I recently had the great pleasure of visiting an exclusive remote island resort in Southeast Sulawesi. Many of you (in the know) will have either heard of it or visited already. If you’re the former I suggest you pack your bags and head that way now. If you have been before and planning a trip back sometime in the distant future, just remember we only end up regretting things we did not do or decisions we took too long to make, so get busy planning your next trip!
Wakatobi Resort is beautiful, quite, luxurious and fun! If you are like me then you live to dive and the diving at Wakatobi with its crystal clear, warm water and kilometers of continuous reef is simply underwater heaven.
Situated in the heart of the Coral Triangle, Wakatobi National Marine Park covers a massive 1.39 million hectares making it the second largest marine park in Indonesia and boosts the highest diversity of hard corals on the planet. (UNESCO 2006) Diverse marine habitat is accompanied by incredible biodiversity with more than 250 species of coral and 500 different species of coral reef fish to discover, explore and admire.
The resort itself is equally as impressive, a truly special place where you can relax in luxurious and serene isolation, taking in oceanic beauty by day and the cosmic wonder of the heavens by night. The resort is not only self sufficient producing its own fresh water and energy needs it also employs 300 staff (mainly locals) to cater for its 60 guests and supplies power to the local village. Due to the impressive relationship between the resort and the local people, Wakatobi has managed to protect the unique and precious surrounding reef system for the past twenty years, making it an outstanding model for sustainable environmental capitalism.
What about the service you ask? I can honestly say without hesitation or reservation that the staff and accommodation at Wakatobi is world class! From the moment I sank my feet into the warm tropical welcoming sands, till the moment I stepped back on the private charter that would sadly take me home, I was treated like a princess. I did not lift a thing, (which is important for an underwater photographer who travels with over 40kg of gear) and I did not do a thing except for have the most relaxing dive experience you can imagine, ate wonderful food, drank lovely wine under the stars, and indulged in a much needed three hour massage.
I realised early on in my stay that my experience on the island was all about the detail. As I walked down the white sand path that was meticulously raked into Zen like patterns, I felt I was walking through a living breathing Japanese sculpture garden rather than an island dive resort.
At breakfast I found the cuisine and service to be five star, with breakfast consisting of in-house freshly baked bread, delicious pastries, tropical fruit and an assortment of hot dishes from both east and west to choose from.
At the dive centre I was again welcomed in the same genuine friendly way I was welcomed from the moment I arrived. All the staff on the island seemed to magically know my name greeting me with a kind smile and happy to help with my every wish. I was amongst friends and felt relaxed and at home.
When I reached the dive centre I was met by my lovely and talented photo-pro, who escorted me to the boat where my camera and dive gear awaited.
He took me through the operation of the large and comfortable dive boat explaining how the days’ diving has been meticulously planned out for me. Along with knowledgeable photography skills and passionate advise on each dive site, the dive masters of Wakatobi effortlessly inspire underwater creativity with each dive.
The island is blessed with crystal clear waters and kilometres of continuous reefs. With a ridiculous forty-three mapped dive sites on your doorstep, you feel spoilt for choice and can indulge in whatever diving experience you heart desires.
Diving the beautiful house reef is an excellent late afternoon activity or simply enjoy the view with a cocktail over the water from the sunset bar. At night don’t forget to look up, gazing at the heavens is simply breathtaking for this part of the world. You can relax and watch the entire universe shining above you, as you finish another perfect day in paradise.
Now that’s a dive holiday worth taking!
Images by Pamela Martin and Gregor Seaton.
A sad farewell.
The last day I got to sleep in and enjoy another of the beautiful meals that Walindi Resort had been providing all week and take it easy.
I spent the day by the pool editing photos, writing about the exceptional week I was fortunate enough to have and spending time with the lovely staff I now consider friends.
My dive gear was dried for me and returned to my bungalow ready to pack before the forty-minute drive back to the airport.
