Travel Pro Review: Wakatobi Resort
Steve Weaver is a seasoned travel professional who has traveled to some of the most exciting dive destinations in the world. He recently returned from Wakatobi Resort in Indonesia and filed this report.
Wakatobi Dive resort is located in south eastern Sulawesi, Indonesia. Founder Lorenz Mader started constructing his dream resort in 1995. In the beginning there were just 6 “longhouse” rooms with shared bathrooms. It took divers over 30 hours to get there from Singapore.
The first time I visited Wakatobi was in September of 2002, just a short time after they built their private air strip. Getting there took me about 2 ½ hours flying time from Bali. I stayed in a longhouse room which was very basic but adequate. The diving was so amazing I didn’t much care about sharing a bathroom or having no air-conditioning. I remember being blown way by how healthy the coral was. Most of the sites I dived were endless fields of colorful hard and soft coral, it was breathtaking.
My dive guide John, showed me some of the most unusual creatures I had ever seen underwater including the pygmy seahorse which when he first pointed one out to me I could not see it without the aid of a magnifying glass. Over the course of this 7 day trip I fell in love with Wakatobi and knew I would return with a group. Upon leaving I remember thinking 7 days was the perfect length of time to be at Wakatobi.
I returned with my first group in 2003 and stayed for 10 days, which seemed like a perfect length of time to be there. In 2005 I returned with back to back groups and I was at the resort for 21 days. By the time I left I felt like I didn’t get enough diving in and wished I could have stayed longer!
I have now been to Wakatobi a total of 6 times and each time it gets better and better. The quality of the accommodation has vastly improved with 4 room categories, Garden, Standard Beach and Deluxe Beach bungalows and the luxury category called Wakatobi Villas. All are air-conditioned and have all the comforts you would expect from a premier dive resort.
The food and the service in general also continue to improve year after year. With world class chiefs the meals leave nothing to be desired. The resort staff goes to extremes to make each guest feel welcome and special. The crews on the dive boats are always there to make things easier for every diver, including offering divers a warm or cold drink at the end of each dive. After your first dive they remember your drink order and have it ready for you after every dive.
The boats are very comfortable with plenty of storage space for each diver. They assign no more than 6 divers to each dive master. This allows everyone a chance to see what the dive master finds. The dive masters are highly skilled; they are required to have a minimum of 1000 logged dives before being considered for employment. They are genuinely excited to point out the interesting marine life that is so unique to this area.
On the last day of every trip we had an opportunity to visit a local village on the other side of the island. It’s a great chance to experience the local culture and interact with some beautiful and charming people. It is clear to see the influence that Wakatobi Resort has had on the way of life in this village. There are signs of modern civilization such as paved roads, electricity and schools. The best part of a visit to this village is the children. They are genuinely happy to see tourists visiting their village. They always have big smiles on their faces and are anxious to interact with a conversation or a song or just to see their image on a digital camera. Unlike other places I’ve been these people never beg for money or expect gifts. They seem to understand that just by tourists visiting this area their lives are enriched.
On each of the trips I’ve taken to Wakatobi I’ve included a visit to Bali either before or after the trip. Bali is such a culturally interesting place with beautiful people and lots to see and do. I’m looking forward to escorting my 7th group to Wakatobi in November of this year and I’m already planning an 8th trip in May of 2010. If you haven’t been yet you need to plan a trip soon. If you have been before, consider a return trip, it just gets better each time you go!
Steve Weaver – Owner Weaver’s Dive & Travel Center and Dream Weaver Travel