We were recently (2023) snorkeling Lembeh Strait, in Indonesia, which is famous for rare and unique critters in black sand “muck”. We were not sure if we would enjoy muck snorkeling. Could you pick a less appealing word? But it ended up being a great experience, and we did find a lot of unique little creatures in a short period of time, including many seahorses, a frogfish, other rare fish in the reefs.
Where Is Lembeh Strait and What Makes It Unique?
Lembeh is a small island close to the northeast tip of North Sulawesi in Indonesia.
The water channel between Lembeh and Sulawesi is not very wide, and it gets shallow in the center. Because of that restriction, ocean currents flow strongly through the strait, bringing lots of nutrients along with it, which is ideal for healthy sea life, and why snorkeling Lembeh Strait is so interesting.
Snorkeling Lembeh Strait – What Is Muck Snorkeling?
It really does not sound great does it? Snorkeling in muck sounds like something you would want to avoid, not intentionally seek out. So what is this muck business all about? The beaches and sand around Lembeh are black, from volcanic rock. And for some reason, lots of rare little critters really like hanging out in this mineral-rich black sand, particularly in the shallow sandy areas, without much reef.
And unfortunately the creatures also seem to like hanging out next to bits of trash from the local villages, like plastic bottles, tires, or other items. So now we are snorkeling in a barren, mucky, black sand area, with a good amount of human trash littered around the floor. Starting to sound even worse, right?
It’s Worth It!
Lembeh is considered the “critter capital of the world”. So if you know what to expect, this muck snorkeling business can be really rewarding. Because in a short period of time you have the chance to see some of the rarest and most interesting critters in shallow water, anywhere in the world.
In just a few hours snorkeling Lembeh Strait our group found several seahorses, most of which appeared pregnant. We found a frogfish, some really cool snails, what was likely a coconut octopus, many unusual lionfish, waspfish, dragonet, and many other creatures. This is where you can see a mimic octopus, if you are lucky.
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Blurry Fish, Rotten Colors, Garbage Pictures
That does not look like what I saw! See our snorkeling camera pages for tips on selecting a good snorkeling camera, and how to use it for great pictures.
Snorkeling Lembeh Strait Reefs
Thanks to the strong currents in Lembeh Strait, there are also beautiful reefs. In fact, on each side of the black sand muck beach we snorkeled were some fantastic little patch reefs just packed with beautiful life and unique corals, like the one below.
Lembeh Strait Snorkeling Video – Banggai Cardinalfish
We had the good fortune to see many Banggai Cardinalfish, which only live in a few places in the world, and are an endangered species. Our video below is full of them.
We also snorkeled a few other spots in the strait, right in one of the narrowest areas. We snorkeled around some small islands, just south of where the famous arch used to be (it had recently collapsed). And we also snorkeled along a wall on the Sulawesi side, once again in the narrowest spot in the strait.
Both of these spots were some of the best snorkeling sites we have ever visited in our lives. They were just packed with interesting fish, nudibranchs, pipefish, corals, crazy tunicates, and other creatures, in shallow depths perfect for a snorkeler. Check out some of what we saw while snorkeling Lembeh Strait below.
How to Snorkel Lembeh Strait?
We joined a liveaboard trip that was organized by our trips partner. The trip included Lembeh, Halmahera, and Raja Ampat, and it was fantastic. If you can get on one of those trips in the future we highly recommend it.
There are also many diving resorts in Lembeh Strait that you could stay at, although we don’t know if any of them focus on snorkeling spots. You would have to do some research and talk to the resorts.