Ask a dozen guests to describe the highlights of their time at Wakatobi Resort, and you will get a dozen different answers. For some, it's the abundance and diversity of marine life, and the countless photo opportunities this creates. Others praise our staff for their warm and personal attention, and complement the chefs on outstanding dining experiences. Families appreciate the way young snorkelers and neophyte divers can be included in daily activities, and discriminating travelers revel in the unique combination of a remote location and high-end services. It is all these things and more that bring travelers to Wakatobi—and often brings them back. Here are some of their stories.
Wayne and Pam Osborn
An avid diver since 1974, Wayne is an accomplished underwater photographer who is published internationally. He has made more than 400 dives on Wakatobi’s reefs. Pam now prefers mask and snorkel and has won numerous awards for her images. The Osborns live in Perth, Western Australia, and make several big trips each year to indulge in their shared passion of wildlife photography.
Each year, Wakatobi welcomes a number of returning guests for a second or even a third visit. And then there are those who make it a priority to return as often as possible. Among these resort regulars are Wayne and Pam Osborn, who have now made seven visits to the resort, and consider Wakatobi to be one of their favorite places in the world. Though now retired from executive leadership roles, Wayne continues to contribute on the boards of several large companies in Australia. In 2004 he was elected a Fellow International of the New York based Explorer’s Club and is a fellow of the Australia and New Zealand chapters. He was also recognized as the ANZANG Nature Photographer of the year in 2012.
“At Wakatobi there is never a shortage of photo subjects, and my most complex decision for each dive is whether to shoot wide angle or macro,” Wayne says. “The reefs showcase the unparalleled marine biodiversity of this region. It’s humbling to drift past huge gorgonian fans that may be a hundred years in the making, and to take in the complex sponge colonies and soft corals that festoon the reef walls with audacious and vibrant colors.”
“Wakatobi is a quiet retreat away from the world, but with all the creature comforts plus million dollar views. What sets it apart from any other dive resort is the deeply ingrained service ethic permeating all aspects of the operation. It’s more like a five-star hotel experience.”
Pam is also a highly talented and published photographer. Her image of a Tridacna Clam, taken on Wakatobi’s House Reef, was shortlisted for the Natural History Museum (UK) Wildlife Photographer of the Year and Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year. “The House Reef never fails to captivate,” says Pam. She is currently working on the iBook titled Wakatobi House Reef, which will showcase hundreds of her images taken while snorkeling on our renowned House Reef.
“Wakatobi’s commitment to the health of the ecosystem and the well-being of the surrounding community is impressive,” Pam says. “It’s wonderful to see the very positive impact the resort has for the local economy and marine environment. As a visitor, you feel your money has contributed to the region’s sustainability.”
Learn more about the Osborns, their extensive travel experiences and award-winning photography, on their website, which also features a dedicated Wakatobi page. You can also view their iBooks collection, including Reef fish and Reef Life as well as the upcoming Wakatobi House Reef on the site here.
Above: Pink-eyed goby. Wayne captured this perfect side view of many a photographers’ favorite, the Pink-eyed goby, at one of his favorite sites, Dunia Baru. Photo by Wayne Osborn
Above: Three spotted moral eels. Snorkeling on the House Reef provides Pam many opportunities to create unique marine life portraits, such as this pairing of three spotted moray eels. Photo by Pam Osborn
Above: Coral Cod by white tube sponges. Healthy and vibrant reef topography and a wide range of marine life is one of the many reasons the Osborns return to Wakatobi year after year. Photo by Wayne Osborn
Above: Coral Cod portrait. Wayne says his most complex decision is whether to shoot macro or wide angle. Macro seems to have been a good choice for capturing this Coral Cod portrait. Photo by Wayne Osborn
Above: Peacock mantis shrimp. Patches of sand between coral heads are prime hunting grounds for peacock mantis shrimp, which are among Pam’s more flamboyant finds while snorkeling on Wakatobi’s reefs. Photo by Pam Osborn
Stan and Barb Lochrie
After nearly two decades of dive travel, Stan and Barb Lochrie consider Wakatobi to be their favorite destination. Barb earned her C-card in 1996, and after her marriage to Stan, he also became a diver. “We started making annual treks to the Caribbean,” Barb says. “Stan picked up underwater photography; I'm just happy with the beauty and tranquility of diving. It’s as close to flying as we will ever get.”
After a few years in the Caribbean, the Lochrie’s branched out to the Pacific, visiting Tahiti, Fiji, Hawaii and the Solomon Islands. In 2007, they decided to visit Indonesia. “Every time I looked into diving in Indonesia, Wakatobi popped up. The first time we dove on the House Reef, it took my breath away. I had never seen such color and so many fish. We stayed at the resort for 11 days and then got on the Pelagian for 10 days; our first introduction to muck, another eye opener. We knew then that we would be back.”
