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