Guide to Diving Wakatobi National Park, Sulawesi

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 Indonesia

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.

Why go

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 Indonesia

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

Sunset at Wakatobi, Sulawesi Indonesia

Sunset at Wakatobi, Sulawesi

Puncak Tomia (mountain) – 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 Indonesia

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.

-> Find available hotels near Wakatobi National Park *

How to get there

By Flight
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 Indonesia

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 Indonesia

Diving, Wakatobi, Sulawesi

Travel Tips

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

Related Articles:
Togian Islands Diving, Sulawesi
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Sulawesi Travel Guide

Top 10 Best Diving Sites in Indonesia

Indonesia is little known to divers out there that Indonesia is actually one of the world’s best scuba destination even though it has many beautiful diving spots.

Indonesia has one of the longest coastline in the world stretching from the Indian Ocean to the east and Pacific Ocean to the west. Being part of the Coral Triangle of the world, Indonesia has a diverse marine life with 20% of world’s coral reefs. There are over 3000 fish species and 600 coral species to discover, where the dive sites come in diverse types from coral, steep walls, deep water trenches, wrecks and underwater volcanic mountains. To top it off, diving in Indonesia is affordable.

Coral reef and fishes at diving Bunaken, Sulawesi, Indonesia

Coral reef and fishes at Bunaken, Sulawesi. Photo by Ilse Reijs and Jan-Noud Hutten


The best time and weather to dive in Indonesia are during the dry season of April to December. But it is generally alright to dive all year round in Indonesia.

Forming one corner of the ‘Coral Triangle’, the epicenter of world marine biodiversity, and containing 20% of the world’s coral reefs, it will come as no surprise that it boasts the most diverse waters in the world.

Corals at Diving Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

Corals at Raja Ampat, Papua. Photo by Lakshmi Sawitri

Raja Ampat

Hawkbill Turtle, Diving, Indonesia

Hawkbill Turtle. Photo by Ilse Reijs and Jan-Noud Hutten

Located just off the northwest tip of Papua (Irian Jaya), it is the most well-known dive site in Indonesia. Diving in Raja Ampat is one of the most talked-about activity in Indonesia travel. It is an archipelago of 1,500 small islands. The marine life diversity here is staggering with 1200 fish species, where a world record of 284 on a single dive in Kofiau Island was noted. Raja Ampat set itself apart from the rest of the world’s dive site. It is even coined the term Frontier Diving, where diving will take you over crystal clear seas, inhabited islands with the horizon stretch out beyond into infinity. If you are lucky and in the season, you can even catch whale sharks while diving!

-> Read our Guide to Diving in Raja Ampat

-> Find the best hotel deals in Raja Ampat at Booking.com *

Togian Islands

Diving in Togian Islands are also among the top activities in Indonesia that many know besides Raja Ampat. Just located North of Sulawesi, Togian Islands are a group of islands boasting secrets to amazing dives. This place is still largely unexploited, invoking feelings of diving in unexplored places. One of the best diving places in Indonesia and maybe even on earth, you will have to explore more than the 3 dive sites among these 56 islands The two top places to stay on this island are Black Marlin Dive Resort * and Kadidiri Paradise *.

-> Read our Guide to Diving in Togian Islands

Whale Shark Diving at Papua Indonesia

Whale Shark Diving at Papua. Photo by Marcel Ekkel

Komodo Islands

Diving at the Komodo islands is also known to many world-class divers. The Komodo National Park’s reserve offers what every tropical diving paradise does – calm and colourful shallow reefs, mountains of marine life from reef fishes to sharks, and deep walls and pinnacles. Komodo Islands is the epicentre of scuba diving for its rich marine life and coral reefs. Besides, on land, it houses the famous Komodo dragon, which is the largest lizard in the world. The place to stay on this island itself is the Komodo Resort *.

-> See our Guide to Komodo Islands National Park

-> Find the best hotel deals near Komodo Islands at Booking.com *

Bunaken Islands

Diving Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia

Diving Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia. Photo by Ilse Reijs and Jan-Noud Hutten

One of the top diving sites in Indonesia, Bunaken Island (Pulau Bunaken) is unsurprisingly very popular for divers around the world. The Bunaken Marine Park, located at the north tip of Sulawesi, is not only rich with marine lives, but it is also mesmerizing for its water so clear it is truly transparent. It has an amazing diverse marine life such as 70 different corals, five species of sea turtles, many fish species and even white tip and black tip reef sharks, the almost extinct dugongs, barracuda and even saltwater crocodiles! Bunaken island also features a world-class wall diving.

