NOTE: The following is an edited, updated version of a previous review which has now been removed. I have edited my first report after having received new information from the founder of Wakatobi Dive Resort –information that until now had been unavailable.
I visited Wakatabi in June 2010. Although I must say I enjoyed my stay very much I feel it important to add a report so future guests can make an informed decision as to if they want to visit. I have worked for 10 years in the travel industry with up to 200 travel days a year in aprox. 40 countries. This travel has ranged from expeditions through to luxury tours. I have spent nights in tents, bungalows, hotels and luxury resorts. I feel I have seen quite a bit of what the travel industry has to offer. Today I do not longer work in the business.
What Wakatobi probably does best is market itself. When you decide to go upscale and price yourself accordingly then you must expect closer observation.
Let’s start with what definitely works well at Wakatobi:
1) The diving operation runs like clockwork. Well organized, efficient. Very good dive guides, boats and boat crew.
2) The staff is what really makes or busts a place. You can be in paradise but if you are there with the wrong people it really is going to affect your experience. In the case of Wakatobi, the staff is genuinely friendly, interested and they know their job. They do not just smile because they have to.
3) The food is good although it takes more for me to be able to call it gourmet. Nevertheless, what Wakatobi is good at is at changing the routine around meals. For example, one day you will eat outside, the next its Mongolian barbecue and your meal is prepared in front of you, on your last day you’ll watch a slide show, etc. This is a nice touch.
4) Wakatobi management is very good at listening at what you have to say. They are interested and concerned and will try to accommodate as best as possible.
5) The diving is good. Very good if you like macro. The reef is extremely healthy. If you consider Wakatobi some of the best diving in the world will depend on what you have experienced previously and what your preferences are.
6) And of course the location is fantastic.
…and now some other observations:
1) In my personal opinion Wakatobi’s weakest point is the accommodation. Standard beach and garden bungalows are simple structures. Nothing wrong with that. But our garden bungalow had a peeling wall, many big leaks from the thatched roof, lasting toilet problems, a worn out and torn shower curtain, and a bare bulb in the bathroom. I have stayed at dozens of similar bungalows in Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil and even Bali at a fraction of the price. On that same Indonesia trip I stayed in bungalows in northern Bali (Siddhartha) and in Komodo at Angel Island Resort -a resort which faces similar technical and logistical challenges as Wakatobi. The quality and workmanship of these accommodations was vastly superior. The price was also lower. Note: this is not a criticism of the design nor the concept which I think fit the setting perfectly. My observations are from a maintenance point of view. Personally I do not expect anything fancier but I do expect what there is to be up to standard. I will add for the record that Wakatobi management has admitted they were caught “…with their pants down…” on this one.
2) Although guest areas are kept spotless, they need to tidy up some of their storage and operational areas. There is a collection of old mattresses, scrap metal, broken chairs, etc. piled up in some of the service buildings.
3) Wakatobi was responsible for losing the luggage of two guests on their chartered plane. A bag with new photo equipment never showed up as was the case with a bag full of dive gear. By the time we left, the luggage was considered lost for good. I believe not just the logistics, but also the handling of the problem with regard to the affected guests needs improvement. I know that in particular one guest was upset since the purpose of his trip was photography, so the nature of his trip was forcibly altered. These guests were told to make use of their own travel insurance to cover the loss.
4) The scene at the airstrip with the return flight made us understand why luggage was most likely lost. Luggage was loaded and unloaded from the plane at least 5 times trying to make it fit. Not only was the return flight delayed because of this, but some of the staff luggage had to be left behind in the end.
5) Rental diving equipment available at the resort consists of the basic models mostly from Aqualung. In other words, the models available are at the lower end of the product range. It is functional, yet if you are used to mid or higher-end equipment you are advised to take your own. This concerns wetsuits in particular. They are of the “Nemo” brand and are made in Bali. Although they look good, they are of inferior quality. I went through 3 of them during my 11 day stay due to faulty sewing and bad glue.
6) Wakatobi needs to do something about their check-out procedure. The last day goes mainly into waiting to pay your bill. This we did from 8 am until noon. Although some guests do not mind this, others do. There are options which Wakatobi should look into.
7) Travelling back to Bali with us there were at least 5 members of staff on the plane. Only two of these: dive guides Miguel and Ana, were genuinely interested in assisting the returning guests inside the Bali terminal. The resort operations managers who were also present, Guy & Anita Chaumette could have been more helpful assisting departing guests.
8) Wakatobi should provide some sort of leisure activity for its staff. The local staff spend up to a couple of months in one stretch on the island and have really little to do in their free time between their chores. It is a complaint I heard from many of the Indonesian staff we became friends with while we were there, so I am taking the liberty of airing their thoughts. Some of us watched the world cup together with them in the staff quarters and shared some beers. They repeatedly said later that they really appreciated our spending time with them.
9) Wakatobi needs to improve communication with any client who may have brought up any issues also after he or she has left the resort.
My conclusion: Wakatobi is good, but not flawless and in my opinion not exactly what it markets itself to be. As another reviewer put it: “The fabulous website oversells this resort.” I agree. I had a good time and did not let any of their weaknesses interfere with my stay, however I did observe them. Looking at it strictly from a quality-price relationship and in accordance with what is advertised, I personally felt that it was slightly overpriced and do believe there are options in this price range. This observation may for some depend on what you are used to getting for your money and where else you have travelled. 11 days at Wakatobi, including Wakatobi's charter flight, rental dive equipment, and extra bar and restaurant expenses came to just over 10.000 USD for 2 people. If you want to dive the Wakatobi area and are interested in alternatives you might want to research the following. The first two are small local initiatives. For those with time on their hands it is possible to reach the area with a combination of air and ferry services from Bali. That is how some of the Wakatobi Dive Resort staff come and go at times.
-a group of young Indonesians operating out of Tomia Island. This is the island where Wakatobi Dive Resort has their airstrip.
-an aussie run liveaboard with a very good reputation which seems to have included the Wakatobi area as one of their itineraries.
-a british/indonesian running a small operation out of Buton island to parts of the Wakatobi archipelago. Speaks perfect English.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.