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Wakatobi trip report

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Here is a trip report on Wakatobi describing our recent trip. I went with my wife and son, and we were there for 17 days. We had gone to Wakatobi for a seven day stay in December, and that left us wanting more. We are very glad we could arrange for a longer stay this time.

 

We left Baton Rouge on July 5, went to L.A., and caught the direct flight to Singapore on Singapore Airlines. We arrived in Bali on the 7th, and stayed overnight at the Patra Bali hotel near the airport (nice, but expensive). We left the next morning for Wakatobi, but the flight was delayed until about 1pm. So we arrived at the resort in the late afternoon, and could not get in our first dive until the 9th. A little disappointing, but not a big deal, as we were going to be staying for a while. We usually did both morning dives and the afternoon dive. We skipped the night dives, as well as a couple of the afternoon dives. The weather was excellent. We got a few drops of rain one day, and it rained another night, but that was it. The weather was ~78-85 F during the day, and comfortable at night. Clear skies and calm seas. This is in stark contrast to late December, when we did not see the sun, but got a lot of liquid sunshine. The water was a little cooler in July, typically 79 F, which was a little cool for me in a 3mm full wetsuit. I think I would opt for a 5mm wetsuit, given the choice. The visibility was good, but not as good as in December. Typically, we had about 50-70 ft visibility. This was fine for enjoying the excellent reefs. Some sites had better visibility (such as Blade, fortunately), but there were no real complaints about the conditions. There was only one dive with any significant current, the house reef. This can be calm or have a strong current. We dove it both ways during this trip. Again, no problems at all. Our favorite dive sites were probably Pastel and Magnifica for the beautiful and lush reefs with loads of soft coral. The Zoo and Roma were great for macro. Actually, all of the dive sites had both great macro and "wide-angle" aspects. Blade was a beautiful site with a long ridge with three pinnacles. The pinnacle with the mooring was quite shallow (~20 feet), and was wonderful. Most of the dive sites had the lushest soft and leather corals at the shallower depths (15-35 feet), and other pretty and interesting features deeper (sea fans, gorgonians, barrel sponges, more nudibranchs, different kinds of fish, turtles, etc.) My favorite parts of most dives was the shallow stuff, but it was great having both in a single dive. Most of the boat rides were 10-20 minutes in length. An exception was Blade, which was a 50 minute ride. Well worth it, no complaints.

 

The accommodations were very nice, and the dive operation was first rate. Some people who have posted messages on Scubaboard felt that Wakatobi is too restrictive about limiting dives to 70 minutes (and about having to follow the dive guide). I am not so critical of the time restriction, as they are trying to maintain a schedule, and I am fine with a 70 minute dive. I guess that this is a matter of personal opinion. With respect to following the dive guide, that was fine with us, because we appreciated having the dive guide as a spotter. Our dive guide was C.J., and she was an excellent spotter, and very helpful in every way. I liked all of the dives guides that we had (a couple of others substituted on her days off). With respect to the restrictions about diving as a group, it was not unreasonable as you really just had to be within sight of the dive guide. If you find this too restrictive, and you like to explore on your own, the house reef is available from 6am-5:30pm for diving with a buddy (or solo, if you are certified as a solo diver).

 

The dive boats are very nice and spacious. The staff carries your dive gear out to the boat each morning and sets it up (if you wish, which we did). They also transfer your BCD/reg to a new tank between dives. Incidentally, between dives, everyone knows that the cookies are a good bet as a snack. What I also recommend is that you can ask for tea instead of water. It is great for warming up quickly. Take that as an insider trip if you would like. At the end of your dive day, they carry your stuff out to the storage area. Very nice. There is a good camera room which is air conditioned and dry. There are many charging stations.

 

Many people rave about the food. I think that it is fine, but nothing memorable. I loved the trip, and would do it again in a heartbeat. The reefs are healthy. The whole experience is geared towards making the diving fun and easy. It is not cheap, and it is a long way. That said, it is worth it. I took a ton of pictures, and am still editing and culling them. Here is what I have posted so far on Flickr, if you want to have a look.

