FROM THE EDITORI’ve had a long history with Wakatobi Dive Resort spanning more than a decade. I first visited as a guest in 2005; I loved the diving and was drawn to its environmental awareness, the friendliness of its staff and outstanding natural beauty of the region. The resort had already long established a marine reserve protecting their local area, and the bustling reefs brimming with life were a testament to this. I returned several times over the next few years to spend more than six months collecting data for my PhD research on the biology and conservation of pygmy seahorses.

Fortunately, they welcomed me with open arms, as few sites would have provided sufficiently rich and pristine reefs accessed straight from shore.

After several hundred dives at Wakatobi, I have understandably had countless amazing encounters. Some of my highlights have included swimming with a pod of pilot whales enroute to the dive site Blade, and melon headed whales from the liveaboard Pelagian. I shall never forget the sense of awe as a herd of 40-plus enormous bumphead parrotfish ponderously grazed the coral buffet around me. Although, most certainly the icing on the cake was watching a pair of pygmy seahorses give birth and almost immediately begin to dance and mate again, just 30 minutes later.

I consider Wakatobi my second home and I’ve been back as often as possible since completing my research. As the world’s ecosystems change before our eyes, thankfully Wakatobi Dive Resort is remote enough, and protected with enough forethought, that its bounty remains. The bustling reefs with their fantastical tropical fishes, kaleidoscopic corals and many special resident characters keep bringing myself and other divers back year after year.

DR RICHARD SMITH

BIOGRAPHY: Richard Smith, a British underwater photographer and writer, aspires to promote an appreciation for the ocean’s inhabitants and raise awareness of marine conservation issues through his images. A marine biologist by training, Richard’s pioneering research on the biology and conservation of pygmy seahorses led to the first PhD on these enigmatic fishes. Over the past decade, Richard’s photographs and marine life focused features have appeared in a wide variety of publications around the world. Richard leads marine life expeditions where the aim is for participants to get more from their diving and photography by learning about the marine environment.

www.OceanRealmImages.com