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Dive Review of Wakatobi Dive Resort in
Indonesia/Wakatobi

Wakatobi Dive Resort, May, 2013,

by Rickie Sterne/Chrisanda Butto, AR, US (Sr. Contributor Sr. Contributor 24 reports with 8 Helpful votes). Report 7004.

No photos available at this time

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 5 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 5 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments Rickie had just moved up to a DSLR. He wanted a dive destination that offered beautiful wide-angle subjects, good viz, and lots of bottom time with relatively little current. Wakatobi met all those criteria, so we booked a sixteen day stay. We had visited Wakatobi once before, and I had not been eager to return; but, hey, I'm a good dive buddy. As it turned out, everything I had disliked about Wakatobi had been changed for the better.
In retrospect, the adjectives to describe our experience at Wakatobi are easy, pretty, and pleasant.The ease began on our arrival at the airport in Denpasar. Although we were travelling alone and came in two days early to rest, a representative of Wakatobi's Bali office met us at the airport. He took our passports with $25 each and returned quickly with our visas on arrival in hand. On other trips through the same airport we have stood in line 30-45 minutes to procure those visas. The young man then helped us retrieve our luggage and escorted us to the pick-up area, explaining when we should return to the airport for our charter flight to the resort. When we did return, another young man stood in the drop-off area holding up a Wakatobi sign. A young woman escorted us to the luggage check-in and then onward to a VIP lounge, where we could wait in comfortable chairs with drinks and heavy hors d'oeuvres available. A Belgian gentleman came to the lounge to review the day's plan with the new guests and to escort us to the airplane.
When we reached the resort about three hours and one meal later, the first change we noticed that made our visit more pleasant was the absence of the hour-long orientation lecture formerly delivered to the unreceptive audience of dazed and exhausted travelers. Instead, a young woman from the front office staff introduced herself and then escorted us to our bungalow. She showed us how everything in the bungalow worked, explained how to contact the front desk should we need anything, and suggested that we enjoy lunch in the restaurant while our bags were delivered to our bungalows. After we enjoyed a second lunch (more about the food later), we walked through the dive shed to check things out. A Dive Experience Manager joined us and gave us an individual dive orientation. We than made an appointment to do our "welcome dive" at 3 pm. When we returned to the dive shed, Acho, who was to be our excellent DEM throughout our stay, helped us set up our gear, provided us with the weights we requested, and explained the drill on the welcome dive. The three of us would make a taxi dive on the house reef. During that dive Acho would at some point ask each of us to clear our mask and drop our regs out of our mouths. Otherwise, we made a very pleasant 72 minute dive on the pretty house reef. Acho pointed out small stuff along the way, and we both had a grand time. On our first visit to Wakatobi, the eight divers in our group were lined up underwater while each diver demonstrated clearing his mask and each buddy team demonstrated sharing air. There went half of our dive time. Of course, during the welcome dive, Acho was able to observe us and to learn about our buoyancy and "diving style." Yes, Wakatobi was seeming much more pleasant on this trip.
The next morning we found all our gear set up correctly by the crew on our assigned boat. The boats are large and comfortable with gear stations set up like a liveaboard. Entry is by giant stride, with return to the boat up stable ladders positioned amidships. Divers who wanted to do so were welcome to remove their gear in the water and hand it up. The rest of us received a helpful tank lift as we climbed back up the wooden ladder. Each diver is provided with a personalized tommy tippy cup. The cups were always filled with water when we boarded the boat, and we were offered a choice of water or warm beverages after our dives along with fruits, fresh-baked cookies, small sandwiches, and cubed coconut. We were delighted to find that each DEM is assigned only four divers. Each DEM gave a dive briefing to his group. at each site. Acho knew that we had come to Wakatobi for Rickie to learn to use his new camera. Acho helped Rickie with subject selection and composition and served as a model for him without neglecting the rest of us. And as another macro guy and I discovered, Acho was a brilliant tripod. The process for analyzing nitrox tanks had been streamlined beyond recognition.
The diving at Wakatobi is also easy, pretty, and pleasant. The reefs themselves, mostly sloping walls, are covered with healthy, colorful corals and inhabited by numerous, even more colorful tropical fish. Wakatobi is not a destination for big stuff, nor does it pretend to be. We did, however, see half a dozen eagle rays and three dozen turtles. On two dives we swam with schools of 50-75 barracuda. On the house reef we encountered a large school of bumphead parrotfish at dusk. During a morning dive at Pastel a school of pinnate batfish swam past us three times, doubling its number on each pass until there were over a hundred fish in the group. Because the diving was leisurely, I worked on fish ID and enjoyed just watching what all those fish were doing on the reef. I began to appreciate female square-spotted anthias, far more subtle than their male counterparts, but quite lovely. We saw interesting things like pinnate batfish with isopods attached to each cheek. We actually saw two fish we had never seen before, and I saw one new-to-me nudi. There were a lot of juveniles of various species. Invertebrates were not quite as well represented on the reefs as fish. We did, however, see several cuttlefish, both pygmy and broadclub, as well as several octopus and black-banded sea kraits. Acho pointed out several species of small shrimp and crabs, and both spearing and smashing mantis shrimp were present. Of course, Acho showed us the photogenic but camera-shy pygmy seahorses (H. bargibanti and denise) for which Wakatobi is known. All our dives lasted more than 70 minutes, some longer than 80 minutes. We encountered current on only two dives, one of those a night dive on the house reef. The dive center staff made sure that the taxi boat dropped divers so they would be drifting with the current on the house reef. We basically never handled our own gear the entire time we were at the resort. I certainly never carried anything heavier than a coffee cup without having a staff member offer to help. My favorite new fish encounter occurred one morning as I strolled down the jetty with a cup of early morning coffee. I have been scouring the reefs of Indonesia for a Picasso triggerfish for three years. As I looked through the crystal clear water of the shallows beneath the jetty watching a free-swimming eel looking for his breakfast, not one, but two Picasso triggerfish swam slowly past me.
