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Dive Review of Wakatobi/Pelagian in
Indonesia

December, 2007, an Instant Reader Report by David Reubush, VA, USA
Top Contributor   (42 reports, with 5 Helpful votes)
Report Number 3800
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
501-1000 dives
Where else diving
Australia, Belize, Bimini, Bonaire, Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, Curacao,
Dominica, Galapagos, Grand Turk, Provo, Red Sea, Roatan, Utila, Virgin
Islands
Closest Airport
Getting There

		

Dive Conditions

Weather
sunny  
Seas
calm  
Water Temp
84   to 88    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
0
Water Visibility
40   to 80    Feet  
 
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
yes  
 
Enforced diving restrictions  
Come back with 500 psi, but nobody checked.  
Liveaboard?
yes 
Nitrox Available?
N/A 
What I saw
Sharks
Lots 
Mantas
None 
Dolphins
None 
Whale Sharks
None 
Turtles
> 2 
Whales
None 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Corals
  5 stars
Tropical Fish
5 stars  
Small Critters
  5 stars
Large Fish
2 stars  
Large Pelagics
  1 stars
 
 
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
5 stars  
Boat Facilities
4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
4 stars  
Shore Facilities  
N/A  
Comments
2 big rinse tanks dedicated to cameras and computers.  Camera room had lots
of both 110 and 220 outlets.  Camera room didn't have compressed air for
drying, but did have lots of clean, dry towels for that purpose.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Accommodations
4 stars
Food
4 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
N/A
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  
3 stars  
Snorkeling
N/A  
 
 

Overall Rating

Value for $$
N/A    
Beginners
3 stars   
Advanced
5 stars    
Comments  
After having already paid for a trip on the Wakatobi boat, the Pelagian, it
was with some significant concern that I read the less than glowing review
in the August issue of Undercurrent.  After my previous disastrous
experience with booking the Adventure Komodo and almost losing all our
money I wondered what had I now gotten my wife and myself into.  Would we
have gone through all the pain and end up with a mediocre experience? 
Well, we have just returned from a 14 day trip on the Pelagian and I can
definitely say that I did not make a mistake.  I do not know what Pelagian
the reviewer was on, but it certainly was not the boat we were on.  The
Pelagian we were on was perhaps the best live-aboard we have ever been on.

The whole operation was, by far, the best organized of any live-aboard we
have been on.  Even though we were touring Bali for 5 days before we were
scheduled to fly to the boat the Wakatobi Bali representative, Crispin
Jones, still had 2 of his people meet us inside the secure area of the Bali
airport to facilitate getting our visas and getting us through customs and
immigration.  While the rest of the people on our flight stood in line we
were wisked through both immigration and customs and delivered to the guide
and driver from the local tour operator we had booked.  (I can also
recommend the Bali tour operator:  Mr. Ayub of the Bali office of Indi-go
Travel - indi-go@dps.centrin.net.id.  Private tours with an English
speaking guide and driver were $50 + entrance fees for 8+ hours.)  The day
we were to leave for the boat Crispin met us at curbside at the airport
and, again, his people wisked us through security to a lounge to wait for
the flight.  The flight to Tomia was on an ATR-42 that had some age on it,
but it got us there and back with no problems.  We were served lunch on the
airplane complete with cold washcloths to refresh us before we started
eating.  After landing we were loaded into a fleet of small vans for the
ride to the village where we caught a boat for the resort.  Since there
were people who were staying at the resort as well as the 9 of us who were
going on to the Pelagian our bags had been tagged with the respective
destinations at check-in and were delivered directly there.  We all got off
at the resort and were welcomed with a cold drink.  After a reasonable
period for rest and relaxation the 9 of us were gathered up and got back on
the boat for a short ride to the Pelagian.  Our bags were waiting for us on
the boat and we were shown to our cabins.  We had one of the least
expensive cabins on the boat and it was probably twice as big as any cabin
we have been in with either Peter Hughes or the Aggressor Fleet.  The rest
of the day was spent stowing our clothing, setting up our gear, and being
briefed about the operation of the boat.  The meet and greet was typical of
the great organization for all facets of the operation.

Rather than continue a blow-by-blow description of the operation and diving
I will try to highlight differences between our experience and that of the
August reviewer.  First of all, our dive masters were Angela, Anton, and
Wendy.  Angela and Anton were native Indonesians while Wendy was an ex-pat
Brit who had been with the resort for 4+ years.  They took turns rotating
through the tenders and filling the tanks.  They were all good at finding
things, especially Anton and Wendy.  Even though Wendy had been there for
some time she had an infectious enthusiasm and still got excited when she
found something really interesting for us to see.  She often stayed up to
review peoples photos to make sure we had gotten the good ones.  On one
dive Anton was finding things so fast I couldnt keep up taking pictures. 
The 9 divers were split into two groups; two couples, who were traveling
together, in tender 1 and the rest of us in tender 2, which was driven by
Brom.  Dives were at 6:45, 10:30, 2:15, and 5:30.  Since all our gear
except wetsuits and cameras was kept in the tenders getting into and out of
them from the Pelagian was relatively easy.  At the dive sites Brom helped
everyone into their respective BCs and we back rolled into the water, at
which point he passed out cameras.  Underwater we all loosely followed the
dive master, but there was no problem if photographers stopped or wandered
off to take pictures.  However, it was to your advantage to not wander too
far as the dive masters were far better at finding stuff than we were.

