Wakatobi, the Ultimate Diving Paradise

Heri Sisworo

Heri Sisworo

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Vibrant soft corals grow on a healthy reef in Wakatobi National Park, Indonesia. This remote region harbors spectacular marine biodiversity and is a popular destination for divers and snorkelers. (c) Shutterstock Vibrant soft corals grow on a healthy reef in Wakatobi National Park, Indonesia. This remote region harbors spectacular marine biodiversity and is a popular destination for divers and snorkelers. (c) Shutterstock

Wakatobi is a marine national park located on the south of Sulawesi Island. This national park is popular among divers and often considered as having the best dive sites in the world. The name Wakatobi is a portmanteau of the four main island in this national park; Wangi-wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia, and Binongko.

A luxurious tropical resort looks out on a beautiful reef flat in Wakatobi National Park, Indonesia. This area harbors an amazing array of marine biodiversity and is within the Coral Triangle. (c) Shutterstock
A luxurious tropical resort looks out on a beautiful reef flat in Wakatobi National Park, Indonesia. This area harbors an amazing array of marine biodiversity and is within the Coral Triangle. (c) Shutterstock

As a part of coral triangle, Wakatobi is known to have the highest number of reef and reef fish species in the world. That is quite predictable as this marine park is the second largest barrier reef in the world after The Great Barrier Reef of Australia. With many atolls and wonderful reef, there are more than 50 diving spots in these islands.

Wangi-wangi, the main hub of the park

The Sea of Dolphins in Wakatobi Island Indonesia
The Sea of Dolphins in Wakatobi Island Indonesia via Shutterstock

Wangi-wangi is the most developed island on this area. The only airport in Wakatobi (Matahora Airport) is located in this island. You generally need to go to Wangi-wangi before entering other islands in this island. However, Wangi-wangi is also a great tourist destination on its own right. You can go to Cape Kapota, often said as the dolphins’ playground, to see the intelligent fish.

The Secluded Hoga Island

beach of Hoga island in indonesia image via Shutterstock
beach of Hoga island in indonesia image via Shutterstock

Located next to Kaledupa Island, Hoga is a little paradise that has all natural gifts. Secluded, Hoga is surrounded with white sandy beach with clear waters. This small island has no less than 12 world class diving spots with easily found diving masters/instructors. Snorkeling and a light hiking is also possible, or you can just enjoy watching the sun rises and sets in its wonderful beaches.

Kahyangan Summit of Tomia Island

Puncak Tomia. via Instagram/
Puncak Tomia. via Instagram/rachmad_tomia

Puncak Kahyangan (sometimes also known as Puncak Tomia) is a hill in Tomia Island, easily accessible from the capital of the island; Usuku. This summit has a breathtaking view of the sea around the island, with turquoise waters. The sunset here is remarkable, but then the actual spectacle happens at night. Since there are not many light pollution here, you can easily see the Milky Way moving up in the sky.

The mysterious Sombano Lake

Danau Sombano. via Instagram/
Danau Sombano. via Instagram/abdillah_amir

Sombano is a saltwater lake in the northern part of Kaledupa Island. Sombano Lake is unusual, even for magnificent Wakatobi’s standard. The water is crystal clear and the lake is infested with beautiful red shrimps. These shrimps feed on the grassy lakebed and roam freely as locals never try to catch them. Villagers in Sombano consider this lake to be sacred and they don’t even swim in this beautiful pond.

The ultimate diving experience

Vibrant soft corals grow on a healthy reef in Wakatobi National Park, Indonesia. This remote region harbors spectacular marine biodiversity and is a popular destination for divers and snorkelers. (c) Shutterstock
Vibrant soft corals grow on a healthy reef in Wakatobi National Park, Indonesia. This remote region harbors spectacular marine biodiversity and is a popular destination for divers and snorkelers. (c) Shutterstock

The ultimate experience that is being offered in Wakatobi is the snorkeling and diving activities. With more than 50 world class diving spots scattered all around the park, Wakatobi will definitely overwhelm you with choices. Since there are so many sites to choose, Tourists usually pick a diving spot near the resort or hotel where they stay.

Barata Kahedupa Festival

Barata Kahedupa. via Instagram/kanda_73art
Barata Kahedupa. via Instagram/kanda_73art

After the completion holy month Ramadhan, Muslims all over Indonesia celebrate in a festive week. In Wakatobi, the celebration is a bit different with their Barata kahedupa Festival. Little girls are dressed with traditional costumes and then paraded on the streets. Older people are also wearing traditional dress, singing and dancing along the way.

Wakatobi WAVE

Via Instagram/jeffryhanafiah
Via Instagram/jeffryhanafiah

Wakatobi Wonderful Festival and Expo (Wakatobi WAVE) is held on Wangi-wangi Island. This festival displays more cultural side of Wakatobi. You can see their traditional dances, folk games, music, art performance, and culinary party. Tourists are also involved in many competitions such as photography, Triathlon, and the hilarious pole climbing competition.

