One word SPECTACULAR! A must stay, dive and relax destination. Diver or snorkeler, the reef never ceased to amaze.
The trip there.
As we all arrived at Sydney airport in the wee hours of the morning, it became apparent that the 12 months of counting down to the day had finally arrived! It was so evident that everyone was very excited as we checked in our bags and headed to the food hall for some breakfast prior to departure. 21 froggies (one was a tadpole) where on their way to what has been titled the must see and dive destination of the year. After a change of flight in Brisbane we landed 6 hours later in Denpasar to be met literally at the gate of the tarmac by the Wakatobi resort representative. This very gracious staff member quickly organised our Visa’s and whisked us past the VERY long line at immigration, collected our baggage and then straight through customs. Amazing!! We where then taken straight to our waiting transport that would take us to the hotel for the night.
The next morning we were transported back to the domestic terminal where we were checked in and then escorted to the Wakatobi lounge to relax until our charter flight was to depart for Wakatobi, a two hour flight. The flight was very relaxing and again we where looked after with cabin service and friendly staff. The excitement was definitely building now as we began to descend.
As we touched down a fleet of resort cars were waiting to transport us on our very short trip to the port where we were whisked across by tender to the resort boat, which also was one of the dive boats. On board was a resort staff member who greeted us all with a refreshing cocktail (this was a hint of the hospitality to come) and checked us in one by one. We were all given an individual staff members name that would be our contact as soon as we hit the shore line.
Arriving at the resort.
As we got closer to the resort we were all taken by the beauty of the reef we were about to dive on and the island we were to call home for the next 6days. As it was low tide we came in by tender boat to a large group of smiling faces all with their name badges on looking eagerly for their guests. As mentioned before we were all given an individual staff members name who would be escorting us to our bungalows. This was awesome as we would be checked in within the comfort of your own air conditioned bungalow (definitely beats standing in line waiting for your turn at the front desk), our bags soon followed. Once checked in we all met at the dive centre to be run through what the next 6 days had install for us. The staff where extremely professional, the boat allocations had been planned along with our dive guides, and all our questions answered, nothing was too difficult. You knew what boat you were on, where you would be keeping your dive gear, and who your go too staffers were for the duration of the trip. For those with cameras, the climate controlled camera room(s) were excellent, with clean and spacious padded work benches complete with power adapters and clean towels daily, was a photographers dream.
It was at this point we were all invited for a check out dive on the house reef, which gave us an introductory glimpse into what was installed for us over the next few days. I might mention at this point that all house reef dives were free (yes unlimited air and taxi boat drop off and pickups included), the house reef is more than 3 miles long!!!
What can I say, spectacular!! When talking to our many well travelled divers, this was one of the best preserved and beautiful reefs they had ever seen. The reef life was abundant and there was always something to see and photograph. The dive experience started when first boarded our allocated dive boats. We were introduced to our two guides and the boat crew who would be looking after us for the duration of our stay. On board we were all allocated a spot (numbered) for the duration of our trip. Each spot had its allocated gear hangers, rack area, dive crate and our own personalised travel mug (with our names on it that was later to be given to us as a gift) for water and hot drinks which was cleaned and returned to its spot each day. Gearing up was a breeze, you had that much room it felt unnatural for a dive boat. There was always someone to help you on with your gear, always someone handing you your camera and always someone helping you out of the water with or without your gear on. After each dive a fresh towel was handed to us and a tea or coffee made with freshly baked cake, biscuits and fruit if you were hungry (I’ll get to the food soon). Also on board after the long 70 minute dives was a toilet, yes you read correctly a toilet. How convenient as we had to exit the water early to beat Carol to it. We did three 70 minute dives a day, two in the morning with an hour’s interval in between (just enough time to go back to the resort and change camera batteries, lenses, etc), and a third dive after lunch (I’m almost at the description of the food). After each dive day, your wet suit was rinse out and hung back in its spot for the next day’s diving, the boat cleaned and your tanks placed on the boat ready for use. If you wished to dive nitox, which was quite reasonable in price all you needed to do was check your mix and sign it off and place it in the checked tanks waiting bay with your tag on it and it would be waiting on the boat the next day. On shore, there was an allocated dive setup area which again you had your own allocated spot (same number to save confusion) which you could hang your gear up and store your dive crate under if you where shore diving in the afternoon/evening (by the way, there was also unlimited FREE shore dives if you wished). Your gear would then magically appear on the boat the next day!!
Now the diving itself. What can I say; a picture paints a thousand words.
After the afternoon dive upon return to the resort, if you were a little peckish before dinner a chef would prepare some hot nibbles up in the long house (main reception) where you could meet and discuss what you saw on your days diving, link into the free wireless internet (alright I’ll tell you about the food next).
The resort was beautifully kept; all the gardens and winding pathways were perfectly manicured with friendly locals tending to it each day. The bungalows where awesome. You walked into a cool and modern looking room with an on suite. All bathrooms had hot running water (even Joe and Vince’s), and a mini bar to keep all our duty free drinks and chocolates cool (all bungalows are air conditioned, and also have a ceiling fan for those who wanted to experience the tropics at its best). The rooms where cleaned daily with a new towel figurine to amaze you left on your bed. The facilities were second to none, anything you needed it was available, from the spa ( truly relaxing), the resort shop (get in early as they run out of common sizes fast), to the media room where you could learn more about the reef and what lies beneath. But finishing the day watching the sun set with a cool cocktail in hand was just sensational.
Now for the restaurant, wow!!! I am sure there was not many of the froggies that did not return home a few kilos heavier. Whatever you wanted it was there, from a pasta bar, sushi bar, crepe bar, carvery, down to a selection of exquisite deserts. As with the diving, a picture paints a thousand mouthfuls. There was even a thankyou sculpture made by the chef for the froggies!!
All up you could say that the froggies that attended this trip felt completely pampered, and I’m sure would be talking about this trip for quite a while. We all were very sad to go, as we were waved off by all the staff when our boat left the wharf. We all had many stories to tell and will be telling them still when we meet at the airport for our next trip in 2013. I can’t wait!!