Our Gardenview bungalow was clean and comfortable. Actually, we could see the ocean from the porch of our bungalow. All the bungalows have been refurbished during the past six years and now have much nicer bathrooms. We loved our huge shower. Hair dryers are provided in all bungalows, along with really nice soaps and lotions. On our first visit to Wakatobi we stayed in a Premium Beach Bungalow. The only real advantages I could see in the more expensive accommodations were ocean breezes which made AC unnecessary at night and a larger pile of ID books. Gardenview bungalows get only the Tropical Fish book, a volume of which I made extensive use. Of course, all guests have access to a fairly extensive marine ID library in the Long House. Our bed was large and comfortable with mosquito netting that we treated as ornamental. Rickie found an extra pillow in the cupboard. A covered pitcher of drinking water is filled daily, and refills can be obtained by calling the front desk. There were two easy chairs and a desk. There are drying rods on the porch. A rinse basin to step into before mounting the porch steps keeps the sand from the resort's paths out of the bungalows.
The open air restaurant is certainly a pretty place to dine, with views across the narrow white sand beach to the ocean. Food is still served from a constantly restocked buffet, a practical arrangement with divers coming back from the reefs at different times. However, there is now real service in the restaurant. Drinks are served at the tables by wait staff. There are cloth tablecloths and napkins at the evening meal. First, the food. We had trouble getting past the hors d'oeuvres table. I love dishes like small servings of pan-seared tuna, wahoo sashemi, sushi, and various bruschetta, as well as lovely mixed greens with various salad additives available. The main buffet always offered both meat and fish dishes, as well as several veggies and homemade soups and fresh-baked breads. At noon there was always a pasta dish available. The dinner buffet usually included a carving station with roast chicken or duck or prime rib. And then came the fresh-made pastries and sorbet. Because five-star restaurants are not exactly thick on the ground in Elkins, Arkansas, I checked with a couple from NYC to be sure the food was as delicious as we thought it was. The New Yorkers assured me that we were eating meals as good as any they could get in Manhattan. The attentive service of the staff made the food more enjoyable. By the third morning we were in the resort, a waiter was pouring our first cup of their very good coffee as soon as we walked toward our breakfast table. Thirsty divers never sat with empty water glasses at meals. Three maitres d circulated through the restaurant, making sure guests were well attended. One gentleman from Ubud noticed that I had eaten eggplant at every opportunity and had praised several of the eggplant dishes. One night he had the chef prepare a special eggplant dish just for me. Ibram from Jakarta brought us "small,small" servings of delicious ayam soto, sure that we would enjoy it since we had been eating all the Indonesian dishes on offer. He also brought us and a Brazilian couple who ate mango and coconut sorbets very regularly the chef's sorbet recipe without our requesting it. Restaurant staff quickly learned guests' names and made each of us feel welcome. They greeted guests as cheerfully when they came in ten minutes before the end of a meal service as they had greeted those who came at the beginning.
On transfer day at trip's end, we awoke to heavy thunderstorms. The Bali office continued Wakatobi's excellent service by notifying every diver's Bali hotel that our flight had been delayed by one hour.
A number of Chapbook writers have mentioned the expense of Wakatobi. While we did not view this vacation as a cheap one, I would like to put Wakatobi's price in some perspective. Our cost per night for our stay at Wakatobi, including the price of the charter flight from Bali, was $18/night less than the cost of any Aggressor boat in the Caribbean. We paid $141/night less than we would have paid at the Misool Eco Resort, $21/night less that at the Siladen Resort and Spa, $23/night less than at Sorido Bay Resort, and only $23/night more than at Little Cayman Beach Resort. Remote resorts are expensive, full stop.
We enjoyed a grand holiday at Wakatobi, and our purpose in visiting the resort, a break-in trip for Rickie's new camera, was fulfilled brilliantly. Would we return to Wakatobi? Well, Wakatobi is definitely high on my list of "geezer destinations," places where we could enjoy some nice diving when we can no longer the manage the currents around Papua. Before then , we would actually like to make a combination Pelagian-Wakatobi trip for another, easy, pretty, and pleasant dive holiday.
Websites Wakatobi Dive Resort   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Bahamas, BayIslands, Belize, Bonaire, Caymans, Cozumel, Turks&Caicos, Sea of Cortez, GBR, Fiji, Truk, Yap, Palau, other areas of Indonesia
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather rainy, cloudy Seas calm, choppy
Water Temp 82-84°F / 28-29°C Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 60-70 Ft/ 18-21 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Nitrox MOD/110 feet; no deco diving; one hour surface interval between dives; solo diving only with instructor certification and secondary air source
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 3 stars Large Fish N/A
Large Pelagics N/A

