WAKATOBI Dive sites
Tomia Island and surrounding area dive sites.
The House Reef – Wakatobi Dive Resort
Actually six different sites, one accessible directly off the beach in front of the resort, including a seagrass bed and healthy reef top right of the beach. It’s only 80 yards from the shoreline to the drop-off. With well protected schooling fishes and the jetty full of resident fish, the snorkelers find here plenty of attractions without the need for taking a boat. Highlights include a great variety of fishes, invertebrates, macro subjects, beautiful soft corals, gorgonians, tunicates, whips, sponges, overhangs-all totalling a spectacular rainbow of colour. Frequently there are strong and changing currents.
Appropriately dubbed one of the best house reefs in the world, the Wakatobi House Reef is indeed a special place to dive. It is unusual to find guests skipping out on boat dives so that they can dive a house reef all day long, but that is often the case here.
The reef consists of a colourful wall with a shallow drop off that can begin in water less than two meters deep during low tide and as deep as four meters during high tide. In the short distance between the drop off and the resort lies a vast ecosystem of turtle grass and isolated coral heads, a rich environment for odd and beautiful creatures such as frogfish, stonefish, blue ring octopus, moray eels, blue spotted stingrays, ghost pipefish, jawfish, shrimp and goby pairs. It also provides a safe haven for a wide variety of juvenile reef fish. The bright blue mantles of juvenile giant clams seem to be wedged between some of the coral formations and rocks, most likely due to the shallow reef top and strong sunlight in this habitat. Beyond the reef top, you will cruise over the edge of the drop off, where a sheer wall face is covered with hard and soft corals, sea fans, sponges, tunicates and over hangs that have become a favourite resting place for large resident turtles. The other residents on the reef include a sizable school of jacks that can be regularly found in front of the jetty bar at the end of the pier, which protrudes from the island to the edge of the drop off. At night, while enjoying a drink at the jetty bar after your house reef night dive (equally as rewarding as the daytime experience), you can hear the jacks hunting and splashing. The current on the house reef can range from mild to fairly wild, and there is always a small taxi boat available to drop divers off up current so that you can drift right back to the resort for a quick surface interval before a repeat performance. This is definitely a reef that you can dive all day long. By varying your depth and drop off points, each dive is a unique.
At the beginning we dive along a steep slope with several ridges crammed full of different corals. Then the seascape turns into a sheer drop off – the Great Wall of Cornucopia. And what a wall it is! The multiple overhangs down to the bottom of the wall feature huge fans, sponges, soft corals and dense black corals. Amidst all this growth, abundant macro life is hiding.
This shallow colourful wall with deep crevasses is home to a multitude of critters. We see schools of barracudas, moorish idols and dancing butterfly fish. Around the next corner the wall shows even more holes and niches. The reef top with tables corals is home to many snappers, groupers and along this section many special nudibranchs can be found.
Another all time favourite. Starting at a stunning wall section and then a steep slope, this long and very healthy reef section presents thousands of fans. A wide variety of fish in the shallows entertain the snorkelers, a large school of humphead parrot fish chooses the medium depths, and for the technical divers a deep wall lures with huge black corals and soft corals. Simply beautiful and easy to dive.
This one is named after the visiting research vessel Starship on its millennium circumnavigation of the globe. A deep dive for those who want to take the plunge. Parachute down the ravine along this steep wall and overhang like you’re travelling through space on a starship. Looking up, the protruding reef has the shape of a ship bow. Long wire corals hide zanzibar shrimps and gobies. Alternatively hang out in the shallower parts, observe the sergeant majors and many other species. Around the mooring we look for false stone fish, octopus, cowries and more critters.
Pinki’s reef with large Canyons leads into the multiple overhangs forming the sheer Pinki’s Wall. Lots of critters hiding in crevasses, huge barrel sponges and plenty of gorgonians grow on the ledges. Under the deep overhang lots of snow white long colonial tunicates growing of the ceiling while the shallow overhang is covered in daisy corals. Together with the interesting topography this opulent site is one of the all time favourites.
The shallow and the deep wall section are connected by a slope. Overhangs and canyons make for an easy critter hunt, while the deep sheer wall seduces the expert technical diver with a forest of huge black corals.
Begin by plunging deep, where forests of immense yellow wire corals spiral 15 feet or higher off the steeply sloping wall. Mid dive huge encrusting sponges cover the wall. Then work your way up to the 60-foot range, where an overhanging ledge harbours big sea fans framed in colourful soft corals. Flush with schooling fish life, the brightly-hued coral continues to within a foot or two of the surface.
Loaded with soft corals, the colours are diverse yet subdued to pastel hues. At depth, gardens of neon yellow wire corals spiral out into surrealistic shapes. Deep crevasses harbour stingrays or other larger fish. When the current is running and the corals open, it’s a vastly beautiful dive.
Beginning as a gentle slope, Inka’s Palette plummets into the depths with multiple overhangs. There are very large tube sponges, huge leather corals, good fish life and a colourful palette of hard and soft corals.
