Why is Wakatobi so compelling?

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Pelagian Dive Yacht passes by Wakatobi Resort and the renowned House Reef on the way out for a cruise through the Wakatobi Islands on up to Buton. Photo: Didi Lotze.

Wakatobi Resort is renowned for world-class diving and snorkeling. Set on a small, picturesque island in Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia, the boutique beachfront resort offers immediate access to one of the most bio-diverse coral reef environments on our planet. Surrounding waters present an unmatched wealth of marine life along with compelling underwater landscapes. Here’s seven favourite Wakatobi sites to showcase the amazing diversity here on offer for divers.

House Reef

The Wakatobi House Reef is reputed to be the world’s best shore dive. Divers and snorkelers access it right from the beach or the resort’s jetty since the reef’s crest lies less than 80 metres offshore and rises to just two metres depth at low tide.

Between the drop-off and the beach lies a vast ecosystem of turtle grass shallows and isolated coral heads which creates a rich environment for the most odd and beautiful creatures; just some of them are frogfish, stonefish, octopus, moray eels, blue-spotted stingrays, ghost pipefish, jawfish, shrimp and goby pairs.

Wakatobi’s House Reef begins just steps from the resort’s beach. Photo: Didi Lotze.

At the outer edge, crevices and caverns riddle some steep slopes and sheer walls which are covered with hard and soft corals, sea fans and sponges. Regular visitors here include turtles and sizable schools of jacks and barracuda.

The current on the House Reef ranges from mild to strong, which creates excellent opportunities for drift dives. Small taxi boats can drop divers up current so you can drift back to the resort’s jetty. House Reef can definitely be dived all day long, and with its varying depths and drop off points, each dive becomes unique.

An aggregation of Two-spot snapper and goatfish shoal amongst the hard corals at The Zoo. Photo: Walt Stearns.

The Zoo

Just a quick boat ride from the resort is one of the fishiest places in central Indonesia. Not far offshore, a patch reef within a sand-bottom bay is home to a wealth of intriguing marine creatures and plants. A casual look among the corals will show frogfish, ghost pipefish and leaf scorpionfish, hiding, though easy to spot. Closer scrutiny may reveal smaller prize sights, such as the hairy squat lobster and pygmy seahorses, and surveillance of the sandy bottom will yield bizarre burrowers such as the stargazer, and the alien-like mantis shrimp.

The Zoo is home to a wealth of intriguing macro subjects such as the Hairy Squat Lobster. Photo: Walt Stearns.

Nocturnal critters such as the Bobtail squid can be spotted at dusk. Photo: Walt Stearns.

Zoo is a favourite place for night dives. At dusk a lucky diver might get to see the colourful mandarinfish emerging from staghorn coral and rubble. As the light fades further a new range of nocturnal animals such as hunting cuttlefish, bobtail squid, brilliant flatworms and many species of lionfish, including the elusive twinpsot lionfish, scour the reef.

Resembling a gigantic rose, Roma’s large turbinaria coral formation measures more than six metres across. Photo: Walt Stearns.

Roma

The wide pinnacle known as Roma rises to within two metres of the surface. But the real story of this geological feature is what grows on and swims around the underwater plateau. The fringing ring of potato coral that encircles the crest has been likened to the Colosseum in Rome, hence the name of the site.

Brightly colored nudibranch (Goniobranchus kuniei). Photos: Walt Stearns.

These formations are adorned with multi-colored crinoids and anemones with attendant clownfish. One slope is covered in a huge grove of Pavona coral providing shelter for small reef fish; the other is a drop off fringed with table corals, soft corals, and fans. Large barrel sponges point the way to Roma’s signature coral growth – a unique turbinaria coral formation more than six metres across and resembling a gigantic rose.

Table Coral City is a particular favourite for wide-angle photography. Photo: Marco Fierli.

Large schools of blackfin barracuda, snapper and trevally jack patrol the water column above the pinnacle creating a constant flitter of light across the corals.

Interspersed among broad table coral formations are groves of staghorn coral, patches of leather coral and wispy lettuce coral. Photo: Walt Stearns.

Table Coral City

The crest of this prominent seamount is decorated with broad, mushroom-like growths of table coral. Their tops balance on slender supporting columns, and interspersed among them are groves of staghorn coral, patches of leather coral and wispy formations of lettuce coral. In contrast, the sides of the pinnacle are covered in colourful sprays of sponges and gorgonians.