Leaving my jungle home I felt sad but so very fortunate I had found and experienced a true paradise both above and below the water.
I’d like to thank Max, Cheyne, Ema, Garry, Matts and all the staff at Walinidi Resort for working so hard to make Walindi what it is today and making my time there one I will never forget.
Hope to see you soon
Sharks and Crocs!
For my final day of diving Kimbe Bay and they had left the best to last!
Inglis Shoalis the dive site to go to for “the shark show” that did not disappoint.
As soon as we descended to the seamount we were joined by Gray Reef sharks, White Tips and Silver Tips that continued to swim around us for the entire dive.
These beautiful, inquisitive and shy predators of the ocean blessed us with their grace, gliding around us as we watched on in joyful amazement.
The sharks were an added bonus to yet another top dive site filled with green, purple and orange Anemones that teamed with Clarks, Pink and Spine-Cheek anemone fish. Schools of Barracuda, Batfish, Trevally and Unicorn Fish have taken up residence along with octopus and a number of Moray Eels, making this dive site a must see.
Knowing I had to fly the next day the second and final dive was in the shallow waters off one of the smaller islands in the bay where we did our Croc shoot.
The team at Walindi was experienced and professional, enabling us to get in the water to photograph the incredible Saltwater Crocodile in its natural habitat.
Granted the croc was a juvenile and I was in the water with handlers, it was still an amazing and fun experience to witness and take underwater photos of one of the great predators of the region.
It was an incredible last day on the boat and in the water!
The Deep Dive
This was special!
I had the rare and exciting opportunity to accompany a team of experienced tech divers and scientists to map the newest wreck just outside Kimbe Bay.
Becoming only the sixteenth diver to dive this wreck and the first to photograph it was an experience I could not pass up.
The stern sits at 60m while the bow is situated at around 30m, so a deep dive it is!
The reef it sits on is covered with beautiful corals and abundant fish life, as we have come to expect from diving these waters, for the less experienced and adventurous divers on the boat to enjoy.
The team was lead by experienced tech divers and instructors, Captain Garry Kulisek and his son Matts Kulisek. Making sure all aspects of this dive went
The team’s mission was to locate, search, map and photograph the site for others to experience and enjoy when visiting the area.
The wreck itself is only one year old giving it an eerie but beautiful feel as though it does not yet belong underwater. We could see the beginnings of coral formation on the wreck with marine life beginning to take up residence. The way it’s positioned on the reef while looking from the bow gives the optical illusion that the stern is much shallower than it actually is, adding an extra dimension to this dive.
The ship is beautiful to look at and easy to photograph in it’s entirety in the clear waters of Kimbe Bay.
As you descend to the stern you are able to see the ship in it’s entirety. Passing by the bridge and on down to the swim through that takes you underneath the body of the ship. The easy swim through lies at 53.7m filled with colourful coral allowing you to pass under the ship through to the other side, where you can see the damage to the hull before slowly ascending back up to the bow to end the dive.
I was never really captured by the lure of wreck diving until that day. Maybe it was being a part of the team and the mission, maybe it was being the first to photograph it or maybe it was the lure of the wreck itself. When I think back it was probably all of these parts combining to make this dive so unforgettable.
I can’t wait to go back and document the coral formations on this wreck over time and see who has taken up residence.
One thing is for sure; this wreck is great to dive today and is only going to get better over time!
A big thank you to Garry, Matts and the Walindi team for allowing me to be part
of the mission.
This morning, by popular demand we headed back to Joelle’s to spend time with our turtle friends followed by dives at Ann Sophie’s and Joy’s Reef.
Joelle’s is also filled with colourful Anemones and Anemone fish making this site worth a second visit with a macro lens attached rather than a wide angle.
Ann Sophie’s can only be described as biodiversity at its best!
Varying coral gardens, fill this dive site making it a must for macro photography. Goby Shrimp, crabs, Scorpion fish, nudibranchs, flatworms, Dart fish and Garden Eels all live here, providing ample opportunity to witness what a healthy ecosystem should look like.
