to, the least expensive of all as well, lots of nitrox for free, private guide for free offers. Quality of dive guides. Quality of the resorts. Probably #1 for supermacro, lots of juveniles, probably more nudibranch variety than anywhere. Clear waters, shore diving with an alternate of black sand and coral/Wreck dives (the USAT Liberty is primary a coral dive). Topside you're on Bali, the world is yours.

Tulamben cons : lots of people, need to plan the dives counterdiverwise. No rhinopias (but I know where to find them elsewhere on Bali).

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Hi,

Obviously i'm a little biased! :pardon:

 

All 3 places will give you great opportunities - that is no doubt.

 

Some other things to consider:

 

Diveboats - most people can jump up into a Pinoy Banca no problem but it is not always the most comfortable journey. Tulamben is mostly shore diving. Lembeh is almost all boat diving like Anilao. I consider my boats some of the best in Lembeh (fist-pump :bye: ) but even the 'worst' ones are still very comfortable.

 

Rhinopias - They were gone for a while, but I have seen 4 different ones in nov/dec, and there were two other sightings that are still evading me. So 6. Our Rhino's are a mix of adult and juvenile - the juvenile ones do run around a bit.

 

Crowded divesites - The responsible operators in Lembeh (the majority but not all, unfortunately) stick to a 15 divers (including guides) per divesite rule these days. I also dive earlier than other resorts (some dive later, too) - so the net result is the illusion of less divers, and less divers hanging around for a critter.

Lembeh also has wide-angle and big fish to rival most places in SE Asia (no hammerheads yet but i'm looking!) but most divers visiting the area are not interested.

 

Weather - Lembeh is very stable and always diveable.

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Tulamben pros : The easiest to get to, the least expensive of all as well, lots of nitrox for free, private guide for free offers. Quality of dive guides. Quality of the resorts. Probably #1 for supermacro, lots of juveniles, probably more nudibranch variety than anywhere. Clear waters, shore diving with an alternate of black sand and coral/Wreck dives (the USAT Liberty is primary a coral dive). Topside you're on Bali, the world is yours.

Tulamben cons : lots of people, need to plan the dives counterdiverwise. No rhinopias (but I know where to find them elsewhere on Bali).

Rhinopia are around Tulamben but usually on the slopes of Seraya bay. Alex and I spent time with a couple just last month. They are around much of the year since I've seen them in at least 5 different months throughout the years. Only time I'm not in Bali is June-Aug, so I don't care if they are there then :).

 

All 3 places will give you great opportunities - that is no doubt.

Someone doesn't seem to like Ambon! :) I wonder why? ;)

 

Anilao

There are more than a few threads regarding Anilao resorts in the forums and they are still accurate. It depends on your budget and whether you like to do some shore diving vs all boat dives. I personally like to mix shore dives and there are only a few resorts with good shore dives right at the door step. One such resort is the one I've been using for years, Planet Dive, which sits Twin Rocks (along with Balai and another resort whose name now escapes me!). It's not fancy and the food is a bit bland, but I usually get them to hire a chef when I'm there so there's "better" food. Twin Rocks area has a decent size school of Trevally but they can move off elsewhere.

The thing about Anilao that many people never mention is that the Bangkas are converted fishing boats and run by an association of local ex-fishermen, who converted to diver transport as part of the marine conservation area deal. So, the Bangkas are used to provide employment for some of the locals, in exchange for no take zones etc. It seemed cheaper for conservation than buying new boats, training people to use and service outboards and battling the local fishermen over fishing rights. There's no real need for that sort of compromise in Lembeh since most of the fishable schooling fish are gone. Sadly, a trip to Bitung port will tell you the fishing boats there hit the Pacific for bigger fish.

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Hadn't noticed Ambon had been brought into the discussion... So 4 then. In that case i can say that Lembeh isn't the dirtiest :)

 

To be honest Drew, i feel a bit cornered by what you added there. I have enjoyed all the dives i've done in Ambon (as i did in all of the 4 locations) so not sure why you're putting a spin on the omission, one of my good friends just set up there with Dive into Ambon so well worth a look, and of course Andy's place is well known and established.

 

Wherever you go i'm sure you'd have a good time.

 

 

Rhinopia are around Tulamben but usually on the slopes of Seraya bay. Alex and I spent time with a couple just last month. They are around much of the year since I've seen them in at least 5 different months throughout the years. Only time I'm not in Bali is June-Aug, so I don't care if they are there then :).

