Wakatobi - 5 Star - with polish!
"We finally managed to dive Wakatobi in September 2010 after years of planning. Previous trips having been
cancelled due to work commitments. I can honestly say that it was worth the wait.
The standard package included two morning dives and one afternoon dive on each day. During our ten night stay,
there were two scheduled night dives (no afternoon guided dive on these days). In addition to the scheduled
dives, there was unlimited diving on the house reef available - and what a house reef! I would never tire of
diving it. It rivals many world class remote offshore dive sites and it is only a few steps from the dive
centre to the water or to a taxi boat depending on the drop in location. There is a real sense of genuine
freedom here - you can pack as many dives in as you can manage.
Wakatobi is at the heart of a region of incredible bio diversity. Pretty much guaranteed sessions with
multiple pygmy sea horses to name just one of the highlights. Wakatobi has some of the best reef scenes
available. I have never experienced such vast, seemingly endless vibrant healthy reefs. Despite this,
it was difficult for me to use a wide angle set up - I was simply hooked on the incredible array of
macro subjects. It is clearly a small creature location and does not bill itself as a large animal
destination but, we had one whale shark (I was too busy shooting Orangutan Crabs to take notice of
the tank banging), a number of black tips, Eagle Rays and large schools of trevally, snapper and
Barracuda to name a few.
The range of dive guides is excellent. Australian, Swiss, German, Japanese, Indonesian. All very helpful,
professional and enthusiastic. A good mix of male and female guides also. The typical maximum ratio of
guests to guides is 4:1, but this is sometimes less depending on occupancy. After the initial check out
dives, they are very relaxed depending upon experience levels etc and are very accommodating of photographers
on the guided dives and also solo divers on the house reef. They are working towards a 'normal' ratio of 2:1
divers to guides! the day we left, three new dive guides were coming in for training to support this. The
Dive Centre manager was a great young Australian, Ben. We were fortunate enough to also have him as our
guide for the stay.
The resort manager is a very attentive Kiwi gentleman, Iman, with the restaurant managed during our stay by
his Australian partner Vinessa (who also teaches Yoga and looks after guests children at the resort - a busy lady)
. She was absolutely great and a natural host. All in all Wakatobi have the best support team that I have seen on
any dive resort. All high end. The quantity of staff is simply incredible - somewhere in the range of 160
permanent staff (for a maximum of 52 guests - when we were there, the guest count was at 28). Even when
the resort is at full capacity the ratio of staff to guests is 3:1.
There is also a French / British couple that are the Operations Management team. They were not there when we
visited but we saw some of their video work (they professionally produce dive documentaries in addition to
their day jobs).
The boats are superb. The best day boats that I have seen in a pure dive resort. Incredibly spacious and
well equipped - it is just a shame that the dive sites are so close! I would have been very happy to spend
a lot more time on the boats. The vast majority of the dive sites are only 15 to 20 minutes from the resort.
The crews are very helpful and take care of everything. Once your kit has been set up for the first time,
you don't have to touch anything again. Each and every member of the hospitality staff remembers your name
from the first day and addresses you at every opportunity. We were very impressed with the general level
of service. The boats have safety equipment, toilet facilities and tea, coffee, hot chocolate, cold drinks
etc as well as the fresh snacks for between dives.
On the first day, both the resort manager and the dive centre manager made it very clear that they wanted
our comments - if they can do anything to improve your stay they will. They just ask for the chance to do
so. Every guest receives an informal one on one discussion regarding the service being received, looking
for ways to make your individual experience better. Unusually, they do listen and make efforts to react
quickly to any comments.
The food is great. The quality is quite incredible when you look at the remoteness of the resort, from
Sushi and salads to seafood, roasts, local dishes and anything in between. The desserts were also great
- not the usual simple dive resort affairs. You need to dive as much as possible to fight off the calories!
The restaurant has a good selection of wines also. The setting of the restaurant is superb and coupled
with the food and service quality it seems far removed from a dive resort. No request was too much trouble
for the team. They ensure that they cater for everyone's needs. There is of course an obligatory jetty bar,
a great place for sundowners.
There are great facilities for photographers with a well equipped camera room and huge camera surfaces and
a rinse tank on the boats as well at the dive centre.
All photos by Chris Goodwin