As far as the diving was concerned it was all I expected and more.  It was
so good that I did all 50 dives that were offered during our trip and would
have done more if I could have.  The August reviewer seemed to be upset
that he did not see any pelagics.  While we saw a few sharks, a few eagle
rays, a random tuna or two, and lots of large bumphead parrots I did not
come to see big fish.  If you want big fish go to the Galapagos or
someplace similar.  I did come looking for some specific things and I saw
them all and more.  I wanted to see pygmy seahorses and we saw 4 varieties.
 I wanted to see ornate ghost pipefish and we saw numerous.  I wanted to
see mandarin fish and we saw at least 2 pair.  I wanted to see Spanish
dancers and I, personally, found 2.  I wanted to see ribbon eels and we saw
one blue and 2 black.  I wanted to see frogfish and we saw several from
small through large.  I could go on, but you get the picture.  I shot macro
the entire trip and was totally happy with that decision.  The water
typically had lots of particulates (read food - hence the healthy reefs and
fish life) so that wide-angle shots, except those at the top of the reefs
in shallow water, would have had lots of flashback.  The daytime dives were
nominally 70 minutes and the dusk/night dives were nominally 60 minutes. 
However, many went longer.  My average for daytime dives (38 dives) was 73
minutes and my average for night dives (12 dives) was 69 minutes.  In 12
and a half days of diving we never dived the same site twice except we did
both a daytime and a night dive at two muck sites (both were great and
different).   

On the boat the two large rinse tanks were reserved for cameras and
computers only, no sharing with wetsuits etc.  There were 6 cameras among
the 9 divers on this trip.  The camera room was really not far from the
rinse tanks and was well equipped with lots of both 110 and 220 outlets for
battery charging.  There was plenty of space for the 6 cameras, housings,
etc. with a generous supply of dry towels for wiping off housings before
opening them up. There were 4 warm water showers on each side of the boat
so that you could rinse yourself and wetsuit off when you got back on the
Pelagian.  After taking your wetsuit off there were hangers up on the upper
deck where you could hang them to dry.  On most sunny days the suits got
reasonably dry between dives.

The August reviewer was also unhappy about the quality of entertainment in
the salon, the space available, and the cost of drinks.  His group must
have consisted of more party animals than ours.  All 9 of us were 50+, we
had plenty of space, and most of the time spent in the salon was occupied
with going through the extensive library of fish/creature identification
books trying to figure out exactly what we had seen.  There was also very
little in the way of drinks consumed, a beer or two, a few glasses of wine,
and a few sodas.  There was always cold water, apple juice, orange juice,
and two types of milk available for free, so why pay for drinks?  When you
consider the logistics involved with getting the drinks to the boat the
prices, which were not as high as those in many US restaurants, werent
excessive.

He also complained about the food.  In my opinion it was as good as that on
any live-aboard I have been on.  While the cuisine was not gourmet and
focused on Southeast Asian dishes we always got hot food and plenty of it. 
You were always given a choice of 2 main dishes for both lunch and dinner,
but if you didnt like what was offered they would fix whatever you wanted
as long as they had it.  We had one vegetarian and one person who had
significant food allergies and neither complained about the variety of food
they had.  For breakfast they would fix just about anything remotely
related to breakfast.  My wife ended up eating fried potatoes and onions a
number of times as she really liked how they fixed it.

The only problem I had the whole trip was I brought the wrong wetsuit. 
Before the trip I had an email exchange with Crispin about what thickness
to bring.  Crispin said that the water was 83 F, but was most insistent
that we needed 5 mm since we were doing 4 dives a day.  The dive masters
did, indeed, wear 5 mm suits.  However, they were acclimated to the tropics
and 83 F was cold to them.  To us, from the cold north, it was warm.  I
wore the 5 mm suit for one dive and then switched to squeezing into one of
my wifes skins with a 5/3 mm hooded vest for the rest of the trip and was
fine.  My wife, who is very cold natured, also switched after a couple of
days to skins and hooded vest and was fine.  Over the 50 dives my computer
said that the water ranged from 84 to 88 and my wifes indicated about 3
degrees cooler.  In either case, for a cold weather person, it was warm.

Needless to say I had a great time and will return.      

 
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.


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