As with all the dive sites in Kimbe Bay, Ann Sophie’s is a Mecca for fish life of all kinds that makes you feel like you’re diving in a giant aquarium rather than in the open ocean.
Joy’s Reef was the last dive of the day; with a nice sandy slope. It is the place to drift along the sandy bottom looking for all things that burrow. We spent much of our time there watching our guide coax a Manta Shrimp out of its hole for an impromptu photo shoot. Fast little things they are! Make sure your camera is on rapid fire and start shooting before the little guy even looks like he’s coming out of his hole or you’ll miss him every time. Garden Eels are everywhere as were Shrimp Gobies and nudibranchs.
Another beautiful day in paradise!
Bradford Shoals, North Emaand Susan’s Reef dive sites.
Day three of Kimbe Bay diving takes us to Bradford Shoals, a seamount that rises from the depths creating an environment rich in biodiversity.
At depth you can see a number of pelagic fish including Barracudas, Pinfaro, Big Eye Trevally, Dog Tooth Tuna, Unicorn Fish, and Sharks, as well as Leather Coral at the stunning vertical drop off where we were treated to a Hammerhead that swam past us before gracefully disappearing into the blue.
Closer to the surface we found Fairy basslets, Butterfly fish, Damselfish and Pink Anemone fish in abundance and to top it off found one of my personal favorites the Cuttlefish counting not one or two but five in close proximity of each other.
North Ema Reef is a deep bommie situated to the North of the main reef.
It is a jungle of Giant Gorgonian sea fans that take your breath away. After spending as much time as you can admiring their beauty and abundance it is time to turn east and head back to the shallower waters of the main reef to admire yet another sheer wall that drops away to the brilliant blue depths.
Navigating our way around the reef to the surface we came across large Anemone with rare Orange Anemone fish to keep us company on our accent.
Susan’s Reef was our last dive of the day; this is the place to go in search of the illusive Pigmy Sea Horse. With Red Whip Gorgonian Fans, colourful Crinoids, Sea Whips, Hard Corals, Staghorn Corals and Sea Anemone this aquatic garden is definitely for the coral lovers amongst us.
I spent the whole dive admiring the tiny and fragile beauty of both Red and Brown Pigmy Sea Horses hidden away in their glorious sea fan homes.
I can think of worse ways to spend an afternoon!
Joelle’s, Anne Sophieand Malupa dive sites.
If I was impressed with the diving on day one, day two raised the bar. Starting with Joelle’s. A lovely forty-minute boat ride from my jungle home, I was once again in diving heaven. I’m talking about forty meter visibility, coral gardens that you only dream of and a resident Hawksbill Turtle that followed me around like my very own underwater puppy for the entire dive. I fondly called him Martin, after my dive master, who not only had a very special connection with Martin the turtle but with all the dive sites in Kimbe Bay.
The beauty of having local dive masters at a resort, especially for photographers, is the knowledge base these professionals possess.
Martin and his colleagues know where all the underwater critters live and are proud to show off their spectacular reefs to visitors. My advice to even the most experienced diver is stick with the dive masters and you will see a lot more than you ever would on your own.
Also found at Joelles’s are schooling Barracuda, Big Eye Trevally, Pinfaro, Dog Tooth Tuna, Surgeonfish, Gray Reef Sharks and White Tip Sharks.
I will always remember Anne Sophie as the Barracuda and Batfish dive. Not because they are the only things there, on the contrary, but because they are in such abundance it is hard to get past them. Tornadoes of Barracuda swirl around you in the water column above this reef. If you do happen to look down for a moment you will find a reef that is blessed with huge brain coral, sea fans, black coral trees and barrel sponges providing homes for the abundant marine life including crabs, Scorpion fish, nudibranchs, flatworms and Dart fish.
