Wakatobi is made up of four islands, Wangi, Kaledupa, Tomea and Binongki. Each island gives it’s first two letters to form the group name WaKaToBi. Jacques Cousteau once called Wakatobi the finest diving in the world, but then he seemed to say that everywhere he went. There is no doubt however that this is world class diving on pristine reefs.
Wakatobi diving is either from a liveaboard boat or by staying on Wakatobi dive resort on Onemobaa Island which is an upscale resort with it’s own private plane transfer from Bali. The resort is largely to thank for opening up diving in this area and for working with the local fishing communities to promote reef conservation. The resort gives a proportion of it’s revenue to the local community and in return the local fisherman use sustainable fishing techniques. There are also large areas of reef within the national park that are off limits to fishermen. This is all good news for visiting divers.
Reefs are healthy with a large variety of corals on fringing, barrier and atoll reefs. Marine life is also prolific with an incredible diversity of species. Do not expect big fish, they are not common at Wakatobi, although plankton blooms in July and August can see some bigger visitors.
The best time to dive Wakatobi is March to December. In general, visibility is 25m+ and often much better. Currents are normally mild and the water temperature ranges from26-29°C (78-84°F) making for very pleasant diving. Note that temperature and visibility can drop during the July and August plankton blooms. Eagle rays and the odd reef shark can be seen but Wakatobi is more about diversity than big fish adventure.
Wakatobi will suit divers who like easy dives on pristine reefs in clear water (who doesn’t?). It’s an ideal location for underwater photographers.
Wakatobi dive sites
Here is just a small selection of Wakatobi dive sites. More than 50 sites have been dived and there are many more to discover.
The House Reef at the Wakatobi resort on Onamobaa Island has been dubbed the best house reef in the world. There are actually six different sites accessible directly from the beach in front of the resort. It’s a short swim out to the drop off less than 30m from the shore. As you swim out look for blue spotted stingrays in the sand as well as patches of garden eels.
Over the drop off is a pristine wall of soft corals, seafans, anemones and sponges. Look for lionfish, scorpionfish, moray eels and all manner of reef fish on the wall. Critters such as nudibranchs, shrimps and crabs are found in the crevices. Pygmy seahorse are found in seafans. Batfish may follow you for a while and turtles will ignore you as they much away on some sponge. Eagle rays are often spotted here too. Schools of fish include trevally, snapper and fusilier.
The ease and convenience of this dive make it popular with photographers doing multiple dives to hone their technique. Beginner divers will like the calm conditions, gentle current and superb visibility. The house reef is also a popular night dive with just as much to see in the dark as in the daytime.
Onamobaa Cavern is really an extension of the house reef and has beautiful soft corals hanging over the wall ledges in a rainbow of colour.
Lorenzo’s Delight is a steep sloping wall that starts just below the surface and descends deep. The wall is a kaleidoscope of colour with soft corals, huge gorgonian seafans and forests of spiraling yellow wire corals. Schools of reef fish proliferate but look closely in the coral to spot scorpion leaffish, frogfish, ornate ghost pipefish and nudibranchs.
Turkey Beach is a good place to see some bigger fish. Eagle rays, turtles and bumphead parrotfish are seen here, as are occasional white tip reef sharks. It’s a shallow and relaxed drift dive over a colourful coral garden. There are also two large canyons with schools of batfish and bronze snappers.
Roma is regarded by many as being as good a dive site as any in the world. There is a coral covered pinnacle that could be a dive in itself is home to incredible amounts of fish life. Sea snakes are almost always seen here, often several in one dive. Away from the pinnacle are coral bommies that are swept by schools of pyramid butterflyfish, red-toothed triggerfish, snapper and fusiliers. Anemones are full of anemone fish of multiple varieties. Macro life is also excellent, look for leaffish in the gorgonians and cometfish under ledges. Nudibranchs are numerous as are a myriad of crustaceans. This is a dive site that you will need to dive more than once.