Returning with the Kids

Published June 6, 2016 in Family Focus, RESORT

Once I have had an amazing time somewhere I’m never sure whether or not to return. Will it be as good as the first time? Will things have changed? Well, in the eight years since we enjoyed Wakatobi Resort, we had undergone a transformation–and so had our destination. This remote corner of paradise had gotten even better. We returned to Wakatobi with the kids and we weren’t disappointed!

by guest Wandy Hochgrebe

Wakatobi is located on the very southeastern tip of Sulawesi, which is the part of Indonesia just above Bali. We were happy to learn that the flight from Denpasar, Bali to Tomia island just behind the resort is now direct and only takes 2.5 hours!

The Hochgrebe's returned to find a longer jetty with a bar at the end overlooking the Wakatobi House Reef dropoff. Photo by Wakatobi Resort

The Hochgrebe’s returned to find a longer jetty with a bar at the end overlooking the House Reef dropoff. Photo by Wakatobi Resort

Wakatobi is located on the very southeastern tip of Sulawesi, which is the part of Indonesia just above Bali. We were happy to learn that the flight from Denpasar, Bali to Tomia island just behind the resort is now direct and only takes 2.5 hours! Prior to boarding the plane, we had a light breakfast in Wakatobi’s exclusive VIP lounge at Ngurah Rai Airport in Bali. The flight was, needless to say, quite pleasant and we all enjoyed peering out the plane windows at the incredible reef system below as we approached the resort’s private airstrip on Tomia. After a short boat ride around the corner and we were at the resort.

Seeing the jetty and the Longhouse felt fantastic – a sort of homecoming. The jetty had been extended and there was now a Sunset Bar at the end. The Longhouse is a lovely reception/lobby area with free WiFi and coffee, tea, and snacks. Meals are served in the restaurant with a wonderful choice of Asian and more Western choices.

Yes, things have definitely changed, but the ambiance and energy have stayed the same. Service is still excellent, and little details have been thought of and implemented. Again, it struck us that despite the remote location things are organized so well and operations are run smoothly. Especially when you look at the meals and know that everything has to be flown in or is at least available only in limited quantities. The seafood is sourced locally, which means it is very fresh, but as Wakatobi’s head chef mentioned to us that he doesn’t always have the luxury to pick and choose what he would like to prepare. As guests, this was not even noticeable;  there was plenty of beautifully prepared and wonderfully presented food choices. And those on special or restricted diets need only advise the Wakatobi team and they are accommodated with a variety of healthy, delicious choices.

Conservation of this pristine area is still a big part of the resort. No, it is not crammed down your throat, nor do you need to be actively involved. You are contributing simply by staying. For more information on the Collaborative Reef Conservation Program visit Wakatobi’s website or view this page.

We now had come to stay with our two young children and we had not been on a diving holiday or even dived together since we had our first child.

The major change for us was the fact that we now had come to stay with our two young children and we had not been on a diving holiday or even dived together since we had our first child.  A hectic work schedule was partially to blame, but also having kids was for us a life-changing experience. Of course, it opened our eyes to things like where we can find the best playground, rainy day alternatives and how to best have a coffee or a conversation without the children constantly interfering or getting themselves into some form of danger.

Diving had to give way to other things that mainly involved children. We had not dived together since I fell pregnant the first time, so it was great that Wakatobi has some wonderful nannies who were very able to look after our young kids. To be honest, before our departure from home I had my reservations. Would I be able to leave my children with strangers – qualified or not? I don’t think I am an overprotective mum and my children are very easy going with new people they meet, however, I just felt hesitant and worried that I would not be able to enjoy the diving.

How Wrong Was I?

All our wishes for the boys in regards to food and sleep during the day were taken on board. As we are always careful with the sun and heat we were put at ease finding out that the staff is very sun safe and they made sure the children wore hats, played mainly in the shade or inside during the heat of the day and drunk enough water.

Kids are as active as they wish supervised by counselors and nannies that ensure they are safe hydrated and having fun!

Kids are as active as they wish supervised by counselors and nannies that ensure they are safe hydrated and having fun! Photo by Didi Lotze

The Hochgrebe boys having some fun in the Wakatobi Kid's Club playroom.

The Hochgrebe boys having some fun in the Wakatobi Kid’s Club playroom. Photo by Tim Hochgrebe

I was completely relaxed and confident that the boys were well looked after. In our case, we would get up and have breakfast together and then get ready for our day. We would then meet with the nannies on our way to the dive center, discuss our plans for the day and say goodbye.