 

On Friday, July 25, we flew back to Bali and stayed the night. We probably could have arranged to fly out on Friday, but did not know this at the time (the chartered flights from Wakatobi are not on a set schedule). We stayed at the Patra Bali again. On Saturday, we flew to Singapore, and connected with a direct flight to L.A. (Singapore Airlines again). Sixteen hours later, we arrives in L.A. (still Saturday because of the international date line). We stayed overnight in L.A. at the airport Sheraton (a good bet; nothing special, but relatively inexpensive). The we flew home on Sunday, tired but glad to be home after a great trip.

 

Here is a link to the photos that I have uploaded to Flickr so far:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/erwin_poliako...57606176999805/

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So here is my question. How does a great report like this with tons of great images get passed up with no replies for a year and a half? I was cruising the old posts for info on Wakatobi and found this Erwin. I'm looking at doing a trip there in July and this info was perfect. Just what I was looking for. I did your Flickr set from Wakatobi as a slideshow and was really impressed with your images. Please accept a huge but belated thank you from me for posting this. :blush: Now that you've had a while for it to all sink in, would you go back?

 

Cheers,

Steve

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So here is my question. How does a great report like this with tons of great images get passed up with no replies for a year and a half? I was cruising the old posts for info on Wakatobi and found this Erwin. I'm looking at doing a trip there in July and this info was perfect. Just what I was looking for. I did your Flickr set from Wakatobi as a slideshow and was really impressed with your images. Please accept a huge but belated thank you from me for posting this. :blush: Now that you've had a while for it to all sink in, would you go back?

 

Cheers,

Steve

 

Possibly because of all the hype about Raja Ampat? If you spend the $ and time to go to Indonesia, might as well do Raja. All other areas are less important when everyone claims Raja to have the best diving.

 

I am personally looking for a trip to Komodo (far easier to get to and cheaper, also similar biodiversity to Raja). I simply do not believe the $ involved to reach Raja Ampat, not to mention you need at least 3 weeks for a decent trip.

 

I agree, those were some nice pictures from Wakatobi.

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Possibly because of all the hype about Raja Ampat? If you spend the $ and time to go to Indonesia, might as well do Raja. All other areas are less important when everyone claims Raja to have the best diving.

 

Thanks partner, see the thing is there are a whole host of folks here who haven't been to that part of the world. We neophytes need all the info we can get. I've just about worn out my Google maps trying to find all the places you guys dive. Is there a good reference book or website we can trust to describe the diving opportunities there. Sort of an Indonesia diving 101(or 202). It's really tough to get a handle on. I know people I trust who love a particular resort while other friends wouldn't go back to the same place again if they got paid to do it. It's a huge advantage for guys like me to get to hear from other wetpixelians I trust about their travels. I wonder if the resorts know how much business comes their way due to Wetpixel?

 

Back to the map,

Steve

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Hi Steve,

 

Thanks for the kind words about the pics. I suspect that Blueline is probably right, namely that people have a preference for Raja Ampat, but I have to plead ignorance. Raja Ampat is on my must-do list, but I have not been there yet. With that said, Wakatobi has the best diving I have ever done.

 

The short answer to your question is that I would definitely go back to Wakatobi. As I said, Wakatobi has the best diving I have ever done, but I would place either Bohol or Moalboal in the Philippines as close seconds. There is a small caveat I might add, but it is pretty minor. Specifically, I have heard that they are doing some construction; I would try and request a cottage away from that (if it is still going on).

 

I hope that you have a great trip, Steve. Let me know how it goes.

 

Best regards,

Erwin

 

p.s. I agree with your comment about the need for an Indonesia 101/202 primer. I would second that, and also say it would be useful for other destinations. I will put in a plug for my dive travel agency, Ultimate Dive Travel . Ultimate Dive Travel has a website that tries to give a primer into the features of the various areas, and I find it very useful. Even more important is that they only list places that they have been to, so they are familiar with the operations from first-hand experience. For my family, this has been indispensable for another reason, too. My wife has MS, and while she is mobile, she cannot easily walk on hills (definitely a problem in Fiji, from what I have heard), or handle too many steps. Because the agents at Ultimate Dive Travel really know the "nuts and bolts" of these operations, they have been great at steering us to places that have great diving, fit our budget, and are suitable for my wife. (I will expect my cut of the action from Ken, the owner...)

