The island of Hoga, Wakatobi - 27th August to 1st September

Jeremy & Sally Paul
Mon 28 Sep 2009 00:40

The island of Hoga, Wakatobi – 27th August to 1st September


Arriving at the island of Hoga in the dark was probably not the best idea due to the unknown whereabouts of the reefs surrounding the island.  When dusk turned to night, Astra was still a couple of miles from the island.  Suddenly, the depth reader touched bottom and quickly went very shallow down to several metres depth.  Due to the fact that these waters were unknown, we thought we were about to hit a reef and had to slam into reverse.  The boys were trying to locate the bottom with a plumb line and search light, yet nothing was found.  We slowly trickled into the anchorage just off the island of Hoga and found a mooring buoy to which we tied.  We later realised that the region off the island where we had encountered shallow water was indeed very deep and our depth reading was simply showing patches of Thermocline.


The next morning, we were able to see the island and the reef surrounding its shores.  This tiny island looked like the ‘Marine Paradise’ we had been promised for so long.  It was about a 200 metre swim to the reef followed by the same distance over a sandy bottom to the beach on the island.  That first morning, Sally, Charlie, Oli and Liam swam ashore to explore the island.  They approached the research centre, part of Operation Walacea, home to many marine research students from around the world.  After chatting with a few staff at the centre, they were told very abruptly by a separate staff member (Pippa) to cover up and not walk around in swim wear.  This was due to the Muslim influence on the island.


That morning, the three boys took a dive trip along the reef in front of Astra.  This was followed by a trip ashore (Sally and Jeremy included) to chat to the research centre and enjoy a cold beer sat by the beach.  Sally and Jeremy went off to organise a diving trip with a Dutch lady, Gurtey who had lived on the island for the last 14 years.  She was very laid back and was more than happy to help out in whatever way she could.  That evening everyone except Jeremy went ashore for a beach bonfire where they cooked Tuna steaks purchased from a local fisherman who canoed over to Astra that day.  They had a really pleasant time sat on the beach that evening by the fire.  Under the influence of the moon, the white sand reflected the light and everything seemed as clear as day.


Saturday, 29th seemed to be action packed starting off with a diving trip organised by Gurtey to the ‘Outer Pinnacle’ followed by another diving trip to the white marker in the afternoon.  In the morning, all five of us went diving together with the rented dive gear.  We made a complete circuit around the Outer Pinnacle during our 40 minute dive between 10 to 20 metres depth with the better coral at the shallower depths.  A sea snake came within touching distance of Liam when we were back on the surface. 


After lunch, Jeremy, Oli and Liam made a second dive to the white marker where they saw a huge shoal of large fish and a devil ray.  At 5pm that evening, we went ashore for a meal in the local beach hut that had been built that day.  We dined on a delicious seafood buffet and drank Bintang.  The moon lit up the beach that evening and it was really pleasant to sit and stare out over the water on this peaceful island.  After Sally and Jeremy went back to Astra, the boys went to socialise in the research centre with a few English students over a game of table tennis.


It was more diving again on the 30th on the home reef in front of Astra.  Sally, Jeremy and Oli went diving with Charlie swimming down to share Oli’s octopus rig.  The three boys then went back down for a second dive on the same part of the reef.  That evening, all of the seven yachts in the anchorage went ashore for drinks around sunset.  The boys made a fire on the sand which was used to cook our tuna and mahi mahi steaks.  It was really pleasant to socialise with everyone under the moonlight on this white sandy beach.  This really was a special little island. 


It was weekly ‘heads and beds’ on the morning of the 31st which was followed by a fishing trip for the boys who took the dinghy to the white post.  Oli decided he would be Action Man and jumped into the water with a lure tied around his ankle.  Soon after swimming away from Charlie and Liam, he was surrounded by a pack of Barracuda and quickly shouted for their help to get him out of the water!  Imagine what would have happened if one of them had gone for his lure………


It was a chill-out afternoon that day with pretty much everyone falling asleep after lunch.  A local fisherman came over in his little canoe to sell us some fish.  We bought a rather large cuttlefish which Charlie had fun filleting for some time on the aft deck.  That evening, Charlie prepared an amazing lamb dinner with cuttlefish to start.  After that we all watched Slum-Dog Millionaire.