After the children were in bed at night one of the nannies would come over to our bungalow and babysit so we could have our dinner in peace. Bliss!

When the dive boat returned to shore at lunchtime we would meet the children so we could have lunch together and hear about their adventures. We would then drop them off again for our afternoon dive. We actually had one afternoon of no diving and the children were severely disappointed, they wanted to go back and spend time with Agung and Uti – their nannies! After the children were in bed at night one of the nannies would come over to our bungalow and babysit so we could have our dinner in peace. Bliss!

 

Besides the counselors and nannies provided by child care services, other staff members were all fantastic to our children, and all  knew them by name. Every morning, every mealtime they were greeted enthusiastically (as were we and the other guests!) and made feel very special regardless of the staff’s no doubt busy work schedules.

For children of 5 years and older, there is a wonderful Kids Club with a great indoor area for when it rains or when it is too hot outside. A beautiful mural – the work of Inka Maeder – adds a colorful touch. Lots of toys and activities are available. Younger children can attend too but would need nannies to accompany them there.

The Diving

Keen divers have plenty of opportunities to get their fix. The base schedule of three dives a day is not excessive and you can always do more on the house reef or go for a snorkel. You probably could squeeze yourself on a night dive every day as well as not everyone who is scheduled will necessarily go and you could take their spot. Most of the time the boats come back to shore between dives so if you’d prefer to sit out a dive and do less that is always a possibility too.

The diving guests are divided between several different boats and on the boats, small groups have their own dive leader so sites are never crowded. If you prefer you can arrange to have a personal guide and even pick the sites you would like to visit. The resort also offers Nitrox and caters for rebreathers.

When we dived at Wakatobi the first time pygmy seahorses were really ‘in.’ They were the subject that all photographers wanted to see and shoot. However, the well-being of this tiny seahorse would often be forgotten in the process by the keen photographers – whether or not they would end up with a shot they were happy with or would do anything with once taken. We were personally very happy to see that although it is still possible to encounter these little critters they don’t seem to be a major focus. And why should they take all the attention with so many other amazing critters, fish, and turtles? I enjoyed taking the time to swim away from the reef at times and take it in from a little further away and observe the landscape and the life as one.

Our first dive was at the House Reef – a check-out dive during which staff could find out about the diving skills of the new arrivals. It did feel a little short with just over 30 minutes in the water, but we knew more was to come and we would not be disappointed. Our dive leader, Dollar, tirelessly pointed out many interesting critters, including some Saron shrimp – I didn’t know they were that large. At the same time he left plenty of time to let us discover things ourselves and take photos or videos.

And there was so much to see

Amongst all beautiful things we saw were the Pegasus Seamoths, a number of small frogfish, leaf scorpionfish in different colors, schools of trevally hanging in the current, long toms, garden eels, octopus and cuttlefish and plenty of the gorgeous Red-toothed Triggerfish, which I love so much. I was quite proud when I managed to find some crinoid shrimps by myself, hiding between the feet of their host the feather star. Another great thing was that we saw turtles on most dives, which didn’t happen last time at all. There were a few shy eagle rays and we got to see some Black-tip Reef sharks, but only from further away…. A few times we had great encounters with banded sea snakes as they went up for air or were cruising the reef for the next meal. Fantastic!

And the sessile marine life is just as beautiful and very healthy, giving color to the stunning landscapes. There are plenty of dive sites to visit and most if not all of those you could dive many times and not get bored. Fortunately, my favorite dive site Roma was on our schedule and other dive sites I particularly enjoyed were Conchita and The Zoo.

Overall the diving is well organized, diverse and safe. Plenty of friendly and helpful staff means that you and your gear are looked after properly. No lugging around your own heavy dive gear as the staff is amazing in getting things where you want them.

There is also the option to spend time aboard the Pelagian Dive Yacht for 5-11 days or more and dive reef systems further away and even more remote. With a maximum of 10 guests at any time you can truly get away from the crowds in supreme luxury! Unfortunately, this was not an option for us this time around. I guess we’ll have to wait till we can leave the boys at home on their own! Maybe I can con my mum into coming to Australia for a while and convince her to spend some quality time with her grandsons.

As we left the resort to catch our plane back to reality we waved until our arms hurt. For the staff it probably was just another farewell, for us it meant saying goodbye to amazing diving in a wonderful place and hoping we would return one day.

Isn’t it time to for you and your family to enjoy all that Wakatobi has to offer? Learn more at www.wakatobi.com or complete a quick trip inquiry. Contact us at office@wakatobi.com.