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Wakatobi Update
Ken Knezick's Latest Dive Travel Report
From Wakatobi Resort - Sulawesi, Indonesia

Wakatobi Experts -- Island Dreams’ founder Ken Knezick has just returned from his fifteenth visit to Wakatobi Dive Resort, where he and an Island Dreams group of 30 intrepid guests enjoyed another remarkable dive experience. This report is provided to update you on changes and enhancements at Wakatobi, the remote Indonesian dive resort with high-end services and the “world’s finest house reef.” At the end of this posting you will find links to substantial additional Wakatobi information and photos, as well as details on Island Dreams’ October 2023 Wakatobi group trip. Ken’s Wakatobi Update follows:

Now Fly to Wakatobi -- photo copyright Wakatobi Resort

Air Transfer from Bali -- The journey to this remote part of S.E. Sulawesi, Indonesia was once arduous and time-consuming. Due to Wakatobi’s momentous feat of building their own air strip, guests now fly from Bali directly to the resort on a charter aircraft. This comfortable and expeditious flight has made the journey much simpler, and the vastly improved supply lines have enabled many other improvements at the resort. One need only arrive Bali the night before the morning flight departure. You can be diving the same afternoon you arrive. On departing the resort, it is possible to make a continuing flight out of Bali that same evening. Of course, my advice is that you also allocate some to time to enjoy Bali itself, which is one of the world’s most uniquely enticing and satisfying travel destinations.

Upgraded Lodging Rooms - Over the years, Wakatobi has engaged in an impressive building campaign. Total capacity is now 58 guests, served by a local staff of 280, and a dive guide crew of 30. All guest lodgings are in individual, air-conditioned bungalows. The newest rooms are spacious super premium villas with volcanic stone floors, floor to ceiling glass windows overlooking the sea, rain showerheads and other top-end fixtures. The two-bedroom villa even has its own saltwater pool. Still, the lesser-cost guest room categories are also exceedingly comfortable. You can enjoy a Garden View unit, perhaps 15 yards from the ocean, convenient to both dining room and dive shop. Tall ceilings give a feeling of great spaciousness, the tiled bathroom is kept spotless, the shower is hot, and the air-conditioning may be controlled to your personal preference. There is a writing desk, a large wardrobe, private safe, and a convenient coffee and tea service. The king-sized beds are firm and romantically surrounded with a natural fabric canopy.

Ocean View Dining - Wakatobi’s spacious dining area was created with local materials and craftmanship yet designed with luxury and comfort in mind. Under the talented hands of a team of professional chefs, the kitchen and baking facilities are equal to those of an Asian-fusion restaurant in Los Angeles or London. The dining room is semi-open air, overlooking the sea and surrounded by lush gardens. I can think of no more delightful place to enjoy relaxing, first-rate dining.

Cuisine Better than Ever - Wakatobi’s expert chefs have been snatched from the kitchens of some of Bali’s finest 5-star hotels. During our stay there were three trained chefs on duty, including a pastry chef turning out four different exotic desserts each lunch and dinnertime. There were both a hot and a cold soup every day, and a “Singapore food stall” station turning out a wide variety of specialty dishes. This level of planning and expertise, supported by the improved supply lines, has ensured that the cuisine at Wakatobi is varied and delicious. Special dietary requests are handled gladly and effectively. Guests are simply advised to alert the resort of special requests in advance of arrival.

Clown Fish -- photo copyright Ken Knezick, Island Dreams

Public Areas - At the end of the diving day, the Jetty Bar is a natural gathering place. There you may enjoy your beverage of choice while watching a glorious sunset reflected in the ocean at your feet. Happy Hour starts early at Wakatobi, 4:30-5:30 p.m. Adding to the communal areas, the upstairs rooms in Wakatobi’s original longhouse have been converted into an air-conditioned library, TV, and computer room. There is a computer for accessing the Internet, and another specifically designated for downloading your photo media cards at the end of a day of underwater photography. Those of you who enjoy a good massage will be glad to know that trained masseuses are now on duty at a dedicated spa center. Wifi is available on a complimentary basis throughout the resort.

Water Concerns - On any small island, water supply is a constant concern. To serve the increasing guest capacity, Wakatobi has installed a custom-designed desalinization and filtration system. Acknowledging the importance of hydration in avoiding decompression problems, fresh drinking water plus coffee, tea, and hot chocolate are supplied at the resort, and on the dive boats, at all times. With the system now fine-tuned, the desalinated water is both good-tasting and plentiful.

Internet and Mobile Phone Connection - Wakatobi offers complimentary WiFi throughout the resort. It is a satellite download shared by the entire resort, so don’t expect blazing speed, but it does work.

Excellent Dive Boats - This year our group of 30 divers was divided between two great dive boats. My own diving was from Wakatobi VI, the 70-foot leader of the Wakatobi fleet. Designed specifically for local diving conditions and carefully constructed in the neighboring village of Waha, the Wakatobi vessels are stable, spacious and very comfortable. Broad of beam, with a tank rack down the middle and a wet suit rack above, they provide plenty of space to gear up, a large built-in dip tank for cameras, and a toilet at the stern. Wakatobi’s fleet has grown so that these great dive boats often take only ten or twelve divers each, with a boat crew of four plus one dive guide for each group of four divers. As a result, a number of guests have remarked that these are the most comfortable and service-oriented day diving boats they’ve ever been on.

