Wakatobi National Park, a collection of islands that may sound familiar to many but somehow seem elusive to most. It is definitely one of the Top 10 Diving sites in Indonesia, being home to more than 25 coral reefs and 900 marine species.
The name itself Wakatobi is a combination of the four main islands – Wangi-wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia and Binongko. It is surrounded by the southeast Sulawesi district. It is now Wakatobi National Park and therefore actively being conserved. The untouched nature and amazing marine diversity and reefs had attracted many scuba divers from around the world.
The World Wildlife Fund had also been helping out the park management to improve and publicize its biodiversity. WWF released a film about Bajo, the nomadic sea tribe that lives on stilt homes around Wakatobi whom had been touted resourceful for diving with their handmade wooden goggles.
Map of Wakatobi, Sulawesi
Where is it
Wakatobi lies at the Southeast of Sulawesi, Indonesia. The capital is Wangi-Wangi, and the collection of islands lies in between Banda Sea, to the north and west, and Flores Sea, to the south and east.
Not only it is a world class diving site with incredible arrays of coral reefs and marine lives, it also have majestic pinnacles, ridges, ledges and overhanging cliffs. Diving here is an adventure itself that will be sure to wow even the most seasoned diver.
Beach at Wakatobi, Sulawesi
While the sea is clear blue and serene for snorkeling and swimming. The beach almost deserted and long for quiet walks and peaceful sunbathing. The sunset is unforgettable over the crystal blue sea that seems to stretch endlessly.
The remoteness of the entire region itself is good enough reason to come to Wakatobi, you will be disappointed.
When is the best time to go
Indonesia has tropical weather and only two season of rain or dry. Come during dry season from June to September to maximize your day.
What to see
Puncak Tomia (mountain)
Sunset at Wakatobi, Sulawesi
– you can hike up this mountain for a beautiful view of the surrounding islands.
Other notable tourist attractions in Wakatobi is:
Air Terjun Tirta Rimba (waterfall)
Lakasa Cave (goa)
Nirwana beach or Huntete beach
Bukit Kolemo (hill)
Catch the sunrise or sunset at Hoga which is praised for the most panoramic view.
Stargazing at night – the place is perfect with dark nights for sparkling stars.
What to do
Diving – explore the coral reefs and marine species like moray eels, dolphins, manta rays and sea turtles. There are many unexplored parts in the sea for divers with unbroken wall replete filled densely with hard and soft corals. You can do all sorts of adventure diving here and also night diving is notable for its beautfy for example in Marimabuk dive site.
Snorkeling – the calm and clear blue sea is ideal for snorkeling, with enough coral reefs to enjoy as well.
Dolphin watching – you can take the boat out to catch dolphins swimming by.
Island hopping – discover the rest of the islands dotted all over Wakatobi, few notable ones are like the inhabited Ndaa Island (pulau) which has white beach sand and Tomia Island for the best snorkeling spot.
Where to stay
Night Diving, Wakatobi, Sulawesi
Most travelers will stay in Wangi-Wangi for the ease of transport as it is connected to the rest of the Wakatobi region to Kaledupa, Tomia and Binongo. Also most tourists come here to dive so they may stay in dive resorts
which includes all dives and meals and transfers. Else you can choose to sleep in homestays or bungalows
and if you want to splurge – luxury eco resorts
For ease of transportation, the best place to stay is in Wanci on Wangi-Wangi Island *. There is no need to spend a night on the other islands as there is a speedboat or a boat that can take you to other Wakatobi regions, such as the Hoga, Kaledupa, Tomia and Binongo. Prices for accommodation here range from as low as 150,000 Rp to 380,00 Rp for most options.
How to get there
Most frequent flights will require you to fly to Makassar (Ujung Pandang) or Kendari from major cities in Indonesia and then take a connecting flight directly to Wangi-Wangi. Alternatively, you may fly to Bau Bau (Buton Island) and then take a boat to one of the Wakatobi’s island. Now Lion Air had launched a direct flight from Jakarta to Wangi-wangi but only on certain days.
Wakatobi airport is on the opposite side of the island from the city. From there you would need to get a transport to city either via taxi or ojek which you might need to wait 30 mins for and then take another 30 mins ride into town. An ojek costs about 5,000 Rp to get into city center while a taxi may cost about 250,000 Rp, remember to agree on the price before getting on.
Coral Fan, Diving, Wakatobi, Sulawesi
By Pelni boat / ferry
You can opt for the cheaper backpacker version of travel by taking a 10 hours boat from Makassar to Wakatobi on a pelni boat, it is only once a month at the first week. There is also boat from Bau-Bau to Wangi-Wangi, everyday departing at Murhum Harbor.
How to get around
To move between the islands of Wakatobi, you may have to charter your own boat else you may take the public boat. There are boats everyday with about 2 hours in between frequency, check there for the detailed schedule.
Where to go nearby
Makassar – fly back to the city as a springboard to other places in Sulawesi.
Tana Toraja – 300 km away from Makassar with at least 8-10 hours drive for ancient funeral rites and cultural village visit.
Diving, Wakatobi, Sulawesi
There are reported thefts around here so always be mindful of your belongings and where you are walking and your surroundings. Also, it is safer not to wander around in dark places or at night.
Photo credits from top: Rachel, Jenny, ourtechclub, q phia, q phia and Craig D
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