Shallow Water Paradise

Published January 29, 2016 in DIVING & SNORKELING, Snorkeling
Snorkelers at Wakatobi particularly enjoy a sunset snorkeler around the jetty and along the drop off. Photo by Wakatobi Dive Resort

Many guests at Wakatobi enjoy a sunset snorkel around the jetty and along the drop off. Photo by Wakatobi Dive Resort

Night lights

Your snorkeling adventures at Wakatobi are by no means limited to daylight hours. After downloading your memory card and relaxing with a late afternoon snack, you head for the Jetty Bar just before sundown. But unlike the guests who have come to enjoy a libation while watching the evening light show, you don your snorkel gear and a bright underwater light. Moments after descending the jetty steps, you discover several pairs of pipefish. About the size of a small worm, they look like a straight-bodied seahorse with a tiny mouth. In fact, the pipefish is a close relative of the seahorse.

Pipefish like the area around the jetty. A close relative of the seahorse, pipefish are about the size of a small worm, and look like a straight-bodied seahorse with a tiny mouth. Photo by Wayne MacWilliams

Pipefish like the area around the jetty. A close relative of the seahorse, pipefish are about the size of a small worm, and look like a straight-bodied seahorse with a tiny mouth. Photo by Wayne MacWilliams

The sun might be down, but the show is just beginning. The beam of your underwater light you spot something round about the size of a dinner plate skirting across the sand. Moving closer reveals the animal in question is a blue-spotted stingray with its telltale collection of iridescent blue spots dotting its back. Finning towards the turtle grass beds, you spy a small octopus out on its nighttime foraging. Shining your light on the cephalopod triggers a game of peek-a-boo as the little guy quickly vanishes then reappears amongst the green and brown sea grass blades.

Under the cover of night, eels emerge from hidden crevices and squid flit in and out of the shadows created by your dive light. Scorpionfish become more active, and flatworms emerge from burrows to feed. The light beam catches an unexpected reflection on a purplish lump, A closer look reveals it to be a frogfish, perfectly camouflaged to mimic the colors and patterns of a sponge. You’d probably have missed it in daylight hours. The next half hour yields a collection of pipefish, mantis shrimp, leaf fish and a funky hairy squat lobster. Though present during daylight hours, many of these animals are easier to spot when illuminated by the beam of a dive light.

Farther afield

Though you could spend days exploring the House Reef, there’s much to enjoy. A majority of the 40-plus dive sites visited by the resort’s dive boats also provide exceptional snorkeling opportunities, offering long stretches of reef shallows. To begin your second day at Wakatobi, you engaged the expertise of a private snorkel experience manager and head out to a site fittingly called zoo. After the divers submerge, the boat idles in closer to the reef for you and your private snorkel experience manager to drop in.

“We had a great snorkeling guide. We have snorkeled all over the world, and Wakatobi is fantastic. Here are the best snorkeling sites we have ever seen.”
Jo Anne Allison and Doug Heard

The bubbles clear, you suck in your breath and let out an involuntary wow! as you scan the rich blue depths below. The reef’s vertical face crests a few feet from the surface, and the sun-dappled shallows re covered in a vibrant garden of hard and soft corals. You can’t help but notice their covering resembles minute flowers swaying in a breeze. Although a live coral polyp looks like a flower, it is not a plant; it is actually an animal. In order for it to survive it snatches tiny organisms that happen to float within range of the polyp’s tentacles. While you peer down on the surface you’re thinking “didn’t I see something like this in the movie Avatar?”

Seeing cuttlefish while snorkeling is common at Wakatobi.Cuttlefish are referred to as “chameleons of the sea” because of their remarkable ability to alter the color and pattern of their skin. Photo by Mark Snyder

Seeing cuttlefish while snorkeling is common at Wakatobi. Cuttlefish are referred to as “chameleons of the sea” because of their ability to alter the color and pattern of their skin. Photo by Mark Snyder

Floating weightless with your dive guide, the warm rays of the sun on your back, you feel at peace. Some buy an aquarium and fill it with colorful tropical fish to find relaxation. You on the other hand are in an aquarium. With just minutes in the water you spot a hawksbill sea turtle making a meal of some sponges. He is unfazed by your presence as your guide brings you in closer using the opportunity to take a few pictures. With such a willing subject, you’re sure to capture that perfect profile. As the turtle swims into the blue, your guide motions for you to come have a look, his outstretched hand pointing to a spot a couple feet down in the corals. At first you don’t see, then you do as this broadclub cuttlefish suddenly changes its color pattern in the blink of an eye.

Back on the boat your snorkel guide explains that cuttlefish are close relatives to the octopus and squid. Cuttlefish are sometimes referred to as “chameleons of the sea” because of their remarkable ability to alter the color and pattern of their skin. The color-changing function is produced by groups of red, yellow, brown, and black light-reflecting cell pigments in the skin. In addition to using this ability to camouflage themselves or to warn off potential predators, researchers are finding their more rapid switching of color between light and dark (like a flickering strobe light) is used to communicate to other cuttlefish. You’re learning more on your snorkel trip than you ever imagined!

During the boat ride back to the resort, you contemplate the wonders you have seen. Each coming day will create more opportunities to explorer new underwater landscapes and discover dazzling and sometimes bizarre arrays of marine life encounters. Wakatobi truly is a underwater paradise, not only for divers, but also for those who discover it’s aquatic treasures from the surface.

Discover the treasures that await you at Wakatobi. Your own snorkeling adventures are just an email away. Contact us at office@wakatobi.com or complete a quick trip inquiry at wakatobi.com.

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