The Magnificent Seven

Published October 12, 2016 in Dive Sites, DIVING & SNORKELING

A roundup of a few favorite dive sites at Wakatobi Resort

Wakatobi Resort is surrounded by some of the finest coral reefs on the planet. On a regular basis, dive sites within our marine reserve are mentions on various “world’s best” or “top dives” lists. The particulars vary, but there are a handful of locations that show up on these rosters with predictable regularity. We don’t like to play favorites, but we agree that these chosen sites provide an excellent showcase of the diversity and quality of our underwater environment.

Features such as this swim through on the House Reef wall prove that you don’t have to go far to have spectacular dive experiences at the resort. Photo by Walt Stearns

Features such as this swim through on the House Reef wall prove that you don’t have to go far to have spectacular dive experiences at the resort. Photo by Walt Stearns

Broadclub cuttlefish show up often in the shallows around the jetty. Photo by Mark Snyder

Broadclub cuttlefish can be seen often in the shallows around the jetty. Photo by Mark Snyder

House Reef

There’s no missing this expansive site. It begins right at the resort’s pier, and stretches for more than two miles to the left and right along the beach. It’s only 80 yards from the shoreline to the drop-off, where steep slopes and walls begin at depths of just two meters. Between the drop off and the beach lies an ecosystem of turtle grass and isolated coral heads which provide a rich environment for odd and beautiful creatures such as frogfish, stonefish, blue-ringed octopus, moray eels, blue spotted stingrays, ghost pipefish, jawfish, shrimp and goby pairs. Dives often begin at the jetty, which attracts schools of fish and shelters a range of invertebrates and macro subjects.

A dusk dive on the House just under the jetty bar offers a wealth of opportunities to encounter unique marine life. Photo by Wakatobi Resort

Many guests prefer to enjoy a cool bintang as they gaze down at divers and snorkelers taking in a dusk dive on the House Reef around the jetty bar . Photo by Wakatobi Resort

Within a few yards of the entry point, one can find dozens of anemones populated with iconic clownfish. The reef is covered with hard and soft corals, sea fans, sponges and tunicates, with overhangs that create resting places for resident turtles. A closer look at the colorful gorgonians that populate the vertical faces of the drop off may reveal hidden treasures such as pygmy seahorses. Wakatobi is known as one of the best places in the world to find these diminutive creatures, and several species were first discovered on our dive sites. Moving away from the pier, divers and snorkelers have acres of coral slopes and shallows to explore. To reach more distant areas of the House Reef, the dive center operates a fleet of taxi boats.

Drop in at Zoo and you'll discover it's as much as coral jungle as it is a critter haven. Photo by Mathis Weatherall

Drop in at Zoo and you’ll discover it’s as much as coral jungle as it is a critter haven. Photo by Mathis Weatherall

Zoo is also a site frequently visited for Fluo dives, when you can see creatures such as this skeleton shrimp fluorescing. Photo by Imran Ahmad

Zoo is also a site frequently visited for Fluo dives, when you can see creatures such as this skeleton shrimp fluorescing. Photo by Imran Ahmad

Zoo

Not far from the resort is one of the fishiest places in central Indonesia. Close to shore, a patch reef within a sand-bottom bay provides shelter for a wealth of interesting marine life. A leisurely look among the corals will reveal frogfish, ghost pipefish and leaf scorpion fish hiding in plain site. Closer scrutiny may expose smaller prizes such as hairy squat lobster and pygmy seahorses, while a survey of the bottom will yield bizarre burrowers such as the stargazer and the alien-like mantis shrimp. Check the mushroom anemones for their namesake mushroom pipefish, which a small white pipefish with a triangular head that gives it the appearance of a small underwater python. Zoo is a favorite site for night dives. At dusk colorful mandarinfish may emerge from the staghorn coral and rubble to perform their intricate mating rituals. Later, under the cover of full darkness, a new range of nocturnal animals such as hunting cuttlefish, colorful flatworms and many species of lionfish scour the reef, including the elusive twinspot lionfish. Bobtail squid and octopus are found in larger numbers here than other sites, and dive lights will reveal thousands of glowing eyes from the various shrimps and crabs that hang out in just about every crack and crevice.

Roma is one of the best sites to find octopus on the prowl during daylight hours. Photo by Rich Carey

Roma is one of the best sites to find octopus on the prowl during daylight hours. Photo by Rich Carey

Roma

The wide pinnacle known as Roma rises from the depths to within two meters of the surface. But the real story isn’t the profile, it’s what grows on and swims around this underwater plateau. First, there are the corals. The fringing ring of potato coral that encircles the crest has been likened to the Colosseum in Rome, hence the site’s name. These formations are adorned in multi-colored anemones and their attendant clownfish. One slope of the plateau is covered in a huge grove of Pavona coral that provides shelter for small reef fish like anthias, redtooth triggerfish, fusiliers and convict blennies. To the other is a drop off fringed with table corals, soft corals, and fans. Farther down the hard coral ridge large barrel sponges point the way to Roma’s signature coral formation, a unique turbinaria coral formation more than 20 feet across which resembles a gigantic rose.

The unique turbinaria coral formation at Roma is just one of the many features that thrill divers. Photo by Walt Stearns

The unique turbinaria coral formation at Roma is just one of the many features that thrill divers. Photo by Walt Stearns

Large schools of fishes such as blackfin and bigeye barracuda, snapper, jack crevalle, turtles and eagle rays patrol the water column above the pinnacle, creating a constant flittering of light on corals. Banded sea snakes poking around the coral foraging for food, and the list of residents includes ribbon eels, scorpion leaf fish, winged pipefish, spindle cowries, carpet anemone shrimps and rockmover wrasses. This is also one of the best places around Wakatobi Resort to find octopus on the prowl during daylight hours.

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