”Wakatobi has now become our preferred vacation destination. We love the tranquility. It is a real vacation when you feel you can get away from it all. At the same time, the days fly by between the fabulous meals and the incredible diving.”
Over the coming years, the Lochries returned to Wakatobi, skipping a few years during the start up phase of their own wealth management company in Portland, Oregon, USA–Etesian Wealth Advisors Inc., which they launched in 2009. Stan holds the position of CEO while Barb oversees operations as COO. Their business is well known in the Pacific Northwest for helping families and individuals solve complex wealth management situations. They consider their time spent at Wakatobi a treasured retreat from an intense yet rewarding professional life.
“Each time we returned to Wakatobi, we enjoyed the improvements in the resort, the boats, the service and the food. At the same time, the numbers of fish were increasing! In early 2018, we took our family – children, spouses and grandchildren to the resort. The grandchildren can’t wait to return in 2020 and are talking about it already.”
Wakatobi has now become the Lochrie’s preferred vacation destination. “We love the tranquility. It is a real vacation when you feel you can get away from it all. At the same time, the days fly by between the fabulous meals and the incredible diving. Stan and I work hard at home and when we take a vacation, we want it to be easy, to have beautiful accommodation, fantastic food, great diving and meet new friends. Wakatobi fits the bill.”
Barb and Stan have scheduled another visit in early 2019, and plan to reserve a private boat. “The private boat option takes diving and tranquility to a whole new level. The boat gives you the opportunity to dive fabulous sites with no one else for miles, all while being served a delicious meal during your interval and snoozing to the lapping waves.”
Above: Orangutan crabs. Stan found these orangutan crabs away from their usual bubble coral homes. With long arms covered in fur-like orange hairs, it's easy to see how these small crustaceans get their common name. Photo by Stan Lochrie
Above: Cuttlefish. Stan values the creative photo opportunities the reefs at Wakatobi offer, such as this cuttlefish and butterflyfish hovering over a delicate coral formation. Photo by Stan Lochrie
Above: Frogfish profile. Like many photographers at Wakatobi, Stan appreciates the help of the resort’s eagle-eyed guides when searching for well-camouflaged subjects such as this warty frogfish. Photo by Stan Lochrie
Simon Bowen came to diving in 2004, and has since logged more than 3,000 dives in some of the world’s most celebrated destinations, including Sinai, Hurghada and the Red Sea, the Philippines, Wakatobi and Komodo. He is a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, an accomplished underwater photographer, has taught diving in Thailand and guided on a dive liveaboard. One of Simon’s next goals is to become rebreather certified.
In his professional life, Simon has held management posts in drug and alcohol rehabilitation services, and was an admissions manager for one of the UK’s largest private rehabilitation organizations. He is now the owner and managing director of Visible Recovery Pty, an addiction treatment facility in Adelaide, South Australia. “I am passionate about my work, and I am in my own personal long-term recovery from addiction to drugs and alcohol for over 14 years,” says Simon.
Wakatobi has become one of Simon’s preferred dive vacation destinations, visiting the resort and Pelagian last in April 2018. “I have been to the resort three times in the last two years and will go again sometime soon. It is one of the very few places where I spend my money, knowing full well what I will be getting for it,” he says. “And even then, my expectations are always exceeded. You have such a great operation overall, and in every department there is a consistency that is rarely found in other places I visit. All of this is made even more attractive by knowledgeable and friendly dive staff, excellent food, and outstanding service by all. I’ll be back yet again soon to enjoy this very special and rare corner of the earth.”
“These are some of the healthiest reef systems that I have ever had the pleasure of seeing firsthand, with the most incredible diversity of life, and experienced guides who know the sites well. A perfect and a rare combination.”
“The diversity of species is brilliant if you love photography. I am going to train on a rebreather soon to further my potential with my photography pursuits. The cruise on the Pelagian far exceeded my expectations,” Simon recalls. “I have been on many high end live-aboard trips before, but nothing with the attention to detail that was offered on Pelagian. I like that guests are limited to just 10 people. This enables the crew to give more to each guest on board, and not have to dilute the service level for any reason. This enables consistency of the entire experience, and a more focused customer experience overall. The yacht is extremely well equipped and has an excellent camera room.”
“The wall dives in the Karang Kapota and Karang Kaledupa regions were some of the nicest I have ever seen,” Simon says, “but seeing the mandarinfish at Pasar Wajo was also fantastic. These are some of the healthiest reef systems that I have ever had the pleasure of seeing firsthand, with the most incredible diversity of life, and experienced guides who know the sites well. A perfect and a rare combination.”