Dive Guides & Critter Spotters - The divemaster/instructor team at Wakatobi just keeps getting better. This season it was another United Nations of expert guides, representing at least six different countries of origin. This front line of expert dive guides knew where to lead us to leaf fish, ghost pipefish, hairy squat lobsters, dozens of nudibranchs, and a host of other exotic animals. Pygmy sea horses were pointed out at almost every site we visited. The briefings are good and each guide carries an re-writable dive slate enabling them to identify creatures on the fly. There is no question that Wakatobi’s knowledgeable and friendly dive guides are among the best in the business.

Attentive Boat Crew - - Equally important to our underwater enjoyment were the boat Captains and crews. Our dive boat had a topside crew of four men who were constantly at work on our behalf. The captains are licensed professionals from the passenger ferry trade. Dive boat handling was ever smooth and conscious of divers in the water. Camera and scuba equipment were handled with proper care. Additional support staff on the beach assured that divers did not have to carry anything unless they wanted to.

Nitrox - Wakatobi offers divers the option of 32 percent Nitrox fills. The shallow reefs of Wakatobi are well suited to Nitrox, adding both bottom time and a welcome safety margin against DCS. The spacious compressor room is a thing of beauty, with membrane oxygen generating system and four 15 cfm compressors. Cost for Nitrox is based on the duration of your stay, payable at the resort upon arrival.

Unlimited Diving - Wakatobi definitely offers divers maximum bottom time, and the refreshing latitude to really enjoy your diving. The typical dive plan on boat dives calls for 70-minutes of bottom time. The program includes three daily boat dives plus unlimited shore diving. This makes it a snap for avid divers to enjoy 40+ hours of bottom time during a ten or eleven-night stay. Underwater photographers will find they can enjoy better results when they plan return visits to specific photo subjects on their shore dives and spend as long as they like.

House Reef Diving Extended with Taxi Boats - In addition to great diving right off the beach, a small “taxi boat” stands by to drop divers off at various extensions of the house reef system. This thoughtful service renders Wakatobi’s unlimited shore diving even more interesting and enjoyable. The regularly-scheduled boat diving is excellent, but those who avail themselves of the variety of house reef dives around the resort will be rewarded with some truly great diving and underwater photo opportunities.

Wakatobi Composite - copyright Ken Knezick, Island Dreams

Diversity of Marine Life - Everything I’ve detailed above is important to the success of a dive resort, but if the diving itself is not of good quality, these other attributes are of little value to a serious dive traveler. Fortunately, after 15 visits and more than 400 dives logged on these reefs, I’m confident to report to you that the diving at Wakatobi remains truly excellent. Sites like Table Coral City were swirling with everything from jawfish, mantis shrimp, pipefish, Rumengani pipehorse, and four species of pygmy seahorses to schools of large red and black snapper, bumphead parrotfish, jacks, butterfly fishes, damsels, and thousands of colorful anthias. Mari Mabuk and Roma had turtle, lots of nudibranchs, banded sea kraits, free-swimming lionfish and multiple blue-ribbon eels. Anemones packed with colorful clown fish are everywhere, and a site called The Zoo really lives up to its name. As to bigger animals, while shark sightings are rare, over the years at Wakatobi I have seen black tip sharks, spotted eagle rays, a truly giant grouper, manta ray, a pod of pilot whales, a baby whale shark ten feet long, and (from the boat) even a sailfish, which was leaping at the surface. This year, one highlight was a school of large chevron barracuda, 500-1000 fish, casually circling at Teluk Waitii. For icing on the cake, unlimited diving on Wakatobi’s house reef offers easy access to most all of the animals defined in this report, and many more, right off the beach.

Marine-life Sanctuary - Wakatobi’s owner and guiding light, Lorenz Mader, has from the start been totally committed to preserving the precious resource that surrounds his resort. At the very beginning of our working relationship, Lorenz told me, “Perhaps I can build another resort, but once lost, I can never build a coral reef.” Wakatobi now sponsors a marine preserve that has been extended to include more than 20 kilometers (12 miles) of coral reef. As a result of Lorenz and Wakatobi Resort’s forethought and ongoing investment in conservation, these underwater environments stand an excellent chance of remaining vibrant for years to come. Your support, along with that of groups such as the Coral Reef Alliance and The Nature Conservancy, helps to make this protection a reality.

Too Many Superlatives? - From reading my comments above, it’s clear that I am a big proponent of Wakatobi and its superb diving. Rest assured that my opinion is based on experience, not hype. It has been my privilege to travel the globe in search of the world’s finest diving. From what I have seen in more than 4,000 dives logged over the past 40 years, Wakatobi offers the “real deal.” I hope that my report may encourage you to visit Wakatobi and see it for yourself. However, you need not take only my word for it. I invite you to follow the link below to see what other resort guests have had to say.

Yours in diving, Ken Knezick

Copyright Ken Knezick - Island Dreams


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