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THE BIG AND THE BOLDWhen it comes to reefscapes, Wakatobi has a huge variety on its doorstep. There are stunning hard coral gardens at Roma, colourful soft coral and sponge encrusted walls at Cornucopia, huge fields of gorgonians at Blade and critter rich sands at Teluk Maya. Such a variety of different ecosystems of course provide homes for all the different organisms that inhabit each individually. Large reef creatures aren’t as common as some locations outside of Asia, but turtles are common and schooling snapper, bumphead parrotfish, blacktip reef sharks and big eye trevally are regulars at certain sites. Other big animal encounters I have had at Wakatobi, include swimming with pilot whales and spinner dolphins on the trip out to Blade reef, as well as melon headed whales from Pelagian. They were kind of skittish, but even to catch a glimpse of these magnificent cetaceans underwater is incredible.FOR THE PHOTOGRAPHERAs a photographer, one of my favourite areas to shoot is the shallows. Here, with plenty of sunlight, large leather and hard corals grow to within inches of the waters’ surface. At low tide they can even be briefly exposed. Given the often very calm waters in the area, there is ample opportunity for shooting reflections and capturing Snell’s window (a cone of light, created by refraction, that acts like a window through the water surface). As you descend down the reef, the gentle slopes tend to develop into steep walls. Here, with limited light, colourful sponges, soft corals, gorgonians and tunicates dominate. With a little current to draw out the polyps, these walls make for stunning wide-angle images.
With a little luck and patience, you might even be able to enhance the shot with a passing school of parrot or batfish.
TOP DIVE SITESBLADE | Blade is one of Wakatobi’s most iconic and well known sites. It’s also its furthest, taking about three quarters of an hour to reach. Keep your eyes peeled during the journey for a pod of pilot whales that often rest between the two reef systems. Blade is an elaborate ridge system, but the part we dive is a narrow ridge with pinnacles along its length, resembling a knife’s blade. Although it’s great for wide angle, and is certainly stunning topographically, there have often been unusual macro sightings such as frogfish and ghost pipefishes there too.
ROMA | This large pinnacle comes from the depths of the ocean up to perfect safety stop depth. The pinnacle is actually connected via a ridge to other parts of the system, on the top of which you can find a huge coral rosette. Shot from above, this makes a lovely image for photographers. The reef itself also has resident schools of large fishes such as barracuda and snapper.
CORNUCOPIA | This is one of my personal favourite reefs for its astounding diversity and abundance of reef life. The wall is simply covered in growth from the top of the reef, for as far as you can see. Well beyond the scope of the recreational diver. With a little current, the wall is almost overwhelming, but it’s easy enough to gently ride the current and follow the reef’s contours for the entire dive, never reaching a break in the lush growth.