The people behind the Wakatobi experience
To establish a resort in an unpredictable and remote location such as Wakatobi, and to then consistently deliver a top notch guest experience, takes a huge and ongoing team effort. See below just some of the people in the enthusiastic team who bring you the Wakatobi experience.
Valentin Mäder - Executive Director
Valentin is Swiss and an entrepreneur, founder and shareholder of companies successful in the fields of international real estate investment advisory, software applications, mobile phone applications and resort development. He was first exposed to Indonesia when he built a business advising MNC's in direct investments in Asia. Valentin holds an MBA.
Valentin is actively contributing to lead Wakatobi from his position as an Executive Director.
Valentin says: "While my original motivation in investing effort and money into Wakatobi was to help my brother, Lorenz, to succeed with this venture, my views have evolved over the years. I now think that Wakatobi is a sound 21st century venture that provides a rare opportunity to align value creation with the protection of endangered marine resources. Probably that is the reason why Wakatobi seems to attract a great breed of people among its investors and supporters."
Lorenz Mäder - Founder
Lorenz studied biology before he went into the diving industry. With over 15,000 dives (CMAS, TDI, PADI) he is one of the most experienced divers around and has contributed to building up several professional dive operations before embarking on building Wakatobi in 1995.
He discovered, explored and named all dive sites around the Wakatobi Resort and still goes regularly where no one has been before, using mostly a closed circuit "Evolution" rebreather.
Soft spoken, patient, yet very determined with a genuine respect for the local culture, Lorenz has built a solid foundation for Wakatobi by establishing excellent relations with local communities. Mutual trust and alignment of interest are fundamental to him in achieving his goals on the ground in Indonesia.
Lorenz says, "I believe that alignment of interests–and that includes long term financial interests–with local communities can do much more to protect the valuable reef resources in Indonesia than a rigid system of grants and education attempts by environmental organizations ever could.
The wheel of time cannot be turned back out there no matter how much talking is done by well meaning scientists and dignitaries. Destructive fishing methods are the economic equivalent of slaughtering the goose that lays golden eggs. You have to beat that urge on the ground with something better to start with. So in a way, sustainable, high-value-added dive tourism is the only way out for both the reefs and the local communities in this environment. Diving can create a much better revenue stream out of a 'top reef estate' than fishing in a relatively short time. That is the cold economic logic that aligns local powers behind us in fending off foreign fishing vessels, dynamite and cyanide fishing that have wrecked havoc with most of the tropical reefs on the planet.
But of course there is much more to building a successful business than protecting some of the finest reefs on the planet. We have to deliver a world-class experience to the most discerning divers that starts the minute they set their minds on coming to Wakatobi and extends to the times they fondly relate it to their diving buddies back home."
Beside the technical diving Lorenz initiates and overseeing the conservation initiatives, he manages construction projects and government relations.
Background: At the early age of four Lorenz learned to skin dive (apnea) from his father. A compulsive reader, Lorenz devoured scientific books and developed an early interest in marine biology.
Jacques Cousteau became his inspiration. At the age of fifteen Lorenz learned to scuba dive. After working several years in different professions he set out to work as a Dive Instructor in the Maldives and Dive Exploration Cruise Director in the Red Sea. The more he dived the more his passion and fascination for marine life developed.
Fluent in Swiss, German, English and French and conversational Indonesian his language skills served him well in the dive tourism industry. Disappointed by the excesses of mass tourism in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, Lorenz set out on his own to pursue his dream to set a better example in a virgin territory unspoiled by overcrowding and pollution.
Gede Kawit - Hotel Manager
Gede Kawit was born in April 1970 in a small village near Singaraja, Bali. He studied at a Business Administration College from 1995 to 2000 and joined the Wakatobi team in February 2007 as Hotel Manager.
Before taking the position at Wakatobi, Kawit was assistant general manager at the Aston Nardini Hotel in Ubud, Bali.