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Well it all depends on your criteria for what is great diving and photo opportunities. The Wakatobi National Park is nice but mainly a macro destination. Raja Empat has better diversity in fish and coral and different types of diving, Komodo just overall healthier and again more variety in the type of subjects.

No offense to the dive travel services, but they will recommend whomever gives them the best deal. It's a business first. Sure they also recommend places from trusted clients.

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Thanks Drew, great info. So If I put together a 3 week trip split between Wakatobi and a nice boat in the Komodo area it sounds like it would be worth the plane ride. Really appreciate the help.

 

Steve

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I've been following this thread with some interest as we've got Wakatobi in our plans this February for 10 days. We are using Reef & Rainforest as a travel agent. Having been to Bali and Indonesia several times in the past, I can say that they've been extremely knowledgeable in booking the resorts and accomodations in Bali.

There seem to be plenty of pros and cons on this destination. I'm kind of wondering now exactly what we'll find there now after reading this report and some of the comments. Especially by Drew whom I respect and know has the background to compare.

I will do a report on Wakatobi when we return. Thanks Erwin.

 

Rand

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My wife has MS, and while she is mobile, she cannot easily walk on hills (definitely a problem in Fiji, from what I have heard), or handle too many steps.

If you visit Fiji and stay at Matei Point area on Taveuni, you can take a taxi anywhere for very little close by. To dinner for us was about $1.50 a few yrs back. The diving at Rainbow reef may not compare to Indonesia but I liked it. It was the best I had ever done...having not been to Indonesia.

 

You can also take a taxi ride from that area to the waterfalls for about $50. The first falls is close enough to the road she might be able to get to it OK by taking your time. The view during the drive is quite nice...about 45 min, mostly gravel road and not too fast.

Just some info.

Dave

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If you visit Fiji and stay at Matei Point area on Taveuni, you can take a taxi anywhere for very little close by. To dinner for us was about $1.50 a few yrs back. The diving at Rainbow reef may not compare to Indonesia but I liked it. It was the best I had ever done...having not been to Indonesia.

 

You can also take a taxi ride from that area to the waterfalls for about $50. The first falls is close enough to the road she might be able to get to it OK by taking your time. The view during the drive is quite nice...about 45 min, mostly gravel road and not too fast.

Just some info.

Dave

 

Thanks very much for the info Dave. Much appreciated. Actually, Taveuni is one of the few islands in Fiji that might work for us. I have also heard that the new owners have done great things with the Garden Island Resort on Taveuni. I will definitely keep the waterfall trip in mind, too. Sounds like a definite possibility. - Erwin

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Counting the Pelagian, I've been to Wakatobi three times. I've been to Raja twice and have a boat half chartered for next March.

 

I can say without hesitation that Wakatobi provided us the best lodging/food/diving combination of any land based resort we have ever been to. It's a no-brainer trip compared to most others. Everything is covered. I led a group twice. It was easy. Everyone was happy. I was a lot happier when it was $2800 for 10 days and included the plane ride. Prices have gone up over 50% in four years. The only down side.

 

Sometimes it's hard to comment other than thanks for the report, especially since everything said is fair, reasonable and not very controversial.

 

Raja gets good press, deservedly so. Getting there isn't that much fun.

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Well George, someone's gotta pay for that airfield! :blush:

As for getting to Sorong. From SIN or DPS, there are at least 2 ways to get there,from DPS within 6 hours and only 1 stop over in UPG. No worse than getting into DPS for 'Wackytoby'. UPG (and even SOQ in many ways) airport have improved a lot plus you are not at the mercy of ONE turbine prop plane.

