I remember working at an advertising firm in Manhattan. It was January–by far one of the worst months to be in New York. The holidays had passed. The charm of snow had faded. All the was left were the months of waiting until Spring. My cubicle–which was a veritable collage of travel images–felt suffocating and colorless. So, I did what I would always do on such days, I changed my screensaver.
Green palm trees, crystal clear waters, sugar-like sand, the perfect beach. I could practically feel the heat of the sun emanating from the photo on my desktop. I have been on such beaches countless times in my life. Playa Blanca in Colombia, Playa Estrella in Panama. Tucked away beaches in the Caribbean. Palm-tree shaded paradises in Mexico. Each beach was a dream but only one felt like I had stepped into that elusive screensaver and that is Wakatobi in Indonesia.
A Quick Introduction to Wakatobi
Wakatobi is a chain of islands in the Sulawesi Tenggara Province of Indonesia. The name “Wakatobi” is actually an acronym of the four main islands: Wangi-wangi Island, Kaledupa, Tomia and Binongko. Wakatobi is home to Wakatobi National Park, a hot spot for divers and snorkerlers. In fact, Wakatobi is part of the Coral Triangle, which contains one of the richest marine biodiversity on earth!
A Guide to Visiting the Bajo People
If diving is not your passion, the island of Wangi-Wangi is home to a unique indigenous people known as the Bajo. Wangi-Wangi is one of the largest islands that make up Wakatobi; and the Bajo can be found in Mola on the Western part of the island. Since 1958, these seafaring people have settled in Wakatobi. The Bajo are direct descendants of sea nomads and rely entirely on the ocean. Living in villages built above the water, some Bajo live their entire lives without touching land.
The Bajo village of Mola can be reached by boat, motorbike or rental car. From Wancy, it is about 10 minutes by motorbike/rented car; while from Matahora Airport it is about 35 minutes by rented car. Either way, you will require a boat to reach the village itself, which is situated above water. If given the choice, opt for a boat ride to the Bajo village as you can spot dolphins and enjoy scenic views on the way. For more information on visiting the Bajo people, check out the Wakatobi tourism site.
A Destination for World Class Diving & Snorkeling
In full transparency, I’m not a diver but I can attest to the incredible snorkeling found on Wakatobi. There are a number of dive sites around Wangi-Wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia and Binongko island, which are best reached by boat. Fellow traveler and blogger, Sarah Richard of Coffeewithasliceoflife.com, is a dive master who not only went diving in Wakatobi but shares some stellar information for any visiting divers…
“Just to make it clear you’re not going to see whale sharks or mantas here. There are other locations where you can see larger schools of fish, bigger animals and experience more adrenaline-filled underwater ‘rides’, but for sheer reef scenery and marine life variety, Wakatobi is your place.” (Sarah Richard)
For more on diving in Wakatobi, certification requirements and specific dive sites make sure to check out THIS POST from Sarah!
Of course, a video is worth a million words so I’ll leave you with this video from my fellow traveler & filmmaker, Tyler Cave!
Have you gone diving before? Share your favorite diving spots in the comments section below!