Wakatobi, A Story of Paradise in South-East Sulawesi

Wakatobi as World Heritage Site

Since Wakatobi listed as tentative world heritage site in the year 2005, this amazing place which located near South-East Sulawesi became very famous either as local or international tourist destination. The name of Wakatobi itself is an acronym of four main islands which can be found at Tukangbesi Islands area and those four islands are; Wangiwangi island, Kaledupa island, Tomia island and Binongko island (WA-KA-TO-BI). Sure there are also other (smaller) islands in this area but most people will give you recommendation to visit those four main islands.

Wakatobi National Park Map

Wakatobi National Marine Park Map

This National Marine Park is one of the best in the world and it is lies between Banda Sea and Flores Sea or simply mark this coordinates to find the place (05ー12・06ー10 ‘S and 123ー20・124ー39 ‘E). The existence of Wakatobi (as a National Marine Park) can’t be separated from Sulawesi as one of major islands in Indonesia archipelago. Other factor which generates popularity of Wakatobi is most of people who live and raises in Sulawesi (especially in South and South-East Sulawesi) are well known as a good sailor since centuries ago.

Underwater paradise of Wakatobi

Once you arrived at Wakatobi you will find a great harmony between small islands which combined with bigger islands and surely the underwater adventure is the main attraction in this tourist destination. With total area about 1,390,000 ha Wakatobi National Marine Park is a perfect sanctuary for thousand of animal which categorized as endangered species.

Wakatobi from aerial view

Wakatobi National Marine Park from aerial view

You can dive and enjoy more than 20 groups of coral reefs which include atolls, barrier reefs and fringing reefs. The coral reefs are not the only attraction that you can find here since there are also group of seabirds that hunting for fishes every day and that hunting scene is cool enough to fill up your Digital Camera memory card.

Let's dance with the fish

Let’s dance with the star of underwater show at Wakatobi

Other activities for tourist who don’t like to dive are fishing and cruising with traditional boat across the Wakatobi area. The trip will take you to see vegetations in this National Marine Park such as mangrove forest, lowland rainforest and riverbank vegetation. If you love to interact with an animal then you can go to the turtle preservation area which developed by the local South-East Sulawesi Province Government. At the preservation area you can find various turtle species such as Loggerhead Sea Turtle, Hawksbill Turtle, and Olive Ridley.

Local People and How to reach Wakatobi

Near Wakatobi area there is other island called Bau-Bau and local people who live there commonly are the descendant of Bajau Tribe and Bugis Tribe. Bajau tribe is very well known for their skill to catch the fish with spear while Bugis Tribe is famous as great sailor. The Bajau Tribe passed down the spear-fishing technique since centuries ago and Bugis Tribe sailor explored the sea to Australia and Hawaii with their traditional boat called Pinishi. Today either the descendant of  Bajau Tribe or Bugis Tribe lives hand in hand with immigrants to build the area and this social activity can be seen clearly in Wakatobi.

A Traditional Pinishi Boat Sailing near Sulawesi

A Traditional Pinishi Boat Sailing near Sulawesi

Besides the harmony in Wakatobi, I notice there is also tragedy in this area and it is an illegal fishing which uses bomb or poison to kill the fish. This activity should be stopped immediately otherwise the habitat could be ruined and I am afraid that Nemo (The famous clown fish) and his friends will be banished from this area. Well, I am sure there is always a way out to overcome any problem and the spear-fishing technique (of Bajau Tribe) could be the ideal answer to keep the stability of the habitat for years ahead. Yes, if you can’t spear the fish in this area then you can buy the fish at the local fish market, that’s sound fair enough for everyone. No bomb, no poison, just spears in here (the real spears off course, not Britney Spears).

Bajau people are expert in spearfishing

Bajau people are expert in spearfishing

To reach the Wakatobi, we can set the South-East Sulawesi Province Capital, Kendari as a trip checkpoint. There are direct flights to Kendari either from Jakarta, Yogyakarta or Surabaya which operated by major airline such as Garuda Indonesia and once we arrived at Kendari we can stay for a night or we can continue the trip to Bau – Bau Island with boat for 6 hours. From Bau – Bau it is about 8 hours (sea trip) to reach Wakatobi. So, prepare your gear and see you in Wakatobi, Sulawesi – Indonesia.

By Amar Pujo Wicaksono

(Contributor at visitingjava.com)

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