By Greg Runningbird
We just got back and wanted to share our Wakatobi snorkeling trip report from September 2022.
Background: we are a group of six beginner and intermediate older snorkelers with recent experience snorkeling in Hawaii, Belize, Bonaire, Turks and Caicos, Florida Keys, Cancun, and some other Caribbean spots.
Why Post? Most recent Wakatobi posts on this site are from BC… Before COVID!
Purpose? To share our experience snorkeling Wakatobi and encourage other snorkelers to give honest feedback from their personal experiences.
Wakatobi is a five-star luxury resort in Indonesia. Their snorkel or dive experience was going full tilt after a two year COVID induced hiatus. One enjoys large and fully covered snorkel boats, a resort staffing ratio of 5:1 (staff:visitor), and you are assigned a snorkel guide upon arrival to daily help search for and understand the sea life around you.
Wakatobi Snorkeling Experience
Walk out to a diving boat from the restaurant without a care… your wetsuit, snorkel equipment, water, and snacks are preloaded on the spacious boat (70 feet long!). Calm waters and a comfortable boat ride were all we saw, so we could don our equipment during the ride out. Staff assist you into the water, handing you your camera or fins or whatever only when you are comfortable and ready, no hurry here.
Very short swims are the norm to shallow water ensuring close encounters with structure and marine life. We did experience some drifting with the current on one snorkel and the boat kept up with us. We felt very safe and did not have to swim against the current to get back upon the boat.
The Coral Triangle has the most diverse hard and soft coral, fish and sea creature life in the world, and we certainly experienced this. No other snorkel destination we have visited was close. We saw no coral bleaching.
OK, hop back onto the boat, ease out of your wetsuit, and walk off the boat unburdened… your equipment will be washed down, disinfected, and ready for you next time! Unreal!
Note: our group of six snorkelers ensured we had good SNORKEL spots from the boats. Many divers were at the resort and you could be on a boat with divers. If your group is one or two snorkelers, you will still have an assigned guide… speak up and be certain you are going to the best locations for snorkeling only! You may have to switch boats, but the staff will do all the work and you will be much happier!
The day we left was an arrival day for Ben’s Wakatobi snorkel tour. This may be the ideal way to ensure you have a full snorkeling boat!? I hope someone from Ben’s trip can respond. By the way, I have emailed Ben directly to inquire about unrelated snorkeling info and he went out of his way to respond to a non-customer. One day soon I hope to be on one of his snorkeling trips.
Of note: the house reef is one of the best in the world. Enjoy it often, every day and NIGHT, where someone (staff) will always be looking out for you from the nearby pier.
Wakatobi House Reef Snorkeling
The Wakatobi house reef runs from a gentle beach entry to around eight feet deep where a dramatic drop-off occurs at 80 yards from shore. Varied coral heads of all sizes ensure a snorkeler has plenty of sea life to consider at just a few feet deep, especially during low tides towards that drop-off. In the shallower water a considerable sea grass bed gives way to a sandy bottom before the corals take over.
The species considered is overwhelming, and I have trouble with identification even with great photos and time… But I’ll try… turtles, both green (with remoras) and hawksbill were ever present at the house reef, though they stay deep, unlike Hawaii and other locales, until time to breathe.
From above and below near the dock, one often sees Blue Spotted Ribbon Tail Rays. Near the entry point many scorpionfish and anemonefish species, Palette Surgeonfish (Dory fish!), Banded Sea Krait (sea snake), and lionfish are easy to find. Look harder here for Messmate Pipefish, Coconut Octopus, and crocodilefish!
Swim towards the drop-off for Moorish Idol, Pyramid Butterflyfish, and Black Triggerfish in high numbers. Swim over the drop-off for great looks at lobster, Sixbar Wrasse, Coral and Peacock Groupers, and Map Puffers but keep your eyes out for quick Bluefin Trevally and Midnight Snapper.
Enter at night for easy photos of hermit crabs. At night, the entire drop-off comes alive with basket stars stretching out to feed and 7-11 crabs feed. Hermit crabs haul anemones upon their backs and Twinspot Lionfish confuse the heck out of this snorkeler with their unusual dance movements.
For the novice photographer, I recommend what I used, a friend’s Olympus TG-6 with lights day and night, to quickly convert from close-up to normal shots underwater.
Wakatobi Resort Experience
The immaculate resort bungalows have A/C, drinkable tap water (in Indonesia!), and functioning WiFi. A spa is available and the prices are very low compared to back home. The staff will know your names from the first day, and their energy and excitement is infectious! The staff were always professional and eager to help you enjoy your experience… if you need anything or are having difficulty, please ask!
Some highlights for us: there were six types of pillows available for your bed! I had trouble with my photos coming out too dark, and several diving/photography staff helped me correct this. We had a plumbing issue, called the front desk, and someone showed up and fixed the problem in 10 minutes!
Varied and outstanding meals are offered buffet-style with an abundance of fresh fruit, vegetarian options, local and world cuisine in the barefoot-only eating area. One in our party indicated a shellfish allergy. For the entire week, the head chef made special plates just for this guest by using separate pans to ensure no cross contamination. Also, food and snacks for this guest ON THE BOATS was prepared and set aside separately.
The resort offers daily activities for variety and exposure to local culture, i.e. behind the scenes resort tours, local village tour, birding tour, tying-your-sarong class, Indonesia cooking class, etc. The resort grounds are shady from an abundance of palms and ?evergreens and the sand pathways are raked daily. Outdoor seating and hammocks are located just outside each bungalow, and a foot washer is located outside each doorway.
We befriended a number of fellow visitors from EU, AU, US, and all reported Wakatobi and /or Indonesia to be the best for both snorkeling and scuba diving. We agree, but we would love to hear from the Tropical Snorkeling community on this!