Wakatobi is the third largest marine park in Indonesia and has the highest number of fish and reef species in the world. We think this might be the last healthy and thriving coral reef in the world. Diving in Wakatobi is just breathtaking. The water is full of life. We saw big schools of giant trevally, barracudas tonnes of reef fish and huge coral formations. Read everything about our trip.
How to get to Wakatobi Marine National Park?
It takes some time to make your way to Wakatobi, but it is definitely worth it to see the last healthy coral reef. The main airport of Wakatobi Marine park is on the island called Wangi-Wangi. We flew there from Makassar with a little stop over in Kendari. It took as basically a whole day to get there from Makassar. There are also some another option from Makassar with a stop over in Bau Bau.
Where to Stay on Wangi Wangi & Tomia
Wangi Wangi is the main island of the Marine Park and offers plenty of guesthouses and also one resort. You can find all hotels here. We heard the resort is not worth the money as it is relatively expensive for Indonesia. We recommend to stay in a normal guesthouse and rent a scooter to go around the island. The best is to book the hotel in advance via Traveloka or Booking.com as there are only 6 hotels on the island. We stayed one night as Wasabinua which was okay but nothing special, especially if you look at the price. But they have a nice ocean front restaurant which it is worth to check out. During the second time on Wangi Wangi we stayed at Wisma Maharani. The owner is very friendly and can also rent a scooter and bring you the airport when needed. The facilities are modern and clean and the price is only half as at Wasabinua.
Tomia is not yet developed as a tourist destination. You can only find 3 local hotels which are pretty new and cheap but more towards Indonesian tourists. We stayed at Kasilapa Bay Homestay which you can only find through Traveloka.com.
Vegan Food and Other Supplies
In general there is not much to buy on the island if you like fruits, chocolate or anything else special you should bring it from Wangi Wangi. Luckily we still had some chocolate and peanut butter fro breakfasts. There are a few restaurants on the island which mainly have chicken or fish with rice. Veggies are very scarce. There is exactly one restaurant close to Kasilapa Bay Homestay which as fried tofu. So we went there ery single day, there is just no other choice. If we would have known that before we would have brought more veggies and fruits from Wangi Wangi.
When is the Best Time to Visit Wakatobi Marine Park?
In general you can go there all year around. There are mainly 2 seasons: East winds from June to November and West winds from December to April. July and August are the most windiest month and you should avoid them. We visited end of June and had very mixed weather. Mostly sunny bit still a lot of rain and windy. Some days you definitely could not go diving but on most days it was fine.
How to Get to Tomia?
There is a local ferry and a fast boat going to Tomia daily from Wangi Wangi. The times always vary so it is the best to ask the locals about it after arriving. The ferry takes about 4 hours during good conditions and has kind of beds inside to sleep during the long ride. The fast boat can make the trip in 2 hours and only has less comfy seats. If you visit Wakatobi during windy season the boat rides can take much longer and be very discomforting. We took the smaller fast boat and had big waves so it took us almost 4 hours to arrive. We met some people who spent 6 hours on the boat. Both of us got seriously sea sick during the ride. I was partly really scared if we would make it safe to Tomia. The local ferry is much safer if you have bad weather, but I am not sure how long this ride would take.
What to Do in Wakatobi?
The most impressive things in Wakatobi can be found under water so the absolute highlight for us is diving.
Diving Around Tomia Island
We spent 3 days diving around Tomia with Ahmad. He used to be a dive master at the luxury resort next to Tomia before starting his own business. You can feel that he has years of diving experience and he showed us the best Tomia has to offer. The boat is new and very big also the equipment was in top condition. He even took lots of pictures of us under water so this is the first time we have diving pictures of both of us.
As you can see there are plenty of dive sites to choose from. The best is to ask Ahmad for advice according to what you would like to see. One of the best dive sites is Roma where you can find a school of giant trevally and huge formations of table coral. All dive sites along the atoll are so colourful and full of life you gonna love it. My favourites are these wonderful sea horses. You can see it at the end of our diving video here.
Rent a Scooter and Explore Deserted Beaches on Tomia
Tomia is a beautiful island which is best to explore by motorbike. You will mist likely not meet any other tourists but lots of warm hearted locals. We found 3 awesome lonely beaches to explore. There are no proper signs to find the beaches we just relied on Google maps to find our way. The roads are partly very bad so drive carefully.
Pantai Hu’untete: Very lovely remote beach with nice snorkelling if it is not to wavy. Unfortunately like everywhere in Indonesia the beach is full of plastic.
The other 2 nice beaches don’t really have a name they are very close to each other and are beautiful for sunset and hanging out on the beach. Please see them marked on the map below.
Visit the Tomia Sign
There is a wonderful view point on the little hill in the middle of the island. From there you can enjoy breathtaking views over Tomia and take some nice picture with the Tomia sign. Sunset is the best time to visit for purple and red skies. This place is also very famous among locals during the evenings. I really loved to run up the hill in the evenings. Its about 25 minutes from our hotel and a great challenge.
Explore Local Markets
Unfortunately there is not much to buy on Tomia. There are some shops which sell Coca Cola and cookies but thats about it. If you drive through town and are extremely lucky you might find a local selling a papaya once in while. Nevertheless there is a small market on the island. It is a bit tricky to find you can find it marked in the map below. Locals are selling their grown goods here and freshly caught fish. Don’t expect much they don’t have any fruits but some tomatoes and greens. We found some very delicious vegan sweets on the market you must try. It is a kind of coconut ball, I had 3 of them in a row because they are so good and I always need my sweets.
Snorkeling on Wangi-Wangi
Wangi-Wangi is quite populated and therefore the coral reefs are not at all comparable to the pristine reefs around Tomia island. But you can still find some decent spots for snorkelling and nice beaches for tanning. The first spot Sombu pier from where you can jump into the water. The second place is on a beautiful beach a bit north of the first spot called Pantai Cemara. The beach was wonderful and the snorkelling decent. You can also find guys selling coconuts on the beach.
Unfortunately you can already see a big damage on the coral reef on Wangi Wangi. I would say there is only 50% of the original reef remaining. Global warming, over fishing and environmental pollution are also big problems here.
Unfortunately we did not have enough time to do the dolphin tour, but we heard it is a really nice experience. Just ask at your hotel about information for a tour.
Visit the Nomadic Bajo Communities on Wangi-Wangi
Wakatobi is home to sea gypsies called Bajo communities. Originally they were living on houses on the water. You can find a Bag village on Wangi-Wangi which is half in the water and half a proper village. There is a little tourist office who offers free walking tours, but as we visited we could not find anybody. You can just walk along the streets by yourself and meet the friendly Bajo people. People are very interested in visitors and like to take pictures together. Especially the kids had fun following as around giggling and playing with us. You can see that Bajo communities are much poorer then the other people on the island they mostly live on fishing. The amount of plastic everywhere in the village really made me worry about the people’s health.
If you love the under water world as much as we do then this is a must travel dive destination. We found the most beautiful corals here compared to all other places we have been to. If you are in Sulawesi you also might like to visit wonderful Bira and the exotic Banda Islands.