The last dive of the day was Malupa, which is great for anyone who loves the smaller things in life. Abundant crustations and fish life found in a landscape of hard and soft corals that you could easily spend hours exploring.
Friendly turtles, big fish, small critters, colorful coral gardens and someone who can show you it all.
What more can you ask for?
The first day of diving and I was so excited I forgot my dive computer and had to run back to my bungalow to get it. With an 8am start down at the jetty I was met by the one and only Captain Gary Kulisek, the Dive Ops Manger at Walindi. Gary can only be described as; the most charismatic, larger than life person I have ever met who rained supreme over the team of dive masters who had my gear set up ready for me to check before I had even set foot on the boat.
To ease into the week the first day consisted of two dives sites, Otto’s Point
and Otto’s South.
What can I say, the first day diving Kimbe Bay did not disappoint!
The diving at Otto’s consists of sheer drop off’s displaying a flourishing reef system of both hard and soft corals that create magnificent underwater architecture for the hundreds of fish species that share this spectacular reef.
For the photographer this is the place to hone your wide angle, underwater landscape and schooling fish skills. While for the diver it is a place to be at one with nature and enjoy the incredible biodiversity Kimbe Bay has to offer.
Otto’s Pointis, as the name suggests, a steeply descending point at the northeastern end of the reef. For the macro lovers amongst us it boosts large Mushroom Coral, Sea Anemones with Pink Anemone fish, Spider crabs, gobies and an abundance of nudibranchs. However, the highlight of this reef is definitely the schooling Barracuda, Trevally, Sea Perch, Unicorn fish, Tuna and occasional sharks that all feed in the currents just beyond this point.
The beautiful southern end of the reef called Otto’s South consists of a series of ledges, overhangs and small caves with a myriad of sponges, black corals and reef clams to add to the long list of species you can find here.
After our dives we head back to Walindi spending our time enjoying clear blue sky’s, mountainous jungle landscapes and smoking volcanoes that make up the dramatic scenery and surrounds of Kimbe Bay.
Hi all, I hope you’ve been lucky enough to spend a considerable amount
of time underwater since I last wrote. If not, here is a little something to get you thinking about your next dive trip.
I’ve finally got to dive in Papua New Guinea!
It’s been on my dive list for more time than I care to remember.
I’ve read the books, seen the David Doubilet photos, watched James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge and have wanted to go for years. Now I have, my only regret is not making it a priority sooner.
If you’re looking for warm, crystal clear, azure blue waters that can rightfully claim to be one of the worlds most biodiverse dive destinations on the planet then look no further!
I had such a great time with all the crew at Walindi Dive Resort, situated in beautiful Kimbe Bay, on the Island of New Britain, that I’ve decided to share the whole 7 day experience with you, day by day.
Walindi is a family run resort with a team of friendly and helpful staff that make you feel at home from the moment you walk to the front desk to the minute you leave, with kisses, cuddles and a friendly wave good bye from the staff on your way back to the airport.
Actually I’m not kidding, I felt so much at home at Walindi and had so much fun, that I can’t wait to go back to visit the Walindi Resort family.
I’m sure, after reading about just some of the dozens of dive sites in Kimbe Bay and all the aquatic fun that was had, you will be enticed to make a booking and find out for yourselves.
So for the next seven days I’ll be taking you on a journey through Kimbe Bay, posting one dive day at a time.
If at any stage you feel the need to book immediately then follow the link below.
See you tomorrow!
I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to La Paz, Mexico in the Sea of Cortez, twice in the past 12 months, to have some fun in the sun with one of my favourite marine creatures the Californian Sea Lion.
They are plentiful around these parts and if you haven’t had the pleasure of diving with them yet my advice is to put it in your dive calendar!
These guys live and play on the island of Los Islotes at the north of Espiritu Santo Island, also home to over four thousand other marine species. You can get there easily on a daily dive boat trip from La Paz with The Cortez Club, who provide a wonderful, fun filled day with the Sea Lions.
