Black Sand Dive Retreat is an exclusive 6-bungalow quality dive resort located on Lembeh Strait - Indonesia’s exotic "Critter Capital".
Our resort is spread across three ha. of an old coconut plantation fronted by a private black sand beach in sheltered Kambahu Bay.
This resort is the realization of a long-term dream of Bruce and Fung Moore, who have more than twenty years of experience
when it comes to diving and hospitality in North Sulawesi.
View of Lembeh Strait from BSDR Bungalow room
Each coconut-wood bungalow offers wondrous views over Kambahu Bay and Lembeh Strait.
The bedroom is equipped with both a ceiling fan and a/c for your comfort, with complimentary
drinking water, coffee and tea close at hand. Free Wi-Fi is also available in all the bungalows.
Each unit has a walk-in closet to keep your bags and belongings organized and out of the way as well
as a room safe for your valuables and a walled open-air “Bali-style” garden bathroom with a
hot water shower to help reheat you after long repetitive dives.
The numerous lantern-lit fishing canoes that dot the strait by night provide a romantically memorable setting.
We also have a reference library / TV room where guests can learn more about what they are seeing on their
dives, view and share their underwater video footage or just watch satellite television.
Guests are encouraged to lounge on our sofas, drink, connect with and without our complimentary
Wi-Fi, exchange fish stories and socialize. Outside our restaurant you'll find our unique, inviting fresh water pool.
We have a fine black sandy beach where guests can enjoy current-free swimming and snorkeling in a
sheltered environment. Or they can just recline on a beach chair in the shade of an
overhanging banyan tree and enjoy the quiet view.
Our Diving Center
Dive Center - BSDR Lembeh
In our spacious Dive Center we have equipment cubicles for guest equipment to drip dry in the breeze
between dives and provide space for easy suiting up. Within meters are showers as well as rinse tanks
for washing both diving equipment and for soaking underwater camera gear. There is a dedicated
camera room that is fan-cooled, offering two heights of camera stations, each with
outlets for charging both 220 V and 110 V. Our two compressors and Nitrox blending system
have their own room, there is a WC for guests, a rental equipment room, and a briefing center,
covering all your diving requirements.
Muck Diving in Lembeh Strait
Lembeh Strait is undoubtedly a special place in terms of diving. What is considered rare
elsewhere is relatively common here, including critters such as hairy frogfish, mimic octopus,
mandarin fish, devilfish, flamboyant cuttlefish, ghost pipefish, pygmy seahorses and much much more....
There is a tremendous variety of frogfish, venomous fish, snake eels, crustaceans and nudibranchs,
with every dive offering an opportunity to find a species new to science.
There’s something here for everyone, even the most jaded of divers.
It is important to note that dive sites can seem overflowing with critters for a month or two and
then seem devoid of inhabitants for a period of time. What we see on our dives is for the most part
seasonal. There can be multiple ornate ghost pipefish on numerous sites at one time and a few weeks
later none at all to be found. We have not spotted any juvenile zebra batfish for months on end and
then have found five simultaneously on different dive sites. A few distinct species of nudibranch
can seem to infest certain sites for a few weeks and then all disappear for a different set of nudis to follow.
Some months can have frogfish or octopus seemingly everywhere in abundant numbers, but
the same month a year later can have few. We survey new areas and check out-of-use sites
methodically to determine which areas are the most fruitful.
In the middle of a huge expanse of quiet sand can be a small patch magically teeming
with critters of interest. There is always something new and exciting to see, even for us.
Change remains constant, but there are certain sites that are better
than others when it comes to consistently spotting notable critters.
The Incredible Biodiversity in Lembeh
Lembeh Strait is auspiciously located in the famed “Coral Triangle”,
which boasts the greatest marine biodiversity on the planet.
As one move away from this area, the numbers of marine species decrease dramatically.
Why are these waters so rich? It most probably is no coincidence that the largest water
movement on the planet, known as the Indonesian Throughflow, splits past the northern
tip of Sulawesi. To the north of Sulawesi, a string of volcanic islands form a chain all the
way to the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. Below the water this chain forms the
Sarangani Sill, which divides deepwater basins to the east and west.
To the west of Sulawesi is the Sulawesi Basin, while to the east there is the Philippine
Sea and the West Caroline Basin. The movement of water westwards from this basin
begins the Indonesian Throughflow. Hitting the Sarangani Sill, the shallow portions of
this water flow over this barrier and continue westward and down the west coast of Sulawesi.
