Our Living Seas

Lembeh Strait 2013

INDONESIA

There are many narratives for Lembeh Straits: “The Muck Diving Capital of the World”, “Where God placed his leftover creatures”, “Indonesia’s Critter Capital”, and “The Muck Mecca”, just to mention a few. Whatever you say about Lembeh Strait, it has gained the reputation of being the world’s number one place for every diver interested in very odd and rare macro creatures. Divers and macro photographers flock from all over the world to experience the unusual critters Lembeh has to offer. It is the ultimate destination for the serious muck photographer.

This 2013 trip was my third trip to Lembeh Strait, and although it is a utopia for amazing and fantastic creatures, I did notice a change over the last four years. There seemed to be fewer critters than I remember in the past. Many of my fellow divers independently noticed the same change. There are at least 10 dive resorts in Lembeh that operate full time. There are about 90 dive sites, of which 20 are top sites. In my view, the large number of divers, including myself, has put an enormous amount of pressure on the sites and its creatures. Muck diving requires a special attention to buoyancy, proper muck etiquette and refined photographic skills. These skills, in my opinion have run “amuck”, as “getting the shot” has taken precedence over “preservation of the spot”. The guides are some of the best in the industry, but eagerly want the photographer to get the best shot possible, as they rely on tips as a major source of income. On a positive note, I noticed several resort guides, especially from Lembeh Resort, picking up trash and plastics. There is far less garbage in the water than I ever remember.

Is there a solution? I personally think that the dive site stresses can be repaired if they are left alone for a given period of time. It would be a monumental task, involving complete cooperation of dive resorts and liveaboard dive boats, with adherence to governing rules. The parties would meet, agree on which sites need to be restricted, determine the recovery time, and enforce the rules. Impossible? Perhaps. Possible? Yes. As one may expect, because this is the Mecca for Muck Diving, divers will apply a huge amount of pressure, and insist on diving the most popular sites. Unhappy underwater photographers could result in a decrease in revenue, which the people of Lembeh need. Monetary gain almost always trumps environmental preservation in our modern world. These are my thoughts and observations, and should not be viewed as disrespectful to anyone. I only wish to preserve and protect that cherished place “where God placed his leftover creatures”.