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Wakatobi’s Dive Yacht Pelagian

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Wakatobi's Dive Yacht Pelagian cruising past the resort.
Wakatobi's Dive Yacht Pelagian cruising past the resort.
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High style diving aboard Pelagian reveals the never-ending riches of Indonesia's underwater realm

Each evening just before sunset, coral laced rock piles around the base of Magic Pier come alive as scores of mandarinfish emerge from their hiding places for their twilight ritual. Females gather in small groups of 3 to 5 and wait for the males to make an appearance. When a suitor arrives, he begins an intricate mating dance of sorts, fluttering his pectoral fins like a hummingbird as he circles around one to two of the slightly smaller females. 

Mandarin
Courting mandarinfish (Synchiropus splendidus) a member of the dragonet family.

Once a male performer successfully attracts the attention of a willing female, the pair begins a spiraling dance as they rise two to three feet above the coral. This choreography involves precise timing, as mandarinfish are broadcast spawners; and both the eggs and sperm are released simultaneously into the water column to be carried away in the currents. 

To achieve optimum fertilization, the female stays close to the male’s pelvic fins as they circle. Then, at the peak moment of their climb she will release her eggs. Once their mission is accomplished the two flutter back down to the bottom, where the male will again take up his courtship and move on to the next available partner. Take about some guys having all the luck.

This nightly show is just one of the many highlights of a cruise aboard the dive yacht Pelagian.

Vintage Luxury With Five-Star Service

Pelagian Dive Yacht
Pelagian Dive Yacht at anchor (top), interior of main salon (lower left), chiefs working in the galley (lower right).

Pelagian is not your average liveaboard. Measuring 115 feet/36 meters length with a hefty 24 foot/7.5 meter beam and rounded fantail stern the Pelagian began life as an elegant world-ranging motor yacht constructed in the Batservice Verft A/S Shipyard in Mandal, Norway in 1965.

In the early 1980s, new owners reconfigured the yacht's main deck to accommodate diving operations and based the boat in the Red Sea. Then known as the Fantasea, the yacht changed venue to cruised the Seychelles and the Indian Ocean for a few years before finding a new home in Indonesia. After undergoing a full refit and update, the Fantasea was reborn as the Pelagian, and soon became the perfect complement to Wakatobi’s land-based diving operations.

Camera room on the Pelagian Dive Yacht
Camera room on the Pelagian Dive Yacht

While Pelagian’s lines are vintage, the accommodations and social areas are as modern as any high-end luxury yacht. Wakatobi spared no expense to bring Pelagian up to the same meticulous standards the resort is so well known for. An upscale décor is carried through the yacht, which offers all expected creature comforts such as individually controlled air conditioning, and a modern media center with flatscreen entertainment. 

Pelagian master suite stateroom (top), superlux sabin (lower left) and standard cabin (lower right).
Pelagian master suite stateroom (top), superlux sabin (lower left) and standard cabin (lower right).

For those seeking an exceptional luxury experience, Pelagian’s master suite provides accommodations worthy of a luxury hotel and is one of the largest and most well-appointed that can be found on a dive liveaboard. This suite spans the full width of the vessel and occupies the entire forward portion of the main deck, providing both privacy and easy access to all parts of the yacht. 

The features that truly set the Pelagian apart from most high-end dive liveaboards are service and exclusivity. The passenger list is limited to ten guests housed in five spacious staterooms. With a crew of 12, passengers are assured to receive the highest levels of personal attention more fitting to a private yacht. Each day, the onboard culinary team creates meals worthy of a Michelin-starred restaurant, incorporating fresh local flavors into a menu that also features international favorites.

“Wakatobi and Pelagian continue to set the standard for world class, luxury diving. The crew were phenomenal. The food was always absolutely delicious. The diving from Pelagian can’t be beat. Pristine reefs and tons of life everywhere. This trip could not have been any better.” Michael and Barbara Mayfield

Dining takes place inside the main salon or on the fantail, served against a stunning backdrop of sea and sky. The yacht offers climate-controlled dining and lounge areass, a dedicated camera room and sheltered and open outdoor lounge areas ideal for reading or quiet relaxation.

Pelagian's ultimate service ethos touches all aspects of life aboard, from attentive cabin and dining services to diving preparations and in-water support. Diving activities are conducted from a pair of custom-fabricated dive tenders, with the crew handling all gear management. 

One of two dive tenders used by the Pelagian to get divers to the dive sites.
One of two dive tenders used by the Pelagian to get divers to the dive sites.

Dive guides provide in-water support when requested or needed and are experts at locating rare marine subjects. Because dives are conducted either in shallow-water muck sites or on structures with significant vertical reliefs that are ideal for multi-level profiles, bottom times routinely exceed 70 minutes, and the schedule allows for up to four dives a day, including night dives. 

After each dive, guests are provided with a minty towel and refreshments as they are welcomed back aboard to relax while the crew prepares everything for the next dive. 

Ready, Set, Dive

Pelagian's seven-day cruises through the Wakatobi Archipelago take in a diverse range of underwater environments, from steep walls perforated by overhangs along the outside edge of Karang Kaledupa and Karang Kapota atolls to the exceptional muck diving opportunities of Buton Island’s Pasar Wajo Bay.

