Space Ships

Published June 16, 2017 in DIVING & SNORKELING

A closer look at Wakatobi Resort’s unique dive boats

Most dive and snorkeling trips begin with a boat ride. It’s true at destinations around the world, including Wakatobi Resort. Yes, we have the House Reef, which is one of the most acclaimed shore dives in the world, but to discover the full scope of our marine preserve, you’ll have to get aboard something that floats. We’d like to introduce you to our fleet of dive boats, and share some of the reasons why we feel they are the ideal vessels for our style of diving.

Meet the fleet

Wakatobi Resort operates a fleet of five dedicated dive/snorkel boats, all around 21-meters/70 feet in length, with a beam width of 4.5 meters/14.7 ft. Because each is hand-built by artisanal craftsmen, no two are identical, but all follow a similar design and layout. Though traditional in design, they are all fitted with modern safety and navigation equipment such as oxygen, GPS and marine radios.

Local practicalities

Based on first impressions, you might wonder why a premier dive and snorkel resort such as Wakatobi would operate a fleet of what appear to be traditional Indonesian ferry boats. Where are the sleek fiberglass launches fitted with throaty twin turbo diesels and gleaming metal rails? There are a lot of reasons why we went the traditional route, beginning with our commitment to sustainability and community stewardship. As part of our mission to generate economic benefit to the local community, we commissioned local boat builders rather than import factory-built dive boats. This not only kept revenues in the community, it also provided some environmental benefits; building locally also reduced the carbon footprint that would have resulted from importing boats from distant locations.

Wakatobi’s boats consume far less fuel and create fewer emissions than high-speed, turbo-diesel launches, while still cruising at speeds in the 17km/11mph range. Photo by Didi Lotze

Beyond the “feel good” aspects of building locally, there are numerous practical reasons behind our choices. First is reliability. Because our boats are built by local craftsmen, repairs can be made quickly and easily—no waiting for a proprietary part to be flown in from a factory thousands of miles away. As a result, mechanical issues and maintenance is handled more expediently. Second is efficiency. The long and relatively lean shape of our dive boats allow them to be powered by a single engine with great fuel efficiency, consuming far less fuel and creating fewer emissions than high-speed, turbo-diesel launches. Our boats ease along at speeds in the 17km/11mph range. At Wakatobi, we’re fortunate that most sites are typically just ten to 30 minutes away, and even our most distant sites are reached in less than an hour.

“I fell in love with Wakatobi’s boats. They’re super spacious and comfortable, and it’s very easy to get in and out of them.”~Joe Bennett

Which brings us to the third benefit of our traditional designs, which is comfort. At the relaxed speeds our boats travel, there is no pounding or lurching, and engine noise is reduced to a low burble that allows for normal conversations. Our hull designs are extremely stable both underway and when stopped. Passengers can relax on the way to the site and move about without having to clutch handrails to keep their balance. And though we rarely encounter rough water, the sharp bows and steep profiles of our boats allow them to knife through any chop with an easy motion.

One of the most important common features of our boats are the full-length roofs. Sun protection is a vital but too-often overlooked aspect of diving and snorkeling activities in the tropics. The cooling effects of water and wind may keep passengers from noticing the full impact of sun exposure, but it doesn’t take long to develop debilitating sunburn or dehydration. That’s why Wakatobi’s boats are covered from bow to stern, and don’t require passengers to slather sunscreen or don cover-ups just to keep from burning.

An important feature of Wakatobi’s boats is the overhead coverage from bow to stern, which provides total protection from the sun. Photo by Didi Lotze

And for those who want to catch some rays there is a roomy open section on the bow. Another design feature that guests on our boats really appreciate is the location of the bathroom, or what nautical types call “the head.” Aboard many boats, a trip to the head involves negotiating a ladder down into a forward cabin, then entering a confined space to take care of necessities while the boat bounces over the waves. Wakatobi’s dives boats place a spacious head in the more stable stern area, and at deck level.

Each of our five boats has plenty of space for comfortably gearing up and moving around freely. Photo by Walt Stearns

The long profiles of our boats allow for ample bench seating and plenty of elbowroom for gearing up and moving around. In theory, each boat could comfortably accommodate a large number of divers, but bulk capacity is not Wakatobi’s style. For example, the Wakatobi VI, which is the resort’s largest boat, takes a maximum 16 divers, while the slightly smaller Wakatobi IV runs with a maximum complement of 12 guests.”I’ve done a lot of boat diving and I know how uncomfortable it can be when there are 12 or 14 people crammed in, all trying to gear up, and there’s no room,” says guest Joe Bennett. “I fell in love with Wakatobi’s boats. They’re super spacious and comfortable, and it’s very easy to get in and out of them,” Joe said. Items like facemasks, fins, booties, and so forth are stowed in individually-numbered storage baskets beneath the gunwale benches. Each guest is assigned a numbered basket when they first check in with the dive center, and those baskets are then transferred to and from boats by the dive staff throughout the guest’s stay.

The stern (rear) half of the boats has a spacious camera table with plenty of room to move about, while the bathroom is conveniently accessible at the furthest aft portion on the left. Photo by Walt Stearns

A dedicated camera table and rinse station is located near the rear of the boat, while egress to and from the water is by wide side entry doors on both sides of the boat. These openings are set midway between the camera table and the forward bench seats, allowing photographers room to assemble their gear without being in the way of other divers and snorkelers entering or exiting the water. Water entry is more of a step off than a giant stride, with a foot and half drop to the water. Divers needing an easier entry for reasons such as lower back issues can simply sit and allow the deck crew to help them in and out of their gear. Getting back into the boats is also easy, as there’s a very sturdy ladder with easy-to-use handles. An additional benefit of the side entry points is the separation from the boat’s engine exhaust, which is far away in the stern.

The human element

One of the most important and valued features of Wakatobi’s dive boats isn’t a physical element, but a human one. Our boat crews and dive staff take great pride in providing the highest level of personal service and attention. It begins even before guests step aboard. The dive staff handle all equipment transfers to and from the boat and set up your gear. If you’d prefer to set up your own gear, that’s fine, and we’re there to assist if required.

Guides discuss each guest’s expectations prior to the dive, and provide a thorough briefing on what to expect. Photo by Wakatobi Resort

Prior to each dive, Wakatobi’s guides not only provide a thorough briefing on what to expect, but also discuss expectations with each guest, and tailor the dive accordingly. In the water, our dive guides are experts at providing just the right level of attention, whether it’s being there to assist less experienced divers, allowing more accomplished divers to set the pace, or serving as expert critter spotters. Equal attention is provided to snorkelers, who often accompany divers to the many sites in Wakatobi’s marine preserve that have extensive shallow reefs. 

“The entire dive team is excellent. After the briefings, I felt like I could navigate the sites myself, that’s how thorough and personalized the descriptions are.” ~Judy Bennett

After each dive, guests are presented with a cooling, mint-scented wet towel and offered a snack and beverage. Our chefs will also accommodate dietary requirements or wishes on the boats; our guests need just ask and we’ll make sure it’s there before the boat leaves the jetty. It is touches like this that make time on the boat more than just a surface interval or a necessary prelude to the in-water experience. In fact, many guests consider the relaxing time spent cruising to and from dive sites to be a thoroughly enjoyably part of the overall resort experience.

If you haven’t yet experienced how enjoyable a dive boat really can be, we invite you to join us at Wakatobi Resort. Discover all the underwater adventures that await, both by scuba and snorkel, aboard our spacious, comfy Wakatobi dive boats.

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