Kawit was motivated to take the position with Wakatobi by his interest in marine life and was drawn to Wakatobi's remoteness as an opportunity to see new, exotic critters. Kawit is an avid snorkeler and is looking to begin scuba diving. Another appealing factor that came with this was the opportunity to become involved with a true participant in eco-tourism. Kawit believes that diving is obviously the most important aspect of the Wakatobi experience but takes it upon himself to ensure superb land-based facilities for his guests.
"I am very happy to be a part of Wakatobi Dive Resort because we are running the resort the right way, preserving our marine environment while giving our guests the best holiday experience of their lives."
Having joined very early on to assist with setting up the physical plant at the resort Henrik spent over a decade bringing Wakatobi from an unknown entity into one of the world's most well-known dive resorts.
With a background in construction engineering Henrik initially worked on infrastructure projects such as the construction of transfer and dive boats to establishing the resort's powerplant and airport (he was instrumental in obtaining the operational permit with the Indonesian Ministry of Aviation). He then devoted himself to making the destination called Wakatobi a world-renowned brand. Henrik has exhibited Wakatobi at over one hundred trade shows on five continents and is a frequent speaker at trade events due to his humorous and engaging presentations. He is also a frequent speaker on destination marketing and environmental issues.
After many years in Asia and the USA he now splits his time between all the nations of the world and finds the most pleasure at home in Sweden.
Henrik is comfortable speaking Swedish and English as well as conversational Indonesian, German and French.
"What is most satisfactory about what we have accomplished with Wakatobi is the way we have shown that businesses can accomplish great things not only for their customers but also for the environment. At Wakatobi I feel that we are in a 'for-everyone's-profit' business".
Guest Experience Consultants
Karen Stearns - Florida, USA
As Wakatobi Resort's Marketing and Media relations director, Karen handles all aspects of promotion and media relations, show participation and other aspects of maintaining a global brand footprint. She works closely with the sales team to promote the brand to a world-wide customer base.
Karen is an avid diver and dedicated conservationist with an extensive background in dive travel. She has created and managed media campaigns for the diving, boating and sport fishing industry, worked with groups such as the Ocean Conservancy, and participated in collaborative initiatives with tourism boards, scuba equipment manufacturers and travel agencies. She is a graduate of University of South Carolina and the University of Miami, with degrees in communications and marketing. For many years Karen served as Director of Marketing for Spectrum Health, worked on market research for Darden Restaurants and served as Assistant Vice President at Fidelity National Financial. She lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, with her husband Walt, a renowned photojournalist.
“It is both an honor and a pleasure to work with such a great team of talented professionals. From the guest experience consultants to the administrative team in Bali and the entire staff at the resort, there is a single-minded focus on service and providing our guests with a premier vacation experience. It's equally rewarding to know that our efforts provide protection for our treasured marine ecosystem as well as positive economic and social benefits for the local community.”
Robert Parrington - United Kingdom
Robert has had a passion for diving for many years and continues to assist in training divers in the UK.
"For me the thrill is about sharing diving with all sorts of people and joining in their journey of wonder and excitement as we discover the amazing world under the sea".Having dived in many places around the world I have been lucky to have met some incredible individuals and now, with Wakatobi, I am able to continue to share that love of diving with what I consider to be the very best of dive operations.Robert has also been involved with UNESCO Associated Schools and is thrilled that Wakatobi Dive Resort is leading the way in sustainability and educational and scientific study around reef management. "Understanding how we as humans interact with our environment will be crucial to all our futures. Showing what can be achieved in collaboration with local villages is fantastic 'research in action' at Wakatobi".
Randal Sanders - Louisiana, USA
Randal began his diving career in 1975, and spent the next ten years plunging into Caribbean, Bahamas, and Gulf of Mexico waters. His first tropical Pacific trip forever changed his interests, and he became an Indo-Pacific trip promoter. He learned of Wakatobi from friends who returned with rave reviews, he began investigating, and the more he looked, the clearer it became. With a background in engineering, he marvels at the utopia Wakatobi's founders established on a tiny, remote, island on the Indonesian frontier. "After cruises on a number of premier live-aboards, I never thought I'd enjoy a land-based Indo-Pacific trip," he says.
"My diving experience at Wakatobi was superior to anything on a live-aboard, and I've decided there's no need to dive anywhere else."
