Wakatobi, the Great Barrier Reef of Indonesia

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 National Marine Park covers an entire Wakatobi District and covers an area of one and a half million hectare. The name Wakatobi itself is a portmanteau of four biggest islands in Tukangbesi Islands; Wangi-wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia, and Binongko. This park is listed as tentative World Heritage Site since 2005.

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

Simply said, Wakatobi offers the best diving experience unlike anywhere else because it has the highest number of reef and fish species in the world. The 143 islands within the area are forming a large barrier reef, second only to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia.

Wangi-wangi, The Gateway to Underwater Nirwana

Wanci island - Wakatobi. (c) shutterstock
Wanci island – Wakatobi. (c) shutterstock

Almost all of activities in Wakatobi starts in Wangi-wangi. Most resorts and amenities are located in this island. Plus, Wangi-wangi Island has Matahora Airport that makes it ideal for a hub to explore the whole area. Still, Wangi-wangi that sometimes also called Wanci Island also has many beautiful spots to explore such as watching hundreds of dolphins in their natural habitat. As the largest island in the area, Wangi-wangi is also rich in cultural attractions.

A Serene Aquamen in Kaledupa

House of Bajo Tribe in Wakatobi, Sulawesi, Indonesia. (c) Shutterstock
House of Bajo Tribe in Wakatobi, Sulawesi, Indonesia. (c) Shutterstock

Bajo people are known to be a legendary nomadic sea-faring people who explore the ocean in Southeast Asia. There is a Bajo Sampela village where three thousand Bajo people live. This island is otherwise a serene place, protected by mangrove forest. Diving spots around the island are abundant and there are also some wonderful beaches with white sand.

Beauty From The Bottom of The Ocean to The Stars in Tomia

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

Tomia Island has more than 40 diving spots, the most at the park. Its world famous Roma’s reef presents a challenging and yet rewarding diving experience. The reef is a bustling underwater city with Giant Trevallies, sea snakes, colorful fish, and turtles. All live harmoniously, creating an unreal natural synchronization. Above the sea level, there are beautiful beaches and a Paradise Peak where you can clearly see the Milky Way during the night as there are no light pollution.

Swimming with Thousand Fishes at Blacksmith Island of Binongko

Jack fish school in Wakatobi National Park, Indonesia. (c) Shutterstock
Jack fish school in Wakatobi National Park, Indonesia. (c) Shutterstock

At this point, talking about the marine beauty is repetitive since every place in this national park offers exotic underwater diving experience. Binongko Island might offer a more diverse experience. This island is known as the Blacksmith Island because there are many blacksmith there. In a spring called Topa Mata, you can also find an endemic huge bat species known as flying fox. It has a wingspan of 1.5 meter!

How to Get There

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

Wakatobi is not accessible by land. You can fly to Matahora Airport from Kendari or Makassar. A returns flight from Makassar to Matahora costs approximately USD150 with Wings Air. More options are available with boats. Several boats departs from Baubau to wakatobi daily, while ferry from Kendari is also available. Alternatively, Wakatobi Dive Resort offers exclusive packages including direct flights from Bali to the resort’s private airstrip.