Togian Islands and Lembeh Snorkeling Trip

13 Day Liveaboard Guided Exploration to See the Rare Creatures, Whale Sharks and Abundant Reefs of Northern Sulawesi

February 11-23, 2025

Orange Frogfish in Lembeh

You could join this fantastic guided Togian Islands and Lembeh snorkeling trip, exploring some of the more remote and unvisited areas of Northern Sulawesi, in Indonesia, aboard a comfortable liveaboard yacht, the Mermaid II.

Your snorkeling group will get to explore four different unique and remote areas, and will get the opportunity to view some of the rarest small sea creatures, hover above highly abundant and colorful coral reefs filled with tropical fish, and to swim alongside the largest shark in the ocean, the filter feeding whale shark, and swim in a lake of stingerless jellyfish.

The majority of your time will be spent in the Togian Islands National Park, exploring what is considered one of the final frontiers of snorkeling in Indonesia. These islands offer astounding reefs that are some of the most abundant in coral species in the world, along with countless beautiful fish species.

The Togian Islands are home to the Bajau sea nomads, an ancient group of seafarers that are famous for their freediving skill and how long they can stay underwater.

Satellite view of the Togian Islands
Togian Islands

You will have a very good chance of snorkeling with the whale sharks of Gorontalo, where they congregate to feed on plankton.

Whale shark with a snorkeler.

You will spend a day snorkeling the area known as Tanjung Flesko, which offers unique reefs along beautiful walls and slopes covered in a stunning variety of colorful soft corals.

Finally, you get a day snorkeling three very unique spots in the Lembeh Strait, which is considered the critter capital of the world.

Mermaid II Liveaboard in Indonesia

This trip is being run by our partner and friend Ben and his team. Based in the U.K., they are experts in the Coral Triangle, run amazing excursions, and have a great appreciation for the underwater world.

Where in Indonesia Will You Be Traveling?

World map with Coral Triangle highlighted

All of the areas you will be visiting are in Indonesia, and are part of the region known as the Coral Triangle. 

Your tour begins in Jakarta. After your international flight arrives there you can relax for a night at the Jakarta Airport Hotel. The next morning you will have breakfast with your group and guide at the hotel. Then your group will fly together to Manado. When you arrive in Manado crew from the Mermaid II yacht will greet you and take you by car to the harbor to board the yacht.

Togian Islands and Lembeh snorkeling trip map 1

You will first spend a day snorkeling in Lembeh Strait, on the northern tip of Sulawesi. Then you will cruise overnight to Tanjung Flesko to spend a day snorkeling, with a visit to Gorontalo for a whale shark snorkel. And the remainder of the time will be spent snorkeling the Togian Islands, before returning to Lembeh. Adjustments in the itinerary will be made for weather and whale shark activity. You will have 11 nights aboard the Mermaid II.

Once you arrive in Lembeh, you will be transferred back to the Manado airport for your group flight back to Jakarta where the tour ends.

Togian Islands and Lembeh snorkeling trip map 2, closeup

What Will You Experience Snorkeling the Togian Islands and Lembeh?

Lionfish on sand Lembeh

You will board your liveaboard yacht and your first day of snorkeling will be in the Lembeh Strait.

Lembeh is a small island close to the northeast tip of Sulawesi. There is a water channel between Lembeh that is not very wide. This strait of water has a flush of current through it, which brings lots of nutrients to the sea life.

This is a very unique marine ecosystem, and different than the other areas you will visit on this trip.

It is famous for its black volcanic sand slopes and shallow reefs, that are filled with some of the world’s most unique and often weird critters.

Here you will look for frogfish, leaf scorpionfish, nudibranchs, seahorses, and the gorgeous Banggai Cardinalfish.

One of Lembeh’s standout snorkel spots is around some small islands in the middle of the narrowest part of the strait. Snorkeling around those islands is fantastic, with a wonderful variety of corals, and a tremendous variety of fish, nudibranchs, and other creatures.

