The All-Access Cruise

Published March 17, 2017 in DIVE YACHT

A Cruise Aboard the Pelagian Reveals the Full Range of Indonesia’s Underwater Riches

The reefs within Wakatobi Resort’s marine preserve provide snorkelers and divers with a wealth of marine diversity—more than anyone could take in in a single visit. And yet, even with this plethora of underwater opportunities, which begin right at the resort beach, it’s only natural to wonder what lies beyond. The answer to that question is Pelagian.

Taking to sea

To complement its land-based operation, Wakatobi Resort manages the Pelagian, a 115-foot/35m dive yacht that cruises the Wakatobi archipelago and the southern portion of Buton Island. These waters lie within the Coral Triangle, a region known to contain the highest coral reef bio-diversity in the world.

Seven-day itineraries and seasonal 10-day trips take in a diverse range of underwater environments, from steep walls perforated by overhangs along the outside edge of Karang Kaledupa and Karang Kapota atolls to the exceptional muck diving opportunities of Buton Island’s Pasarwajo Bay. The Pelagian also skirts the southwestern edges of Wangi Wangi and Kaledupa Islands, providing another round of magnificent reefs, dramatic vertical drop-offs and pinnacles, each revealing a kaleidoscopic menagerie of marine life.

Pelagian takes a max ten divers in 5 spacious cabins with a crew of twelve that includes an executive chef and stewards, adding fine dining and five-star service to the itinerary.

Pelagian takes a max ten divers in five spacious cabins. A crew of twelve includes an executive chef and stewards, adding fine dining and five-star service to the itinerary. Photo by Didi Lotze

A proper yacht

The Pelagian is not a typical live-aboard vessel, as it is configured to take a maximum of just ten divers in five spacious cabins. Guests enjoy comfortable yacht-like accommodations more akin to a hotel room with even en suite bathrooms and showers. A crew of twelve includes an executive chef and stewards, adding fine dining and five-star service to the itinerary.

Comfortable yacht-like accommodations throughout Pelagian are more akin to those found in a luxury hotel suite; for example, the master suite spans the entire width of the yacht.

Comfortable yacht-like accommodations throughout Pelagian are more akin to those found in a luxury hotel suite; for example, the master suite spans the entire width of the yacht. Photo by Didi Lotze

Diving activities are conducted from a pair of custom-fabricated dive tenders, with the crew handling all gear management. Dives are led by one of Wakatobi’s guides, who provide in-water support when requested or needed, and are experts at locating rare marine subjects. Because dives are conducted either in shallow-water muck sites or on structures with significant vertical reliefs that are ideal for multi-level profiles, bottoms times routinely exceed 70 minutes, and the schedule allows for up to four dives a day, including night dives.

The top portion of the reefs of Karang Kaledupa and Karang Kapota are carpeted with a variety of colorful, healthy hard and soft corals. Photo by Walt Stearns

The top portion of the reefs at Karang Kaledupa and Karang Kapota are carpeted with a variety of colorful, healthy hard and soft corals. Photo by Walt Stearns

Ready set, reef

Day one of a cruise starts on Wakatobi’s doorstep with a couple of afternoon warm up dives before the Pelagian pulls away to begin its journey north towards Buton Island. The next morning finds divers exploring sites between the massive reef atolls of Karang Kaledupa and Karang Kapota. Here, the reefs are among the most colorful and dramatically-contoured in the region. The top edges of these structures are carpeted with a wide variety of hard and soft corals. The slopes and walls that plunge into the depths are covered in a different but equally broad collection of large, vibrant-colored soft coral trees and gorgonians in red, orange, pink and yellow. With dramatic drops and visibility that typically exceeds 75 meters, these sites are ideal for taking in the big picture and sometimes serve up open-water species like blackfin barracuda, sea turtles and eagle rays.

Dramatic drop offs with visibility that typically exceeds 75 meters are ideal for taking in the big picture while also serving up open-water species such as blackfin barracuda. Photo by Wakatobi Dive Resort

Dramatic drop offs with visibility that typically exceeds 75 meters are ideal for taking in the big picture while also serving up open-water species such as blackfin barracuda. Photo by Wakatobi Dive Resort

The Pelagian crew are experts at finding several species of pygmy seahorse including poncho’s, which are typically found shallow among halimeda algae.

Pelagian’s dive guides are experts at finding several species of pygmy seahorse including poncho’s, which are typically found shallow among halimeda algae. Photo by Richard Smith, facebook.com/OceanRealmImages

In addition to providing dramatic seascapes, these reefs hold a wealth of small finds. An excellent place to look for these are among the sea whips that cover the slopes and walls of many dive sites. Though often overlooked by passing divers, these feathery corals are a haven for whip gobies and small shrimp. A highlight of any Pelagian cruise is the abundant opportunities to find pygmy seahorses, as dives are made in areas home to three of the most prominent species: the bargibant, Denise and pontoh’s. One of the specialties of the Pelagian’s crew is locating the tiny, white pontoh’s (Hippocampus pontohi), seahorse sheltered among the halimeda algae. Capturing these small creatures can be a challenging exercise in macro photography, but they make for great subjects whether you view them with a camera or an underwater magnifying glass.

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