Oct 25, 2007

Bitung and Lembeh Strait

Bitung isn't really a major tourist attraction of North Sulawesi. The city is wide spread out and rather unattractive. However, it will be your entry or exit point to North Sulawesi if you arrive or leave by PELNI ship. There are also local ferries to other destinations, like Ternate in North Molucca. If your ferry leaves early in the morning you might want to spend the night there; buses from Manado are sometimes overcrowded or difficult to get shortly before the departure of a large ferry.

Lembeh Strait

The adjacent island of Lembeh protects Bitung's natural harbour; the strait in between has gained a reputation of being the world's No. 1 place for divers interested in odd and rare macro fauna. While most of Manado's dive resorts and liveaboard operations arrange regular diving tours to Lembeh Strait the Kungkungan Bay Resort (KBR) for years has been the only dive resort in the Bitung/Lembeh area. After a serious decline in the quality of its operations in recent years the resort and dive center management in January 2004 has been taken over by the Eco Divers, one of North Sulawesi best dive operators. Since then prices at KBR have come down to a very reasonable level, a swimming pool and spa have been built and the dive center been stocked with new equipment. The new management seems to be on the way to making KBR what it once used to be: a mekka for the world's underwater photographers.

Within the last two years more resorts have been built: Sulawesi Dive Quest (branch of the Bunaken operation) offers some simple beach accommodation on Lembeh Island.

The former dive center at Benteng Resort has moved its operations to the island as well: Divers Lodge Lembeh.

The Lembeh Resort has very nice and luxurious accommodation at rates similar to KBR's. The diving is handled by MUREX, one of Manado's pioneer dive centers. Lembeh Resort also offers NITROX.

The Pulisan Jungle Beach Resort is a bit further away but also does regular diving tours to Lembeh, as does the Gangga Island Resort.

Some operators are also offering liveaboard trips to Lembeh. In my understanding a liveaboard is something for divers who want to explore remote areas, where they meet no other divers. With the good selection of budget and more upmarket dive resorts at Lembeh it doesn't seem to make sense to me to do a relatively expensive liveaboard trip to Lembeh when you can stay much more comfortably at one of these resorts.

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Bitung and Lembeh Strait
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