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Wakatobi: Dive into Incredible Marine Life


Pygmy seahorse
Copyright Richard Smith.

If you’re looking for a dive destination that offers diverse and colourful marine life, Wakatobi won’t disappoint. The rich waters of the area host an abundance of small to mid-size life, as well as pelagic fish, turtles and more.

Thanks to there being no other diver centres for at least 100 miles, you can discover the marine life in peace when Wakatobi Resort diving. What more could a diver need?

Here are some of the marine life highlights Wakatobi has in store for you.

Ancient Sea Sponges

Often overlooked, these fascinating ancient reef dwellers are found everywhere from the shallows to the deepest dive sites and are a real Wakatobi dive highlight.

Sea sponges can live for hundreds of years and have been around for more than 750 million years.

With over 5000 known species, in all shapes and sizes, they make for impressive underwater photography subjects.

Spend enough time around them and you’re likely to bump into another Wakatobi Resort highlight; Hawksbill turtles munching away on the sponges.

Wakatobi macro diving
Soft coral crabs are another Wakatobi dive highlight

Corals Galore

The Coral Triangle encompasses a large portion of the biogeographic region of Indonesia, Philippines, and the far Southwestern Pacific harbouring 76% (605 species) of reef-building corals.

Lying well within this zone, the coral reefs surrounding Wakatobi Resort are exceptionally vibrant, not to mention home to some 4,000 species of fish that have been identified in the Indo-Pacific region.

Go Wakatobi diving or snorkelling and you’ll be amazed at the colours and coral types around you. The abundant light in the shallows bring the colours to life, so remember to take your camera.

If you look closely you’ll discover many critters hiding amongst the corals. The almost-fluorescent soft coral crabs are well worth searching for.

Wakatobi lobster
Hairy squat lobsters are ideal photography subjects for macro fans.

Macro Delights

Wakatobi diving is known for its macro life and the sheer array of critters found there attract divers from all over the world.

There are plenty of funny-looking frogfish on the reefs, including black, yellow and bright orange varieties just waiting to be photographed.

The sought-after Halimeda ghost pipefish can be found camouflaged in the shallow seagrass beds on the House Reef, where you’ll also spot juvenile cuttlefish and octopus patrolling the area.

Hairy squat lobsters are easy to identify with their striking purple bodies and you’re in for a treat if you love seahorses. Wakatobi is one of the best places in the world for spotting Pygmy seahorses.

You can also spot brilliant mandarinfish, numerous anemonefish species, plenty of shrimps, nudibranchs and more.

It would be quite easy to spend your entire dive holiday focussed on macro life without running out of things to see.

ghost pipefish
Look closely to find sought-after Halimeda Ghost pipefish at Wakatobi

Searching for Sand Dwellers

Whilst you’re bound to be busy searching the reefs and seagrass beds at Wakatobi, put aside some time to search the sands.

You’ll be rewarded with burrowing jawfish rising out of the sand to deter you with flared gill covers before disappearing into their burrows. Keep still long enough and they’ll soon re-emerge.

Gurnards are commonly seen walking across the sand, and there are plenty of shrimp gobies with their alpheid shrimp roommates to watch.

Make sure you look carefully to find well-hidden stonefish, scorpionfish and inimitable stargazers.

Wakatobi stargazer

Eels Everywhere

As you’ve probably gathered, Wakatobi’s reefs are packed with life, and this includes a variety of eels.

There are over 2 dozen types of colourful moray eels, plus numerous snake eels.

Juvenile ribbon eels, easily-recognized by their black bodies and yellow dorsal fins, can sometimes be spotted slithering along the reef.

You can also check out stargazer snake eels burrowed in the sand, watching the world go by.

For many Pelagian guests, the highlight of the trip is a visit to Magic Pier in Pasarwajo Bay and Magic Pier to witness resident mandarinfish stage nightly courtship rituals.

Rainbow Reef Fish

As well as hosting diverse macro life, Wakatobi Resort’s reefs are busy with fish life in almost every colour you can imagine.

Multicoloured damselfish stake out their patches of coral and create their own algae patches. Meanwhile, there are 29 species of rabbitfish; including lemon yellow varieties and growing up to 0.5 meters in length.

Pufferfish are easy to find and you’ll no doubt recognise the stunning Emperor angelfish with their blue, black and white swirled markings.

Wakatobi is paradise for reef fish fans.

Rainbow Reef fish

Schooling Pelagics

If you’re looking for bigger fish life, be sure to dive into the blue at the outer reef edges. You’ll likely spot large schools of trevallies, barracuda and Bumphead parrotfish.

One of Wakatobi’s heavyweights, these parrotfish can weigh up to 75kg and grow to 1.5 meters in length.

Running into them can be exhilarating, and once you’ve seen one, you’re likely to spot a group of them nearby.

Wakatobi diver

So Many Sea Turtles

If you need just one reason to dive at Wakatobi Resort, this is it. The waters are home to numerous sea turtles.

You can spot juvenile sea turtles just off the beach, green turtles munching on the seagrass beds, and Hawksbills on the reefs.

Since you can arrive and dive on the same day at Wakatobi Resort, you can go turtle spotting before you’ve even unpacked.

Just make sure you take your camera into the shallow waters off the beach to capture images of tiny turtles as they pass you by.

Hawksbill turtle
Hawksbill turtles can be found feeding on Wakatobi’s sponges.

Sharks & Rays

If you can tear your eyes away from the reef life, you might see sharks and rays at Wakatobi Resort.

Blacktip and whitetip reef sharks are sometimes seen on the reefs and whale sharks have occasionally been seen offshore.

It you spend time around the seagrass beds you’ll likely come across photogenic bluespotted stingrays, or spotted eagle rays on the reefs.

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Picture of Kathryn Curzon
Kathryn Curzon
Kathryn is a shark conservationist, freelance dive travel writer, public speaker and award-winning author. Follow her adventures at
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