Amazing at Any Depth

Published January 30, 2020 in Diving, DIVING & SNORKELING, Snorkeling

Wakatobi Resort is known as one of the world’s premier diving destinations. There are miles of critter-rich coral gardens and dramatic walls to explore within the protected boundaries of the resort’s marine preserve. But you don’t need to strap on a scuba tank to become immersed in the rich tapestry of marine life that thrives on Wakatobi reefs. Guests who prefer to stay on the surface and enjoy the relaxing freedoms of snorkeling also have access to vast areas of the reserve. They aren’t far from the action, as at many sites the corals often rise to within a meter or two of the surface. But what truly sets Wakatobi apart from other diving and snorkeling destinations is the abundance of sites where divers and snorkelers can share the underwater experience.

What sets Wakatobi apart from many other resorts is the abundance of sites where divers and snorkelers can share the underwater experience.

What sets Wakatobi apart from many other resorts is the abundance of sites where divers and snorkelers can share the underwater experience. Photo by Didi Lotze

Home field advantage

At many dive resorts, snorkelers are confined to near-shore shallows that may be less than spectacular. Wakatobi also has its near-shore snorkeling area, but there’s nothing second-class about it. Directly in front of the resort beach is the famous Wakatobi House Reef. It’s been named the world’s best shore dive, and snorkelers give it equally high marks.

“It’s hard to find resorts or a liveaboard that cater to divers and snorkelers. Wakatobi pays equal attention to both. We had snorkeled in the Maldives, Lakshadweep and Andaman Islands, but nothing prepared us for Wakatobi!” ~ JoAnne Larsen

All guests need do to experience the House Reef is wade in from the beach, or walk to the ladder toward the end of the resort jetty. Here, they will find undulating seagrass meadows and shallow coral formations rich in marine life. A few fin kicks further, the shallows transition to steep slopes and walls just 70 meters/230 feet from the shore.

A swim around the resort jetty will reveal a multitude of marine life, including cuttlefish, which can even show up in pairs.

A swim around the resort jetty will reveal a multitude of marine life, including cuttlefish, which can even show up in pairs. Photo by Wakatobi Resort

Snorkelers need not venture far to discover an intriguing range of marine life. Right around the jetty, they will find schooling fish and numerous varieties of colorful anemones and their attendant clownfish. A closer look along the upper lip of the drop off will reveal stonefish, moray eels, blue-spotted stingrays, crocodilefish, cuttlefish, ghost pipefish, jawfish, shrimp and goby pairs. The House Reef at Wakatobi is an especially attractive option for novice snorkelers, as they can progress at their own pace at a site that is monitored from shore. The same goes for youngsters, who can hone their water skills in the company of parents or a personal guide. And because the site is also a favorite with divers, its underwater treasures can be shared by those who wear tanks and those who don’t.

Welcome Aboard

When snorkelers are ready to venture farther from the resort, they are not shunted into a separate craft and sent to a separate shallow reef. Instead, snorkelers join divers aboard the resort’s fleet of custom-built 21-meter/70-foot boats.

Wakatobi’s large, custom-built boats provide full shade and plenty of room to spread out and relax.

Wakatobi’s large, custom-built boats provide full shade and plenty of room to spread out and relax. Photo by Glen Cowans

These comfortable, spacious and stable vessels provide stem-to-stern shade and long benches where passengers can spread out and relax on the ride to and from sites. The boat’s engine is tucked away in a stern compartment, which eliminates exhaust odors and keeps running noise levels to a low burble. On the ride to each site, divemasters provide detailed briefings for both snorkelers and divers, and snorkeling groups are joined by their own in-water guides. Getting on and off the boat is easy, even for youngsters, thanks to the water-level side entry doors and ladders.

Snorkelers can explore the shallow areas of the reef or hover on the edge of walls and slopes, where clear waters let them watch divers below. Photo by Walt Stearns

Snorkelers can explore the shallow areas of the reef or hover on the edge of walls and slopes, where clear waters let them watch divers below. Photo by Walt Stearns

Once in the water, snorkelers have the option of exploring shallow areas of the reef or hovering on the edge of walls and slopes, where clear waters let them watch divers below. And after exploring the deeper regions of a site, divers can extend their bottom times by ending their dives in the shallows, investigating the same formations as the snorkelers. Back aboard, there are always fresh towels, minty facecloths, snacks, and a comfortable bathroom.

Many of Wakatobi's dive sites are a short boat ride from the resort and are equally rewarding when seen from the surface.

Many of Wakatobi’s dive sites are a short boat ride from the resort and are equally rewarding when seen from the surface. Photo by Warren Baverstock

Top choices

There are dozens of sites suitable for blended snorkeling/dive trips within the Wakatobi marine preserve. Some of the best places are located a short boat ride away from the resort. One favorite is Roma. This famous pinnacle is a must-do for divers, and it is equally rewarding when seen from the surface. Divers will want to follow the slope down to view the site’s namesake colony of turbinaria coral, which resembles a gigantic rose more than 20 feet across. Meanwhile, up on the pinnacle’s coral-covered crown, snorkelers will be immersed in swirling schools of fusiliers, pyramid butterflyfish, sergeant majors, snappers and redtooth triggerfish. Those who fin towards the dropoff may also run into blackfin and bigeye barracuda, snapper, crevalle jack, turtles and eagle rays. With ample sunlight, the formations of potato and table corals that decorate the perimeter are clearly visible form the surface. This a good place to look for more elusive finds such as ribbon eels, leaf scorpionfish, pipefish, carpet anemone shrimps and rockmover wrasses.

Table Coral City is another great dive-and-snorkel site within a few minutes of the resort. Photo by Walt Stearns

Table Coral City is another great dive-and-snorkel site within a few minutes of the resort. Photo by Walt Stearns

Another premier dive-and-snorkel destination within a few minutes of the resort is Table Coral City. In addition to expansive coatings of the site’s namesake coral, this large seamount supports intricate groves of staghorn and cabbage corals. In midday, the upper reaches light up as sunlight reflects off the scales of swirling anthias, which flit about by the thousands. Leaving the shallows behind, divers move onto slopes coated in gorgonians and a riot of sponges. A resident school of chevron barracudas often circles the mound, and giant trevallies hunt in the shallows.

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