Wakatobi: Pristine Coral

I had my doubts about Wakatobi because they made it clear that pelagics, i.e. big fish like sharks, are not commonly spotted in Wakatobi. Plus, unlike Manado to the north, it wasn’t quite known as a muck diving area, so I really wasn’t sure what to expect.The only thing I knew was that the water was an unbelievably clear blue.

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It wasn’t just bubbles that I saw. As promised, the reefs were all incredibly pristine. There was rich marine life all over…

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… with beautiful sea fans like this Gorgonian below.

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My camera wasn’t set right and I was too lazy to figure out what was wrong. It’s a pity because it’s makes the water look murky when it’s really just the sunlight filtering down. Some of the sea fans got really big…

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… so it was no wonder that fish liked to hide behind them, like this batfish with the weird-looking eyes.

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Batfish are pretty common and they’re very friendly. Occasionally, one would follow us like a dog, occasionally going up to sniff at our fins or such.

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But here’s the only place where we saw isopods on batfish. Check out the bug-like creatures hanging out near this one’s eye. Our dive guide assured us that it was a symbiotic relationship, with the batfish providing transport and the isopod parasite-busting services. I found it quite bizarre and wonder how the isopod even manages to clamber onto the batfish’s face.

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Back on the reef, there was plenty of pristine coral, like this soft coral that I think looks like purple cauliflower. Sometimes it appears slightly yellow, making it cauliflower curry!

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There were other soft corals that sprouted what looked like tiny little flowers – lots of bunches of stinging buds!

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Then there were the pretty electric blue sea sequirts that were so delicately outlined against the coral backdrop.

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It wasn’t all just staring at corals. There were many things to see in, near and around the coral, like the divers in this photo with the terrible settings. I promise that I’ll learn how to use my camera properly underwater – at some point.

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In the coral were clams that somehow managed to always wedge themselves deep within so only their purple lips can be seen.

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Then those who hang out near the coral are the ones like my favourite juvenile harlequin sweetlips with its adorable polka dotted pattern…

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… and the six-banded angelfish with its dizzying arrangement of dots and stripes.

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Hanging out around the coral was the cuttlefish, which were hard to spot from afar as they change coloration and pattern to blend in just so with the coral. It’s definitely not easy to see this one at first glance!

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And the other usual suspect hanging out near the coral was the great barracuda. Look closely and you see its scary teeth. We’re glad that it didn’t hang around that much in our dives.

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