After such a brilliant time on Pulau Tomia, we knew to have lower expectations for Wanci (aka Wangiwangi, the “Wa” of Wakatobi). The best snorkeling was supposed to be north of the city at Sombu so we headed there the first day. Our first impression of the island, however, was lots of traffic and a sprawling city. We arrived at a jetty a ways south of the center. Along the way north looking for a place to stay, we passed a Baju Village and a Baju Resort, a resort built over the water like a Baju village. Unfortunately it was closed for maintenance — like almost everything we’ve seen in Sulawesi, it did indeed look like it was in need of some maintenance.
We ended up staying at an overpriced hotel in the center. We only spent two days on Wangiwangi, but we might have spent a few more had we found Hasan’s resort, Wasabi Nua, on our first day there. We only found it on our last evening and had dinner and a beer while watching the sunset. The rooms were Japanese-style, and it seems Hasan has done a good job.
In two days I snorkeled both north and south of the Sombu Jetty. This area has short sections of reef that are every bit as good as what we saw on Tomia. However, the keyword there is “short”. In Tomia these brilliant sections of reef would go on for as long as I wanted to snorkel. Here on Wangiwangi with a strong current one day, I cruised right by the good section in about two minutes. 🙁 Thankfully there wasn’t always so much current.
We had hoped to spend one day at Pantai Cemara. It looks nice, doesn’t it?
There were even shade structures built in a beautiful grove of coconut trees. However, there was too much trash everywhere, too much construction noise, and a backhoe was sitting in the sea marring the view (just out of sight in the above photo). There’s certainly tourism potential in Wakatobi, but they have some work to do. Hopefully they do a good job.
Before coming to Sulawesi I had been worried that getting on and off the ferries with our loaded bicycles would be a difficult, hot, chaotic challenge, but it was usually quite easy. However, the first chaos we encountered was leaving Wanci on what turned out to be our last boat journey of the trip. There was one narrow plank for everyone walking up and down, and this provided access for two ships — the second ship was moored to the first instead of the pier. Thankfully there were some guards making sure everyone was either going up or down the ramp — not both at the same time. Still, there was a constant stream of people for at least an hour, carrying everything imaginable — bananas, full-sized mattresses, huge boxes, motorcycles. Certainly no one looked twice at our bicycles. We treated ourselves to a first-class air-conditioned cabin, making for a rather comfortable 10-hour crossing to Kendari.
Kendari, like most cities in Sulawesi, doesn’t have much nice about it. The one excursion I wanted to do was to see the giant clams at Desa (village) Toli Toli (not to be confused with the city of the same name in Central Sulawesi). I had read about the Toli Toli Labengki Giant Clam Marine Park Conservation program on the internet, but I couldn’t get anyone to respond to my e-mails. At Sombu (the snorkeling area on Wanci) we ran into the diver Pak Akas who put us in touch with Pak Habib, an English speaker who seems to be in charge of the giant clam project. He recommended showing up in the morning for better visibility, but unfortunately the visibility was pretty crappy the day we went out there. Still, I managed a few photos of the colorful giant clams (many more on flickr).
If you’re looking to donate to a very grassroots organization in a country where more people are eating the endangered giant clams than trying to save them, well, you could do much worse than these folks.
Ferda managed to get a photo of a tourist tasting a giant clam:
Finally, after a month in Sulawesi it’s time to start cycling. However, I must say even if we were just doing the island portion of our trip from Baubau to Kendari, it was still worth bringing the bicycles. We were very glad to have them.