Wakatobi Resort has earned a reputation as one of the world’s premier destinations for snorkelling, diving and underwater photography. The combination of pristine, protected reefs, marine bio-diversity and a highly-professional support infrastructure make Wakatobi a favourite of experienced divers, underwater naturalists and professional image-makers. But you don’t need 1,000 dives under your weight belt to enjoy this destination. In fact, many of the same qualities that wow the experts are equally as inviting and accommodating to casual divers, underwater novices and snorkellers.
A family first
When the Bennett family made plans to visit Wakatobi Resort, Mitchell Bennett knew it was time to take the plunge. “My dad has been scuba diving for years, and my sister Haylie is an instructor,” he says. “When we booked this trip, I was the only one in the family not certified for open water. So it would have been a crying shame to come all this way to such a beautiful place and not be able to make the most of it.”
Mitchell finished his training with his sister a month before arriving at the resort, and made his first open water dives on Wakatobi’s reefs. “It couldn’t get any better for a first-ever open water dive,” he says. “I also found that having such skilled guides and thorough pre-dive briefings was really valuable. It was an excellent show of teamwork here, and the time at Wakatobi helped me become a better diver.”
There are a number of factors that make Wakatobi an ideal destination for new divers. It begins with the staff, who take pride in providing each diver with the highest level of personalized service and attention, both in and out of the water. Novices are never rushed or pressured when they need a bit of extra time adjusting their gear or getting in and out of the water. Once in the water, they are never far from the watchful eye of a guide, but are always given the appropriate level of autonomy and diving freedom. Wakatobi’s custom-built dive launches are equally accommodating for those new to dive boats. Each offers generous personal and gear spaces on shaded benches, provides above-deck bathrooms, and allows for easy water entry and exit from mid-boat entry doors set close to water level, and fitted with sturdy ladders.
Many of Wakatobi’s dive sites seem tailor-made for new divers, as they are located just a short boat ride from the resort, and sea conditions are usually quite calm along the way, and when entering and exiting the water.
Once divers submerge, the excellent water clarity helps to prevent the stresses sometimes associated with diving in low-visibility conditions. A majority of sites also start quite shallow, with reef tops rising to within a few meters of the surface. As a result, new divers need not begin their dive with an open-water drop in a featureless blue void, and can instead use the reef slope as a point of reference to descend at their own pace.
Those who need to pause and take a bit longer to adjust buoyancy or equalize can do so without feeling pressured to keep up. And then there’s the environment. With so much to see, divers soon forget any anxiety that might be associated with submersion. And with the assistance of our keen-eyed guides, even first-timers will discover a wealth of unique marine life.
Finishing up or stepping up
Every so often, we welcome guests who have not quite finished their dive certification. This isn’t a problem, as the Wakatobi dive centre is affiliated with the major training agencies, and the staff can sign off on those final open-water dives needed to earn a C-card. In such cases, the team suggest divers complete the academic portion of their training, and master the basic skills during initial pool sessions back home. If need be, they can provide a full training programme, but as they often tell prospective guests, why waste time at Wakatobi on the basics when you can get those out of the way ahead of time and have more time to enjoy the reefs?
The Wakatobi dive centre staff includes a number of instructors qualified to offer a full range of skills upgrades. The Advanced Open Water Course builds upon the skills learned with Open Water certification. This programme can be completed over the course of two days and includes five specialty dives, and all required coursework material. At the other end of the spectrum, the dive centre offers Discover Scuba experiences that give non-divers their first taste of Wakatobi’s spectacular underwater world, all under the attentive supervision of the staff. These programmes are suitable for persons of all ages, and they can even accommodate children as young as eight through programmes such as PADI’s Bubblemaker experience.