Postcards from Pelagian
A virtual tour of Indonesia’s premier diving liveaboard
It’s the stuff of daydreams: A luxurious yacht that carries you away to remote and pristine coral reefs; an attentive crew; sumptuous meals; spacious accommodations and a rare opportunity to visit places few will ever have the chance to experience and enjoy. At Wakatobi, it’s easy to turning this dream into a reality. All you need do is book a cruise aboard the dive yacht Pelagian. So join us for a glimpse at what awaits when you set sail from Wakatobi on a voyage of discovery and relaxation.
A proper yacht
The adventure begins at Wakatobi Dive Resort, when a gleaming white motor yacht appears just off the beach. This is Pelagian, a 115′/36 steel-hulled luxury cruiser purpose-built to carry a limited number of guests in comfort and style. In many parts of the world, a liveaboard diving vessel of similar size would be packed with 20 or more passengers. Not aboard Pelagian, which hosts a maximum of 10 guests in five staterooms that seem more like spacious hotel rooms than cramped boat cabins.
“I liked that guests were limited to just 10 people, as this enabled the crew to give that little bit more to the guests on board, and not have to dilute the service level for any reason. This enables consistency of the entire experience, and a more focussed customer experience overall,” says Simon Bowen, who recently cruised on Pelagian in April 2016.
Throughout the yacht, an upscale décor evokes an atmosphere reminiscent of a boutique luxury hotel. The center of social activity is the main saloon, which becomes a gathering place for both meals and relaxation, with dedicated dining spaces and an adjacent lounge area where guests can mingle or gather to enjoy the integrated entertainment and media center. The yacht also offers sheltered and open outdoor lounge areas near the bow and on the top deck. These spaces are ideal for reading or quiet relaxation while taking in the sun and sea air, or enjoying spectacular star gazing in the evenings. The shaded aft deck is used for dive briefings and gatherings, and there is a dedicated, climate-controlled camera room/workshop with ample counter space and charging capacity to support numerous photographers.
“The Pelagian is more like a small ship that a dive boat,” says guest Greg Clinton. “It is very well setup with a large salon, media room, and excellent cabins. Mine was a deluxe, which is very spacious, comfortable and clean.” Each of the five guest cabins offers substantially more space and luxury that the typical live-aboard. Rather than the compact bunk beds often found on many dive boats, Pelagian’s cabins have side-by-side beds or walk-around queen-sized berths, and all offer full en suite baths with roomy rain showers and separate dressing areas. From the spacious floor plan to the wall art and the smallest decor details, these cabins evoke a feeling of tranquility and restfulness.
For those seeking an even more upscale experience, Pelagian’s master suite provides accommodations worthy of a luxury hotel suite. It is one of the largest and most well-appointed accommodation that can be found on a dive liveaboard. This suite spans the full width of the vessel and occupies the entire forward portion of the main deck, providing both privacy and easy access to all parts of the yacht. Amenities include walk-around king size bed, a spacious lounge with a love seat, and an entertainment center fitted with an HD flat-panel TV and Blu-ray DVD player.
Pelagian’s upscale amenities set the stage for a memorable cruise, but it is the human factor that truly separates this yacht apart from other diving liveaboards. With a full-time crew of 12, Pelagian provides five-star service that places a special emphasis on personal attention. No special request is too trivial, and the staff prides themselves on anticipating guest needs and on providing prompt responses to requests without intruding on an individual’s desired level of privacy. “I have been on many high-end live aboard trips before, but nothing with the attention to detail that was offered aboard Pelagian,” says guest Simon Bowen. “From the moment I arrived on the boat until the moment I left, I felt looked after and cared for in a way that is unusual on this type of a trip.”
While meals are a focal point on any liveaboard, the Pelagian staff elevates dining to a new level. Daily menus are worthy of a five-star beachside restaurant, with chef-prepared meals served against a stunning backdrop of sea and sky. The onboard culinary team rotates between the resort and the Pelagian, delivering a menu that combines Indonesian delicacies and fresh-caught seafood with international cuisines highlighting flavors from around the world. With prior notice, the kitchen is able to handle any special dietary requests, or add a guest favorite to the menu. “No detail was too small for the cruise directors,” says guest Debbie Larson. “They always go the extra mile to ensure passengers are satisfied and beyond, and could easily manage any of the world’s largest hotels.”
The crew ensemble includes a dedicated cruise director and two dive experience managers. Thorough dive briefings are provided before all dives, and the managers are always available to address concerns or answer questions. Guests are able to choose between fully guided diving experiences or the appropriate level of professional support and advice needed to enhance an autonomous dive plan. “The assistance in and out of the tenders, on and off with equipment, camera handling and any issues that arose were all handled extremely well and professional,” says guest Simon Bowen. “The dive guides knowledge of the sites, and their ability to assist us all on spotting as much life as we could find, as well as guidance with suitable lenses for photography pre-dive, made the entire trip a pleasure.”
The Pelagian cruises through the islands of Tomia, Kaledupa, Binongko, Hoga, Wanci and Buton. Rather than following a set itinerary, each cruise is planned based on seasons, weather and guest preferences. This flexibility provides divers with exclusive access to more than 80 sites not visited by resort-based day boats, and encompasses a range of underwater experiences that includes steep walls, drift dives, and caverns, along with some world-class muck diving. Sites such as Sandy Bay provide colorful coral gardens that are a snorkeler’s delight, while other sites such as Turtle Town and Lobster Wall match shallow reef tops with steep walls that are riddled with overhands and crevices. Undulating schools of barracuda, snapper and triggers swarm the gorgonian-covered faces of structures such as Fishmarket Pinnacle, while open-water seamounts rise from the depths to attract rays, tuna, trevally and blacktip sharks. At the other end of the spectrum, the shallow, silt-bottom bays of Buton Island are prime hunting grounds for bizarre bottom dwellers, and home to the famous mandarinfish mating displays at Magic Pier. “This is muck heaven, a window to a new world,” says guest Brian Jones. “But don’t let that fool you, the reefs and coral are also amazing! The guides’ enthusiasm for both the big and tiny have brought us to a new level of appreciation for diving.”
Daily diving activity is conducted from a pair of custom-fabricated 18-foot rigid inflatables. These twin-engine boats carry just five passengers each, and are equipped with tank racks and substantial boarding ladders. The Pelagian staff places gear aboard these inflatables at the start of the trip, and divers need not deal with their equipment thereafter. Items such as cameras are carefully attended to during transfers, and the staff is always on hand to facilitate entry and exits. The Pelagian’s knowledgable dive guides are experts at locating elusive marine life and showcasing the best features of each site. “The dive guides were great at spotting interesting fish and creatures,” says guest David Howel. “Their attentiveness between the dives was spectacular as well. Hot drinks, hot towels, hot showers on deck and hot snacks provided a level of service we have not experienced before.”
One need not be an advanced diver to enjoy a Pelagian cruise. Not only is the staff always available to assist in all phases of the dive experience, the underwater venues themselves are suited to divers with a wide range of skill levels and interests. A majority of dive sites visited are within or adjacent to relatively shallow water, and can be explored both deep and shallow. Often, profiles allow for bottom times that can stretch for an hour or more while remaining well within recreational guidelines. A typical diving day aboard Pelagian provides up to four diving opportunities, plus frequent opportunities for night diving. Over the course of a one-week cruise, divers can expect to log as many as 25 dives. Ultimately, however, many guests relish their time aboard not only for the fantastic underwater sights they experience, but also for the world-class amenities and relaxed luxuries of their surface intervals.