Pelagian 1

The Pelagian also skirts the southwestern edges of Wangi Wangi and Kaledupa Islands, providing another round of magnificent reefs, dramatic vertical drop-offs and pinnacles, each revealing a kaleidoscopic menagerie of marine life. Slopes and walls that plunge into the depths are covered in large, vibrant-colored soft coral trees and gorgonians in red, orange, pink and yellow. With dramatic drops and visibility that typically exceeds 75 meters, these sites are ideal for taking in the big picture and sometimes serve up open-water species like blackfin barracuda, sea turtles and eagle rays.

Pelagian dive site Karang Kapota
Pelagian dive site Karang Kapota

In addition to dramatic seascapes, there is a wealth of small finds. A highlight of any Pelagian cruise is the abundant opportunities to find pygmy seahorses, as dives are made in areas home to three of the most prominent species: the Bargibant, Denise and Pontoh’s.

Muck diving

A signature element of a Pelagian trip is muck diving on the southeastern side of Buton Island. Locations that epitomize the muck diving experience include Cheeky Beach, Banana Beach and In Between. These sites feature gradual slopes from the shoreline down to 100 feet, with a desert-like bottom comprised mostly of sand and gravel covered with a bit of light sediment that can be easily stirred up by a misplaced fin. 

Pelagian 2
Shrimp Goby with its roommate

To a neophyte muck diver, the question might be “Why am I here?” – until you start to see what’s there! The first sighting might be the mottled red face of a reptilian snake eel protruding from the sand. Or, perhaps a wonderpus octopus, out for a stroll. Closer looks will reveal Coleman shrimp atop fire urchins and alien-like peacock mantis shrimp, along with shrimp gobies keeping house with their alpheid shrimp roommates, who seem to do all the work.

Diving the Piers

Any self-respecting muck diving destination should include a pier dive, and in Pasar Wajo Bay, the Pelagian has three to sample: Asphalt Pier, New Pier and Magic Pier. Each provides its own character and attractions.

Reptilian Snake Eel
Reptilian Snake Eel

Among the fan favorites is Asphalt Pier. Divers can safely hunt around the front of the pier and the pilings to find shrimp gobies, frogfish, leaf scorpionfish and robust ghost, banded pipefish and more.

The pilings at New Pier are a great spot for finding blue ribbon eels, ringed pipefish and spiny devil scorpionfish, the adjacent debris field is a good place to hunt for octopus and gobies, which take refuge in shells, cans, and bottles.

Pelagian 3
Frogfish

And then there's Magic Pier. While the site can be productive by day, it’s the hours between dusk to dawn that are truly magical. In addition to the famous mandarinfish, the site is home to a menagerie of invertebrates from cuttlefish and blue-ringed octopus to nudibranchs to flatworms, as well as frogfish and twin-spot lionfish. 

Reefs, Walls & Pinnacles

The third leg of the Pelagian’s itinerary targets the coral-rich shallows, slopes and steep drop offs that lie between Wangi Wangi island and Hoga. At many sites, reef profiles rise to within a meter or two of the surface, providing divers easy multi-level profiles to maximize bottom times of 70 minutes or more.

Pelagian dive site Karang Kapota
Pelagian dive site Karang Kapota

Among a broad list of sites around Wangi Wangi is Komang Reef. This elongated sea mound is alive with vibrant growths of soft corals and sponges nurtured by the currents and swarmed by plenitudes of fish life that peak when the tide changes. Another site is aptly named Fish Market for the high numbers of schooling fish it attracts, including a rather huge school of blackfin barracuda.

Pelagian 4
Pelagian stops at sites on the outer edge of day-boat range, such as the knife-edged seamounts of Blade.

On the way to and from its home base at Wakatobi Resort, Pelagian may stop at sites on the outer edge of day-boat range such as the seamounts of Blade. This unusual structure consists of a series of knife-edged pinnacles running in parallel and connected by a lower ridge that gives the entire structure the appearance of a serrated knife blade set on edge.

These are just some of the many memorable sites that divers will experience aboard Pelagian. And by combining a cruise with a stay at Wakatobi Resort, guests can experience the best that Indonesia has to offer.

“As usual, the standards on Pelagian never disappoint. The diving was breathtaking, the crew are simply awesome, the food and service exceed expectations every time. Such an amazing team. I will certainly be booking another trip on Pelagian very soon! ” ~ Simon Bowen

You can read about combining your trip on the Pelagian with a stay at the resort by clicking here

To learn more about Pelagian and Wakatobi, email their offices directly: office@wakatobi.com

Or complete a quick trip inquiry at wakatobi website

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Karen Lynn Stearns
Karen Lynn Stearns
1 year ago

Great post!

Suzanna G. Young
Suzanna G. Young
1 year ago

I know Costeau dove in his 80’s and there’s NOTHing like being on a dive, but I am content to know, read and see AND ENjoy vignettes like Walt’s and quietly yearn for the bygone (personal) experiences through stories like these.

paul d moliken
paul d moliken
1 year ago

Seven trips to the resort, no Pelagian. YET!

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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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