There’s a lot of hype about Wakatobi. I suppose it started when Jacques Cousteau said that Wakatobi is “probably the finest diving site in the world”. However, with hype comes high expectations. My high expectations were slightly tempered by knowing that most of the hard coral at snorkeling depths in Wakatobi is dead. However, it didn’t seem like that to me because I had done enough research to know where to snorkel. As far as I know, we snorkeled at only the best spots on Pulau Tomia and chartered a boat one day to take us out to a “world-class reef”.
Pulau Tomia is the “to” in Wakatobi. The other eponymous islands are Wangiwangi, Kaledupa, and Binongko. Our first island in Wakatobi was Tomia, on a direct boat from Baubau, a 15-hour trip that some people would call an “adventure”. I was very happy to have Dramamine.
Our boat came into Waitii, not Waha, where most of the accommodation is.
We cycled towards Waha and stopped at Pantai (Beach) Soha on the way.
I jumped into the water, swam five minutes out to the reef, and was greeted to this:
I think I did come back to Pantai Soha once more during our nine days on Tomia. We spent at least three days at nearby Pantai Hundue. The two beaches are separated by about 100m of cliffs. The reef offshore of those cliffs is wow, wow, wow. The reef off both beaches is fantastic as well.
I also snorkeled two or three times from the breakwater (old jetty; aka Roma) at the SW end of Waha, a four-minute bike ride from our comfortable hotel. Pulau Tomia was stunning:
- Wakatobi has been famous for years — it’s certainly no secret
- the hotels are comfortable and not so expensive (we paid US$23/night for two with breakfast and dinner; there are cheaper options)
- access is easy: you can snorkel straight from beautiful beaches to incredible reefs
yet there are no tourists! In nine days on Tomia, the only other tourists we met were a couple from Jakarta and a man from Denmark who lives in Jakarta. All three came for the diving. The locals are friendly and welcoming.
Here are (quite) a few photos from the Roma snorkel site:
I had read that we’d see snakes in Wakatobi, but I didn’t realize that meant in the water!!! 🙂
I had read that we wouldn’t see many turtles, but I saw one about half of the days I snorkeled in Wakatobi.
On the only day that I didn’t snorkel on Tomia, Ferda and I went for a fun bike ride. We visited the old fort, Benteng Patua, with a view of neighboring Pulau Kaledupa, then crossed the center of the island and coasted down to a picnic area with views of neighboring Pulau Tolandona, Pulau Lentea, Pulau Sawa, and Pulau Binongko.
We then continued our coast all the way to the coast, rode back to the jetty at Waitii, and took a boat to the Baju village of Lamanggua on Pulau Tolandona. I can’t tell you a lot about the Baju people. The stories go that they used to live entirely on the sea. Now they’ve been settled into villages, mostly in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, I believe. They don’t own land, instead building their villages over the water. Their livelihood is from the ocean, and they’re sometimes called “sea gypsies”. We were welcomed with smiles as we wandered through their village.
You have to be careful walking here:
Children must be very careful playing:
These two were our tour guides for the second half of our visit:
It wasn’t a long ride from Waitii back to our hotel in Waha that afternoon.
Sea urchin roe harvesting was the only “industry” I saw on Tomia. We saw this same family at Pantai Hundue every day we went. They were smiling and friendly. We bought a couple urchins full of gonads (sea urchin roe is gonads, not eggs) to bring back to our hotel one evening.
Nine days was not enough to develop a routine on Tomia. I could have easily stayed longer, but Ferda could tell there might be no end to that… We can’t stay in paradise forever??!!
Here are way too many snorkeling photos. I have many, many more on flickr.