 

Someone doesn't seem to like Ambon! :) I wonder why? ;)

 

There are more than a few threads regarding Anilao resorts in the forums and they are still accurate. It depends on your budget and whether you like to do some shore diving vs all boat dives. I personally like to mix shore dives and there are only a few resorts with good shore dives right at the door step. One such resort is the one I've been using for years, Planet Dive, which sits Twin Rocks (along with Balai and another resort whose name now escapes me!). It's not fancy and the food is a bit bland, but I usually get them to hire a chef when I'm there so there's "better" food. Twin Rocks area has a decent size school of Trevally but they can move off elsewhere.

The thing about Anilao that many people never mention is that the Bangkas are converted fishing boats and run by an association of local ex-fishermen, who converted to diver transport as part of the marine conservation area deal. So, the Bangkas are used to provide employment for some of the locals, in exchange for no take zones etc. It seemed cheaper for conservation than buying new boats, training people to use and service outboards and battling the local fishermen over fishing rights. There's no real need for that sort of compromise in Lembeh since most of the fishable schooling fish are gone. Sadly, a trip to Bitung port will tell you the fishing boats there hit the Pacific for bigger fish.

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Rhinopia are around Tulamben but usually on the slopes of Seraya bay. Alex and I spent time with a couple just last month. They are around much of the year since I've seen them in at least 5 different months throughout the years. Only time I'm not in Bali is June-Aug, so I don't care if they are there then :).

I feel Seraya is a bit like Lembeh, they HAD one or two rhinopias in the past, then all of which had gone AWOL the past two years. This year one or two have surfaced back,(alike Lembeh, 2013 is probably the year of the Rhino for some exotic zodiac calendar) but I'm not sure you can say they're regular or that Seraya is a sure bet for Rhinopias.

Fortunately there are much better places in Bali than Seraya, (which I also feel has severely gone down comparatively to Melasti in other critter respect) to sure spot rhinopias on a regular basis. :)

 

Crowded divesites - The responsible operators in Lembeh (the majority but not all, unfortunately) stick to a 15 divers (including guides) per divesite rule these days. I also dive earlier than other resorts (some dive later, too) - so the net result is the illusion of less divers, and less divers hanging around for a critter.

The sight of diveboats over Nudi Retreat symbolizes for me the downsides of Lembeh. I remember while diving with some other operator we skipped some of the popular sites because there were already too many divers on the site.

In that respect I prefer Ambon or even the flexibility that provides Tulamben for entering the dive any time in between other divers. Imagine that in 4 stays in Tulamben, other than the USAT liberty dive, and with the exception of 4 dives out of more than 50 dives, I have never seen any other dive group underwater.

In Ambon, I just don't know what other divers mean in 3 stays, although they might exist because I remember I've seen another diveboat sometime...

....and in Alor (5th contender ;) ) you don't even see the boats.

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To be honest Drew, i feel a bit cornered by what you added there. I have enjoyed all the dives i've done in Ambon (as i did in all of the 4 locations) so not sure why you're putting a spin on the omission, one of my good friends just set up there with Dive into Ambon so well worth a look, and of course Andy's place is well known and established.

 

Wherever you go i'm sure you'd have a good time.

 

 

I'll agree that Ambon's bay is really dirty! :) I thought you were answering Luko's post on the 4 places and was making fun of your omission. No malicious intent at all. Sorry if you felt cornered.

 

I feel Seraya is a bit like Lembeh, they HAD one or two rhinopias in the past, then all of which had gone AWOL the past two years. This year one or two have surfaced back,(alike Lembeh, 2013 is probably the year of the Rhino for some exotic zodiac calendar) but I'm not sure you can say they're regular or that Seraya is a sure bet for Rhinopias.

Fortunately there are much better places in Bali than Seraya, (which I also feel has severely gone down comparatively to Melasti in other critter respect) to sure spot rhinopias on a regular basis. :)

 

Luko, the bay where Seraya, Melasti, Pong2 etc are in (as well as the next bay south), I consider to be in the Tulamben dive area. As we all know, there are life cycles in the area where you get reproductive cycles closely linked to the lunar cycles and times of the year. All I'm saying is that data points by anyone isn't reliable as a gauge. I've found rhinopia quite reliably. Some people pay for 2 guides and can't one. Then someone finds 2 in the same dive.

The sure bet is if it's in an aquarium. :)

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Rhino sightings have been consistent for a year in Padangbai. By consistent, I mean that every diver that wanted to see one and who did a few days diving on relevant sites saw one... Just saying!

 

Now back to the original question: I personally would go back to Lembeh. It's great to explore the same place at different times. You can get to see different cycles that were evoked by Drew and establishing a rapport with locals is great...

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Planning a trip in December to either lembeh or anilao. How's the current diving situation in these locations? Has anyone been to lembeh in December? I know it's supposed to be a litttle rainy but I don't really mind as it assist me in the videography (no flicker from the sun)

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