Wakatobi Snorkeling Guide
wakatobi reef and text

Location Description

Wakatobi is technically a regency of 150 small islands off the southeast coast of Sulawesi, but when we talk about Wakatobi as a snorkeling destination, we mean the area within that regency that is a national park. Wakatobi is one of Indonesia’s most famous, and also most remote snorkeling destinations as it only has one snorkeling resort in the entire area, Wakatobi Resort. Wakatobi’s remote location in the heart of the Banda Sea—an area well known for its vibrant reefs—combined with the fact that there is very little tourism or development of any kind in the area make it of Indonesia’s most beautiful snorkeling destinations.

Despite its remote location, Wakatobi is incredibly easy and comfortable to arrive to as the resort has its own charter flight twice weekly from Bali. The flight is just two and a half hours and lands on a private airstrip located on the neighboring island, Tomia. The boat ride from Tomia to Wakatobi Resort on Tolandona Island takes about twenty to thirty minutes, at which point you will disembark and be on the doorsteps to the fantastic resort.

 The area’s best snorkeling sites are within close proximity to the resort, anywhere from 10-20 minutes away, and will be done via Wakatobi Resort’s spacious snorkeling boats. The resort also has a really amazing house reef which starts just beyond the white sand beach and extends from hundreds of meters in either direction.

aerial view of wakatobi resort

Snorkeling

The snorkeling around Wakatobi is particularly awesome for a number of reasons. First of all, the area’s remoteness combined with the fact that it’s a protected area mean that the reefs are in absolutely amazing condition. Truly some of the best in Indonesia, and they come right to the surface and just keep going and going. During certain moon phases there may be a bit of current, but nothing outrageous by any means, and because the snorkeling sites are so expansive you could easily just keep casually drifting over the stunning reefs for as long as you wanted. The second thing to note about the snorkeling at Wakatobi is the resort’s house reef. Wakatobi Resort sits on one really incredible section of reef, and because it’s just a few steps from your bungalow it offers the added convenience of being able to snorkel it whenever you like.

Wakatobi is made up of many small islands and a few atolls which just barely break the surface. Each of these different islands and atolls has an expansive coral shelf or plateau that skirts the entirety of the island extends for hundreds of meters out from the shore. The reefs gently slope away from the shoreline and in many cases plunge into vertical walls pocked with crevices, ledges, and overhangs where brilliantly colored soft corals and sea fans cling. The reef in Wakatobi also happen to be some of the most biodiverse in the world, let alone Indonesia, and are generally made up of a vast assortment of hard corals like table coral, stag-horn, and lettuce corals with some beautiful colonies of sponges, sea-fans, and the brilliantly colored soft corals mixed in.

beautiful soft coral in Wakatobi

Marine Life

Wakatobi has an astounding number of reef fish, and actually has one of the highest species counts for reef fish anywhere in the world. During our Wakatobi snorkeling safaris, the majority of our time spent cruising over the reefs and just enjoying the explosion of color caused by the jaw-dropping density of these beautiful species, while also searching for those slightly more elusive species like crocodile fish, cuttlefish, and nudibranchs.

Schooling fish over coral reef

While the area does have schools of bigger fish like jacks, snappers, and batfish, they do tend to reside on the deeper portions of the reef and can be a bit out of reach of snorkelers. You can definitely see these larger schools, it’s just not typically an up-close encounter.

 

Likely Marinlife Encounters

Wakatobi Snorkeling Season

Wakatobi makes for a fantastic snorkeling destination as it has a much more mild climate and isn’t typically affected by the harsh annual monsoon seasons that affect other parts of Indonesia. Snorkeling in Wakatobi is suitable year-round.

Air temperatures is pretty consistently around 79-86°f with about 75-80% humidity. Water temperatures and visibility are also consistently warm and clear with the average temperature being around 80°f.

aerial view of wakatobi resort

Marine life encounters really don’t change too much throughout the year as most of the inhabitants aren’t migratory species, though July and August do see a bit more fishy action as this is the time of year when the coral spawn and the reef fish come into eat feed. On any one of our snorkeling safaris to Wakatobi you can expect to cruise over beautiful reefs, clouds of colorful reef fish combined with a bounty of unique critters.

Snorkeling Holiday Examples

With the variety of guide-led group snorkeling safaris that we offer, there are a number of ways to snorkel in Wakatobi.

One of the quickest and easiest ways logistically, is to join a snorkel safari that we call the Wakatobi Snorkel Week. With this particular snorkel safari we fly, as a group, from Bali to Wakatobi via the charter flight and indulge in all the fantastic things Wakatobi offers—from the outstanding snorkeling to the amenities this upscale resort has on hand. Every day after breakfast we’ll jump on our own private snorkel boat complete with guides and head out to the many different reefs for at least three different snorkels on three different sites.

Vast coral reef with snorkelers above

The resort’s fantastic house reef is also always open for those that want to spend a day relaxing at the resort and snorkel at their leisure, or for those that just haven’t had enough after the days snorkeling excursions and want to spend every waking moment in the water. As with just about all our snorkeling safaris, all meals, snorkeling, accommodations, transfers, and internal flights are included. Alcohol and rental equipment are generally the only additional costs.   

Another snorkel safari option would be our combination tours which include Wakatobi as well as one other destination, like Misool in Raja Ampat, or in the case of our Epic Indonesia Snorkeling Safari; Alor, Komodo, Bali, and Misool in Raja Ampat. These types of tours that include Wakatobi as well as other destinations are a great way to experience the jaw-dropping beauty of Wakatobi while also being able to see and experience some of the other top snorkeling sites in Indonesia.

 

About Author

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Alex Lindbloom
Alex is a Snorkel Venture and Dive Safari Asia guide as well as the video and photo pros for both companies. Alex is also a field editor for a popular underwater photography magazine. Prior to joining Snorkel Venture in 2018 Alex lived and worked all over the world working as an underwater cameraman, with five of those years living/working on a yacht in Indonesia. Alex's images and videos have garnered many international awards such as Underwater Photographer of the Year and can be seen on NatGeo, Discovery Channel, the UN Building, and various magazines.