And just across the water is a vertical wall covered in tunicates and sponges, corals, nudibranchs, pipefish and other rare tropical fish.

Seahorse over a black sand bottom in Lembeh

Next your yacht will cruise overnight in the ocean south to the mouth of the Gulf of Tomini, to a place called Tanjung Flesko. Your group will have a day of snorkeling in this unique area, that is full of beautiful walls and slopes covered in colorful soft corals, and other life.

While at Tanjung Flesko, the ship captain will be in touch with contacts in Gorontalo to see where and how many whale sharks are in the area.

Whale sharks are the largest sharks, but these gentle giants feed only on plankton that is prevalent in Gorontalo. It is one of the most predictable places to find and snorkel with whale sharks. If they are not present, you will continue on to the Togian Islands, and try again with the whale sharks on the return back north.

Two whale sharks
Juvenile Spadefish in Indonesia

The majority of snorkeling days though will be focused on exploring the extraordinary Togian Islands National Park. This archipelago of 56 islands is quite remote, and not often visited by snorkelers.

The Togian Islands are located in the Gulf of Tomini, which is considered to be a very calm bay, because of the protection the land of Sulawesi provides nearly all the way around it. Maybe this is one reason that the water clarity in the Togian Islands is legendary.

This will be an exploratory trip in some ways, because it will be the first snorkelers specific trip to the Togians aboard the Mermaid II. Although they have done the trip with divers, so they are familiar with the area, and think it has great snorkeling opportunities. We can attest that the crew on the Mermaid II, as well as the guides from Ben’s team, are sensational at scouting out fantastic snorkeling spots, so it should be an amazing trip.

You will explore the dormant volcano of Una Una, which is surrounded by black sand. It is known to have huge schools of blacktail barracudas, bigeye trevallies, and opportunities to see passing pelagics.

The Togians are home to 76% of all known corals, so you won’t lack for variety and color to experience. You will visit islands and atolls, filled with fringing reefs.

Three snorkelers over a large coral head, with many tropical fish.

The Togian Islands are one of the few places in the world with a fresh water lake with jellyfish that you can snorkel with. These jellies have evolved over time to be completely harmless without stingers. It is an amazing snorkeling experience that you won’t forget.

Two snorkelers in a jellyfish lake.

The Togian Islands are home to many villages of the Bajau sea nomads. These people historically live their entire lives on boats, or on huts on stilts over the water. They are a gentle people who are extraordinary freedivers, and may have lung capacity greater than any other humans, able to hold their breath for up to five minutes, as documented in the film Jago: A Life Underwater. What a great opportunity to explore these remote islands and experience this beautiful culture.

Who Is This Trip Best For?

We think this trip will be amazing for experienced snorkelers who have already snorkeled in Indonesia, and are looking for a very unique experience, exploring a new remote area that has been rarely seen by snorkelers, and looking to find rare critters, abundant reefs, and have whale shark encounters.

What Is the Mermaid II Liveaboard Like?

Mermaid II Liveaboard in Indonesia

The Mermaid II is a 108 foot (33 meter) long twin engine steel yacht that has been exclusively chartered for this snorkeler-only adventure. She is a very comfortable and safe ship for exploring the remote regions of Indonesia.

There will be 18 snorkelers, along with one of Ben’s snorkeling guides, as well as a full complement of crew.

We have done a trip on the Mermaid II, and it has a fantastic crew, and they were fantastic with our diet requirement.

Mermaid II liveaboard deck layout

There are eight deluxe cabins on the main deck, and two budget cabins on the lower deck. All of the deluxe cabins offer the choice of either a double bed only, or a twin bunk bed configuration, with large panoramic sea view windows, air-conditioning and ensuite bathrooms.

The budget cabins have twin bunks, a vanity sink, air-conditioning, and share a bathroom with one other cabin via adjoining doors.