Above: Orange sea fan. This solitary orange sea fan was captured during a Pelagian cruise on a wall in Karange Kaledupa. Photo by Simon Bowen
Above: Blue tube sponges. Simon considers the reefs surrounding Wakatobi to be some of the most pristine and colorful in the world. Photo by Simon Bowen
Above: Crinoids. Blooming crinoids become the subject of an underwater still life that is added to Simon’s growing portfolio. Photo by Simon Bowen
The Doedens Family
Annalisa Doedens had witnessed many wonders of the underwater world—but only from the surface. Together with her husband Richard and sons, she had snorkeled with whale sharks in Mexico, visited the Great Barrier Reef, shadowed sea turtles in Sipadan and taken in the reefs of the Maldives. But it wasn’t until she visited Wakatobi Resort that she was able to fully immerse herself in the life of the reef.
In 2016, Annalisa, her husband Richard, and three of their four sons earned dive certifications and made plans for their first dive holiday. They chose Wakatobi for the quality of the diving, and also for the setting and atmosphere. “Some of the resorts we had been to were more commercial and impersonal,” Annalisa says. “At Wakatobi we have found a perfect combination of remoteness, charm and intimate attention.”
“The reefs were better than anywhere we have ever been, the fish life is fantastic and most dive sites are just 10 or 15 minutes away, there were no long boat rides over rough water,” says Richard. “The one-to-four or five guide-to-diver ratio was a pleasant surprise,” says Annalisa. “We weren’t lumped in with a big group, so we were able to dive as a family with our own guide.”
“Getting certified was a great decision, and so was choosing Wakatobi for our first real family dive vacation. Everything about this place—casual but also elegant, the attention and service from all the staff, the food is amazing, and then there’s the reefs—it really comes together and has had made this one of our all time favorite places.”
“Sixteen-year-old Alex Doedens signed up for a video class with resort photo pro Marco Fierli. Alex had used his GoPro camera on previous snorkel trips, but said he learned more from one session with Marco than during the previous two years of shooting. He and brothers Carl and Elliot were fascinated by the marine life at sites such as Roma, and the ability to make long multi-level dives, and then spend afternoons or early evenings snorkeling the House Reef. The teens also spent part of their days enjoying some paddle boarding, wake boarding and kayaking.”
“It’s good to have activities other than diving for the teens,” Annalisa says, “Also having good WiFi service at the resort made them happy, because they were able to stay connected with their friends back home. More important it was also fantastic to bring them to a place that is authentic and natural.”
The Doedens returned to Wakatobi Resort in 2017, and are planning to come back with more family members. “For us, it’s easy to fly from Melbourne to Bali,” says Richard. “It’s great to have just a short hop to the resort, where you feel very welcome and away from it all. It’s really different from large commercial resorts. The only regret we had on our last trip was that we didn’t spend enough time, we wish we had stayed another week, but there’s next time. Appreciating the underwater world in an environment like this has been an incredible experience, one we hope to have again and again.”
Above: Elliot, Alex and Richard Doedens. Photo by Wakatobi Resort
Above: Annalisa and the boys particularly enjoyed late afternoon snorkeling on the House Reef. Photo by Wakatobi Resort
Above: Roma quickly became Annalisa’s favorite dive site. Photo by Wakatobi Resort
Wade and Robyn Hughes
Wade and Robyn Hughes have visited Wakatobi eight times, and are planning their ninth visit for early 2019. Wade has logged nearly 400 dives on Wakatobi’s reefs and Robyn has spent hundred of hours snorkeling the reefs. "We come to Wakatobi repeatedly for numerous reasons,” she says. “We appreciate that the money we spend here provides great service, comfort, and superb diving, but also helps directly support the local economy and protection of the coral reefs.”
The Hughes’ underwater pursuits range from observing and photographing sperm whales off the Azores islands to documenting to the diverse life found on coral reefs. They recently successfully mounted their first monochrome photographic exhibition of their whale images. They make all their photographs available, free of charge, to organizations and individuals involved in research, education, and the promotion of economically sustainable conservation.
Wade is a widely-published, award-winning photographer, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and an International Member of the Explorers Club. He began diving in Australia in the 1960s. Robyn began diving shortly after they married in 1978. The Hughes have traveled to 55 countries together. Wade has dived from the Arctic Circle to the Tropics. Robyn now prefers the freedom of snorkeling.
“At Wakatobi, the resort and local communities are demonstrating that greater economic value can be extracted from the reefs through sustainable management. We come to enjoy ourselves, but it's also nice to know that our patronage is helping.”
