Mandarinfish_photo Werner Thiele

Muck, Magic, and Rainbow Reefs

Published June 5, 2013 in DIVING & SNORKELING, PELAGIAN

Pelagian Dive Yacht features some ‘out of this world’ dives on both traditional reefs and muck sites. Follow along to enjoy a taste of Pelagian’s cruises in Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia, the heart of the coral triangle of undersea biodiversity.

When the sun goes down, Desert, a popular site visited by the Pelagian, turns into a proverbial Fun House as nocturnal beasts like the reef squid above come out and put on the ‘night moves.’ Dancing in the dark on the edge of your dive light’s illumination, they flash iridescent hues looking as if an electrical current is running through their body.

If you’re into mucking around, the Pelagian’s cruise itinerary is not without its collection of magical muck dives off the southeast peninsula of Sulawesi at Buton Island. If you are unfamiliar with the term “muck diving,” it is basically a treasure hunt for small and often highly cryptic critters hiding among the supporting columns of a pier or in debris.

Frogfish like this little orange fellow can be found nestled, comfortably we assume, in the sandy bottom. photo by Waktobi guest Saskia van Wijk

Frogfish like this little orange fellow can be found nestled, comfortably we assume,
in the sandy bottom on muck dive sites visited by Pelagian.
photo by Waktobi guest Saskia van Wijk

 

Located in front of a village known as Pasar Wajo, is a site called Cheeky Beach. Here Pelagian divers often followed by local children watching from the surface with ‘cheeky enthusiasm,’ while they hunt for true treasures such as the amazing blue-ringed octopus. The beauty of Cheeky Beach, and for that matter most muck sites, is that it can be dived repetitively rendering unique and different finds every time. And when it comes to ‘finds’ what’s even more special about Cheeky Beach is that it is also a shrimp breeding ground for several of the more exotic species found in the Wakatobi region.

Coleman shrimp live exclusively on fire urchins. photo by Wakatobi guest Saskia van Wijk

Coleman shrimp live exclusively on fire urchins.
photo by Wakatobi guest Saskia van Wijk

 

Found in abundance at Cheeky Beach are class favorites like Coleman shrimp. Often found in pairs (the larger is the female), these exquisite shrimp live exclusively on fire urchins, taking up residence in the middle of the urchin’s toxic spines. The host urchin’s spines do not harm the shrimp, but they usually clear an area on the urchin where they perch, making for a compelling macro subject.

If the Mandarinfish is high on your list of must see’s, Magic Pier, a Pelagian signature dive, is definitely in order. The pier, a concrete jetty, is built upon a shallow coral plateau on a slope starting at 5m to 8m and gently dropping down to 25m. The pier is home to an abundance of flamboyant Mandarinfish, which are scarcely two inches long. It is at dusk that Mandarinfish become their most frisky, performing a beautiful courting dance, which ends with the release of sperm and eggs as they spawn in the water column above the bottom. It is at dusk that Mandarinfish become their most frisky, performing a beautiful courting dance, which ends with the release of sperm and eggs as they spawn in the water column above the bottom.

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

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

 

“A highlight for me was the dive on Magic Pier, where we saw Mandarinfish mating followed by a world of night life; moray eels, mantis shrimp, napolean snake eels, cuttlefish, octopus, huge shoals of razorfish and ghost pipefish galore.” – Greg Clinton, Sept 2012

A small, highly colorful relative of the seahorse, the Ornate ghost pipefish ranks among the most exotic creatures in the Indo-Pacific.  photo by Wakatobi guest David Gray

The Ornate ghost pipefish is one of the Indo-Pacific’s most exotic creatures.
photo by Wakatobi guest David Gray

Magic Pier does not begin and end with Mandarinfish. There are many other only notable residents hovering on the bottom at this site – in particular several varieties of ghost pipefish. A small, highly colorful relative of the seahorse, the Ornate ghost pipefish ranks among the most exotic creatures in the Indo-Pacific. Their spike-shaped fin rays give them a jagged appearance like the arms of a crinoid. Hence, you’ll find them there, or around soft corals like gorgonians. With a highly variable color range, which is usually dependent upon the habitat on which they are dwelling, the Ornate ghost Pipefish will frequently hang vertically, with its head directed towards the sea floor. But if you’re looking carefully, you might sometimes find them swimming horizontally, close to the bottom.

 

One of the many captivating sights you will find on Magic Pier are subjects like this eel, which is having some dental hygiene done by a scarlet lady shrimp, identified by a vibrant red stripe intersected by a white line down its back. photo by Wakatobi guest Wayne MacWilliams

One of the many captivating sights found on Magic Pier are subjects like this eel, which is having some dental hygiene.
photo by Wakatobi guest Wayne MacWilliams

 

Muck diving isn’t all there is to Pelagian’s itinerary. There are hundreds of miles of reefs to visit within the Pelagian’s crusing range. These include the smaller eastern and southern islands of Moromaho and Runuma, the big reefs of Karang Kaledupa, and the fascinating critter haven of Buton island.

To dive both muck sites and stunning reefs is a genuine treat, and the Pelagian cruises cover it all.” – Bob & BarbHay, Dec 2012 photo by Wakatobi guest Richard Smith

It’s great to be able to dive both muck sites and stunning reefs.” – Bob and Barb Hay, Dec 2012
photo by Wakatobi guest Richard Smith

Frequently swept by currents, large schools of surgeonfish, Big-eye trevally, barracudas, and triggerfish roam overhead at Metropolis. photo by Wakatobi guest Richard Smith

Large schools of surgeonfish, Big-eye trevally, barracudas, and triggerfish roam overhead at a site known as Metropolis.
photo by Wakatobi guest Richard Smith

 

Southeast of Wangi Wangi is a stunning reef plateau called Metropolis featuring a great variety of hard and soft corals, bommies and endless stretches of hilly formations of staghorn corals. Frequently swept by currents, large schools of surgeonfish, barracudas, travally and triggerfish roam overhead.

Bargibant pygmy seahorse photo by Wakatobi guest Mark Snyder

Bargibant pygmy seahorse
photo by Wakatobi guest Mark Snyder

No mention of Wakatobi or the Pelagian Dive Yacht would be complete without pygmy seahorses. Pelagian cruises the heart of a region that is host to three of the prominent species – from the familiar Bargibant to the Denise and Pontoh.

One of the specialties of the Pelagian’s crew is finding the tiny, white Pontoh seahorse in their favorite habitat among the Halimeda algae. “Nowhere else are they [Pontoh species] so reliably encountered as here,” says marine biologist Richard Smith.

Pontoh seahorse photo by Waktobi guest Richard Smith

Pontoh seahorse
photo by Waktobi guest Richard Smith

 

Pelagian cruises the outer reefs and surrounding atolls of the Wakatobi Archipelago. While seasons and weather conditions may dictate some itineraries, one thing is certain, each cruise will be a unique and special experience. Diving on Pelagian has never been easier with frequent direct charter flights from Bali and a variety of itineraries from which to choose.

To see what Pelagian Dive Yacht is all about visit Postcards from Pelagian.

"The Pelagian is a Yacht of comfort, a crew that is always helpful and the good food of a 5-star restaurant. In one word –“Awesome!” – Paul Yeomans, March 2013 photo by Saskia van Wijk

“The Pelagian is a Yacht of comfort, a crew that is always helpful and the good food of a 5-star restaurant.
In one word –“Awesome!”” – Paul Yeomans, March 2013
photo by Saskia van Wijk

 

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