We checked out the next morning and took a taxi to the airport in Denpasar to meet up with our Wakatobi contact. We were flying to Bima on Sumbawa Island via Marpeti Airlines to board the Pelagian for our ten night dive cruise. Wakatobi takes care of their guests at the airport, it was nice to turn over our Bali purchases to be picked up on our way back through Bali when we head home and not have to lug them all through the rest of the trip. All of our luggage was tagged, boarding passes were distributed and we were escorted to the VIP lounge to await our departure. It was a very nice lounge with comfy couches, coffee, tea, snacks, and room to relax. The Wakatobi Resort guests were there as well so we were not sure who our fellow Pelagian passengers would be as of yet.
The Pelagian is a 115 foot luxury yacht that has been retrofitted with full compressor and nitrox capability. There are six passenger cabins for a total of twelve passengers and as many crew when she is full. We cruised with ten passengers for our transfer voyage to Wakatobi. The ship is spacious and comfortable and fully air conditioned, it had recently been refurbished prior to our cruise and the salon and cabins feel very luxurious. The cabins are large with beautiful en-suite bathrooms and all toiletries are provided. The salon comes complete with a big flat screen TV, DVD, movie library, fish ID and other book library. There is a large, functional camera room with computer and lots of charging stations. Tea, coffee, juices and snacks are available 24/7 and the beer fridge was always full. Alcoholic beverages are an extra charge and it is simply handled via a whiteboard, get a beer, mark it next to your cabin number, settle up when you leave. And of course, as always, any drinking is the end of your days diving. I am still trying to figure out how to justify getting one of those fancy automatic espresso/coffee machines for home........
The diving is done from two 18 foot RIB inflatable tenders. Your gear is set up once and kept on the tender. The compressor is equipped with whips for filling both air and nitrox and your tanks are re-filled in place between dives. We dove with aluminum 80's and the nitrox mix was a consistant 32%. The dive tenders have easy access ladders and were very easy to back roll off into the water as well as climb aboard after the dive. Climbing back into the Pelagian is by way of a broad ladder and several shower heads (with warm water) are immediately available on both the port and starboard side. It was great for climbing up and rinsing off as you peeled out of your wetsuit and then grabbing the big fluffy towel that was always waiting. I admit I was not crazy about diving from skiffs and was pleasantly surprised at how easy and effortless the crew on the Pelagian made the entire process.
The "dive deck" area contains a whiteboard for dive breifings, dry boxes for each person, drinking water and juice and personalized glasses for each guest. Its a covered area with a nice table for filling out those dive logs between dives, and plenty of room to suit up while listening to the breifing. Upstairs was the sun deck, outfitted with reclining deck chairs and partially covered for shade. The sundeck also had many hangers for holding your wetsuits between dives and was commonly used for drying bathing suits, shorts or T-shirts as the weeks wore on. There was plenty of room on this ship for privacy and we never felt remotely crowded.
The food was excellent. There was a choice of entres daily, breakfast was to order and if you had any special requests they seemed eager to accommodate. Bill enjoyed asking for "something Indonesian" each day for breakfast and ate quite a variety of noodles with an egg on top. If anything there was too much food, I requested small or half portions for most meals and sometimes still had to refuse dessert, though Bill didn't seem to have any problem putting the food away. Deta (sic?) kept the cookie jars full of freshly baked cookies and between dives we would find the scent of banana bread wafting from the salon across the dive deck, beckoning, teasing, tempting..... not a trip to plan to lose any weight, that was for sure.
We shared our cruise with a couple from New Zealand, Katy and Rex and six other guests from Russia. The Russians kept together and were friendly and nice though we didn't have a lot of interaction. They dove together and ate together and the language barrier didn't allow for getting to know them very well.
This trip was a first, not only in itinerary but for the Cruise Directors and Dive Masters, Sam and Brigitte. Iman, who normally is resort staff, accompanied us on this trip as well. Iman dove primarily with the Russian group and Sam and Brigitte dove with us four. It was quite nice having four divers and two dive masters all experienced and comfortable spotting critters and usually seeing no other divers on a site. It didn't take long to learn what to look for, Sam and Brigitte were fantastic, easy going and knowledgeable. They were just as excited at the sighting of seahorses, crinoid squat lobsters, sharks and the multitude of pretty bicolor parrotfish and turtles as we were. Sometimes it was a fight for the ID books to find the name of the many things we saw.
The dynamic between the staff from Iman and the dive masters, Sam and Brigitte to the tender drivers, Brom and Basri, was so fun and positive. The behind the scene staff, cleaning our rooms, filling the tanks, keeping us running smoothly were all polite, friendly and always smiling. Ok..... there was that one time when we had some rough seas for several hours and some of the staff were a bit under the weather from the rocking....they may have been a little less smiley during that afternoon but none the less still polite and friendly.
Toward the end of the ten days I came down with a cold and missed a couple of dives, choosing to sleep in the morning instead and all in all only missed two dives. While on Wakatobi, Bill became congested and missed a few dives at the end of that stay. Three weeks of constant diving does take a bit out of you but we still managed to do 47 dives on the trip.
Our normal day consisted of breakfast followed by the dive briefing and two morning dives. After lunch there would be one afternoon dive and usually a night dive was scheduled. There were some long passages where we encountered strong winds and currents that really slowed the Pelagian down. At one point we were running all out and only able to go 5 knots per hour. This cut into our dive time a bit but on a long trip like this it was a somewhat welcome reprieve. In addition we had outings on both Komodo and Rinca Islands to visit with the Komodo Dragons and hike around the islands a bit. The diving was diverse, everything from deep walls, pinnacles and reefs in the middle of nowhere to muck diving near a beach full of locals or under a pier. The marine life was as varied from Sharks and groups of huge Napoleon Wrasse to the tiniest pigmy seahorses and mantis shrimp. The coral and sponges and growth on the reefs was stupendous, thick, colorful and varied. At some points the reef growth was so intense you could spot one thing after another without moving.....that is if the currents would allow you to stay still for long. We only actually encountered especially strong currents on a few occasions and were prepared for the most part.
The Pelagian photo page has several photos of the ship and descriptions of the dive sites with photos at the accompanying site. As well as the pictures from our visit to Komodo Ntl Park.
It was a fabulous voyage with a great crew that made the trip really fun and memorable. I wouldn't hesitate to spend another week or more aboard the Pelagian with Sam and Brigitte. I only wish they moved around a bit more as there are so many other places we want to experience the diving that I'm not sure when we would make it back to the Wakatobi area.
Be sure to check out the underwater photos for some interesting critters, like this Painted Frogfish below. Just move your curser over the picture if you have trouble finding it......