Wakatobi National Park: Indonesia’s Ultimate Tropical Islands


You may have thought Bali was paradise on Earth (which OK, it practically is), but there are many more places in Indonesia that look like they came right out of a movie. One tropical region particularly tickled my fancy: Wonderful Wakatobi, especially Wakatobi National Park! The national park is part of the archipelago in southeastern Sulawesi, Indonesia, and consists of several islands. The four main islands are Wangi-Wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia, and Binongko (Wa-Ka-To-Bi).  I visited Wakatobi last month and found the very best places to visit on Indonesia’s ultimate tropical islands. Let me tell you all about the most beautiful hotspots in this dreamy archipelago.

Snorkelling in Wakatobi National Park
Snorkelling in Wakatobi National park, Indonesia.

Explore the Underwater World in Wakatobi National Park

The Wakatobi archipelago is located in the so-called Coral Triangle, a precious ecoregion. In the Coral Triangle, we’ve identified hundreds of reef-building coral species. What does this mean? Well, the islands themselves may already look like picture-perfect vacation destinations. But Wakatobi’s underwater world is even more breathtaking!

The Coral Triangle only covers 0.6% of the planet’s oceanic area, so it’s a very small habitat. Nevertheless, the region is home to a whopping 76% of all known coral species in the world. So, it comes as no surprise that most of Wakatobi is part of Wakatobi National Park, a protected marine reserve.

Traditional dancers on Cemara Beach, Wakatobi.
Traditional dancers on Cemara Beach, Wakatobi.

Cemara Beach: My Favourite Swimming Spot in Wakatobi

Cemara Beach looks exactly like one of those flawless beaches I imagine in my tropical vacation fantasies. The white sand and swaying palm trees had me convinced. Truly, Cemara Beach is one of the prettiest beaches I’ve ever seen. It’s one of mos relaxing places on the islands to take a dip and go swimming in the sparkly blue water.

Locals often have lunch and barbecues at the beach and there are usually people selling fresh coconuts and ice-cream. It goes without saying that there are also nearby snorkelling and diving sites. Perfect to admire the unique corals reefs and colourful fishes! I even saw a black and white sea snake slithering near the ocean floor. I was so excited that I accidentally pissed it off, so don’t get too close!

Every Indonesian island community has their own traditional dances.
Every Indonesian island community has their own traditional dances.

Make to trip to Hoga Island: An (Almost) Deserted Paradise

If you think Cemara Beach sounds like a dream, wait until you see my photos of Hoga Island. Yep, I can confirm that Hoga Island is as close as you’re ever going to get to a deserted tropical island. I mean “deserted” like not actually deserted. No, not quite in the sense of being stranded with your best friend Wilson the Volleyball. Forget about Jack and Rose, that farewell scene made me cry harder than Titanic ever did.

Aside from a handful other vacationers, you’ll have the entire beach to yourself to sunbathe, swim, and snorkel. All you can hear is soft melody of the gentle waves rolling ashore. And rumour has it: the reef at Hoga is one of the best in Wakatobi!

Hoga Island in Indonesia is part of Wakatobi National Park.
Hoga Island in Wakatobi is one of the most peaceful places in Indonesia.

Visit a Bajo Village and Meet the Last of the Sea Nomads

The Bajo people are a Southeast Asian ethnic group that spend most of their lives at sea. There are several villages in Wakatobi, close to Wangi-Wangi and Hoga island. The Bajo people are master fishermen and mainly earn their living by selling their catch.

Admirably, they build their houses, schools, and mosques on poles, high above the water surface. If the water is too deep to build a house, they gather rocks and reef to create a foundation. Their villages don’t have streets, but dozens of boardwalks and bridges that connect the families.

The traditional culture of the Bajo people is quickly changing. Some have started calling the Bajo the “last of the sea nomads”. Accordingly, a visit to one of their villages is an extraordinary opportunity to get in touch with local culture. I absolutely appreciated getting to see their way of living as they allowed us to visit their village. If you decide to go to one of the Bajo villages, do remember to behave in a respectful manner. This is because you are visiting someone’s home, not a theme park!

The Bajo People of Indonesia also live in villages in Wakatobi.
The Bajo People of Indonesia live also in villages in Wakatobi.

Practical Travel Tips: How to Get to Wakatobi National Park

Flying to Wakatobi: The best way to get to Wakatobi is to fly to Matahora Airport on Wangi-Wangi island. Flying to Wakatobi from Jakarta is definitely the easiest option.

Transport to the islands: Cemara Beach is located on Wangi-Wangi. However, the beaches of Hoga Island and Bajo villages can only be reached by boat, which you will have to rent. Renting a boat is perhaps easiest as part of a tour package. Conveniently, such tour packages usually include accommodation and stops at multiple destinations. Usually, that would include the places mentioned in this blog post. Personally, we explored the islands of Wakatobi with Wakatobi Dive Trip (and I would definitely recommend them).

This blog post was made possible by the Trip of Wonders 2016 in #WonderfulIndonesia. A very special thanks to Indonesia.Travel for inviting me on this incredible journey!


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