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Wakatobi’s Dunia Baru

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Wakatobi Dunia Baru
Underwater photographer on the hunt for macro subjects at one of Wakatobi's dive sites, Dunia Baru
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Dunia Baru, number 35 on Wakatobi Dive Resort‘s list of dive sites sits proudly on a “Top Ten” roster because those who come to know it see it as a reef nearly equal to another fan favorite The Zoo. That's because this site’s happens to be similar in close proximity to resort as well as features a similar topography to that of the Zoo, with a hard coral-covered sloping profile leading to a sandy platform before rolling off again at 20 meters (70 ft) down a wall. Dunia Baru has an “ahh vibe” where divers can enjoy long multi-level profiles at middle depths while seeking out a diverse and intriguing collection of marine life.

Wakatobi Dunia Baru
Dunia Baru's upper coral covered slope.

Dives begin with a descent of the mooring to a depth of 12 meters (40 ft), where a sand bottom is punctuated by mid-relief coral heads. The slope above the mooring transitions to coral-covered rocks and the upper reaches are dominated by a staghorn and finger coral forest that rises to snorkeling depths. Most divers save the top of the slope for end-of-dive off-gassing, but photographers sometimes make a beeline for the staghorns to search out the numerous species of cardinalfish that lurk among the branches, including the most sought-after, the pajama cardinalfish.

Pajama cardinalfish
Pair of Pajama cardinalfish (Sphaeramia nematoptera)

The pajama cardinalfish is a photographer's favorite as they sport one of the brightest and most unusual color patterns of any fish on the reef. The fish's striking red-orange eyes stand out from a greenish-yellow face that transitions abruptly at mid-body to a silvery hind section festooned with deep crimson spots. This unusual color pattern creates the appearance of a bleary-eyed sleeper wearing polka-dotted pajama bottoms — which is an appropriate analogy given that these fish are nocturnal foragers.

Divers who follow the slope downward from the mooring will find a wealth of additional subjects worthy of attention. Sand patches are dotted with the burrows of shrimp gobies with their cohabiting crustacean partner. It's good entertainment to watch these busy little shrimp as they go about the business of excavating the shared burrow.

Shrimp Gobie and Shrimp
Shrimp gobies with their cohabiting crustacean partner provide good entertainment with the busy little shrimp doing all the work of excavating their shared burrow while the shrimp goby does little to nothing except watch out for danger.

A detour to the rubble piles found on the northern edge of the site at depths down to 20 meters provides an opportunity to hunt for flasher wrasse. Often considered one of the “holy grails” of macro photography, these brilliantly-festooned fish can present quite a challenge for underwater shutterbugs, as they rarely hold still long enough for a portrait.

Bump-head wrasses and parrotfish regularly swing by as does the occasional hawksbill or green turtle. Dunia Baru also has its share of colorful nudibranchs and is one of the better locations in the Wakatobi Marine Preserve to seek out rainbow-hued flatworms.

Also on this site are the mantis shrimp which build elaborate underground chambers in the sand. Though sometimes making an appearance during daylight hours, these other-worldly critters are more often seen during night dives. And Dunia Baru is a popular location for after-dark diving, as it is located just a short boat ride from the resort, and experiences minimal currents. After the sun sets, a whole new cast of characters emerges to delight divers at what many who have visited this site describe as one of their new favorites.

All in all, Dunia Baru is a great dive between such a great mix of beautiful hard corals, a deep drop-off, and unique marine life subjects. But don't forget, Wakatobi has over 50 other named dive sites that are worth a visit, making it a photographer's paradise for doing everything, from honing your skills or adding new and exciting imagery – be it wide angle, macro, or both to your photo library. 

To find out more about Wakatobi, visit Wakatobi Website or Wakatobi Dive Resort's blog site, Wakatobi Flow.

Photo credits: Walt Stearns

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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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