This is an adventurous dive; the stronger the current, the higher the amount of fish. A challenge for the expert divers, rewarding them with eagle Rays, schooling barracudas, sharks patrolling the deeper parts.
This drift dive covers the Western side of the housereef all the way back to the resort. The currents can be mild to wild. When the current runs, we call it the Wakatobi Express The whole reef is covered in pumped up soft corals in raging colours, making it one of the prettiest dive anywhere. With no currents it’s much easier taking pictures of the over 400 species of fish and many more invertebrates populating this site with the highest biodiversity in the region.
Usually little current and a very easy site, close to the resort and perfect for night dives. Among the residents are snake eels, mantis shrimps, several crocodile fish species, spanish dancers, pleurobranchs, flat worms and saron shrimps.
To start, we stroll along the coral ridge, pass turtles and schools of fish. About half an hour into the dive we ascent slowly along a Seamount full of life. Anthias and damselfish dance in large numbers across the top of the staghorn and potato coral, keeping a keen eye on the random banded sea snakes foraging among them. Saron shrimp, mantis shrimp, banded pipefish, leaf fish, stonefish and other species that would be considered rare in other destinations are found on this site regularly. As special bonus a very prolific pair of anemone fish can be observed how they watch over their off-springs.
Three ridges leading away from the fringing reef, loaded with corals and with deep sandy bays in between. Turtles sit on the ridges, and the current gathers schools of fishes at the exposed ridges brings. Eagle rays circle in the bays and different types of reef sharks cruise the deep bottom between garden eels and soft corals. Perfect for rebreather divers who can observe the bubble-shy animals.
Another site close by the resort, the Zoo is a patch reef just beyond Turkey Beach on the backside of the resort. Named for the plethora of critters found here, this is one of the true macro dives of Wakatobi. The name indicates an array of interesting resident critters in a small area: Residents include frogfish, ghost pipefish, mantis shrimp, leaf fish, funky hairy squat lobster, different species of pygmy seahorses and more. One of the more unique macro critters found at the Zoo among the mushroom anemones are the mushroom pipefish, a small white pipefish with a triangular head, which makes it look less like a pipefish and more like a small underwater python.The reef turns into a special place at night. At dusk the mating mandarin fish emerge from the staghorn and rubble zones and later at night a new range of nocturnal animals such as hunting cuttle fish, colourful flatworms and many species of lionfish scour the reef, including the elusive twin spot lionfish. Bob tail squid and octopus seem to be found in larger numbers here than other sites, and a million glowing eyes of various shrimps and crabs peer at you from every crack and crevice in this lattice of life.
On the northern side of Lintea Island, across from the resort, there is one of the most diverse dive sites. Shallow coral formations down to 12 m, adjacent to the a sandy bay on a gentle slope. At 24 m a coral garden leads into an overhang deeper down. There are plenty of specialities to see: a large school of resident batfish carrying isopods, cuttle fish mating and laying eggs, ghostfipefishes, razor and rockmover wrasses, the odd pegasus seamoth and frogfish, as well the newly discovered pygmy pipehorse…and that’s just the top 20 m!
Known to house large frogfish, the protruding ridge is crammed with Corals and excellent for wide angle photography. Later in the dive we follow the fringing reef and focus on Macro subjects such as pygmy seahorses, nudibranchs, flatworms and shrimps.
Mighty barrel sponges populate the slope at the start of the dive. In the deep sandy bay full of garden eels, there are sometimes resting stingrays. Then we pass smaller wall sections leading into a corner with swirling fish schools above a colorful coral garden composed of an unmatched number of hard coral species.
At this quite shallow fringing reef site wall sections full of crevasses alternate with slopes full of corals. Many pockets of life offer critter galore and more blue spotted stingrays than anywhere else sit on the many ledges.
Fan 38 – East
A wild topography composed of slopes, walls, overhangs, canyons and small caverns. Impossible to get bored here! The ever changing reef offers macro subjects and larger animals, depending on the current. Schools of fish feed in the current and as many photographers had to experience, there are just too many fans to be captured on film, hence the name. Luckily the digital age is here!
Fan 38 – West
The second similar part of the long exposed reef section on the other side of the channel, opposite from the resort. As well here a spectacular topography with coral growth as far down as one can see! Plenty of space to play for extended range divers and rebreather divers, who can visit huge sponges, black corals, humongous soft corals, dive through an banana shaped tunnel and revel in the overflowing life along the deep overhangs – this is deep diving at its best. Another all time favourite.
Spiral corals protruding at the corner of the Lintea reef provided the name. We start along the steep slope, collect sightings of nudibranchs, zanzibar shrimps and pygmy sea horses, then work our way up to the shallows, where the light rays dance in the prolific coral garden. The dive ends under the boat around a large coral block on a sandy bay full of specialities, such as stone fish, eggshell cowries, crocodile fish, comet fish, rockmover wrasse and many more. This is as well the only place we know, where schooling puffer fish can be seen.
