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May 2017    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 32, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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MV Pelagian, Wakatobi, Indonesia

near perfection, but with safety glitches

from the May, 2017 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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It was good news when my first full day of diving simply got better and better with each subsequent dive. I dived sloping reefs, then a wall, with each dive fishier, which meant a school of two-dozen bumphead wrasses, two banded sea snakes, an orangutan crab hanging out on bubble coral, half a dozen turtles, lots of Clarkii and pink anemone fish, a nest with a porcelain anemone crab. Bright yellow trumpet fish, damsels, and schools of surgeonfish swarmed the reefs. Endless coral species with eye-popping colors, textures, and patterns, from brain corals to gorgonia, all the colors of the rainbow. And, on one dive, an eagle ray zoomed by, then did a stop-on-a-dime-U-turn in front of us, as though it wanted to m ke sure we saw it. After all, some say, Wakatobi is located -- at or at least close to -- the world's epicenter of coral reef biodiversity.

Pelagian's shaded aft deck.I was diving from the MV Pelagian, which is more than 50 years old, but you'd never know it. Originally designed as a 35m (115-foot) luxury motor yacht (it does not handle rolling seas well) and once used by the Duke of Westminster for family vacations in the Seychelles, it carries a maximum of 10 guest divers. We had only eight. It runs from the Wakatobi Resort, making it a popular way for divers to have the possibility of both a liveaboard and land-based vacation in one convenient stop.

When we arrived at Wakatobi from Bali -- about the only practical way to get there -- I checked in at the resort lounge, showed my dive credentials (and a DAN card) and I signed my release. I then learned that Nitrox was $27 per day! I was shocked! So what's a diver to do this late in the game? I shrugged my shoulders and enjoyed the buffet that awaited. Soon, a dive boat ferried us to the air-conditioned Pelagian, where the crew greeted us with smiles. After a quick briefing, I headed aft to my cabin, where my luggage had been stowed. Because the Pelagian was not designed as a charter boat, the cabins vary from a large suite to a cramped single, all with ensuite bathrooms (I soon learned that the inefficient shower door allowed water to puddle all over the bathroom floor). I had been assigned a sizeable cabin with both a double and single bed and plenty of storage space, but my female dive buddy, who was sharing with another woman, had been assigned a cramped bow room with little storage space. (Had I announced I was a travel writer, my solo cabin might have been a perk, but they had no way of knowing; I had paid full fare and was traveling unannounced.)...

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