With 50 diving spots, 750 out of earth’s 850 coral species, and nearly 1000 species of fish, there is no denying the riches of Wakatobi’s marine life, all spread across an astounding 1.39 million hectares.
In 1996, the Indonesian government officially granted the area national park status, and today this small archipelago in southeastern Sulawesi has become a go-to destination for discerning divers. Not just out at sea, its main islands also offer wonders to enjoy for those looking to catch their breath from a day of diving.
Together with Marshall Sastra, host of Trans TV’s My Trip My Adventure program, Traveloka explores the endless beauty of Wakatobi.
The Islands of Wakatobi
The name Wakatobi itself is an acronym for the four main islands that make up the region: Wangi-Wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia, and Binongko. Each of these islands present their own charm, from the best sunset viewing spots, a savanna that overlooks the sea, to a natural bath amidst a mangrove forest.
Wangi-Wangi is the administrative center for the Wakatobi Regency.
A gateway to the region, this island is home to Matahora Airport.
Main attractions: Kaluku Beach, Sala Tonga Forest Beach, Liya Tongo Fort, Waginopo Peak, Tupa Lake Cave, and many more.
There is also Wasabi Nua, a restaurant perched atop a natural rock. This place also offers a magnificent view of the sunset.
Tips: dengan jumlah penginapan yang lebih banyak dan beragam dibanding pulau-pulau lain, Pulau Wangi-Wangi bisa menjadi opsi utama saat Anda memilih hotel.
"Wasabi Nua is perfect to enjoy a beautiful sunset. It really is the best spot. Plus the cool air and greeneries are relaxing and make you feel at home."
- Marshall Sastra
Surrounded by a mangrove forest, Kaledupa Island is the greenest compared to Wakatobi’s other islands.
Main attractions: Sombano Beach, Peropa Beach, Jamaraka Peak, and mangrove tourism.
Another attraction in Kaledupa is Hendaopa in Lagole Village, a natural bath surrounded by stalactites and stalagmites. To get there, take a small boat or canoe to avoid damaging the corals spread around the island.
Tips: with the island’s trees, come its mosquitos. Make sure to apply mosquito repellent to protect from bites.
"Hendaopa is such a hidden treasure, anyone would be lucky to find this spot."
- Marshall Sastra
The island is home to Kayangan Peak, a savanna located atop Kayangan Hill, from which you can enjoy views of expansive greens and the ocean’s blue.
Kayangan Peak is also one of the best spots to experience the magic of Wakatobi’s sunsets.
Other attractions: Huntete Beach and Hondue Beach.
On the second moon of the Islamic calendar, the island is host to the Safara Traditional Celebration, where locals gather to decorate boats and bring food that would later be thrown out to the sea as offerings.
Tips: the trip to Kayangan Hill is best taken on a motorbike to easily explore corners of the area. If comfort is a priority, however, traveling by car is also an option.
"Marine life in Wakatobi is indeed the best. But Kayangan Hill is no less beautiful."
- Marshall Sastra
Binongko Island is surrounded by beautiful rocky hills.
There are 10 historical fortresses to explore on this island, all of which date back to the Binongko Kingdom era around the 13th century.
The island regularly hosts Festival Kepulauan Tukang Besi or the Ironsmith Islands Festival. Taking place annually in June and July, the festival highlights Binongko’s culture and iron crafts.
The island has minimal transportation and lighting.
Tips: pack food supplies when visiting, as there aren’t that many places to eat on the island.
Wakatobi's Underwater Wonders
Wakatobi is a paradise for divers. From the many dive sites around the region, these four stand out with their own unique characteristics.
Location: near Tomia Island
At a depth of 50 meters, there are two sides to this dive site: one populated with soft corals, and the other with hard corals.
The story has it that this spot owes its name, Mari Mabuk (literal translation: "let’s get drunk"), to its underwater beauty that is bound to “intoxicate” any spectator.
Tips: the marine life here is very dense, so be careful not to step on anything while diving.
Location: near Kaledupa Island
One of the go-to spots to observe milkfish swimming around in large schools, typically in a group of hundreds.
You may also find sea turtles in this area.
Ali Reef Area has a unique hilly topography.
Tips: the current on Ali Reef Area is quite strong. When diving, hook a rope to the rock to ensure you don’t get carried away.
Location: near Tomia Island
This dive site is called Roma due to a 10-meter colosseum-like ear coral that can be found in the area.
Here you’ll find red-toothed triggerfish and other groups of colorful fish.
Roma is suitable for beginner divers. The water here ranges between 18 – 20 degrees Celsius and has an average visibility of 20 – 40 meters.
Tips: there are several dive centers in Tomia that can guide and accompany you to dive sites around the island, such as. Tomia Dive Center (081245690489) and Tomia Scuba Dive (082187877751).
Location: 20 minutes from Tomia Island
The name Fan Garden is a reference to the many soft corals around this site that are shaped like giant fans.
With its depth—the site is up to 60 meters deep—this spot is inhabited by unique species of fish, such as stonefish, lionfish, hump head parrot, to the longnose hawkfish.
Tips: keep a safe distance from coral reefs, not only to avoid damaging them but also to make sure you don’t disturb animals behind them looking for food or hiding from predators.
Where to Stay?
Wasabi Nua Hotel & Resto
A favorite among many hotels in Wangi-Wangi, this is also a perfect location to watch the sun sets.
Wasabinua Hotel and Resto
Jl. Poros Sumbu Bandara No. 5, Wandoka Utara, Wangi-Wangi
Starts from Rp240.000/night
Wakatobi Patuno Diving & Beach Resort
This resort is suitable for those looking for a quiet stay away from any hustle and bustle.
Wakatobi Patuno Diving and Beach Resort
Jl. Ir. Soekarno No. 1, Patuno, Wangi-Wangi, Wakatobi
Starts from Rp512.050/night
Sinar Harapan Tomia Hotel
The perfect choice for tourists who are looking for accommodations closer to dive sites on Tomia Island.
Getting to Wakatobi by Plane
To visit Wakatobi, you can travel by plane to Matahora Airport on Wangi-Wangi Island. Generally, your flight will make two stops prior, first at Hasanuddin International Airport, Makassar, and then at Haluoleo Airport, Kendari. Garuda Indonesia and Wings Air both have routes flying to Wakatobi.
Getting Around Wangi-Wangi Island
To travel around the island, you can rent a car with rates ranging from Rp450.000 – Rp550.000/day.
If you do not want to rent a car for a full day, you can rent one to drop you off at your destination of choice with rates starting at Rp100.000/destination.
Rent a motorbike for Rp50.000 – Rp100.000/day, not incusive of gasoline.
All the aforementioned services above can be found around the pier on Wangi-Wangi Island.
Visiting the Islands or Dive Sites Around Wakatobi
With wooden boat
Duration: 6 hours/day for 3 days
Price: Rp15.000.000 – Rp20.000.000
Capacity: 15 – 20 people
Duration: 3 hours/day
Capacity: 8 people
Note: only available from 06:00 – 10:00
With small boat
Duration: 1 day
Price: Rp350.000 – Rp500.000
Capacity: 10 – 15 people
Note: you can also rent the boat for one-way trips for Rp100.000 – Rp150.000