-> Read our Guide to Diving in Bunaken Islands

Bali Islands

No doubt there are reasons for Bali’s popularity, not only was it one of the best places to surf in Indonesia, but it is also one of the best places to dive here. Many divers find this place with excellent shore-based diving surrounded with a view of magnificent volcanoes and lush rice paddy terraces. Scuba diving in Bali gives you deep drop-offs, steep banks, coral ridges and famous wrecks from the world war, volcanic outcrops and seagrass beds. Choices of dive sites here including Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan, Tulamben and Candi Dasa. Divers favourite resorts here are Penida Dive Resort (Nusa Penida), Twin Island Dive (Nusa Lembongan) and Toyabali Dive Resort * (Tulamben).

-> Check out our Bali Travel Guide

Lombok and Gili Islands

Jellyfish at Diving Raja Ampat, Papua Indonesia

Jellyfish at Diving Raja Ampat, Papua. Photo by Lakshmi Sawitri

Just neighbour to the famous Bali, this sister island Lombok keeps its own secrets to spectacular diving with untouched coral reefs and pinnacles. You may even find Hammerhead sharks here and other wild marine life. besides being a peaceful holiday getaway, it features many adventurous dive to balance it with drop-offs, plateaus and slopes among fascinating corals and diverse marine lives. The most popular dive resort around here is the Manta Dive Gili Air Resort *

-> See our Lombok and Gili Islands Guide

Bangka and Belitung Islands

Bangka and Belitung Islands, just off Sumatra, offer over 25 dive sites that promise reef slopes and pinnacles of soft corals and rich marine life. You can also do a drift diving here with a negative entry and also descending pinnacles and giant granite rock formations that are clinging with beautiful corals.

-> Find the best hotel deals in Bangka and Belitung Islands *

Pulau Weh, Sumatra

Diving in Pulau Weh is well known for its rich ecosystem and off the beaten track in oppose to its famous distant sister Bali of Indonesia. A part of this island had been declared as wildlife protection is by the Indonesian government because it is the home to many rare species on land wild the coral reefs are bursting with a large and diverse variety of Indo-Pacific marine life. The remoteness of this Island makes the open Banda Sea all the more fascinating to dive in as the place is still bursting with a vibrant and natural reef system and a large variety of marine life that are not exploited. Seemingly only good dive resort on this island is the aptly named Pulau Weh Dive Resort *

-> Read our Guide to Diving in Pulau Weh

Manta Ray Diving  Indonesia

Manta Ray. Photo by prilfish

Wakatobi Islands

Dotted in the Banda Sea, the islands of Wakatobi – Wangi, Kaledupa, Tomea, and Binongki is another Indonesia’s answer to world-class diving. Rich with reefs along with barriers, corals and fishes, this national park is well protected, thus brimming with healthy marine lives. Diving here will also contribute towards the local community and the support for the marine park. Relatively new in the diving scene of Indonesia, the place is still practically untouched.

-> See Guide to Diving Wakatobi, Sulawesi

Diving Komodo Islands, Indonesia

Diving Komodo Islands, Indonesia. Photo by Ilse Reijs and Jan-Noud Hutten

Banda Islands

One of the best-kept secrets of Indonesia, this little-known diving site of Indonesia is bursting with healthy reefs of massive hard corals, sea fans, sponges, and marine wildlife of pelagic and reef fishes. Diving Banda Islands might bring you into critter havens of Ambon and also other undiscovered secrets that only diving exploration can bring.

Recommended tours *:
Indonesia Liveaboard diving tours

Related articles:
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Diving Pulau Weh (Island), Sumatra

Pulau Weh (Weh Island) or sometimes known as Pulo Weh by the locals, is a volcanic island off the coast of northwest Sumatra. The largest city in the island is Sabang. Hence the island is also sometimes known as Pulau Sabang

Pulau Weh had been well known for its ecosystem, diving and considered off the beaten track in oppose to its famous distant sister Bali of Indonesia. A part of this island had been declared as wildlife protection are by the Indonesian government because it is the home to many rare species on land wild the coral reefs are bursting with large and diverse variety of Indo-Pacific marine life.

Pulau Weh, Sabang, Sumatra, Indonesia Map

Pulau Weh, Sabang, Sumatra, Indonesia Map

Where is it

It is located on the Andaman Sea, about 15 km off the northwestern tip of Sumatra. It takes 45 minutes of a fast boat or 2 hours regular boat from Banda Aceh to Pulau Weh.

Why go

Boat at Iboih, Pulau Weh, Sumatra, Indonesia

Boat at Iboih, Pulau Weh. Photo by BenJam

Off the beaten track from Sumatra and one of Indonesia’s beautiful islands, this jungle island house many rare species from the land to the sea.