This is a dive one could do every day. A stunning beauty from the reef top to the extreme depths. The mooring is at a small stony plateau right at a reef corner with its own habitat. The steep slope explodes with life. And it keeps on being top notch while drifting along the grade 1A reef – even snorkelling is exhilarating on the very top, but to take it all in all the way down, you need to be a trimix rebreather diver. Schools of snappers, skip jacks and many other fish, huge barracudas watching the divers and lots of long toms hunting below the surface. Oh, and don’t forget the plethora of macro stuff – if you manage to change your focus among this opulent surroundings ;-). Mating cuttle fish and table corals with oriental sweetlips below and swirling anthias on top keep us fascinated to the end of the dive.Magnifica appropriately sums it up; this one is definitely in the top section of the all time favourite list, and guaranteed one of the best reef dives on the blue planet!!
Table Coral City
Table corals, staghorn corals and cabbage corals cover this large Seamount. Further down gorgonians and many species of sponges cover the slopes. A school of chevron barracudas circles the mound and giant trevallies hunt in the shallows. The whole top is covered in swirling anthias. The list of residents includes schools of snappers, turtles, ribbon eels, frog fish and octopus. At high tide this is one huge aquarium!
This ridge in a sheltered bay is frequently visited by passing tuna, giant trevallies and curious napoleon wrasses. The central Coral Head circled by a large school of fusiliers is home to a myriad of red tooth trigger fish. In the shallows a beautiful carpet anemone with shrimps pleases the photographers, further down we encounter ribbon eels, glass fish and coral blocks full of life. Lots of large Gorgonians inhabit the outer slope.
This famous Coral Garden is as fine as any dive site in the world. Large schools of fusiliers, pyramid butterfly fish, sergeant majors, snappers and redtooth triggerfish swirl around you in an endless dance. A compact pinnacle in the centre of the reef, crammed with colour and life, this is a complete dive in itself.Roma is a large, wide pinnacle, fringed with beautiful potato coral and adorned with anemones and clownfish rising into the current. Large schools of fishes patrol the water column above the pinnacle, which make for a constant flittering of light on the dive site. Banded sea snakes can be consistently found poking around the coral foraging for food. Like all the sites in Wakatobi, among the healthy coral you can discover fruitful macro life if you focus on the task: The list of residents includes ribbon eels, scorpion leaf fish, winged pipe fish, spindle cowries, carpet anemone shrimps and rockmover wrasses.
This is a long ridge running from 15 feet down to 80. It features huge sea fans, coral heads adorned in bright soft corals and feather stars blooming in the frequently swift current. The saddle that bridges the reef contains blue ribbon eels, leaf fish, crocodile fish, scorpion fish, nudibranchs and more.
This is a pinnacle exposed to the currents. The top is 6 m below the surface, the bottom in 50 m. With stronger currents large tuna pass amongst schools of fish. This dive requires good fitness and solid skills, a fast descent and possibly a blue water safety stop.
An exposed Seamount, which is connected by a deep ridge to Eel Valley table corals, tubastrea formations and lots of gorgonians. Further down large soft corals and colourful overhangs. Turtles and reef sharks can be seen. To complete this dive, an extended safety stop is needed and a controlled slow ascent to the surface along a line or in the blue is a must.
This is the third and smallest pinnacle in a row. First we drop to 40 m to the sandy bottom with thousands of garden eels. Then we circle the round Seamount 2 – 3 times, coming up slowly. Lot of tubastrea corals are found here and a wide array of fish and critters keep the divers busy. As the other pinnacles on that side of Tomia, calm conditions are needed to dive that site.
The fringing reef protrudes into the open sea for a hundred meters and features a sheer drop off and deep overhangs, often with sleeping white tip reef sharks. To the backside a gentle slope connects to a sandy bay, where stingrays find a place to rest. This exposed and potentially deeper dive requires the divers to move a bit along the wall and back.
This is the only wreck dive at Tomia and can only be accessed when the sea is really calm. A Japanese 30 m long metal freighter in a small Bay got torpedoed at anchorage 65 years ago. The twisted metal structures are heavily overgrown with corals. Penetration is not possible, but we can see from outside that the machine room is full of glass fish. A school of batfish swims around the wreck, while crocodile fish, frog fish and all kinds of shrimps and other critters call the artificial reef ship their home.
This is a unique dive site and usually the furthest site regularly accessed by the resort’s day boats. Blade is a series of small sea mounts in clear open water, resembling the blade of a serrated knife, hence its name. Diving from the top of one sea mount to another is an amazing experience: less so when there is a current as it rather denies you the opportunity to ‘take it all in’. At times though, the experience can be quite overwhelming.Blade is about as picturesque as it gets, complete with giant sponges, sea fans and corals, and of course colourful crinoids sitting on top of everything. The red whip corals seem to be growing everywhere, and provide fantastic photo opportunities, as do the sea fans that can at times grow to upwards of 6 – 10 feet (2 – 3 m) across.
This is quite a small, vertical dive site, with an interesting deep part. Sometimes large black blotched stingrays sit on the sandy bottom beside the steep ridge featuring a very nice overhang in 40 m. Mid way up a wide saddle with a large turbinaria coral formation receives some current and good fish life in between the gorgonians. Big table corals sit in the shallows.
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