Manado, December 12-17, 2008

By Terence Lee
Photo courtesy of Antia Lamas Linares and Terence Lee

Manado is a small island in Sulawesi, Indonesia, that within the last 10 years or so has become renowned for world class wall and muck diving. In December 2008, about 20 of us from Singapore made a 5 day trip there. We stayed at Cocotinos resort, on the west side of Manado Island. Our trip included 3 full days of diving and 2 half days (the first day and the last day, where we did 2 dives each). All in all, I did 14 dives. The last dive of the trip was my 500th dive. All the dives were at Bunaken or Manado, except day 4’s dives, which were at Lembeh. The boat ride to Bunaken takes 45-60 min. Lembeh is an island off the east coast of Manado Island. It takes a 2 hour bus ride and 30 min boat ride to get there. Dives at Bunaken tend to be “terraced” wall dives, in the sense that vertical wall sections are interspersed with horizontal reef areas. Lembeh is covered in nutrient-rich volcanic soil and typically has sandy or rocky bottoms. Typical depths were 15-30m in Bunaken and 10-20m in Lembeh.

Cocotinos is a nice resort. It is quiet and secluded, which can be both good and bad. It’s good for hardcore diving but there’s nothing else to do nearby. The staff are very friendly and helpful and go out of their way to please. I haven’t had someone wash and hang my gear for me in recent memory. The dive guides have excellent eyes and try hard to spot interesting marine life. The food is quite unexciting, except for the BBQ and roasted suckling pig, which were excellent. The ride to Lembeh from Cocotinos is quite a pain. Since I prefer muck diving, I may stay closer to Lembeh in the future.

This was my first trip using a camera and strobe. Wen was kind enough to loan me his Ikelite DS-125 strobe. Shooting pictures came to me more easily than I expected, and soon I was firing away on every dive. It was quite tiring though, maintaining fine buoyancy control to get good macro shots. I shot with the 18-55 mm kit lens, mostly on the long end as most of the subjects were tiny. The lens wouldn’t focus on anything closer than maybe 30 cm away. A macro lens would make life a lot easier.

Lembeh is an absolute macro photographer’s heaven. I would have liked to spend more time there. For the life of me, I can’t imagine why Lembeh still has such fantastic marine life. As it is dotted with local fishing villages, the water is polluted, smells funny, and has plastic bags and candy wrappers floating around. Maybe it is the volcanic soil. We saw lots of incredible things, like 9 lionfish of different varieties on 1 rock. It’s hard to believe that some of these things are actually real. I was getting crossed eyed looking so hard at the tiny, wonderful macro life.

I saw lots of firsts on this trip – mushroom shrimp, porcelain crab, squat lobster, orangutan crab, sea moth, electric clam, emperor shrimp, pygmy seahorse, cardinalfish… the list goes on. This is in addition to the usual reef fish such as parrotfish, trumpetfish, lionfish, scorpionfish, puffers, angelfish, clownfish, etc. I photographed at least 12 types of nudibranches.

To top it all off, the company was great as well. Living Seas runs good trips and the divers are serious about their diving and partying.

Terence Lee is based in Singapore and does most of his diving in South East Asia. He previously lived in the US, where he dove primarily in Florida, Mexico, and the Great Lakes. He is GUE Tech 2 and Cave 2 trained. He maintains a SCUBA diving blog at


Privacy Policy © 1998-2017 Global Underwater Explorers