The entire formation is a fish magnet. The peak is covered in swirling masses of anthias, pyramid butterflyfish, fusiliers and soldier fish. Schools of blackfin barracuda circle the mount; eagle rays and turtles glide past while snapper and giant trevally patrol above. Keen-eyed critter hunters will find a range of ambush predators including lizardfish, leaffish and crocodilefish, and closer scrutiny will reveal tiny treasures such as bubble coral shrimp and orangutang crabs.

Blade.

Blade

Blade is perhaps the most unique dive site in the region, and the furthest away from those regularly visited by the resort’s day boats. This distinctive formation consists of an elongated seamount rising from a deep ridge again to within two metres of the surface. In profile the entire formation resembles the serrated teeth of the edge of a giant knife. The elongated ridge-shaped formation is actually quite narrow allowing divers to view both sides of its seemingly vertical face simultaneously from the surface above.

Photo: Didi Lotze.

This majestic ridgeline is covered in colourful arrays of giant sponges and sea fans growing upwards of three metres across. Red whip corals grow thick here, offering fantastic photo opportunities. Multi-hued crinoids are often seen perched on the tips of gorgonians, extending their tentacles to catch passing food morsels.

Photo: Walt Stearns.

Mild currents allow you to drift from peak to peak, evoking a sensation of weightless flight. Blade is certainly an experience not soon forgotten.

Photo: Walt Stearns.

Teluk Maya

The iconic mating mandarinfish.

Here a wide range of depths and mix of underwater environments all occur in close proximity.

A mix of sponges and soft corals of varying species create a beautiful bouquet atop the crest of a reef. Photo: Walt Stearns.

Coral formations rising almost to the surface surround a sandy bay decorated with coral heads and sea grass. But venturing seaward and the bay transitions from a slope to a wall with steep overhangs sheltering reclusive marine life and shade groves of black coral. Within the bay a large school of resident batfish mill about, hunting for morsels in the sand, or waiting their turn at cleaning stations. Cuttlefish frequent the area for mating and nesting. Razorfish and rockmover wrasse go about building their burrows while colourful nudibranchs inch their way through the sea grass and coral\\.

A mix of sponges and soft corals of varying species create a beautiful bouquet atop the crest of a reef. Photo: Walt Stearns.

This is a prime area to discover one of the most celebrated of sea slugs, the solar powered nudibranch. This large invertebrate adds variety to its diet of leather corals by cultivating colonies of zoocanthellae algae in its elongated tentacles.

Dive boats. Photo: Wayne Osborn.

Cornucopia

Many of the shallow reefs around Wakatobi Resort start just a couple of metres below the surface then transition down to steep walls. One of the most popular of these precipices is the great wall of Cornucopia which combines a dramatic vertical profile with an above-average critter count. Nearer the surface, dense clusters of mid-sized sea fans dominate then, as the reef goes vertical, the face is adorned with the multi-hued coatings of soft corals. At even greater depths, larger and more solitary gorgonians mix with sponges and black coral groves while numerous undercuts perforate the wall, providing dark recesses for cometfish, juvenile grouper and a range of macro life.

Photo: Mathis Weatherall.

A signature resident of these grottoes is the Randal’s shrimp goby. Unlike other shrimp gobies, which almost exclusively inhabit open sandy or silty bottoms, the Randal’s prefer the overhead environments indenting Cornucopia’s wall.

Wakatobi’s private guides will tailor each dive experience to fit their guest’s wishes or individual needs.

The Pelagian experience

The resort’s resident photo pro provides a full range of pro photography services that includes one-on-one workshops and in-water sessions based on each guest’s skill levels and aspirations.Photo: Walt Stearns.


At Wakatobi guests can board the dive yacht Pelagian for week-long cruises to take in a greater area of the Wakatobi Regency. The Pelagian carries just 10 guests attended by a crew of 12 delivering the highest levels of personal attention, from attentive cabin and dining service to diving preparation and in-water support.

Photo: Didi Lotze.


Each day the onboard chef creates meals worthy of a Michelin-starred restaurant – fresh local flavours in a menu also featuring international favourites.

Photo: Didi Lotze.

Pelagian‘s weekly itineraries take in a broad swathe of the Wakatobi archipelago – such as the fish-laden pinnacles near Hoga, and the big reefs of Karang Kaledupa and Karang Kapota where divers will find everything from coral-rich shallows to sheer drop-offs. For many divers a highlight of each cruise is the days spent in Pasar Wajo Bay where some of Indonesia’s best muck diving is to be found, along with a signature experience at Magic Pier to observe the mating rituals of mandarinfish.

Photo: Walt Stearns.

