Ever since we did the underwater photography workshop in Bali with Underwater Tribe, we’ve been itching to visit NAD. The Tribe, and pretty much any underwater photographer that we have met has raved about the Lembeh Strait, and specifically NAD.

Getting There
We flew from Melbourne to Singapore, overnighted at the airport Crowne Plaza, and then continued on to Manado the next day. This itinerary was mostly due to the flight schedule, but in retrospect, it was great to break up the long trip. Our pre-arranged transportation met us at the Manado airport, and drove us an hour and a half east to the port city of Bintung. From there we hopped on a boat for the 15 minute crossing to Lembeh. We did this trip in reverse in one go (no overnight) on the way back and it was exhausting.

NAD Lembeh
NAD (which we learned stands for “Nomad Adventure Divers”) is a cluster of bungalows and buildings in a small cove on the Lembeh Strait. The whole resort features lovely views across the Strait to Bintung. The giant open air dining area is the central gathering place. Meals are buffet and served family style, though there is plenty of room to spread out if you want some privacy. There is no shortage of really good, fresh cooked food. We both gained a kilo or two.

Our room was bungalow #5, which was the first one at the top of a short but steep set of stairs. The bungalow consisted of a large main room, a spacious bathroom, and a front porch. They had thought of everything – from extra power points for charging devices to clotheslines out front to dry your swimmers. The bungalow also had a decent wifi signal – not sure if that is true for all of the bungalows as ours was closest to the main area.

The most impressive part of NAD, other than the hospitality of every single person there, was the camera room. During our stay, there were about ten other guests and all but one had insane camera rigs. The camera room had individual workstations, with towels and lights and universal power points. You can tell that NAD was set up for photographers by photographers.

The Diving
Even though NAD has a 2:1 diver to guide ratio and a max of 8 divers per boat, we pre-arranged to have our own boat. We like to do our own thing and have the extra space, and NAD was happy to arrange this for us. All of the boats are named after different types of octopus – ours was the Wonderpus.

Our guide Deddy was a legend. We didn’t touch our gear once – he even carried my camera from the boat back to the camera room ! He was an expert critter spotter as well. After dives, the crew provided drinks and snacks, and even warm towels after the dusk mandarin fish dive.

All of the dive sites that we visited were within 10-15 minutes of NAD, and the conditions were generally calm. We did 11 dives over four days, with many photo keepers on each. With the exception of the mandarin fish dive, all were muck dives. What the heck is muck diving, you ask ? Muck dive sites often look completely void of life, with large patches of sand, or dead coral. But when you look closely, there is plenty of life – mostly small to extremely small critters like pygmy seahorses, cuttlefish, and nudibranchs. I’m still not convinced that I saw the pygmy seahorse (size of a grain of rise) other than on the back of my camera screen.