Bali, in my mind, has much better resorts/hotels, restaurants (cos you can actually have a choice of them, including some 2* Michelin equivalents like Mosiac and even cooking come la cucina della nonna), and all sorts of other activities AND you still have change to pay for the carbon offsetting. The diving is more varied, from black sand muck to WWII wreck, with molas and mantas and more to boot!

Horses for courses and all that. But unlike you, I don't see the attraction of that resort or its immediate area. But I'm weird that way ;)

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Wakatobi. One night in Bali, or more by choice. Get on Wakatobi charter. Get there same day.

 

Sorong. One night in Bali. Take internal flight with excess baggage fee to Makassar. Stay in not so great hotel for one evening. Mosque prayer wake-up call at 4:30am. Go through long check-in and excess baggage fee for flight from UPG to SOQ. So there is an extra day and two excess baggage fees. UPG airport, like Ambon, isn't too bad. SOQ is the pits, but doesn't really matter coming in.

 

I guess if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

Edited by scorpio_fish

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Thanks partner, see the thing is there are a whole host of folks here who haven't been to that part of the world. We neophytes need all the info we can get. I've just about worn out my Google maps trying to find all the places you guys dive. Is there a good reference book or website we can trust to describe the diving opportunities there. Sort of an Indonesia diving 101(or 202). It's really tough to get a handle on. I know people I trust who love a particular resort while other friends wouldn't go back to the same place again if they got paid to do it. It's a huge advantage for guys like me to get to hear from other wetpixelians I trust about their travels. I wonder if the resorts know how much business comes their way due to Wetpixel?

 

Back to the map,

Steve

 

 

I've found some good video clips on digideep HD "http://www.vimeo.com/channels/digideep" (need HD to get an idea what the biodiversity is like in those places) :blush:

 

It all depends on how deep you want to put your hand in your pockets. Probably you won't go wrong with either Wakatobi, Komodo or RA. You'll have to go back to dive all those anyhow...

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Wakatobi. One night in Bali, or more by choice. Get on Wakatobi charter. Get there same day.

 

Sorong. One night in Bali. Take internal flight with excess baggage fee to Makassar. Stay in not so great hotel for one evening. Mosque prayer wake-up call at 4:30am. Go through long check-in and excess baggage fee for flight from UPG to SOQ. So there is an extra day and two excess baggage fees. UPG airport, like Ambon, isn't too bad. SOQ is the pits, but doesn't really matter coming in.

 

I guess if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

Well then fire whomever is arranging your flights. I do DPS-UPG-SOQ and arrive 1pm same day. Amadeus can suck sometimes because they don't bother checking certain airlines... especially ones with baggage waivers because the group owns biz class. :blush:

OR SIN-MDC-SOQ with overnight or better Lembeh extension.

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I've been following this thread with some interest as we've got Wakatobi in our plans this February for 10 days. We are using Reef & Rainforest as a travel agent. Having been to Bali and Indonesia several times in the past, I can say that they've been extremely knowledgeable in booking the resorts and accomodations in Bali.

There seem to be plenty of pros and cons on this destination. I'm kind of wondering now exactly what we'll find there now after reading this report and some of the comments. Especially by Drew whom I respect and know has the background to compare.

I will do a report on Wakatobi when we return. Thanks Erwin.

 

Rand

 

Hi rand,

 

I was in Wakatobi in June 2008. I flew from Europe to Bali (which has also good diving, eg Tulamben (North of Bali) but there are other good locations) and stayed a few days there before flying their charter flight to Wakatobi: it was quite an experience flying this old airplane with propellers and bags and suitcases in the back of the plane. But the flight was OK.

 

The operation is well managed from the start at Denpasar airport where Wakatobi staff really take good care of you and get you through the gates. The resort is very nice, the rooms are comfortable, the staff friendly, and the food excellent :ninja: : all divers who were there agreed that they had never been to as resort with such a good food quality and choice. The resort has a nice jetty which is usually full in the evening and a good place to talk to the other divers... and enjoy a drink or two :) and the view....