Wakatobi’s commitment to conservation

Wakatobi Resort is committed to a variety of proactive programs for protecting the environment while at the same time providing tangible benefits to the local community. The Wakatobi Collaborative Reef Conservation Program was established at the time of the resort’s founding. This involved agreeing with the local people to designate a six kilometre section of reef as a marine sanctuary. Direct payments were made to villages in the area and their fishermen in exchange for honouring this no-fishing zone.

Relaxing luxury. Photo: Didi Lotze.

The program has since expanded to include 17 local communities around the resort, and the sanctuary now encompasses over 20km of some of the finest reefs in the world. Since the establishment of the reserve, destructive forms of fishing have been eliminated, dive sites are protected by permanent moorings, fish populations have increased, and corals have returned to near-pristine status.

Photo: Didi Lotze.

Built for comfort. Staffed for service

Photo: Didi Lotze.

Wakatobi’s fleet of spacious dive boats each make three daily trips to more than 40 sites within the Wakatobi private marine reserve. Each of these 21-metre custom-built launches is fitted with generous bench seating, bathrooms and storage areas under a full-length roof. To ensure each guest is given an appropriate level of attention, both in and out of the water, the resort typically maintains a ratio of one dive guide to four to six divers. There is also dedicated service for snorkelers who enjoy numerous shallow reefs accessible from the dive boats as well as full briefings and snorkel guides.

Personalised Services

Photo: Didi Lotze.

Divers and snorkelers seeking the ultimate in personal service and diving freedom can add the services of a Private Dive/Snorkel Experience Manager (PDEM), a dedicated guide who will focus entirely on the needs and goals of a buddy pair, a single diver or a snorkeler. By working with a private guide, divers and snorkelers can enjoy a more independent itinerary while, at the same time, benefitting from the guide’s watchful eye and support. This service is available for casual or novice divers looking for a bit of extra help with gear and in-water guidance as well as for advanced divers in search of new adventures, or a photographer with specific imaging goals. Guests staying in a Wakatobi’s villa are automatically provided a PDEM.

Photo: Didi Lotze.

Also available are private boat charters which place one of Wakatobi’s full-sized dive boats and crew fully at the all-day disposal of a diver or small group of divers. Special attention is given to underwater photographers; they are provided with the full support of a dedicated photo centre, climate-controlled workroom, and on-request underwater photography services and workshops overseen by Wakatobi’s resident photo pro.

Easy arrival

Though remote, Wakatobi Resort is actually quite easy to reach. Direct charter flights bring guests from Bali to the resort’s own airstrip in just two and half hours. With generous baggage allowances and a dedicated concierge service in Bali there is no need to rush to make connections; Wakatobi staff will greet you, guide you through baggage claim and customs, and assist with ground transportation at your Bali layover with five-star efficiency.

Wakatobi is a boutique oceanfront resort combining the charm of a remote island setting with the highest levels of personal service.

To take full advantage of its natural surroundings, the resort’s individual bungalows and villas nestle into the shade of a coconut palm grove set along a white-sand beach. Buildings are hand-crafted in regional Indonesian style from sustainable local materials, and carefully sited to ensure both privacy and views. Though traditional in appearance, these spacious accommodations offer a full range of modern comforts, including air conditioning, private verandahs and with details such as Asian-style outdoor showers. Oceanfront Villas include additional indulgences such as plunge pools, outdoor Asian spa style showers and expanded waterfront decks. Complementing these amenities is an attentive staff that deliver a level of personal attention whose goal is always to exceed your expectations.

Watersports and earthbound interests

In addition to daily diving and snorkeling guests can also enjoy a range of beach and water sports such as kayaking, kiteboarding lessons, wakeboarding and other towed water sports.

Walking trails are nearby, and village tours allow a closer look at the region’s places and people. For a taste of local flavours, guests can also participate in Indonesian cooking classes, towel art workshops and more. For more relaxing down times, there is a well-stocked library and media centre, (and the Jetty Bar becomes a favourite happy hour destination for socialising and taking in a sunset over the ocean.)

Mealtimes at Wakatobi are much more than a chance to ‘fill up’ – the resort’s waterfront restaurant consistently draws high praise from guests, and often considered a highlight of the vacation. Diners can choose seating with open-air dining room or on the outdoor ocean-view terraces.

The resort’s talented culinary team prepares an ever-changing menu of both international and regional flavours, blending local ingredients with delicacies from around the world. Our chefs and serving staff quickly learn each guest’s personal preferences and are more than happy to fulfill special requests or dietary needs.

Children of all ages are welcome. Parents with youngsters can enlist the services of caring nannies to free them up for diving and other resort activities. Older children can join in a wide range of daily activities at the resort’s Kid’s Club, take snorkeling lessons or sign up for youth-oriented programs such as PADI’s Bubblemaker diving experience.

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