Text and photos Tim Ho

Ever so often we go on dive trips and come back with a collection of photos that we share online to receive the oohs and ahhs of family and friends who think the bottom of the ocean is lined with all these amazing creatures we’ve photographed.

Having spent most of my professional years teaching, the recent move into underwater photography taught me to appreciate the “backstage crew” who specialise in assuring one doesn’t return home with empty memory cards from a great dive holiday.

As a dive professional, I was great at pointing out a turtle or manta in crystal blue waters, Lembeh-like environments, however, tend to challenge the untrained eye in finding the rarest of marine creatures in the most camouflaged environments. Lembeh is one of the few places in the world that is home to some of the best spotters in the world!

The star gazer, pygmy cuttlefish, harlequin shrimp, as well as the hairy frogfish, provide colourful contours to Lembeh’s one-of-a kind reefscape

Lembeh’s seabed consists mainly of sandy bottoms and powder fine silt with clusters of pebbles. This has only been my second visit to Lembeh, but having spent the last year or so muck diving in Anilao, the importance of a good spotter is something I am well familiar with. The dive spotter you get on a muck dive can make a world of difference in how good a yield you will get!

In critter-land, you may decide to go in search of the rarest of critters recommended by divers you may meet along the way; the subject you’re looking for may be the size of a single grain of rice and the dive site the size of a football field. Getting someone new is likely to get you swimming a lot over long patches of nothingness.

My assignment to Ben Sarinda at YOS Dive Lembeh was one I welcomed with happy flipping fins. Ben’s been diving these waters for years and the confidence that he’ll be able to show me something new was on an all time high.

Lembeh shines as the quintessential undersea oasis for the weirdest and wildest creatures

Choosing a guide who is in the water almost everyday gives the assurance that he knows where all the good stuff is as these tiny critters don’t travel long distances over one or two days. Getting a guide who is also personally into photography guarantees that he knows animal behaviour well enough to be able to make a clownfish open its mouth for you when you need it to.

On my recent visit, I also discovered that, on the occasion you find yourself teamed-up with a group of non-photographers who don’t wish to stay in one spot for more than a minute, the option of having a personal guide is available from as low as US$50 a day. Should you also decide to go to a specific dive site that nobody else wants to go to, or the cost of having your own private boat for the day won’t burn a hole in your pocket.

For most divers who visit Lembeh, the real stars of the show are the gaudy octopuses, from blue rings to mimics and hundreds in between’

When planning your holiday to Lembeh, you’re likely to experience less rain in the months of April to October. The waters here can warm up to 28°C, but starts to cool by August to October. These cooler months are when critter finds are at its best.

For the rest of this article (Asian Diver 2014 Issue 3 No 132) and other stories, check out our past issues here or download digital copy here.

The 25th anniversary of the largest and longest running dive show, Asia Dive Expo (ADEX) is set to occur on the 11-14th April 2019. Centred on the theme – Plastic free Future, ADEX is more than just a dive show with its commitment to the environment. Among an exciting lineup of programs, attendees can look forward to a Future Forward Series of Panel Discussion on the Single-Use Plastic Conundrum in Asia, on 13th April.

So join us at the event, get inspired and for all you know, you might just liberate the inner diver in you! More details of the event here

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