“Wakatobi National Park is the direct result of visionary collaboration between the resort's founders and local communities,” Wayne says. “We are pleased to see that the reefs are being managed sustainably, rather than being destructively exploited.” The Hughes also appreciate that the revenues generated by the resort provide the economic engine for that collaboration, and create educational, economic and employment opportunities for the people in those local communities.
“Beauty alone is not enough to ensure survival for the world's coral reefs,” Wade says. “Globally, coral reefs are essential for the health of the seas on which we all depend. They harbor around 25 percent of all the marine species on the planet, despite occupying only around 0.1 percent of the oceans' total area. Coral reefs protect shorelines from erosion by the sea. And increasingly, they are yielding pharmaceuticals and medicines that are not available from terrestrial sources. In many parts of the world, that has inevitably resulted in destructive exploitation of the reefs.”
“At Wakatobi, the local communities and the resort are demonstrating that greater economic value can be extracted from the reefs through sustainable management. Here, there are more fish to be caught by non-destructive methods, and there are more fish, and more diversity of life on the reefs to attract visitors from all over the world. More business equals more conservation and the circle of goodness rolls on. Coral reefs are still vulnerable to global issues that require complex and difficult methods to attain globally coordinated responses. At the equally important local level, Wakatobi and the local communities are actually getting the work done."
Above: Uncountable millions of juvenile fusiliers and silversides swarm through the waters of Wakatobi National Park, seen here on Conchita, a site close to the resort. Photo by Wade Hughes FRGS
Above: In a lip-tearing battle that raged from coral thicket to open water, two male Thread-fin anthias fight for territory and females at the site known as Table Coral City. Photo by Wade Hughes FRGS
Above: On a dive at Galaxy, Wade and Robyn found this cleaner shrimp hovering and flitting about in an attempt to attract customers. Photo by Wade Hughes FRGS
Above: Bejewelled in pulsing chromatophores, a squid awaits its chance to seize prey during a night dive at Teluk Maya. Photo by Wade Hughes FRGS
Above: Roma is one of Indonesia’s most celebrated dive sites, and a particular favorite of the Hughes. Photo by Wade Hughes FRGS
Simon and Yvonne Muri Streit of Bern, Switzerland, visited Wakatobi in late 2017 with their son Moritz, who was then 12. The trip was a birthday gift for Simon, an avid diver who had long wanted to visit Wakatobi. Although diving was a primary attraction for Simon, sharing time with his family was also important. Combining a week dedicated to diving with a week of family time, the Streit enjoyed what they call “a beautiful experience.”
“The first week I went on 18 or more dives,” said Simon. “I spent the second week with Yvonne and Mortiz, snorkeling and just enjoying the entire climate of the resort. There was time to relax and read, take a cooking class or do some kayaking and paddle boarding, even badminton.”
“It was also excellent when we went out on the boats to snorkel,” he says. “We had our own snorkel guide. He drew pictures of the sites and explained what specific fish and corals we’d see; it was very informative. The guides here are excellent, the best of anywhere we have been. You feel safe and informed, and they make the experience a pleasure.” “We saw so much marine life,” Yvonne adds. “Turtles, all kinds of fish and many beautiful corals, snorkeling doesn’t get better than this.”
“What we find special about Wakatobi is that it is uncomplicated on the one hand, yet sophisticated on the other; everything is held to a very high standard. The service is excellent and the staff is mindful. This truly is paradise.”
The Streit spent hours snorkeling the House Reef. “This site offers lots of surprises, with so much variety for snorkelers; we could spend days there and have a different experience each time,” says Yvonne. “You can go out from the beach or jetty, or the staff will take you in a small boat a bit further away, and then you snorkel back to the jetty. We could be independent but always felt protected and observed by the staff.”
“Wakatobi is a great destination for a family who are not all divers,” Yvonne says. There were plenty of activities for Moritz to keep him happy. Then he took the Bubblemaker course and now he wants to dive! The food was also perfect for our needs as a family. It’s healthy and there were plenty of choices for Moritz. The chefs are fantastic here, we had everything we like or we just asked, and then the staff would remember so we would never have to ask again! This is truly the resort with the highest level of service we have ever experienced.”
“Compared to destinations like the Maldives, Wakatobi was an overall superior experience simply because it’s more personal,” recalls Simon. “Everyone goes to great lengths and effort to see that you always feel good and enjoy every moment of your time. They do things for you before you even ask. When you combine all there is to offer here at Wakatobi, the ambiance, the snorkeling and diving, all the other activities you could enjoy, there is nothing better anywhere else.”