Pygmy seahorses and more - Indonesia Part II - report & pics

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Posted by Jim Lyle on October 24, 2007 at 22:19:07:


Indonesia – Part II Wakotobi

Hippocampus bargibanti

Pygmy seahorse? You want me to take a picture of that? OK, I think I can see what you’re pointing at…or maybe not. Oh, you mean that little bump that looks just like the sea fan it’s sitting on - the one the size of a grain of rice?

Later, back in my room, I look at the pictures and realize I either took a picture of something other than the seahorse; it’s out of focus; the little bugger has turned its head away from the camera; or all of the above…very frustrating.

There are three species of pygmy seahorses on the reefs around the resort, H. barbiganti, H.denise, and H. pontohi.

H. pontohi image by Deborah


I know you want to see pictures, so I’ve kept the narrative short. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to send me an email.

This was our second trip to Wakatobi, we were there two years ago. After our friends heard us rave about this place, they all wanted to go there. So, we organized a trip – one week at Lembeh Resort and one week at Wakatobi. By sharing group discounts, we saved a bunch of money and made the trip more affordable for everyone. Our travel agent, Sue Pantle, at Uncommon Adventures, did a great job setting up all of the details for our trip. Another plus, was that we knew the people we were diving with – mostly a bunch of hardcore California divers, with a few Texas, Colorado, Arizona, and UK residents thrown in for spice.

Tokay gecko (Gecko gecko)

Where is the Wakatobi Resort? Named after four small islands, Wakatobi is several hundred miles NE of Bali, on the SE tip of Sulawesi Island, in Indonesia. The location is remote; it used to take two-and-a-half days by bus and ferry to get to the island from Bali, until the owner built a private airstrip on an adjacent island, making it accessible by air.

Our group of 29 left Bali on a charter, Trigana Air flight for Wakatobi. We had so much luggage – mostly dive gear and u/w camera gear – they had to refuel the plane at Wangapu en route. From the landing strip, we were taken by minivans (and I do mean “mini”) to the nearby town, where we were taken on board one of the dive boats for the twenty-minute ride to the resort. On arrival, we ate lunch, had a briefing, a second briefing, and yet another briefing, before everyone jumped in the water for a “welcome” dive. Since Deborah and I were repeat guests, we skipped the welcome dive in favor of an unguided dive on the house wall. A couple of turtles, a few nudibranchs, and many colorful corals, sponges, and fish welcomed us to the island.

Shuttle bus

Emperor angelfish (Pomacanthus imperator) being cleaned

Leaf fish (Taenianotus triacacanthus)

A new restaurant and dining hall was under construction when we last visited the island. It had been finished and is quite large and very nice. Open air, the location allows for gentle cooling breezes and lots of ambience.

Flatworm (Pseudoceros lindae)

Food was great, buffets at breakfast, lunch, and dinner – lots of choices and lots of tasty food. Amazing really when you consider that everything is flown in. Tea and coffee are included; other beverages may be purchased from the bar or the minibar in your bungalow.

Whip goby (Eviota sp)

The bungalows are spacious, with en suite baths, and A/C. Some of the units have been being remodeled with outdoor baths, a la Lembeh! The water is desalinated and drinkable.

Anemonefish (Amphiprion sp)

Green turtle (Chelonia mydas)

Diving is done from four, large dhows – each carrying two or three dive groups of six and the DMs. It has been said, “the heaviest thing you have to lift at Wakatobi, is your fork.” The hard-working crew transfers all of your dive gear and tanks to and from the dive boat. All you have to do is walk off and on. Entries are “giant stride” from the side of the boat.

The dive boats go to different dive sites each day, so there’s never more than one boat on a reef. The only divers you will see are those in your group.


clam (Tridacna sp)

The reefs in this part of Indonesia are very healthy, with lots of coral, sponges, and other invertebrates covering all of the rocks, up to the surface reefs. Tidal changes are large and the dive sites are chosen with the tides in mind to avoid strong currents.

