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Lembeh Strait

Sulawesi is one of those places on nearly every diver’s bucket list. If not, it ought to be. A dozen years ago, people would have thought you daft to go diving there, much less build a dive resort in an area dominated by dark volcanic sand. Yet in Sulawesi there are nearly two dozen resorts vying for divers’ dollars, yen and euros.

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School of Bangai cardinalfish | Eric Hanauer

Sulewsi came on my radar when I first set eyes on Roger Steene’s book, Coral Seas, published in 1998. At the time, the last thing on my wish list was another coffee table book. I had been diving nearly 40 years and thought I’d seen just about everything I wanted to see underwater. But when I spotted the weird, exotic animals in that book, I realized what I’d been missing. An inordinate number of them were photographed in Sulawesi.

My first trip to Sulawesi was in 2005 on the liveaboard Aqua One, motoring through Bunaken and Lembeh Strait. When I returned home and matched all the critters still missing against Steene’s book, I vowed to return. I’ve never been a fan of checklist diving, but after seeing shots of mimic octopuses, rhinopiases, bobbit worms and stargazers, I realized that I’d missed the boat. So, when the opportunity finally arose, nobody had to twist my arm.