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A HOUSE REEF OF DISTINCTIONWakatobi Dive Resort, in my opinion, has one of the world’s best house reefs. It is a vibrant coral wall that meanders for several miles in front of the resort. At slack tide, both high and low, it is an excellent spot for a current-free saunter searching for the reef’s diverse macro critters, such as pygmy sea-horses, ghost pipefish and frogfish. When the current is running, it is a fast-paced, adrenaline-filled ride with bigger creatures such as trevally, barracuda and turtles often making an appearance. Currents also encourage the abundant soft corals to swell, showing off a rainbow of colourful hues. And all this just a stone’s throw from your veranda.ORIENTATION | To help with orientation, one of your first days’ guided dives at the resort will be on the House Reef. The dive is conducted from one of the large and comfortable day boats, for those not accustomed to shore diving. This helps you to get your bearings should you wish to do an unguided dive later during your stay. Pottering along the uneven wall, full of overhangs and clefts, your guide will point out many of the local residents. Several species of anemonefish dance among the fronds of their tentacular homes and an inquisitive school of bigeye trevallies are often found near the Jetty Bar. It is also one of the best sites to find turtles; I’ve commonly seen half a dozen individuals on a single dive. Both hawksbill and green turtles glide along the wall, with the former occasionally stopping to munch on colourful sponges. As you naturally move into shallower water towards the end of the dive, life becomes evermore intense. Coral reefs aren’t a world of complementary colour palettes from the pages of a fashion magazine. They are a assault on the senses, and here there isn’t a square inch of vacant space to be found.
For a relaxed unguided dive, at any time during the day, the house reef can easily be reached by swimming over the reef flat. Actually, the reef flat is a great dive in on its own at high tide. I have seen creatures such as seahorses, blue-ringed octopus, snake eels and unusual nudibranchs among the corals, rocks and seagrass. From the reef flats at high tide, it is easy to pop over the reef crest directly onto the house reef. Along the reef, there are two gullies in the wall, which enable you to shelter from current, or simply use as visual cues so you don’t accidentally travel too far. The resort’s tenders are always on hand to drop you off or pick you up, should you wish.
WHO’S HOMEThe House Reef is a macro photographer’s dream. Every available nook and cranny among the corals is packed with all manner of crustaceans and small reef fish. Because reef contours rise to within a few meters of the surface, it’s possible to perform multi-level dives lasting 70 to 80 minutes without going into decompression. One need not venture far from the jetty to find interesting subjects. The large concrete columns and beams of the jetty create shelter for schooling fish, and are home to an assortment of shrimps, crabs, moray eels and gobies. Time spent in the seagrass beds and branching coral colonies of the sunlit shallows yields subjects from leaf scorpion fish and pajama cardinalfish to robust, halimeda and ornate ghost pipefish. In addition to a bevy of nudibranch species, there are cuttlefish, and when the sun goes down octopus and small squid join the carnival of weird and wonderful creatures.