The deeper waters hit the barrier and are diverted southward down the eastern side of
Sulawesi and through the Moluccan Islands. Most of North Sulawesi lacks a continental
shelf, which means that abyssal depths exist directly offshore and these deeper,
nutrient-rich waters are forced upwards and churned with surface waters as
they are flushed through the narrow confines of the strait.
Though currents are strong in the main channel, there are numerous small
bays out of the current stream suitable for easy diving in which the nutrients
settle to foster the rich biodiversity that our region is renowned for.
Our Diving Day
Our strategic location in Kambahu Bay has us located right amongst the best
muck dives in the entire strait. Most of our boat trips to the dive sites are
ten minutes or less. This gives you more time for relaxing at the resort rather than
spending a large chunk of your day bobbing around on a boat. With a maximum
of four guests per boat, we're keeping the dive groups small, while most of the other
resorts in the area put 8, 12 or even more guests per boat, which results in a lot of
the sand bottom being kicked up and pile-ups ensuing at special critters.
All of our boat dives are out-and-back, so you are not obligated to do two morning
dives if you do not wish to. Sleeping in with a late breakfast is a viable option.
The first boat dive of the day is at 8:00, with coffee/tea and a snack awaiting at the
Dive Center on your return. The second boat dive departs at 11:00. We ask or
guests to limit their bottom time to 75 minutes on boat dives so that we can keep
to our schedule and ensure safe surface interval times. As your lunch was ordered
immediately after breakfast, your meal will be quickly served as soon as you seat
yourself in our restaurant for lunch, allowing you time to relax before the afternoon
dive, which leaves at 2:30. Night boat dives are available on request and
depart at 5:45 or 6:00, depending on the time of year.
Unguided or guided House Reef dives, day or night, can be arranged by our dive staff.
Simply ask. The House Reef is open at 8 am and we ask our guests to be out of the water by 8 pm.
Our staff will help with your equipment, cleaning it and hanging it up for you
in your equipment locker at the end of your diving day. The next morning they will
have your bcd and regulator set assembled and ready aboard the boat.
If doing a self-guided beach dive, we do ask you to rinse and store your equipment yourself.
Diving Conditions in Lembeh
Being sheltered, Lembeh can be dived year-round, though some critters are seasonal,
meaning that there are different things to see depending on the time of the year.
The water is generally cool for the tropics, averaging 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees F).
With this in mind, full wetsuits are recommended to conserve body heat on the multiple
dives done daily, which are usually shallow, meaning long. We do get colder
thermoclines moving in from time to time, which is beneficial as cold upwellings spur
mating cycles in pipefish, nudibranchs and other species.
The visibility is also less than many dive destinations on average, owing to the
nutrients in the water that are the reason for the wealth of biodiversity.
Visibility averages 10-15 meters, though it can be somewhat less or as good as 30 meters.
In general, the northern Lembeh Island sites offer clearer water, increasing in clarity
as one heads north from mid-island into more open waters.
But low visibility does not lessen the experience as the attractions can be viewed from close quarters.
Our Splendid House Reef
Right off our beach is some of the best diving in Lembeh Strait.
The established dive sites of Hairball 3, TK1 and TK2 are literally at your doorstep.
With two paid boat dives daily, guests can take a tank and have a free self-guided
House Reef dive while guests on 3-dive / day packages have unlimited access.
We allow solo diving on the House Reef at the discretion of the Dive Manager,
though guides can be booked on request to help get the most out of our front yard,
depending on availability. Because of a lack of currents, it can be safely dived at
any time, and it is at night that it is especially incredible.
All of the iconic muck critters are regularly encountered: frogfish
(nine species, possibly more), octopus (mimic, wonderpus, ocellated, white-v, brown
mimic, reef, algae and even the two species known generically as “hairy octopus”),
squid, cuttlefish (including flamboyant cuttlefish), Rhinopias
(both the frondosa and eschmeyeri species have been seen, but are considered quite rare),
bubble shells, spanish dancers and far too many more nudibranch species to list, stargazers,
various waspfish, ghost pipefish (robust, delicate, velvety, ornate and filamented),
pipehorses, sea horses, bamboo and coral cat sharks, heaps of banggai cardinalfish,
flying gunards and fingered dragonets, juvenile clown sweetlips and barramundi,
an incredible variety of lionfish and scorpionfish species, numerous snakes,
moray and ribbon eels, rays, crustaceans galore and much more.
There is so much to see in the shallows that divers usually never even
reach 15 meters in depth. Dr. Gerry Allen called our House Reef "Shrimp Goby Heaven".
With this much to see in such easy conditions directly off our beach, divers
can be assured of getting what our beloved friend Larry Smith would call
“Maximum Critter Overload” and photographers can have all the time
they wish to get that elusive perfect shot.