Also, one of the best diving site in Indonesia with 20 diving spots, though not as well known as the others but many who had dived here agree it is among the top stars.

Visiting this somewhat remote island is also suitable for conscious independent traveling where you can contribute to the locals here yourself and keep to eco-travel.

When is the best time to go

Best time to go to Pulau Weh, Sumatra is during April to November, the dry season of Indonesia tropical climate. This is the time with good weather where you can enjoy more of the sun and sea.

What to see

Not that much to see in Sabang or land, most travelers head to the beaches either Gapang beach or Iboih beach.

Iboih Beach at Pulau Weh, Sabang, Sumatra, Indonesia

Iboih Beach. Photo by hartanto

What to do

Diving of course with up to 20 dive spots around Pulau Weh to choose from and it is known as one of Indonesia’s best diving site!

Here are the top dive spots in/around Pulau Weh:

Arus Balee – with water passage around a rocky pinnacle between islands of Seulako and Rubiah, offering chance of drift diving in strong currents
Batee Meuduro – an hour south of Pulau Weh, worthy to go to for being a top site where you can chance upon several species of shark
Gapang house reef – famous for its dense marine life
Pulau Rubia for a lush coral garden that drops 30 meters.
Batee Tokong – steep and rich with marine life, this 40 meters downwards wall will be sure to delight
Pantee Aneuk – lined with caves, arches, wall and canyongs that many divers love to explore.
Pantee Peunateung – famous for the 70 meters drop off that boasts wild marines like baraccuda.
Sophie Rickmers – for impressive wreck dive, this is a cargo steam ship built back in 1920 in Germany, which sunk at the bay of Pria Laot. Decompression dive is needed here.
Sabang harbour – for shallower wreck dive of a tugboat

Diving Pulau Weh, Sumatra, Indonesia

Diving Pulau Weh. Photo by Eric Beerkens

Where to stay

Stay in the island’s main city Sabang for various choices ranging from hostels to guesthouses and hotels. People tend to either stay at the center of Sabang or along the guesthouses at Iboih beach *.

-> Find the best hotel deals on Pulau Weh at Booking.com *

How to get there

Ferry from Banda Aceh, Sumatra to Sabang, Pulau Weh.

Ferry Banda Aceh to Sabang, Pulau Weh, Sumatra, Indonesia

Ferry Banda Aceh to Sabang. Photo by Franc López

Fast ferry/boat, it will take about 45 minutes at 60000-80000RP. It leaves everyday 9.30am and 4pm from Banda Aceh and 8.30am and 4pm from Sabang. The fast boat is call Pulo Rondo .

Slow ferry/boat will take about 2 hours and cheaper priced at 18000-32000Rp. It leaves Banda Aceh at 2 pm and from Sabang, Pulau Weh at 8 am.

How to get around

You can rent a motorbike to go around on Pulau Weh or rent a minivan and guide if you are in a group.

Where to go nearby

Being at the northernmost tip of Indonesia off Sumatra, there is nowhere else to go but back to Banda Aceh. From Banda Aceh you can make your way to Bukit Lawang for Orang Utan or chill at famous Lake Toba.

Sabang, Pulau Weh, Sumatra, Indonesia

Sabang, Pulau Weh. Photo by Franc López

Travel Tips

Tsunami struck Banda Aceh at 2004 and had heavily affected Pulau Weh too. At 2005, the reefs of Pulau Weh was surveyed at depths and was reported that most sites are still alright especially those deeper than 10m. For some shallow areas, the reefs are damaged, and out of the chartered dive sites, only reefs at Rubiah/Iboih was affected. Restoration efforts are also being looked into.

Related articles:
Lake Toba
Top 10 Must Visit Places in Sumatra
Sumatran Orangutan Trekking at Bukit Lawang

Guide to Diving Raja Ampat, Papua

Voted as one of the best diving spots in the world, Pulau Raja Ampat / Raja Ampat islands are the next travel destination for not only divers but also nature lovers and travelers alike. The name itself meant four kings and it is well known for its riches in wild marine life, pristine reefs, and corals. It consists of 1500 unique small islands.

Whether you are in Raja Ampat on a budget or out to splurge, there is surely something for you here on this paradise.

Pulau Raja Ampat Islands, Papua Indonesia

Pulau Raja Ampat Islands, Indonesia. Photo by Elias Levy

Where is it

Raja Ampat islands are located in the northwest tip of Papua (formerly known as Irian Jaya) in Indonesia.

