What Lies Beyond

Published September 17, 2019 in DIVE YACHT
A Napoleon snake eel emerges from the gritty bottom at Cheeky Beach ready to strike at a passing shrimp or fish. Photo by Walt Stearns

A Napoleon snake eel emerges from the gritty bottom at Cheeky Beach ready to strike at a passing shrimp or fish. Photo by Walt Stearns

Mucking about

A highlight of Pelagian’s itinerary are the muck dives at Buton Island. Within the shores of Pasar Wajo Bay lie a variety of environments from grey and brown silt and rubble habitats to white-sand bays with small coral gardens. Locations that epitomize the muck diving experience include Cheeky Beach, Banana Beach and In Between. These sites feature gradual slopes from the shoreline down to 100 feet, with desert-like bottoms comprised mostly of sand and gravel, and covered with a bit of light sediment that can be easily stirred up by a misplaced fin.

Neophyte muck divers might ask “Why am I here?” – until they start to see what’s there!

Neophyte muck divers might as “Why am I here?” – until they start to see what’s there! The first sighting might be the mottled red face of a reptilian snake eel protruding from the sand. Or perhaps a wonderpus octopus out for a stroll. Closer looks will reveal Coleman shrimp, fire urchins, and alien-like peacock mantis shrimp, along with shrimp gobies keeping house with their alpheid shrimp roommates, who seem to do all the work.

A muck dive can reveal a range of brilliant critters such as this pair of Coleman shrimp perched in the middle of a fire urchin. Photo by Walt Stearns

A muck dive can reveal a range of brilliant critters such as this pair of Coleman shrimp perched in the middle of a fire urchin. Photo by Walt Stearns

Any self-respecting muck diving destination should include a pier dive, and in Pasarwajo Bay, the Pelagian has three to sample: Asphalt Pier, New Pier, and Magic Pier, each with its own character and attractions. Asphalt Pier serves as the island’s primary terminal for loading Bituman, a natural form of asphalt that is quarried on the island and loaded onto waiting cargo vessels. Divers can safely hunt around the front of the pier and the clusters of pilings, and at depths from 15 to 45 feet will find shrimp gobies, frogfish, leaf scorpionfish, and robust ghost and banded pipefish. The list can go on and on.

Magic Pier is loaded with mandarinfish that emerge each evening to perform elaborate mating displays for divers.

Magic Pier is loaded with mandarinfish that emerge each evening to perform elaborate mating displays for divers. Photo by Walt Stearns

Magic Pier is Pelagian’s most talked about dive site, and for good reason. Besides being home to a menagerie of cephalopods that includes cuttlefish and blue-ringed octopus, plus frogfish and various nudibranchs, this site is loaded with mating mandarinfish. Each evening just before sunset, coral formations and rock piles around the base of the pier come alive as scores of mandarinfish emerge from their hiding places for their nightly ritual. Males gather to stage elaborate mating displays, and when they attract the attention of a willing female, the pair begins a spiraling dance that culminates in the release of eggs and sperm.

As the name suggests, New Pier is the most recently constructed landing dock in Pasar Wajo Bay. Like Asphalt Pier, depth profiles run from 15 to 35 feet around the base of the pilings down to 45 feet out front in the sand. While the pilings are a great spot for finding blue ribbon eels, ringed pipefish, and spiny devil scorpionfish, the adjacent debris field is a good place to hunt for octopus and gobies, which take refuge in shells, cans, and bottles.

Shallows and drop-offs

The third leg of Pelagian’s itinerary targets the coral-rich shallows, slopes and steep drop-offs in the vicinity of Wangi Wangi and Hoga islands. At many sites visited by Pelagian, reef profiles rise to within a meter or two of the surface, giving divers a chance for easy multi-level dives that can allow bottom times of 70 minutes or more. One perennial favorite is Komang Reef. This elongated sea mound is alive with vibrant growths of soft corals and sponges nurtured by the currents and swarmed by plenitudes of fish life that peak when the tide changes. Another site is aptly named Fishmarket for the high numbers of schooling fish it attracts, including a rather huge school of blackfin barracuda.

On the way to and from Wakatobi Resort, Pelagian stops at sites on the outer edge of day-boat range, such as the knife-edged seamounts of Blade.

On the way to and from Wakatobi Resort, Pelagian stops at sites on the outer edge of day-boat range, such as the knife-edged seamounts of Blade. Photo by Walt Stearns

On the way to and from its home base at Wakatobi Resort, Pelagian may stop at sites on the outer edge of day-boat range such as the incredible seamounts of Blade. This unusual structure consists of a series of extremely thin, knife-edged pinnacles running in parallel, and connected by a lower ridge that gives the entire structure the appearance of a serrated knife blade set on edge. It is just one of the many memorable sites that divers will experience aboard Pelagian. And by combining a cruise with a stay at Wakatobi Resort, guests can experience the best that Indonesia has to offer.

More about Pelagian’s cruising comforts here.

What motivates your diving? Liveaboard or resort, at Wakatobi you will have an unrivaled range of underwater adventures combined with the highest level of guest services known in the diving world.

What motivates your diving? Liveaboard or resort, at Wakatobi you will have an unrivaled range of underwater adventures combined with the highest level of guest services known in the diving world. Photo by Didi Lotze

Time to experience the best that Indonesia has to offer? Contact us at email office@wakatobi.com  Complete a quick trip inquiry at wakatobi.com.

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