Located in the southeastern part of Sulawesi and comprising of 4 islands, the Wakatobi is one beautiful marine national park. The Wakatobi extends 1.39 hectares which makes it the second biggest sanctuary in Indonesia. This park contains white beaches, breath-taking coral reefs, and numerous dolphins and whales. Located at the epicenter of the Indo-Pacific, diving is in fact at its finest.
Known to have at least 3000 different species of marine life, this region is recognized as the heart of marine biodiversity in the entire planet. This recognition is coupled with the sanctuary’s stunning features from the virgin condition of the corals and the diversity of the organisms present.
The House Reef
Actually three different sites are accessible directly off the beach in front of the resort. It’s only 50 yards from the shoreline to the drop-off. You can go right, left, or enjoy the broad center reef. Highlights are a great variety of fishes, invertebrates, macro subjects, beautiful soft corals, gorgonian’s, tunicates, whips, sponges, rays, overhangs, and beyond all else an unsurpassed rainbow of color.
An extension of the house reef, this is one of the very best soft coral dives. Often compared with “Hanging Gardens” at Sipadan, it’s actually yet larger and more diverse. Every part of the reef is covered with color and life.
Begin by plunging deep, where forests of immense yellow wire corals spiral 15 feet or higher off the steeply sloping wall. Then work your way up to the 60-foot range, where a continuing overhanging ledge harbors big sea fans framed in colorful soft corals. The brightly hued corals continue up to within a foot or two of the surface, flashing with schooling fish life.
Beginning as a gentle slope, Inka’s Palette plummets into the depths with multiple overhangs. There are very large tube sponges and a giant tridachna clam. The top section is covered in huge leather corals. As its name suggests, you will enjoy a colorful palette of hard and soft corals and good fish life.
Similar to Inka’s in the array of life, the colors are diverse yet slightly more subdued to pastel hues. At depth, gardens of neon yellow wire corals spiral out into surrealistic shapes. Just remember that it’s the current that makes the soft corals bloom.
When the current and sun are right this is a delightful shallow drift through an endless, brightly lit coral garden. A constant overhang runs from 15 to 30 feet. Two large canyons contain schools of batfish and bronze snappers. It’s also a good spot for the chance to encounter turtles, eagle rays, and schools of bumphead parrotfish.
This is a long ridge running from 15 down to 80 feet. It features huge sea fans, coral heads adorned in bright soft corals, and feather stars blooming in a frequently swift current. The saddle that bridges the reef contains blue ribbon eels, leaf fishes, crocodile fish, scorpion fish, nudibranches, and more.
Starting in bright rays of light as shallow as five feet, large schools of fusiliers, pyramid butterfly, sergeant majors, hound fish, red tooth triggerfish and others swirl around you in an endless dance. A compact pinnacle in the center of the reef, crammed with color and life, is a complete dive in itself. Banded sea snakes are common here, but fear not, they are placid creatures and make exciting photo subjects.
When to Dive Wakatobi
It is possible to dive off the beach all year around, but May to December with air temperatures around 30°C and water temperatures at 25 – 28°C is the best season. January and April are usually transitional months, February/March receive the most rain. There are no tropical storms or long periods of heavy rain. The annual rain falls are four times lower than the Indonesian average. There is more wind from Southeast June to August causing medium waves at exposed dive sites. From September to mid December the conditions are mostly very calm and perfect for diving. The guest house is equipped with fans, but because there is mostly a gentle wind we rarely use them, it gets even refreshingly cool in the early morning (22°C).
Indonesian diving is well known for unpredictable currents. At Wakatobi it is not uncommon to experience occasional current changes during the course of a dive. As a result, some are anchor dives and others are planned as drift dives. The boat operators are very good at following the bubbles, and divers are provided with large and effective inflatable surface markers. Many dives may be enjoyed with moderate or little current, but overall this is a destination for more experienced divers, comfortable and capable of diving in current and a variety of conditions.
Where to Stay in Wakatobi
Wakatobi Resort is located on the island of Onemobaa in South East Sulawesi. Sited where the Banda Sea and Flores Sea meet, the extensive Wakatobi National Marine Park encompasses hundreds of kilometers of pristine reefs guaranteeing exclusive diving well of the beaten track.
Onemobaa is part of the the Tukang Besi Archipelago, or Isles of the Iron Smiths. The name harps back to the Dutch colonial era. By the time the ships sailed from Batavia (Jakarta) to the Spice Islands further east, they needed nails to repair their ships, and a flourishing trade in iron mongery arose on the islands.
The resort takes her name “Wakatobi” from an acronym made from the names of the four principle islands: Wanci, Kaledupa, Tomia and Binongko.
Wakatobi Dive Resort was set up with a clear mission: to establish a win-win situation for the reefs, the local community and sound eco-tourism in Wakatohi national Marine Park, and, most importantly, to keep Wakatobi alive for future generations.
“Why Live Aboard when there is Wakatobi”? is the resort’s motto. And rightfully so. This place was envisioned, developed and is managed by Swiss people, and you can tell. The service is outstanding and the resort impeccably kept. It is located on a pristine white sandy beach fringed by swaying palms. A traditional wooden “Longhouse” is at the heart of the resort. It is where the regular guestrooms, the dive center, the restaurant and the Sunset Lounge are located. If you desire more privacy and personal space there are a number of Grand Bungalows located around the resort, right on the beach.
One of the best things of Wakatobi is the unlimited shore diving on one what must be one of the best house reefs in the world. The multitude of dive sites include stunning drop-offs, walls, underwater ridges and isolated sea mounts. Because it has been a protected marine reserve for so long and the waters were unaffected by El Nino, even the most critical diver can revel in the marine life here.
The daily dive schedule consists of an early morning beach dive before breakfast if you are up for it. Then there is a two tank boat dive trip before lunch. “Taxi” boat dives are scheduled in the afternoon or you can do more beach dives on your own schedule. Once you show the dive master your diving ability you are pretty much free to dive whenever and wherever you want; the perfect situation for underwater photographers.
Also very impressive is their fully equipped camera facilities including the use of computers for us digital photographers.
How to get to Wakatobi
It used to be a hike to get there with changing planes and long ferry rides but no more. It is relatively easy to get to Wakatobi because this superb resort even has its very own airstrip with regularly scheduled, direct flights from Bali which take you there in 2 1/4 hours. There is plenty of luggage space for your dive and camera equipment without any limits for resort guests! From the airstrip in Sulawesi it is only a short boat ride to the resort.
Feeling inspired and raring to go? Check out our Wakatobi travel guide and start planning your next diving trip!