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Wakatobi's Pelagian Dive Yacht in Indonesia.

Pelagian is a true five-star liveaboard experience”…  “A 7-star diving experience”… “The best team we have ever experienced.”  These are just a sampling of the hundreds of accolades guests have bestowed on Wakatobi’s dive yacht Pelagian.

So, what is it about this upscale liveaboard that garners such consistent praise?  To answer that question, we caught up with the yacht’s cruise directors Ramon Crivilles and Judith Terol Oto, who shared insights based on eight years of hosting guests on Pelagian cruises through the Wakatobi Archipelago.

A Personal Touch

The most often praised aspects of a Pelagian cruise are the warm hospitality of the crew and the elevated levels of personal service made possible by limiting each cruise to a maximum of ten guests served by a crew of 12. “Every crew member from the stewards to the tender drivers and the Dive Experience Managers (DEMs)are in direct contact with guests,” Judith says. “They provide the perfect balance between professionalism and a friendly attitude, creating a homelike experience for our guests.”

What we most enjoy about our positions as cruise directors on Pelagian are the opportunities for one-on-one guest interactions,” Ramon adds. “This allows us to focus attention on accommodating requests and anticipating needs without asking, and of course, we also really love having a management position that allows us to dive every day.”

Private, Exclusive and Relaxing

Privacy and exclusivity are two major reasons why guests choose the Pelagian. Unlike liveaboards of this size that incorporate 10 or more compact cabins, the five-cabin layout and limited guest list of the Pelagian creates more personal space in cabins and other areas of the yacht. Exclusivity comes into play when diving. “We visit sites where we are the only liveaboard cruising the area,” Judith explains. “This means there are no other divers around, and the reefs are less subject to human impact.”  Pelagian itineraries showcase a variety of underwater environments,” Ramon says. “We combine a variety of different diving topographies, so the guests do not feel like they are always diving in the same spot.

A typical Pelagian cruise will take in coral slopes, sandy lagoons, walls, pinnacles, piers, and muck diving sites. “We can find many unique creatures in the muck environment that are not often found at the resort,” he says. To enhance the experience, the crew stages a muck diving presentation the night before making these dives, and once in the water the DEMs seek out and share the best marine life finds with everyone.

Another high point of a Pelagian cruise often mentioned by guests is the relaxing atmosphere. With multi-level profiles that can exceed one hour, three scheduled dives a day plus night dives, there is ample time in the water to satisfy even the most enthusiastic underwater aficionados. But even with all this available bottom time, there’s still plenty of time each day to relax and enjoy a private yacht experience. Ramon notes that the schedule allows almost two hours between the first and second dives, two-and-a-half hours between second and third dives and hours between the third and night dives. This scheduling promotes an atmosphere of relaxation while also enhancing safety with generous surface intervals that allow for longer repetitive dives.

The Meal Appeal

No discussion of Pelagian guest satisfaction would be complete without mentioning the meals, Judith says. All meals are served as individually plated offerings, with three-course lunch and dinner menus. “There’s always a starter. Salads for lunch— garden salads, quinoa salad, Ceasar salad, tomato and bocconcini salad with balsamic reduction, pasta salad and more – and dinner begins with a soup choice — pumpkin soup, green pea, oxtail, mixed vegetable, asparagus, and so forthThere are always three choices for a main course — meat, fish, or prawns as well as vegetarian options — and you can always suggest other dishes which the chef will be happy to prepare.”

In addition to enjoying a wide range of international favorite flavors and fresh fruits, guests who enjoy Indonesian fare can sample traditional regional dishes accompanied by spiced sambal sauces. Additionally, any dietary restrictions or needs are always accommodated; guests can simply let us know in advance.

Favorite Dives

While guests usually describe the entire Pelagian diving experience as “exceptional,” some sites are frequently mentioned as particular favorites. These include the protected bays of Buton Island. Judith affirms. “You find hundreds of mandarinfish around Magic Pier, and many other cool creatures like cuttlefishes, octopuses, scorpionfish, baby yellow boxfish, different species of moray eels, painted frogfish, and ringed pipefish.” Another nearby favorite is Cheeky Beach, which is a prime hunting ground for nudibranchs, ghost pipefish, decorator crabs, snake eels and mantis shrimp.” 

A popular shallow dive, and a favorite with wide-angle photographers, is the lagoon at Karang Kapota, where monolithic coral bommies rise from a white-sand seabed. Equally photogenic is Karang Kaledupa’s Rainbow Reef, which is a chain of seamounts connected by ridges. These formations make for dramatic wide-angle images, while the dense coral cover atop the ridges holds a wealth of macro subjects such as pygmy seahorses, and frogfish.

The dramatic vertical profile of Orange Wall is heavily decorated in soft corals and seafans and is capped by a pristine reef top overgrown with numerous varieties of hard coral. Colorful sea fans and sponges are also key features of the crests of the Hoga pinnacles, which rise from depths of 35 meters. The tops of these structures swarm with fusiliers, redtooth triggerfish, pyramid butterfly fish and damselfishes.

All are Accommodated

Divers of all experience levels can enjoy the Pelagian, Ramon says, while adding that “the more experienced they are, the more they can enjoy the diving and the more they understand and value the quality of the reefs.” New divers are welcome, and it is understood that they may need some additional attention and assistance to get the most out of their time in the water.  “We compensate for lack of experience with extra personal attention from one of our DEMs, who will help with skills like buoyancy, make them feel safe on the dives and provide good briefings and presentations on marine life behavior, habitats and coral variety.”

Ramon says that weekly cruise itineraries are customized to take advantage of the best seasonal conditions, and all trips are planned and adjusted according to weather conditions, tides, currents, and the guests’ desired diving experience. Itineraries can also make accommodations for trips when there are snorkelers on board. “We have three DEMs on Pelagian,” Ramon says, “so we can take care of divers and snorkelers at the same time.”

The Early Season Advantage

Pelagian cruises sometimes sell out in advance, Ramon says, but certain booking windows combine a greater chance of availability with excellent diving conditions.  “From March to May we usually have calm seas, no wind, good visibility and warm water.  It’s a time when we may be able dive on sites that we do not visit during other months.” This time period is known as the rainy season, but Ramon says that does not mean it rains 24/7. “Most of the time we have some rain at night so it’s not a big deal for diving.” 

 “We always plan the trips according to the weather forecast,” says Ramon. “We have more than 100 different dive sites to choose from, so we can always dive in areas where we are protected from wind and waves.”

Learn more about diving from Pelagian at

Ask a guest experience representative about booking a cruise on Pelagian. Email:

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Picture of Walt Stearns
Walt Stearns
Editor for Scuba Diver Magazine's North America edition, Walt Stearns, has been involved in the diving industry for more than 30 years. As one of the most prolific photojournalists in diving media Walt’s articles and images have appeared in a wide range of national and international diving, water sports and travel titles.
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