 

The dive operation is also well managed and the dive masters knowledgeable and professional. The dive center is very well organized. In addition to boat dives you can dive the house reef with a buddy. It is a nice house reef with some macro (eg nudibranches) and last year a blue ring octopus was spotted. I expected a lot from Wakatobi from the reading I made (eg Cousteau recommendation). You will see a lot of beautiful creatures (more Macro than big stuff) and I think it compares well with Manado, with Bunaken in any case because Lembeh is really something very special and may be unbeatable... As Drew or someone else said Komodo (some very good macro also) has also as good diving but you need to do a live aboard.

 

In any case it was for me a very nice dive holiday.

 

Hope it helps

 

Good diving in Wakatobi :) .

 

Jofish

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Thanks very much for the info Dave. Much appreciated. Actually, Taveuni is one of the few islands in Fiji that might work for us. I have also heard that the new owners have done great things with the Garden Island Resort on Taveuni. I will definitely keep the waterfall trip in mind, too. Sounds like a definite possibility. - Erwin

Garden Island Resort (GIR), Taveuni, Fiji is not close to much of anything else. Taxi rides will cost more to get places. I do not not know how much but they will not likely be absurd. If you are happy with the food at the resort, you do not have to go elsewhere. If you do not like the food at GIR, it might be $5-10 to get to other choices, then $5-10 back. If you want to go to the waterfalls, they are closer to an hour away...but still not a bad drive.

From Matei point to town was $20 round trip, I think, a few yrs ago when gas was half the current price. GIR is about 1/2 between the point and town, more or less. 'Town' is small and has an interesting combination of grocery/tourist trap items in one store. One trip to 'town' will cover it all...its quite small and not a lot there. But we were glad we went once. Town had an ice cream shop, which was popular with me. Do not expect 31 flavors, however.

 

GIR is a former motel chain and looks like a converted Super 8 from the outside bldg design. Seriously, looks exactly like a Super 8 bldg design. Nothing wrong with that...just letting you know what it looked like. No sand at its 'beach', nice shore but rocky. GIR is right on the shore and easy for your wife, based on our drive-by/stop and look at it.

 

GIR is much closer to Rainbow reef than Matei point. Maybe 10 min boat ride rather than 20, more or less.

You might ask GIR for taxi cost to get to Matei point. More food choices there.

 

FABULOUS pizza place near Matei point, I think its called the place is called Tramonto. Everyone there knows it, ask GIR for cost to get there. View is magnificent - on a cliff overlooking the ocean with islands in view - cost is reasonable, food is great. They cut the fresh veggies for veggie pizza, make the dough from flour, etc as you watch. For my Fish Curry, they had me wait a few min (and warned me), boat pulled up on sand below the place, guy hiked the hill with big fish on shoulder, flopped it on the counter, they cut it up and made my curry. That was fresh curry!

 

Resaurants at Matei Pt had 'special' nights and rotated so they did not compete. Fiji/Indian family serves food family style out of their house and had Wed a few yrs back, for example. It was really good and not expensive. Coconut Grove had a different night, etc. You might check with Coconut Grove for a listing of 'special' nights in that area, if that still is going on there.

 

Looked like GIR had no hills on the property from our drive by, which might be a big plus for you, as long as you like the food there.

I do not recall if Coconut Grove had hills but they might...might not - you might ask them. We stayed at Maravu and there are slight rises and its higher priced than the other options. Getting to the ocean and ocean views from Maravu is a significant hill. Easy walk for you, not for her.

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Dave,

 

Thanks for the detailed information. It is very helpful. With respect to the Garden Island Resort, I have heard the description before. The recent reviews indicate that they have made it less spartan with landscaping; they also say that the food is pretty good. I have a little time before I commit, so I will keep doing some research.

 

Best regards,

Erwin

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Hi Everyone,

 

I recently returned from an 11 day trip to Wakatobi which was nothing less than stellar. Trip report and photos online here.

 

Photography opportunities both macro and wide angle are plentyful, with the emphasis on macro. This has been said in quite a few threads and I can confirm it.

 

Trip highlight: an eagle ray at full moon jumping out of the water, backflipping (sorry no photos, gotta take my word for it). :wacko:

 

Cheers,

 

Simon

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