Dive New Zealand Magazine – Weird and Wonderful

Lambeth Straight, Home of the weird and the wonderful

Few places in the world’s oceans can claim to be truly unique. New Zealand’s Poor Knights marine reserve is one exception. Another is the 20km stretch of water that separates Lembeh Island from mainland Sulawesi in Indonesia’s northern region. This intensely volcanic area is at the epicentre of marine bio-diversity and is a Mecca for marine biologists, naturalists and underwater photographers.

But it isn’t pristine reefs and teeming fish life that draws them here. In fact, hard corals are rare and soft corals tend to grow in clumps like oasis in the desert. Rather, they are drawn to this tide swept strait to study and photograph arguably the world’s most concentrated collection of weird and wonderful sea creatures.

Lembeh Strait is muck diving at its very best. Islands of filamentis algae and forest debris cover the black volcanic sand, disguising a world of exotic beauty and extreme evolutionary adaptation. Along the shoreline, lava rock formations create headland promontories festooned with encrusting ascidians, sponges and soft corals that in turn shelter an overwhelming array of bizarre creatures.

Over the past four years we have organised several expeditions to this region, taking small groups of adventurous divers with us from New Zealand. As well as exploring the wonders of Lembeh Strait we also dive the pristine reefs and drop-offs of the Bunaken/Manado-Tua Marine Park on the other side of the North Sulawesi peninsula. The stunning walls and teeming fish life provide the perfect contrast to the volcanic weirdness of Lembeh Strait.

From the safety of it's burrow this rainbow mantis shrimp is able to survey the surrounding area with it's swiveled eyes.

The tiny Pigmy seahorse is almost impossible to find, let alone photograph.

The giant Stargazer usually lies buried up to it's eyes, ready to explode from the sand and engulf it's prey

The truly stunning Harlequin ghost pipefish. This individual is laden with eggs.

Flamboyant cuttlefish only grow to about 10cm but are the undisputed champions of colour.

With a face only it's mother could love this stone fish greeted me as I descended on a night dive.

Colourful Seapens take advantage of the gentle currents to ensnare passing food.

This little horned cowfish seemed safe in the knowledge that it's home would be more than a mouthful for most predators.

One of the stranger fish we encountered in Lembeh was the gypsy sea moth that crawls along the bottom, often in pairs.

The Cockatoo Waspfish sways in the current like a fallen leaf.

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