Nestled on the edge of a sheltered bay in Lembeh Strait, the Black Sand Dive Retreat is home to just six bungalows, offering guests an intimate and exclusive atmosphere for exploring the Coral Triangle’s “Critter Capital”. An outstanding house reef sprawls off their private beach, where underwater photographers and experienced divers can muck dive unguided at their leisure, or join their daily, guided boat dives to discover the fascinating macro life that lies just offshore.
Their comfortable bungalow accommodations are complemented by an excellent choice of food and dive facilities that include individual lockers, a dedicated camera room, and an extensive marine library. The dive team at the Black Sand Dive Retreat are highly experienced at finding elusive and camouflaged critters and are driven to offer new encounters and dive experiences to each and every guest.
The Black Sand Dive Retreat offers six coconut-wood bungalows, all boasting magnificent views over Kambahu Bay and Lembeh Strait. You can select from either a king or two twin beds, with a walk-in closet to store your belongings. All rooms offer both ceiling fans and air-conditioning, as well as a Balinese-style garden bathroom with a hot water shower. The rooms are also equipped with a safe for your valuables, complimentary drinking water, tea, and coffee.
The Black Sand Dive Retreat is located on its own (black) sand beach where you can swim and snorkel in the sheltered waters. Or there’s also a foot-shaped freshwater swimming pool where you can take a dip or just relax on the sun loungers available.
The Black Sand Dive Retreat offers its guests an extensive reference library where they can research and record the marine life they see during dives, as well as a TV for sharing their underwater video footage. There’s wifi available in the main building, with plenty of lounges for socializing, relaxing and connecting at the end of the day.
The menu at the Black Sand Dive Retreat draws on both Western and Indonesian influences, with a social dining space that encourages communal dining, while still providing private tables. Breakfasts are served buffet style, while lunches and dinners are cooked-to-order, with plenty of vegetarian options available. Lunch orders are taken at breakfast and dinner orders are taken at lunch, ensuring your requested meals are ready when you arrive back from diving and the ingredients are sourced fresh. Portions are generous and snacks are available during the afternoon, meaning you will never go hungry between dives.
Located in the Coral Triangle, home to the greatest marine biodiversity on the planet, Lembeh Strait is renowned as the “Critter Capital”. An amazing array of unusual creatures can be encountered on muck dives throughout its waters, with the Black Sand Dive Retreat boasting its own fascinating house reef.
The abundance in marine life is highly seasonal, with critters coming and going from dive sites during the year. Night dives also provide a different show of marine performers on this house reef stage. But you can generally always expect to see ghost pipefish, pygmy seahorses, mandarin fish, hairy frogfish, snake eels and nudibranchs to mention a few. Most dive sites are within a 10-minute boat ride from the Black Sand Dive Retreat and they keep dive groups to a maximum of four guests to help minimize bottom disturbance which severely reduces visibility.
The first dive of the day departs at 8am, with a second morning dive at 11am. Each boat dive returns to the resort for the surface interval, meaning you don’t have to wake up early for the first dive if you want a sleep in. Coffee, tea, and snacks are provided between morning dives and your lunch will be served as soon as you return from your second dive. You will have time to relax before the afternoon dive leaves at 2:30pm, with optional night dives available on request at either 5:45 or 6pm (depending on the season).
Diving on the house reef is offered between 8am and 8pm and can be done either guided or unguided. A lack of current means it can be safely dived throughout the year, and the Black Sand Dive Retreat offers complimentary air to dive the house reef with two paid daily boat dives. If you opt for three daily boat dives, then you have unlimited air available to dive the house reef solo! This is particularly beneficial for underwater photographers, giving them plenty of time to get those perfect shots, without feeling the pressure of a group environment.
The water temperature of the Lembeh Strait is around 82°F (28°C), but full wetsuits are advised to help conserve body heat during multiple daily dives and when cold upwellings occur. Nutrients in the water which support the rich biodiversity lead to a reduced visibility compared to some other dive destinations (10-15 meters on average), but the nature of muck diving and the close-up viewing opportunities mean that this in no way reduces the experience.
Their highly experienced team of instructors and divemasters have well-trained eyes for spotting elusive critters in Lembeh Strait, many of which have become experts at camouflage. They aim to offer divers of all levels new experiences and up-close encounters with creatures they have never seen before. The Black Sand Dive Retreat team will also clean and hang up your equipment in your locker at the end of the day, and have your BCD and regulator assembled on the boat the next morning.
Equipment cubicles are available for your gear to dry in the natural breeze between dives, while rinse tanks for washing equipment and soaking underwater camera gear are located nearby. There is a dedicated briefing center at the Black Sand Dive Retreat, and for underwater photographers, there is a purpose-built camera room with camera stations and charging outlets equipped for both 220V and 110V.
The Black Sand Dive Retreat has two compressors and a Nitrox blending system (Nitrox available for a surcharge), and the closest recompression chamber is located a 2.5-hour drive away at Malalayang Hospital in Manado.
If you are traveling with non-diving family members or just want a day out of the water, you can explore the nearby Tangkoko National Park. Not only is it home to the rare Tarsius spectrum, renowned as the smallest primate in the world, but also black crested macaque and Sulawesi cuscus.
Alternatively, you can take a day tour up into the cool-climate Minahasa Highlands to explore its villages, markets, lakes, and volcanoes, or get your adrenalin pumping on an exciting white water rafting adventure through its dense forests.
Overall, a comfortable, intimate dive resort, which is great for couples, or a small group of friends. Also great for underwater photographers who don’t want to be rushed from critter to critter. Beach lovers may have a hard time getting used to the black sand, and should keep their feet off the sand when swimming in the water, as sometimes beautiful, yet toxic little critters may have made their home there.