Wakatobi, in Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia, is known as one of the best world-class dive sites, so diving in Wakatobi is a must. It covers four big islands of Wangi-Wangi Island (as the capital of this regency), Kaledupa Island, Tomia Island, Binongko Island – which all form the acronym for Wakatobi itself. As an overview of Wakatobi destination, it can be reached by flights from various cities in Indonesia through Wangi-Wangi directly or to Bau-bau before taking the boat to Wanci.
Wakatobi National Park
Wakatobi has become the third-largest marine national park in Indonesia (established in 2002) and comprises 1.4 million hectares of marine biodiversity with over 942 fish species and 750 coral reef species. Located in the Asia-Pacific World Coral Triangle, this park is listed as a tentative World Heritage Site in 2005 and included in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves in 2012. As a complex of a marine protected area, Wakatobi National Park is divided into some zones with different levels of fishing and tourism, including no-take zones and traditional use zones. Besides coral reefs, some other habitats found in Wakatobi National Park include mangrove forest, coastal forest, lowland swamp forest, riverbank vegetation, lowland rainforest, and mountain rainforest. If you are not into diving, you can also enjoy the pristine white sandy beach and encounter the locals of "Bajo tribe" in their daily lives.
Marine life to see during diving in Wakatobi
If you have Wakatobi as one of your diving bucket lists, it cannot go wrong. You will see more of the healthy and colorful coral reef life and the diverse marine life than larger creatures like mantas or sharks – although there are some spots where you can encounter them. For underwater photographers, you might have heard that it is a famous destination for macro photography due to its wealth of coral and small creatures.
Wakatobi best dive sites
Here are some of the popular and best Wakatobi dive sites to explore and what you can expect:
- The House Reef is located in front of Wakatobi Dive Resort, accessible directly off the beach. The distance is only approximately 50 meters from the shoreline to the drop-off, where you can see a great variety of fishes, invertebrates, macro objects, beautiful soft corals, gorgonians, tunicates, whips, sponges, rays, overhangs, etc.
- Roma, a popular coral garden dive site, has a large pinnacle in the center of the reef surrounded by various colors and lives and serves as a home for banded sea snakes, large schools of fusiliers, pyramid butterfly, sergeant majors, hound fish, red tooth triggerfish, ribbon eels, scorpion leaf fish, winged pipefish, spindle cowries, carpet anemone shrimps, and rock mover wrasses.
- Lorenz's Delight, located near Tomia Island, is where you will be welcomed in the immense yellow wire corals and the steeply sloping wall, then presented for the colorful soft corals and sea fans with flashing fish life.
- Kapota Ridge, where you can encounter the regular sittings of pelagic species like dogtooth tuna and giant trevallies.
- Turtle Transporter, where a steady current flows, will bring you along the wall and feature many overhangs and caves where giant turtles rest. Sometimes, you can also see a group of eagle rays, snappers, and Napoleon wrasse.
- Karang Gurita features a stunning eye-shaped coral atoll where you can dive between the walls, coral gardens, plateaus, ridges, and slopes. Besides big sponges and sea fans, colorful soft and hard corals, schooling trevallies, barracudas, turtles, rays, reef sharks, you might also encounter the hammerhead sharks if you are lucky!
- Fan Garden features the stunning wall and a steep slope where healthy reefs and sea fans become a home for various fishes, including a large school of humphead parrotfishes. This is one of the easy dive sites to explore.
- Magnifica offers a heterogeneous underwater landscape, from the reef, slope, to the extreme depths. With a drift diving along the reef, it will bring you to see all the schools of snappers, skipjacks, huge barracudas, and many other fishes. If you go slower, you might be able to see the macro stuff, such as cuttlefishes, mandarin fishes, nudibranchs, shrimps, etc.
Tips for diving in Wakatobi
It's not difficult to go diving in Wakatobi. There are many dive resorts and dive centers offering day trips or liveaboard to some of the best dive sites in Wakatobi. However, if you stay in Wangi-Wangi, you might find more options of diving companies and hotels. But if you are looking for a more exclusive alternative, you can reserve a diving package from one of the dive resorts around the islands or some luxurious liveaboard cruises.
With warm water between 26-30 Celcius (68-86 Fahrenheit) throughout the year, you don't have to worry about the suit to wear for diving in Wakatobi: you can use a rash guard for snorkeling, and 1mm or 3mm wetsuit for diving while the best diving season runs between March and December.