As you might imagine in the beautiful waters of Indonesia, the fish are plentiful as well as the reef. I was told this over and over, and so my expectations were high, but Wakatobi waters and diving did not disappoint, in fact I was even more surprised than I thought I would be. This is my and my buddy's first trek into the Pacific, and I'm afraid we are spoiled for future trips, but that doesn't mean we won't go back. The diving was all its cracked up to be, but so it the resort.
The worst part of this trip is the traveling itself. Although we flew with Singapore Airlines and they do know how to make this trip as bearable as possible - even in Economy Class. I highly recommend them. The attendants are pleasant and delightful the whole way. The other thing to remember is that not only are you traveling half way around the world (east or west), you are also traveling to the Equator, so you have two large plane flights ahead of you. We trekked from DFW to LAX, to Tokyo to refuel, then to Singapore where we had a 6-hour layover. We checked into theTransit Hotel there and it is very simple, plain and very nice respite on this long trip. I highly recommend it. It
costs around $50 for a 6-hour stay with an ensuite bathroom. Please remember this hotel books up so make your reservations about 4 months in advance.
We traveled with Island Dreams and Ken Knezick and I can not say enough wonderful things about the details they all attended to for us. If this is your first (or one of your many) I highly recommend traveling with Ken and Island Dreams. Ken was on the trip and once we arrived in Bali made sure that all of us were met and gathered and taken care of. Having traveled internationally lots, I know all the intricacies that can and do happen, and Ken took care of all of these, without any fanfare or half the time without the group knowing anything had been done. In hindsight, this was good, cause about this time, my buddy and I were just taking in all the environs and not really paying attention to the business at hand! We stayed at a beautiful boutique hotel in Bali, Alum Kul Kul, where we had a wonderful feel of the country. The next morning we woke up to a wonderful breakfast buffet in the open-air lobby (we're on the Equator, so there's no need for too much protection except from the occasional rain, but our morning was comfortable and had a breeze from the ocean view. We then took a bus back to the airport to take our charter flight to Wakatobi.
Wakatobi (Wangiwangi, Kaledupa, Tomea and Binongko Islands) is named after four other islands in a small string of islands off the Southeast coast of Sulawesi which is the middle "upside-down Y" shaped island. We take our charter flight to Tomea the closest island to Wakatobi, and then a very short ferry ride on one of the dive boats to the resort. We are greeted by the most cheerful and energetic staff I've ever seen. They take over completely where all you have to do is walk to and from your hut and meals, and the dive boat. They really have set up a marvelous system to allow you to see and do the maximum amount of diving in the shortest amount of time. Each boat is split into two groups which allows the divemasters to be more specific about what you would like to see and better serve you. On the first dive you will be asked to perform some basic scuba skills just so they can tell your scuba level of diving, however we unfortunately had one of those wild currents (if you've done some of the wild-current dives in Cozumel, that's what this is), and we were doing good to stay in as a group, much less do any serious diving exploring or photography. Later in the week we did this dive a number of times, and the current was never this strong.
A word on currents here, cause this, as a photographer was one of my main concerns. As the diving went on, what we discovered is that the currents can be strong here, but they also seem to last for a short time and can in the middle of a dive, change. Don't kid yourself, these currents are dangerous, and if you know how to dive in wild currents, you're OK. This is one of the things that makes this a dive trip for more experienced divers. No open water newbies here - it just won't be that enjoyable for you. But for experienced divers, this is a piece of cake. Some dives, I would just tuck my camera under my arm and enjoy the ride, till the current died down, and then start shooting photos again. The boats were always close, and although my buddy is an air hog, and we were usually last in and first out, the boat was always close by to pick us up, no matter which direction the current seemed to be going or at what speed. And I have to ad, that the reef was so gorgeous at such shallow depths that when we would do our safety stops, it was usually among a plethora of reef and fish
and was NEVER boring! Some dives, we would just whirl right along with the current and not worry about the speed, and some dives the current was negligible which meant lots of fine opportunities for photography.
Our daily schedule was to rise to a beautiful sunrise, to have a breakfast of custom prepared eggs, juice, pastries, and international cuisine buffet, then off to change clothes and to the dive briefing in the Long House (the main building @ Wakatobi). After the briefing, everyone boarded the dive boat, where your gear and full tanks were waiting. The dive sites were usually 10-15 minutes (if that) from the resort, with a short trip to the next dive site, and an hour interval time, and a dive briefing on the boat for the second dive, then dive, then return to the resort, where you would change into dry clothes for lunch. The dry clothes may seem like a bother, but I liked it as it made the eating more special and you felt as though you were in a restaurant not an eating hall! A leisurely amount of time (usually time for a short nap), then the afternoon dive briefing in the Long House, afternoon dive, return to the resort, and plenty of time to clean up and change into dry clothes
for the restaurant and dinner...
After dinner we would saunter over to the dive shop and analyze our morning nitrox tanks....
.....and then trek out to the jetty bar for a nice night cap or just to enjoy the beautiful southern sky...
...you can see the Milky Way, Southern Cross - the the southern hemisphere's
counterpoint to Big Dipper, North Star - the little luminescent shrimp who leave a stream of glow-in-the-dark trails. Then off
to your beach hut....
for another night of snooze before another day of great diving.
The talk about the plethora and number of types of fish and reef and marine life is not over-blown here. This is the crossroads between two great oceans, Indian and Pacific and you can tell this is an area that has an over-abundance of life on the reef. I'm not a tree-hugger, but I did have the feeling that I was diving in a very special area, sort of like visiting an
antique china boutique in which everything had been beautifully preserved and I was going to do everything I could to make sure that I left it in the same condition I found it. Granted, the remoteness of the location and the difficult and time it takes to travel to Wakatobi will keep it from becoming a huge tourist joint, but if you are a diver who is looking for a once-in-a-lifetime trip, this is well worth giving up a couple of short trips to make this one great trip. Either as a celebration or just as a reward for whatever reason, this location has to be on your to-do list. It is a must. From the service, diving, dive sites, accommodations - everything gets an A+, which makes this a must do trip. And do it with Ken Island Dreams cause
they will make this so painless, you won't even know you've been through customs!!!