Pelagian Dive Yacht

A Day in the Bay

Published February 4, 2014 in Dive Sites, DIVE YACHT, Diving

It’s day three of your seven-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!

Cruising on up

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

Clouds of triggerfish_walt stearns

Triggerfish swarm around the top of a coral hill at Terrace Gardens, a sandy circular slope that starts at 5m with a coral garden, ending gently at 20m on a drop off; all is framed on the sides by reef walls. Photo by Walt Stearns

Eagle Ray on reef_photo Walt Stearns_MG_1770 (1)

Eagle rays can often be seen soaring along the sandy plateau at Gone With the Wind. Photo by Walt Stearns

At Gone with the Wind the eagle rays soared by entertaining the divers with a swirl of activity. The name is appropriate since current at this location can be quite lively, sweeping divers for a long drift. The site starts just at the end of Escape, where the wall ends and turns into a coral garden (5-25m deep) and continues into a sandy plateau at around 30-35m. Along this plateau, when currents are not too strong, divers like to linger and watch eagle rays, white tips, schooling tunas, barracudas and jacks. After leaving the plateau the dive goes on first with the coral garden where lobsters, nudies, sea snakes, scorpionfish and lots more can be found, then with a less colorful wall that features turtles, schooling bumphead parrotfish and other fish. Wow, what a great action dive.

Pygmy Seahorse

Rare Denise’s pygmy seahorses can be found on sites visited by Pelagian, such as Alice in Wonderland, located on the western side of Wangi Wangi. Photo by Richard Smith

You got to see your first Bargibants pygmy seahorse at the coral gardens at Alice in Wonderland.  This is a dive that offers a bit of everything, starting with a coral garden that begins at 5m and slopes down to 20m, continuing deeper as a sandy slope. Here you can encounter eagle and mobula rays, with bumphead parrotfish occasionally passing by.

Your guide, Komang, first pointed out the Bargibant’s pygmy seahorse, but it was you who spotted a stunning pair of rare Denise’s pygmy seahorses about 2 meters down the reef!

Along the sides of the coral gardens is a steeper slope ending on two points, with the top around 8m and the bottom more than 50m. The points seem to be swept by current and their walls are full of fan corals, soft corals and lots of fish. You learned during the briefing that Bargibant’s and Denise’s pygmy seahorses are spotted here.

Pelagian cruisng 625 x 310_Didi Lotze

Each Pelagian cruise is unique depending on season, weather conditions, currents, or water temperatures, which can all determine what dive areas and sites visited. The Pelagian team will also vary the type of dive sites based on the experience level of the diving group, and interest in specific types of marine life. It’s all very flexible to allow for the best possible cruise for each group. Photo by Didi Lotze

Into the muck

Last night, the Pelagian cruised into Pasar Wajo Bay on the east side of Buton Island. 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.

Coffee arrives at your cabin and you’ve got time to stretch, relax and enjoy before the first dive briefing. The sun is just coming up as you make your way to the stern for a overview of the day’s first dive at Cheeky Beach. Minutes later, you load into one of Pelagian’s dive tenders, where your equipment sits rigged, checked and ready, as usual.

Located in front of a local village, Pasar Wajo, 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. Often referred to as “a ten out of ten muck dive,” this is a site that you can dive repetitively – each time is different and critters come out depending on the time of day and lunar calendar.

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

Rolling overboard, you follow the contours of 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.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.

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 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

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