A liveaboard puts the full wonder of Wakatobi’s stellar diving within reach
The setting sun ignites the western sky in gradations of orange and red as you step into the dive tender. You make final adjustments during the short ride towards shore. There, adjacent to a concrete pier, you roll overboard to discover a shallow rubble-strewn plateau that slopes gently down from a depth of five metres into the growing darkness of deeper water.
Wakatobi’s clean waters promote prolific coral growth and that’s further aided by the relative lack of boat or human traffic.
A school of predatory tuna provide shimmering testimony to the health of the ecosystem below them.
The unprepossessing setting is misleading and soon you see them. Though scarcely 6cm in length, there’s no missing those swirls of colour, as if graffitied by an abstract artist: mandarinfish.
Finding a pair of mating mandarinfish is one of the Holy Grails for many divers. Dusk is the time when these showy creatures typically emerge.
Three young white-eyed eels wait hungrily for their next meal, while mum keeps a watchful eye in the background.
Its opalescent colouration makes the short tail squid a popular subject for photographers on Wakatobi’s reefs.
A shrimp fluoresces a ghostly green, caught in the beam of an ultraviolet light, provided on special night dives.
This is muck diving, Wakatobi-style. This group of islands off southeastern Sulawesi are a treasure trove of the rarely seen and barely known, and there’s no better way to get to see and know it than by slipping anchor and taking to the water yourself. Join the liveaboard, Pelagian, and an archipelgo’s worth of world-class dive sites are within reach, night and day.
The steep-sided ridge known as The Blade offers photographers dramatic wide-angle shots, while the hard and soft corals that festoon its slopes provide ample macro subjects.
When to go
The Wakatobi archipelago experiences minimal seasonal variations in water clarity or temperature, resulting in excellent diving year-round. The Pelagian operates from mid-March to December.
How to get there
The liveaboard is based at Wakatobi Dive Resort, which is reached by direct charter flights from Bali.
Pelagian carries a maximum of ten guests with diving conducted from a pair of motor launches.
Many guests combine a cruise on the liveaboard with time at the resort, to do shore and dayboat dives on its famous house reef and surrounding sites. More info at www.wakatobi.com