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INDONESIAThe ZooThe Zoo is a site that has something for everyone. A combination of easy-access, calm conditions and a diverse depth range make this site ideal for snorkellers, new divers and families wanting to share the underwater wonders with their younger members.“ Moving a few yards offshore, the coral density picks up as the reef line transitions to a series of undulating slopes, and the multitudes of top-water reef fish are joined by more exotic individual finds such as frogfish, ghost pipefish, and leaf scorpionfish ”At the same time, a wealth of macro treasures keeps underwater photographers busy, and exploration-minded divers can create multi-level profiles that extend from precipice-like formations at the lower regions of the site up to sunlit shallows for relaxing off-gassing.
The Zoo sits in a small bay located just a short boat ride south of the jetty at Wakatobi Resort. The site is configured like a huge underwater amphitheatre, with slopes flanking a central valley that descends from the surface to depths beyond 30m. Close to shore, staghorn groves, porites clusters and lettuce coral formations crop up from a sandy seabed, providing snorkellers with plenty of opportunities for exploration. This area is populated with a colourful assortment of reef fish, and sandy areas between the corals hold a host of bottom dwellers, including alien-like mantis shrimp.
Moving a few yards offshore, the coral density picks up as the reef line transitions to a series of undulating slopes, and the multitudes of top-water reef fish are joined by more exotic individual finds such as frogfish, ghost pipefish, and leaf scorpionfish. This area is a favourite with divers who enjoy long, shallow profiles.
It’s also the ideal place for a safety stop when returning from deeper multi-level profiles. For most divers, it’s easy to log 70-minute bottom times at The Zoo — all without running into deco or out of things to see. In addition to ample coral cover, middle depths offer plenty of anemones photo-ready clownfish pairings. Another favourite with macro enthusiasts is the mushroom anemones that harbour a namesake mushroom coral pipefish. This small white pipefish has a triangular head that gives it the appearance of a small underwater python.
As the slope steepens a bit, large barrel sponges crop up, giving curious divers a chance to hunt for tiny treasures such as the hairy squat lobster that take refuge inside the barrels. One sponge resident that is relatively easy to locate is the pink hairy squat lobster, which also goes by the name of fairy crab. This delicate creature – which is technically neither a crab nor a lobster – is a favourite subject for macro photographers. Its near-translucent body glows with pearllike luminance and intense pinkish-purple accents, while a coat of delicate white hair evokes a fairy-like appearance.
The Zoo is also a popular night diving site. The first show begins right around sundown with a final flurry of activity from the day shift before they head for nocturnal shelters. Then, as dusk turns to darkness, nocturnal hunters and scavengers emerge from their lairs.
Cuttlefish and bobtail squid prowl the reefs, while twin-spotted lionfish cruise in search of dinner. Octopus slink into the open, crustaceans use the cover of darkness to scour the seabed, and brilliant flatworms and nudibranchs make slow transits on the bottom.
The Zoo is a great site for fluo-dives, which showcase the reefs in a whole new light to reveal corals and marine life in ghostly shades of glowing fluorescence.
Did you know?Much like a terrestrial zoo, the Wakatobi dive site that bears this name is packed with an intriguing variety of creatures and attractions available to everyone.Essential informationLocation: Wakatobi, Indonesia Depth: 1m-30m Diver level: Beginner to advanced Who to dive with Wakatobi Resort www.wakatobi.com
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USNS General Hoyt S Vandenberg
Scuba Diver Magazine
Scuba Diver is an independent publisher of scuba diving magazines in all major English-speaking countries.