Bob Kippola - California, USA
'Outdoor Adventurer' is the best catch phrase to describe Bob Kippola, who handles Wakatobi's sales for Northern California. Having dived all over the world, while working for a resort software company, Bob found paradise in Wakatobi's placid waters with abundant marine life. Bob has traveled extensively throughout Indonesia, from Raja Ampat to Lombok to Java, and has explored Bali extensively.When not diving Bob is active in his local mountain bike trail organization in Vail, Colorado, skiing various back country peaks in the winter and adding in a good dose of bird watching when he travels.
"Wakatobi's commitment to reef preservation is unprecedented in the industry. Sharing this resource with the local population is key to keeping the reefs pristine for many generations to come; I am honored to represent an organization with such vision and passion for protecting our natural resources, "says Bob.
Frank Owens - USA, Canada
Frank began diving in 1993, and soon after landed a job with a major scuba equipment manufacturer. In 2006 he became an independent sales rep and developed deeper relationships with local dive shops. An avid underwater photographer, he selected his personal dive vacations based on the quality of underwater photo opportunities. "It disappointed me to see the degradation of reefs and lack of synergy within a destination," Frank says.
"I was initially attracted to Wakatobi for the world-renowned diving, amenities and service, but soon realized that Wakatobi was not just a destination, but a journey in the preservation of our underwater environment."
Steven Miller - Ohio, USA
Steve became a Scuba Instructor in 1980, and has worked in the Diving Industry ever since. Underwater Photography has always been one of his passions, and he has led a number of trips to exotic locations over the years. "Now that I've found Wakatobi, my search is over." he says.
"Covering the Great Lakes Region allows me to do what I love: teaching underwater photography and telling groups about my all time favorite destination: Wakatobi."
Linda Cash - New South Wales, Australia
As a Professional PADI open Water Scuba Instructor, nature lover, trekker and amateur photographer, Linda has developed a unique insight into dive and nature based tourism in small island destinations. Her passion for diving began in Nelson Bay, Australia in the mid 90’s and grew significantly during the 10 years she spent living and working on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean.
For 14 years, Linda was the Marketing Manager for Christmas Island Tourism, and successfully promoted the island as an Ecotourism destination for domestic and international visitors, including scuba divers, bird watchers and nature enthusiasts.
Linda’s personal pursuits have taken her to many small island dive and nature based eco-destinations worldwide, providing her with the perspective of a nature and scuba diving traveler as well as a dive and nature based tourism professional.
"As a diver, Wakatobi has always been a dream destination for me – I have admired the conservation philosophy of Wakatobi Dive Resort for many years. It’s a dream come true to not only be able to experience Wakatobi and Pelagian liveaboard, but to be able to share that experience with our guests and help them achieve their dreams of visiting Wakatobi."
Juliette Myers - Sydney, Australia
Juliette learned to dive in 1982 on the Saudi side of the Red Sea, and has been a keen dive traveler ever since. A year spent in the Solomon Islands introducer her to underwater photography, and she has since won a number of awards. She has worked in the tourism trade, promoting Australian zoos and aquariums, and leading the Australian sales team for Disneyland and Walt Disney World. "Now, my dream really has come true." she says.
"I have found my purpose and I am proud to be promoting Wakatobi’s unparalleled reef health, diversity, incredible customer service and unique philosophy."
Stefanie Voigt - Germany, EU
Stefanie turned her lifelong passion for the underwater world into a career as an instructor, underwater camera operator and marine film production coordinator. An avid diver since 1982, she has produced documentaries, commercials and other productions with mainly marine-related themes. As a sales and marketing representative for Wakatobi, she now enjoys the opportunity to utilize her creative and communications skills to enhancing the resort's presence within the German-speaking markets and beyond. "I am looking forward to be a valuable asset and working with such a professional team." she says.
"Even though we may be located thousands of miles apart, we join forces for one precious spot that is Wakatobi."