Kasuami

Kasuami Wakatobi. via Instagram/
Kasuami Wakatobi. via Instagram/kitaina.id

Kasuami is made from grated cassava that is dried, and then it’s steamed till soft. The dough then sieved to separate the bigger grains from the smaller and softer ones. Only the softest part are taken into a cone made of woven bamboo. It is then cooked again for approximately 15 minutes.

Best Place to enjoy Kasuami:

  • Kasuami can be found in many warungs near the beaches of Wakatobi.
  • You can also find Kasuami in other part of Southeast Sulawesi Province.

Parende

Parende Wakatobi. via Instagram/
Parende Wakatobi. via Instagram/dapurcicii06

Parende is traditionally only served during special occasions in Wakatobi. It is basically a fish soup made from freshly caught fish. The soup is made with sautéed lemongrass, turmeric, onions, and chili. Parende is rather similar to Tom Yam. Parende is usually eaten along with kasuami. Parende can be found in many warungs near the beaches of Wakatobi.

Luluta

Luluta Wakatobi. via Instagram/
Luluta Wakatobi. via Instagram/wakatobi_itu.indah

Luluta is black sticky rice cooked with coconut milk and sometimes also onions in a bamboo trunk. The trunk is then grilled on top of an open flame so that the rice within can get cooked slowly. The result is quite mesmerizing. The aromatic rice served in a small bite size. Luluta can be found in traditional warungs in  Wakatobi.

How to get to Wakatobi

School of tropical fish on the colorful underwater coral reef. Scuba diving with sea wildlife. Snorkeling on the reef with fish. Sea lily, corals and anthias fish. vis Shutterstock
School of tropical fish on the colorful underwater coral reef. Scuba diving with sea wildlife. Snorkeling on the reef with fish. Sea lily, corals and anthias fish. vis Shutterstock

It is impossible to reach Wakatobi by land. This island cluster is only accessible via air or sea.

By Air. Matahora Airport is served with flight from Makassar and Kendari. Makassar is connected to nearly all big cities in Indonesia.

By Sea. There are regular departure and arrival at Wanci Port in Wangi-wangi Island to Bau-bau, Kendari, and sometimes also Makassar. Waha Port in Tomia is connected to Bau-bau, so is Buranga Port in Kaledupa Island.

Some resorts also provide an exclusive package that offers luxurious accommodation to Wakatobi. The resort will pick you up in Bali with private airplane, take you to their resort in Wakatobi, get you to some of the best diving spots, and fly you back in Bali. With this luxury travel, you don’t need to prepare much as everything is already taken care of.

Get around Wakatobi

wakatobi island_indonesia's park_best of snorkeling place in the world. (c) Shutterstock
wakatobi island_indonesia’s park_best of snorkeling place in the world. (c) Shutterstock

Getting around Wakatobi can be challenging as the only transportation mode from an island to the other is only by boat. It means that you need to rent a boat if you want to go to a certain diving spot. Thus, a careful preparation is vital if you want to enjoy your stay in these islands.

Alternatively, you can take a liveaboard to enjoy all Wakatobi had to offer. You basically will live in a luxurious boat for several days while exploring the best part of the national park. You don’t need to think about accommodation or transportation with this option. You also can enjoy many sunrises and sunsets by livingaboard.

Most exploration in Wakatobi starts in Wangi-wangi Island. While here, you can go to the dolphins’ playground in Cape Kapota. Diving spots are also abundant around this island, Oceania or Onemohu spots are the most popular ones. There is also Liya Togo cultural village.

In Kaledupa Island, you can enjoy Taduno and One Mbiha beaches. There are several smaller island around Kaledupa that offers great diving spots like Hoga Island. Tomia Island is a bit more diverse in term of tourist attractions. Apart from beautiful beaches and wonderful diving spots, Tomia also has Puncak Kahyangan, a vantage point on top of a panoramic hill. Binongko Island is mostly popular for its blacksmiths as well as Bajo villages.

Best Hotel in Wakatobi

Hoga Dive Resort. via Instagram/
Hoga Dive Resort. via Instagram/hogadiveresort
  • Wakatobi Patuno Resort – Jl. Ir. Soekarno No. 1, Wangi-Wangi, Patuno, Wangi-Wangi – From IDR477,908
  • Hoga Dive Resort – Ambeua Raya, Kaledupa, Wakatobi Regency – From IDR594,352
  • Abi Jaya – Karang Island, Tomia, Wakatobi Regency – From IDR350,000

Note that there are lots of resorts that provide accommodations as well as diving and snorkeling packages. Their prices might vary from time to time.