Map of Pulau Raja Ampat Islands, Papua Indonesia

Map of Pulau Raja Ampat Islands

Why go

Diving Pulau Raja Ampat Islands, Papua Indonesia

Diving Pulau Raja Ampat Islands, Papua Indonesia. Photo by Lakshmi Sawitri

Diver’s paradise as Raja Ampat has a vast marine life diversity that would wow even the most seasoned diver. It is part of the world’s Coral Triangle which is known for housing more than 3000 species of fish and other extraordinary habitats that breeds the biodiversity of its marine life. Many scientists still travel there today to discover new species in the ocean. You may well put this place into your list of diving trips!

Also, Raja Ampat is a remote place almost left untouched by development and only touched by explorers that are nature lovers and independent travellers that care and travel responsibly. Here you can also meet with the local Papuan people and directly contribute to their living and get to immerse themselves in their culture.

When is the best time to go

Indonesia being a tropical climate of only two seasons, dry and wet, it is best to visit during the dry season to maximize your marine visibility. You may go around late September until early June, between June to September will be the monsoon season where there will be a lot of rain, especially in the afternoon. The best time to dive in Raja Ampat is November or December, where more sightings of Manta rays, Orca whales, and dolphins are reported.

What to do

Fish and Corals, Dive Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

Fish and Corals, Dive Raja Ampat. Photo by Lakshmi Sawitri

Dive, dive and dive!
You trip to Raja Ampat will never be complete without diving here as you have more than 30 dive sites to choose from where you can enjoy thr diverse and amazing marine lives. You may get dive in places filled with coral gardens or walls to mangroves and wreck diving. Some of the famous dive sites in Raja Ampat are Cape Kri, Sardines, Manta Sandy and Mios Kon.

-> Check out Raja Ampat liveaboard diving trips *

Snorkel at many of the sites above if diving is not your thing, you’ll be pleasantly delighted that there are many marine lives as well in the shallow area.

Explore the islands by boats or visit the Red Bird of Paradise or the bat caves in Tomolol.

Trek around the island to discover waterfalls.

What to see

Tour around Papua villages to see Asmat artisan’s wood sculptures or their fishing techniques or traditional performance of bamboo flute.

Watch the famous Sea Ghost phenomenon at East Waigeo where at the end of the year where a light would appear from the ocean and wander around the surface for about 15 minutes and then disappears.

Karst rocks at Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

Karst rocks at Raja Ampat. Photo by Lakshmi Sawitri

Where to stay

There are some dive resorts and eco resorts in Raja Ampat* dotted around for you to choose from or you may go different and choose the few homestays available in villages. One popular homestays kind of resort here is the creatively named Alter Native Stay *. The other on the more budget side is the TeraAilan Heritage Resort * and .

-> Find your place to stay at Raja Ampat on Booking.com *

What and where to eat

If you did not get a diving package or other packages there that are most likely to cover your food, you may go around and eat traditional local food. Try the special fish soup call Sup Ikan Kuning (yellow fish soup) that are made with local spices.

How to get there

Fly into international airports in Indonesia such as Jakarta, Surabaya or Bali (Denpasar) and then connect by domestic flight to Sorong, Raja Ampat. Some of the Indonesian airlines that fly to Sorong, Papua are Garuda Indonesia, Merpati, Sriwijaya Air, Lion Air and Batavia air while international Airlines is Silk Air.

Corals at Dive Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

Corals at Dive Raja Ampat. Photo by Lakshmi Sawitri

From Sorong to Raja Ampat, you may take either the Speed Boat, which takes about 1 hour at cost 2 million Rp or a Long Boat, which takes 2-3 hours at cost 1.2mil RP.

How to get around

You can mostly travel around by boat here, like from Sorong to Wasai, on longboats, speedboats, liveaboard or dive boats. For land travel on the islands, you may normally cover by walking or hop one of the ubiquitous ojek (motorcycle taxi). Going on a liveaboard diving boat is also very popular here as it is an amazing way to explore the remote islands.

Liveaboard diving boat at Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia

Liveaboard diving boat at Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia. Photo by Lakshmi Sawitri

Where to go nearby

Get back to Sorong and then proceed to discover the rest of Papua. You may fly to Jayapura and then discover Baliem Valley and Lorentz National Park.

Since Raja Ampat is in the tip of Papua of Indonesia, it is near to the Maluku Islands; you may arrange to head there for further dive trips and exploration.

Travel Tips

Before you can go to the dive spots, you would need to get a permit from the local Papua police station. Bring three copies of your passport page with Indonesian Visa.

Recommended tours *:
Raja Ampat Liveaboard diving

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Guide to Diving Wakatobi, Sulawesi
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Top 10 Best Diving Sites in Indonesia
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