Michelle Winkel - Texas, USA
Michelle's first love is the ocean, and she enjoys sharing her passion with others as a PADI, MSDT and DAN instructor. She combines a 15-plus year career in sales and marketing for Continental and United Airlines with her interests in the industry, where she has been involved in a variety of online marketing and video production projects. In addition to diving, she enjoys photography and cycling. "My love for the ocean and scuba diving brought me to Wakatobi, and as luck would have it I was given the opportunity to represent my favorite dive destination as a guest experience representative," she says.
"I love working with such a great team of professionals - from the staff in Bali to those throughout the UK and Europe, Australia, Asia and the USA, it is truly a pleasure."
Director of Operations
Bali Concierge Chief
Bali Concierge, Sales & Operations
Bali Concierge, Sales
Rizal Lemena - Indonesian
Dive Experience Manager
Rizal has an electrical engineering degree from Jakarta, and trained to become a divemaster in one of the most reputable training agencies in Bali. He takes pride in everything he does as a dive team member, from giving educational dive briefings, to picking up trash on the beach and caring for guests under and above the water.
“Wakatobi is the most prestigious dive resort in Indonesia” he says “and I feel very fortunate to be here. What I enjoy most is the opportunity to meet people from various backgrounds. I have met pilots, cooks, architects, cancer survivors, and the list goes on. I see my work as more than diving. It’s about connecting with others, sharing life experiences, and feeling alive.”
Rizal speaks English and Indonesian.
Andrea Balin - Italian
Dive Experience Manager / PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer & SSI Advanced Instructor
Andrea has a degree in Economics from Italy, and worked as an accountant in his previous life. Prior to joining the team at Wakatobi, she worked in various resorts in the Maldives for more than nine years, both as a dive guide and a dive center manager.
“I had been wanting to join Wakatobi for a couple of years, and was so happy when my chance finally came, he says. “Diving the beautiful reef of Wakatobi is a privilege in itself, but the bigger joy is being able to share this reef with others.”
Andrea speaks English and Italian.
Mohamad Yusuf - Indonesian
Yusuf was born in East Java, in the southern city of Banyuwangi. His interest in diving started when he saw a TV program about the beauty of the underwater world.
He decided to move to Bali and try diving. From the moment he dived for the first time, he felt that diving was already part of his life and he could not let go.
"Im very proud to have these healthy reefs and diversity in my country. Working for a company that has the vision to protect and preserve the underwater world became a dream for me. I am so happy that I have found a home here at Wakatobi Dive Resort."
Kaz Kazzuaeni - Indonesian
PADI Dive Instructor
Born in East Lombok, Kaz started a diving Career in earnest in the year 2000. Working previously as a PADI Instructor in some of Indonesia's most luxurious Resorts, Kaz developed his skills to provide the maximum quality of personalised service possible, both in and out of the water. He then took this knowledge to the livesboards of Komodo, Tak Bonerate and Bauda.
Kaz is dedicated to continually sharing and increasing his knowledge and the service he can provide to his guests. Keen for new experiences and an avid traveller to countries such as Switzerland, France, Italy and Dubai, he has visited guests, who have become some of his closest friends.
"I joined Wakatobi Dive Resort because of the remoteness, and the beauty both on land, and underwater. I am always interested in working somewhere that is consistently pushing to improve their level of service. I'm proud to be part of such a unique operation."
Quietly spoken, and with excellent English, Kaz is committed to applying himself fully, to provide his guests with the best experience possible.
Ketut Suardika - Indonesian
PADI IDC Staff Instructor
Ketut has been diving since 1995. With over 4,000 dives, he now enjoys passing on his knowledge and experience of Indonesia's underwater world to others. Also a PADI Instructor, Ketut enjoys teaching many different courses, including Nitrox specialties.
With a passion for Photography both underwater and above, Ketut enjoys finding and photographing the challenging, hard to find creatures, and helping others do the same.
"The thing I love most about diving around Wakatobi is getting away from the crowds. I can enjoy these pristine reefs everyday, sharing only with a few others."
Ketut is friendly and enthusiastic, he speaks fluent Indonesian (mother tongue) and competent English.