Mermaid II deluxe cabin
Mermaid II budget cabin

There is a sundeck in the front area of the upper deck, and a shaded outdoor lounge in the rear of the upper deck, as well as an air-conditioned lounge. The entire upper deck is a great place to lounge between snorkeling sessions, and to enjoy the views, sunsets and sunrises, as you travel.

There is an air-conditioned restaurant in the front of the main deck, where you will be served delicious meals featuring local species and fresh ingredients. The buffets are a mix of Asian and Western food. They can deal with many dietary requirements.

Mermaid II sun deck
Mermaid II lounge

The entire rear of the main deck is where you can store your gear and also where you either enter the water directly, or where you will board one of two rigid inflatable boats that will take you to close snorkeling spots. These smaller boats have ladders to help you get back on board, with crew to assist, as well.

Mermaid II snorkel boat and rear deck

Trip Details and How to Sign Up

This is a small group charter and we expect it to fill quickly. Your spot is reserved with your deposit. Contact Ben below for deposit instructions.

Trip Date:
February 11-23, 2025 – One double occupancy cabin and one male share space available.

Trip Price:
Deluxe Cabin: $8150 US per person (Twin/Double Share)
Budget Cabin: $7400 US per person (Twin/Double Share)

The initial deposit for this trip is $800 US per person. At 12 months before departure there is a $1000 US per person interim deposit, and at six months there is another $1000 US per person interim deposit. The final balance will be due three months before departure. A few payment options are available including debit and credit cards.

Individual travelers – Ben will happily find someone of the same sex for you to share a room with. If he cannot find you someone, no single supplement surcharge will apply.

Inclusions:

  • 1 night accommodation at Jakarta Airport Hotel with breakfast
  • Round trip domestic flights, transfers, and connections (Jakarta-Manado-Jakarta) with 20kg/44lbs checked baggage
  • 11 nights accommodation and full board (all meals) on the Mermaid II Liveaboard
  • A guide from Ben’s team
  • 3-4 snorkel sessions per day
  • Marine park fees, port fees, and fuel surcharges

Exclusions:

  • International flights and visas
  • Snorkeling equipment
  • Tips
  • Travel and health insurance
  • Alcoholic drinks, laundry and general sundries

Trip Organizers
Ben and his U.K. based team are the organizers and leaders of this trip (more about them below). Galen and Nicole from TropicalSnorkeling.com are promoting this trip, but all signups, trip organization and payments are made to and managed by Ben’s team. TropicalSnorkeling.com does receive a referral fee in exchange for promoting the trip, at no extra cost to attendees.

How to Sign Up or Learn More?

Use the contact form below to contact Ben and his team to request more information about them and express your interest in signing up. They will get back to you shortly with full details.


More About Ben and Our Partnership

Ben and Nicole in Alor

Ben (pictured with Nicole) is our friend and snorkeling trips partner. He and his team are based in the U.K. and have over 20 years of experience guiding in Asia and beyond. He has been running his own business since 2010 and is primarily offering guided snorkeling trips, but he started with diving. He began offering snorkeling specific trips because he was aware that snorkelers often get the short end of the stick when thrown in with divers. He and his team love the freedom and low stress of snorkeling, and are very aware of the different needs of snorkelers versus divers, in terms of the reef depth, and calm surface conditions needed.

From our experience going on two of his snorkeling trips we found them very well organized, the guides were fantastic and very helpful, and the underwater experiences were exceptional. Snorkeling groups really get the benefit of all of Ben and his guides’ years of experience in the water, and with different resorts and liveaboards.

All of his trips are small groups of 12-18 guests, or with a similar ratio of snorkelers to guides. These are premium trips including nearly everything you will need, accommodation, meals, transportation, and more.

His company is licensed and insured. Barring extreme circumstances they do not cancel trips.

Learn More About the Yacht

Mermaid II Liveaboard


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