A word of warning though, you won’t want to leave and one day is never enough, when you experience the close friendly interactions you can have with these beautiful animals.
The experienced Dive Masters at the Cortez Club were excellent, never failing to provide plenty of friendly experiences with the Sea Lions.
The first time a Sea Lion shoots past you at close range, literally flying gracefully underwater, is an exhilarating and joyful experience, you will never forget. These interactions can last entire dives and with their inquisitive nature, I found myself in underwater heaven, loudly laughing through my regulator on numerous occasions.
The pups antics include, turning upside down while holding on to your fins with their teeth, in an effort to pull them off. Coming up behind you and pulling at your regulator hose (or in my case my pony tail) and if you’re lucky, playing a game of underwater paper, rock, scissors.
The population ranges from one hundred and fifty in winter to three hundred in summer and can have up to 70 pups per year. Most pups being born from May till July. While the pups and adult females are happy to come visit and play, the role of the dominant male is to protect his family, acting much like a bouncer, patroling his territory by blowing bubbles and barking underwater. Adult males are darker than the females and are much bigger, weighing in at up to 315kgs, so I thought it prudent to respect his wishes and give him the space he politely asks for.
They live from twenty to thirty years and feed on squid, anchovies, mackerel, rockfish and sardines. Watching them chasing fish around the sandy bottom of the island was also a delight. Accommodation and dive packages are available through the Cortez Club who get you back to your hotel in plenty of time to indulge in one of the best Margarita’s you are likely to taste.
Tomorrow is a big day for sharks! On Friday the 11th of October 2013 Michael Aw will personally deliver a letter to Singapore Airlines asking them to stop the transportation of shark fins, along with what we hope to be 20,000 signatures by the end of today. This initiative hopes to stop the transportation of shark fins to Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore in the effort to drastically reduce and eventually stop the supply.
Congratulations to Emirates, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, Air New Zealand, Korean Airlines, Asiania, Korean Airlines, Lan Chile, Eva Air, AeroMexico, Dragon Air and Fiji Air who have already agreed not to transport shark fins on their airlines, choosing long term environmental sustainability over short term profit. In light of this I urge the 20,000 people who signed the petition to continue supporting sharks by choosing to fly with these insightful and environmentally conscious companies.
Sharks have had a few much needed wins in the past year with a United Nations treaty: the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, otherwise known as SITES, listing five new shark species to the CITES Appendices. The sharks listed include: Oceanic Whitetips, Porbeagle and three species of Hammerhead sharks including the Scalloped Hammerhead shark. These sharks are all classified as endangered on the IUCN redlist and join Basking, Whale and Great Whites to the list.
Last month Hong Kong also banned shark fins from official functions indicating a welcomed change at the highest level, as China represents approximately 50 percent of the world shark fin market.
The estimated numbers of sharks killed per year has now reached One Hundred Million with the majority being used in shark fin soup. The method of obtaining these fins is equally barbaric and wasteful as the sharks fin is cut off while still alive and the animal thrown back in the water to drown.
The majority of sharks pose no threat to humans although they continue to suffer from a bad reputation imposed by iconic movies such as Jaws and the more recent badly written and directed, un-informed and unethical programs that appear on Shark Week aired by the Discovery channel.
Sharks are the apex predators of our oceans, if we continue to hunt them into extinction we will once again limit the biodiversity of our planet creating irreversible damage to our ecosystem, which will eventually shut down.
After a few short weeks of writting I’m starting to see a theme emerging from my blog: Governmental environmental mismanagement coupled with public ignorance and complacency = Extinction.
I wonder if we will learn our lesson before it’s our turn?
I hope this has inspired readers to sign the petition, say no to shark fining and make informed consumer choices as the fight to save shark populations worldwide continues.
Sign the petition at:https://www.causes.com/singapore-airlines-stop-shipping-shark-fins
I will keep you posted on the outcome.