Silvia Fossaluzza - Italian
Dive Experience Manager / PADI Instructor / SSI Advanced Instructor
Silvia began pursuing interests in art and design in Italy, then decided to leave it behind to explore the natural art of the underwater world. She became an instructor in the Maldives, where she accumulated years of diving and teaching experience before joining the dive team with Wakatobi. According to Silvia, “the Maldives was my first love, but Wakatobi is my biggest love.”
Silvia believes that Wakatobi’s remote location and the twice-a-week flight schedule encourages guests to stay longer, which allows the dive staff to build a meaningful relationship with guests, beyond just diving together. “Sharing the passion for the underwater world is always a special opportunity,” she says.
Silvia speaks English and Italian.
Demma Muji - Indonesian
Dive Experience Manager
Growing up in South Sulawesi, naturally Muji was drawn to the sea at an early age. It's hard for him to remember whether he learned to swim first, or to walk first!
Muji worked for many years in Java and Bali in the hospitality and tourism industry, during which time he would take every opportunity he could to snorkel and dive.
He found a home in Wakatobi and has been a long-standing member of the team for over 6 years, working in the F&B department, front office and managing a team as Head Butler. Hearing constantly about the macro critters that live on the Wakatobi reefs, he could wait no longer and, instead of spending all his free time diving, decided to make diving his career instead.
"Since my first dive in Wakatobi, I could not help but dream about being part of the dive team – finally I changed career path and I could never look back. Even after diving in other areas of my country, I was very impressed with the impact of Wakatobi’s conservation program on the quality of the reefs here. This is somewhere that we can actually make a difference."
His experience in hospitality and his love of the ocean make Muji very attentive to his guests needs. He may look shy when you first meet him, but he is always harmonious, with a ready smile and happy to spend time with people.
Sutiyono - Indonesian
PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor
Sutiyono - or Yono as he’s known by his friends - was born in Central Java, where he spent his early years developing a love for being underwater by swimming in Java’s beautiful rivers. After finishing his studies, he moved to Bali, where he subsequently started working in travel and tourism with a Bali-based travel agency.
It was after moving to Bali that Yono did his first dive. It changed his world. He was amazed by the feeling of being ‘weightless’ underwater and being so very close to nature. It didn't take long afterwards before he committed to becoming a full-fledged PADI professional, following which he worked in Bali for many years, introducing divers from all over the world to this special realm he had grown to love.
Yono decided to join the Wakatobi team because his friends mentioned the incredibly healthy, beautiful reefs and the enjoyable working conditions for staff from all walks of life. "I am not disappointed at all, the reefs in Wakatobi are the most pristine reefs I have ever seen, but more importantly, I am proud to tell my children that I am part of a great team that works in a unique place; that educates, contributes and protects our country's environment for our future generations"
Yono loves the rich walls at Wakatobi and its many fans like Cornucopia or Fan38. He enjoys the challenge of finding the name of a fish or critter he didn't know before and simply watching, learning from observation and sharing his knowledge about fish behavior.
He is a very gentle family man, a committed team player, calm, kind, with an easy smile, an open heart and someone who is always ready to help his guests. His passions in life are his family, diving and sharing the marine world with others. When he is not underwater, he enjoys walking and observing the nature and wildlife around him.
Yoeri Bulk - Dutch
Dive Experience Manager / PADI MSDT, SSI Advanced Instructor / NAUI Instructor
Yoeri became a dive instructor in 1998, and has been traveling the world ever since. Over the last 13 years he has worked as an underwater videographer for broadcast companies, and eventually owned his own production company. When an opportunity arose to join the Wakatobi team, he couldn’t pass it up, and has been enjoying diving in Wakatobi’s reefs since 2016.
“I love that in Wakatobi’s Marine reserve, we are the only dive boats in the entire horizon,” he says. “We rarely see other boats or other divers, which gives us exclusive access to our bio-diverse underwater world.”
Yoeri speaks English, German & Dutch.
