Pelagian1_photo WDR

A Day in the Bay

Published February 4, 2014 in Diving, PELAGIAN, RESORT

It’s day three of your five-day cruise on the Pelagian dive yacht, and you’re looking forward to a type of diving you’ve read about, but not yet experienced. This trip began with a stay at Wakatobi dive resort, where you logged more than two-dozen dives on some amazing reefs and walls. By the end of the week, you could have flown home happy, but instead you opted for a second helping and added a cruise on Pelagian to expand your horizons and experience Wakatobi’s more distant islands and reefs. Follow along for a taste of this Pelagian experience, and enjoy the cruise!

Photo by Walt Stearns

Photo by Walt Stearns

 

The past two days were spent at Wangi Wangi and Buton Island. You particularly enjoyed the diving at Escape, hovering amongst the site’s moving walls of triggerfish and orange anthias.

Photo by Walt Stearns

Photo by Walt Stearns

 

At Gone With the Wind the eagle rays soared by entertaining the divers with a swirl of activity.

Denise's pygmy seahorses  Photo by Richard Smith

Denise’s pygmy seahorses
Photo by Richard Smith

 

You got to see your first Bargibants pygmy seahorse at the coral gardens at Alice in Wonderland. While your guide, Komang, first pointed to the Bargibants you spotted a stunning pair of rare Denise’s pygmy seahorses about 2 meters down the reef!

10-Pelagian cruising out-photo Didi Lotze

Photo by Didi Lotze

 

Last night, the Pelagian cruised into Pasar Wajo Bay. The sheltered coastal regions of this body of water are not noted for its reefs, but that’s OK. You’ve come here to experience muck diving, and from what you’ve been told and read, it’s not about big vistas and dramatic terrain, it’s all about looking close and moving slow.

Pelagian's Superlux Cabin Photo by Didi Lotze

Pelagian’s Superlux Cabin
Photo by Didi Lotze

 

Coffee arrives at your cabin and you’ve got time to stretch, relax and enjoy before the first dive briefing.

Pelagian's aft deck

Pelagian’s aft deck

 

The sun is just coming up as you make your way to the stern for a briefing on the day’s first dive at Magic Pier. Minutes later, you load into one of Pelagian’s dive tenders, where your equipment sits rigged, checked and ready, as usual.

Rolling overboard, you follow the contours of a concrete block jetty to a gently sloping coral plateau.   There is no current, so you are able to frog kick gently and hover close to the bottom, which at first looks rather uninteresting compared to the terrains of the past couple days. Then, as your eyes adjust, you begin to see things.

At Magic Pier a decorator crab sports a soft coral headdress as its skirts about on the bottom.  Photo by Walt Stearns

A decorator crab sports a soft coral headdress as its skirts about on the bottom.
Photo by Walt Stearns

 

Hermit and decorator crabs scuttle about, a cuttlefish cruises by, and then you spot a freckled frogfish lurking under cover. As your guide suggested, you take special note of your surroundings, as you’ll be returning here for a night dive.

As with the resort Pelagian's chefs cater to a wide range of dietary requirements. If you have special needs, or simply have a hankering for a favorite dish, just ask.  Photo by Didi Lotze

As with the resort, Pelagian’s chefs cater to a wide range of dietary requirements. If you have special needs,
or simply have a hankering for a favorite dish, just ask. Photo by Didi Lotze

 

Back aboard the Pelagian, you enjoy a warm shower and a fresh towel, followed by a savory breakfast. The chefs are already tempting you with comments about what is to come for lunch. Before the mid-morning dive, your guide provides you with a muck stick. You’ve seen photographers use these to position themselves close to the bottom, but your guide says it’s a great accessory for anyone diving a relatively soft-bottomed site. Using the muck stick allows you to get closer to marine life without banging into the bottom or missing out on a view of one of the cool creatures that lie hidden in the “muck.”

At Asphalt Pier discarded barrels, old tires and abandoned fish traps litter the seabed. But, as you get closer, you find this detritus is teeming with life, such as blind shrimp and their watchful roomates, gobies.  Photo by David Gray

At Asphalt Pier barrels, tires and abandoned fish traps litter the seabed. But, as you get closer, you find this detritus is teeming with life, such as blind shrimp and their watchful roomates, gobies. Photo by David Gray

 

Dive two takes place at Asphalt Pier, and the scenery down below makes Magic Pier look like a garden spot. Discarded barrels and old tires litter the seabed. But, as you get closer, you find this detritus is teeming with life. Blue ribbon and garden eels poke their snouts into the sunlight; nudibranchs slither about and gobies stay on the watch as their roommate, the blind shrimp, pushes sand and debris out of the burrown they share. The muck stick is  helpful as you are able to enjoy some up-close sightings without disturbing the bottom; having a private dive guide for a few days has proven its value time and time again.

Pelagian's camera room provides ample space for photographers to work.  Photo by Didi Lotze

Pelagian’s camera room provides ample space for photographers to work. Photo by Didi Lotze

 

After lunch you wander into the camera room to look at some of the images your fellow guests have taken. Then, it’s time to gear up once more for the next act in Pelagian’s muck tour.

Frogfish

Frogfish are often spotted crawling on the bottom at Cheeky Beach
Photo by Saskia van Wijk

 

Cheeky Beach takes its name from the local children who follow along on the surface when divers are in the water, “cheekily” monitoring the underwater action with noisy curiosity. As expected, several youngsters do follow your progress from above, but the real attraction lies below. This is a shrimp breeding ground, home to a number of rare and colorful species: harlequin, Coleman and menacing mantis shrimp, along with frogfish and pygmy seahorses, which your guide finds with unerring ease.

Pelagian's spacious lounge Photo by Didi Lotze

Pelagian’s spacious lounge
Photo by Didi Lotze

 

Another post-dive rinse and a quick snack leaves time for some late-afternoon relaxation in the lounge. As the sun sinks toward the horizon, you learn from the guides about the courtship rituals of the mandarin fish, which commence around dusk, and involve elaborate dance-like movements that culminate in a mating. The dusk dive at Magic Pier should be unforgettable.

“Magic Pier is a hypnotic experience. Not only were there so many fish competing for mates, I saw my first ever Mandarinfish ménage-a-trois!”  photo by Richard Smith

“Magic Pier is a hypnotic experience. Not only were there so many fish competing for mates,
I saw my first ever Mandarinfish ménage-a-trois!” Photo and comment by Richard Smith

 

Magic Pier is famous for the mandarinfish courtship displays, and as you slip below the surface soon after the sun goes down, the show begins, and is everything you’ve hoped for.

Dinner is especially enjoyable, not only because of the fresh tuna the chef serves, but also for the anticipation of a special treat that awaits this evening.  Pelagian typically provides a four-a-day dive itinerary, when staying in the bay, where bottom profiles are shallow, it’s sometimes possible to work in an additional night dive. And as an added bonus, you’re doing a fluo-dive. By using special blue lighting, you’ll return once more to Magic Pier, but this time, creatures, such as the scorpionfish below, will reveal themselves in glowing florescent hues.

Scorpionfish light up in fiery reds and oranges under fluo lights.  Photo by Wayne MacWilliams

Scorpionfish light up in fiery reds and oranges under fluo lights.
Photo by Wayne MacWilliams

 

You take a final rinse, enter a few notes in your dive log. You might join the other guests for a nightcap in the salon, but you’ll probably be in bed within an hour, because tomorrow promises to be another exciting and rewarding day of underwater adventures.

Learn more about a cruise aboard Pelagian here.

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