Cuttlefish (Sepia pharaonus)

Typically, boat dives are at 8:00, 11:00, and 2:30. Once a week, each boat does a night dive in place of the afternoon dive. All boats have loads of room, snacks, water, beverages, towels, and “the World’s best marine head.” There is plenty of room for cameras and the boat carries an ample supply of “holy water” (camera rinse water)!

Anemonefish (Amphiprion sp)

Boxfish (Ostracion sp)

Christmas tree worm (Spirobrancus spinosus)

Optional dives can be made on the house reef – 6:30 AM to 10:30PM. The house reef at Wakatobi is easily the best house reef at any resort we have been to. The reef is comparable to the other dive sites and is sometimes done as one of the boat dives. A taxi-boat is available for those divers wishing to drop on the wall farther from the resort or up current for a drift back. The staff will willingly carry your dive gear to the water’s edge for you and someone will meet you on your exit to take your tank – easiest shore dive in the World.

Crocodilefish (cymbacephalus beauforti)

Eye of croc

Peacock leaffish (Iniistius pavo)

Toby (Canthigastes sp)

Water temperature was a consistent 82 degrees F, with the occasional, slightly cooler thermocline. Most divers were comfortable in 3/5mm wetsuits. Visibility was better than 80 feet. Some dives were drift dives, but the dive guides were quick to turn around and “go with the flow” if the current changed direction. Very easy diving. All dives were done as multilevel and limited to 70 minutes…or more…


Flatworm (Psuedoceros sp)

Xeno crab (Hoplophrys oatesii)

We had nice weather in October, with gentle breezes off the water and sunny, warm days. A little rain fell one morning.

Crab on gorgonium

Yellow boxfish (Ostracion cubicus)

flatworm (Pseudobiceros bedfordi)

Nitrox 32% is available. Conservative diving is encouraged as the nearest recompression chamber is in Bali. It would take more than 24 hours to evacuate a diver, in an emergency.

Little crab (Cancer sp)

crinoid shrimp

The new spa offers massages for the pampered guests.

(Chromodoris magnifica)

Bubble coral & shrimp (Vir philippinensis)

Wifi access to the internet is free if you have your own computer, but at times is very slow and intermittent. The resort recently installed a cell phone tower on an adjacent island and has satellite phones for those “must-make” phone calls back home to check on the cat or dog.

Orangutang crab (Achaeus japonicus)

Anthia (Psuedanthias pleurotanenia)

Media room, reference library, and boutique round out the facilities in the Long House.

Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus)

Black spot pufferfish (Aronthron nigropuntatus)

hawkfish (Paracirrhites forsteri)

On our last visit, I thought the camera room at Wakatobi was very large and spacious, but there were lots of photogs in our group and we easily filled the place. They have both 110V and 220V outlets for charging batteries and strobes. The camera room is well lit and is air-conditioned. On the briefing board are suggestions for the type of photography is better on each dive site, wide-angle or macro. I found myself using a 50mm lens on most dives.

Goby on yellow coral

(Ardeadoris egretta)

Pajama cardinalfish (Sphaeramia nematoptera)

We saw lots of colorful, tropical fish. The resort leases 45 kilometers of reefs from the owners and fishing is not allowed. We saw some large fish – a few jacks, groupers, and barracuda – but no large pelagics or sharks. Some of the dive sites are very “fishy,” with schools of fusiliers, bumphead parrotfish, anthias, etc. There are lots of nudibranchs, pygmy seahorses, etc. to keep the divers happy, but you really need the dive guides to find them. They are very good at their job!

Hairy crab on sponge (Lauriea siaglani)

Porcelain crab (Neopetrolisthes maculatus)


[Nothing is perfect. One of the DM’s was new and did not do a very good job of finding the little critters that we wanted to see. IMHO, he should have received a lot more training before being given a dive group to lead.]

DSAO (dive safely and often),

Ornate ghost pipefish (Solenostonus paradoxus)

Camera – Olympus E-330 in an Ikelite housing with dual Ikelite DS-125 strobes. Zuiko 7-14mm, Zuiko 14-54mm, Zuiko 50mm, and Sigma 105mm lenses.

Travel Agent – Sue Pantle susan@uncommonadventures.com

Wakatobi's webpage.

My webpage.

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