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities 5 stars
UW Photo Comments Wakatobi has a very nice air-conditioned camera room with 16-18 large work stations. The tabletops are carpeted and offer power strips with universal plugs in both 110 and 220 voltage. Clean towels are provided regularly for covering cameras. A lower shelf stores camera cases. The dive center staff were quick to help when I realized that I was one allen wrench short. Water was changed daily in the dedicated camera rinse tanks. Half the tank is designated for large cameras only. The other half is labelled for small cameras, computers, and regulators. My Canon G10 in a metal housing with a single strobe gave itself airs and soaked in the large camera tank. Why would the resort think that owners of small cameras are more eager than owners of larger ones to share a rinse tank with mucousy regs? The dive boats have large carpeted camera tables. No rinse tanks are available on the boat, but none are really needed since boat rides were rarely longer than 20 minutes. Crew members handled our cameras very carefully, and a dive guide or boat crew member always offered to carry our cameras from the camera room to the boat for us. Wakatobi is well set up for people who like to tinker with their cameras. The only problem I can see with the photography set up is that only 16-18 work stations are available for a resort that can host over 50 guests. The camera room also serves as the workplace for any rebreather divers.
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Subscriber's Comments

By William Lombardiin VA, US at Jun 16, 2013 15:19 EST  
Great review. We are planning a trip to Walatobi in March 2014 and your review makes the trip even better. Bill
By William Lombardiin VA, US at Jun 16, 2013 15:19 EST  
Great review. We are planning a trip to Walatobi in March 2014 and your review makes the trip even better. Bill
By Connie Bowlingin FL, US at Jun 23, 2013 10:54 EST  
Hi, excellent review, sounds perfect for us. But, what did your stay cost? Published rates for Wakatobi are -- at the lowest level -- $520 p/p a night (accommodations/meals $300, diving $195, nitrox $30). Posted rates for same inclusions at Siladen are $281 a night low season and $324 high season. And, the Aggressor fleet prices are significantly less than $500 a day. Not comparing operations/experience mind you, just rates. Thanks for any help you can provide.
By report author: Rickie Sterne/Chrisanda Butto in AR, US at Jun 23, 2013 12:49 EST  
Hello Connie, Our cost-per-night in a gardenview bungalow without Nitrox was $381/night. Our travel agent at Reef and Rainforest told me this week that Wakatobi had raised their prices since we booked our recent trip nine months in advance. It sounds as if the price increases were, unfortunately, significant ones. I know that when we switched to Nitrox midtrip the charge was $25/day. When I wrote our trip report I did not know that Wakatobi had increased prices. By the way, the trick about the rates at Siladen is that they do not include diving. I should also mention that we received a 10% discount, 5% as returning Wakatobi guests and another 5% for staying over 14 days. Sorry about the confusion. We did feel that we got value for our money. Going to Wakatobi is certainly the easiest way to dive in Indonesia, especially if you have never visited Indonesia before. Chrisanda Button
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