Nicola Jaeger - German
Dive Experience Manager / PADI Instructor
Nicola, better known as Nicki, has a background in geography, politics and environmental management. She fell in love with diving while traveling in the Philippines. She has dived in various oceans from the Andaman Sea to the Caribbean, and was keen to get to Southeast Asia to explore the world-renowned coral triangle. Nicky says that it was of great personal importance to be working in a dive center where marine conservation and local development are key components of the operation. She joined the Wakatobi team in 2016.
“The reefs are my daily inspiration,” she says, “and I enjoy that we can do 70 minute dives. I take great pleasure in simply immerse myself in the underwater world, observing marine life behavior, discovering “new” creatures, greeting “old” friends, and—most importantly—sharing all this beauty with others. At Wakatobi, we have the opportunity to make repeat dives with the same guests in a small group, which lets us get to know each other and allows me to create the ideal diving experience for each guest.”
Nicki speaks German, English, Spanish and Dutch. Next on the list is Indonesian.
Ramon Crivilles - Spanish
Cruise Director/PADI MSDT – SSI Platinum Advanced Instructor / RAID Master Instructor
Ramon was born in Barcelona but not by the sea. He completed studies in business and economics, and worked as a CFO for more than 15 years. Ramon fell in love with diving in 1995 during a vacation in the Dominican Republic. It was “a magical and fascinating underwater world,” he says. Diving became Ramon's passion and in 2011, he decided to leave his work and pursue a professional life in diving. Ramon has dived in many locations across the world, including the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Red Sea, Canary Islands, Cape Verde, Golf of Thailand, Andaman Sea, Celebes Sea and Banda Sea.
After accumulating more than 5000 dives and 700 diving certifications (from OW to Divemaster) Ramon began searching for a new challenge, and found himself at Wakatobi.
“Working in Wakatobi is incredible,” he says. “You are able to dive in beautiful reefs and find amazing creatures—but our work does not end after the dive. Our joy also comes from meeting and interacting with our guests, learning their cultures and gaining life lessons.”
Ramon speaks Spanish, English, French, Portuguese and Catalan.
Judith Terol Oto - Spanish
Cruise Director / PADI MSDT / SSI Platinum Advanced Instructor / RAID Master Instructor
Judith is from Barcelona where she received her MA in Business Management and worked in a marine equipment industry for 15 years. After she was introduced to diving in 2001 by Ramon, a desire to travel and dive continued to grow and it wasn’t long before Judith and Ramon decided to leave their corporate jobs and pursue a new life together. Judith became an instructor in Asia and continued to gain diving experience from Asia to Europe, and all over in between.
“During every step along this journey in diving, I fall in love with it more and more. Working in Wakatobi is a dream, to be able to discover a new part of the world, where we find new life every day. We love the adventure that Pelagian brings us, and you can find us there most of the time.”
Judith speaks Spanish, English, French, Portuguese and Catalan.
Shoko Miike - Japanese
PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer
Shoko started diving in Japan in 1995, moving to Australia to complete her instructor course and work for a while, following which she moved to a tiny island in the Maldives, where she remained, working in diving for 8 years. Now diving every day in Wakatobi, she never ceases to find joy in even the smallest and rarest creatures which are so abundant in this area.
"I find the reefs in Wakatobi to be the healthiest I’ve ever dived. The colors are so bright and vivid and the search for all the rare creatures which are not found elsewhere is always an adventure. The entire dive team is great and I just can’t wait to get up in the mornings and go diving!"
Shoko speaks Japanese and English. In her spare times she can be found underwater on the house reef taking macro shots, her hobby and her passion.
Marco Fierli - Italian
Underwater Photography Coach
PADI Master Instructor
Marco started diving in Thailand in 2002, continued his training in Holland and soon moved on to warmer climates in Egypt to work full time in the diving industry. After Egypt, he worked professionally in the Maldives, Mexico and Thailand before finally, Wakatobi became his new home.
"I have loved the reefs and underwater life everywhere I’ve been, but Wakatobi just offers more. The pristine reefs, the countless species and the variety of underwater features, all this while ‘breathing’ an atmosphere of professional enthusiasm. I’m home."
Marco speaks Italian, English, some Dutch and Spanish. If not underwater, you will find him around the island practicing his other true passion; landscape photography.