At Wakatobi Dive Resort, the house always wins — the spectacular house reef, that is.   

At Wakatobi Dive Resort, guests don’t have to go far to discover the world’s best shore diving. Resorts usually bestow the name “House Reef” on the site that’s most easily accessible from the resort, usually right off the beach and within easy swimming distance of shore. Some house reefs are quite good, while others offer little more than a pleasant spot for squeezing in another easy submersion after the two-tank morning dive. At Wakatobi, the former is definitely the case.

Wakatobi’s House Reef

One of the world’s best house reefs is the expansive seascape that begins just off the beach at Wakatobi. This formation stretches off into neighboring sites, taking in hundreds of acres of thriving coral reefs and fertile seagrass beds, all located within a private marine preserve. The House Reef’s drop-off is just 262 feet (80 m) in front of the resort, making it easy for divers to make a wall dive followed by a shallow safety stop, day or night.

Guests arriving at Wakatobi Dive Resort get their first glimpse of the reef when the transfer boat pulls up to the resort’s jetty. A peek into the clear water reveals a steep coral wall, which drops precipitously from snorkeling depth into a dark blue void. In between this blue boundary line and the gleam of the white-sand beach is a broad expanse of shallows, home to a wide array of elusive and engaging sea life. It’s something you wouldn’t expect so close to a resort.

From shore, it’s a short swim to the edge of the reef. Along the way, the seascape transitions gradually from knee-deep shallows to coral formations at a depth of 10 to 13 feet (3 to 4 m), based on the tide, along the edge of the drop off. Then, the reef makes a near-vertical plunge to over 260 feet (76 m). Because the water is very clear, ambient light filters deep, showcasing broad underwater vistas. A diverse array of hard and soft corals, gorgonians and sponges cover the slopes and walls. These growths harbor a menagerie of invertebrates and fish, with the mixture of species changing as depth increases.

As an alternative to swimming from shore, divers and snorkelers can enter from the ladder on the resort jetty. Schools of fish hang in the shadow of this pier, and its large concrete foundation is home to an assortment of shrimp, crabs and a wide range of macro life. Within a 100-foot (30 m) circle of the pier, divers and snorkelers can find seven species of anemone fish, leaf scorpionfish, octopus, cuttlefish, porcelain crabs, a bevy of colorful nudibranch species, pipefish … well, the list goes on and on.

Marine life on the House Reef

The vertical contours and shallow crest of the House Reef are ideal for multi-level dive profiles, allowing for bottom times of 70 to 80 minutes without going into decompression. And time spent off-gassing in the shallows can often be the most interesting part of the dive. Searching around the grass beds and branching coral colonies in the sunlit shallows have rendered subjects ranging from pajama cardinalfish to robust halimeda and ornate ghost pipefish, pegasus seamoths, bluespotted stingrays, and, of course, a range of invertebrates. And when the sun goes down, the life on the bottom becomes a carnival of color, showcasing the weird and wonderful.

Many guests spend days exploring Wakatobi’s House Reef, which sources have named “The World’s Best Shore Dive.” But as captivating as this expansive landscape can be, it is just one of more than 40-plus sites available to resort guests. This entire area falls within the protection of the Wakatobi Marine Preserve, which is supported by a portion of resort revenue.

Ashore, guests are housed in luxuriously-appointed Indonesian-style bungalows and villas tucked into a palm grove overlooking a white-sand beach. Fine dining and five-star service combine with an informal and relaxing atmosphere to create a memorable vacation experience that includes diving, snorkeling, and a full range of additional water sports such as paddleboarding, kiteboarding and kayaking, along with pampering spa services and a range of land activities and village tours. Direct charter flights connect to/from Bali in 2.5 hours, creating easy connections to points around the world. For more information, email the resort directly here.

Photos and article by guest author Walt Stearns

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