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Wakatobi Dive Resort
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Reviewed June 7, 2013

My wife and I have snorkeled in various locations, including Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Thailand, and The Maldives (Biyadhoo), and we really enjoyed our time at these locations. Like so many of the others, we believe that our five night vacation at the Wakatobi Dive Resort was a totally different and superlative experience.

On the day we arrived, four of us, plus our guide, Toto, snorkeled a portion of the very large and beautiful house reef. It seemed like there were corals and fish everywhere; the coral was certainly more extensive and varied than we had seen elsewhere. On each of the next four days, the dive boats took divers and snorkelers out for three trips. There were usually four or five snorkelers in our group. Each snorkeling session was between 70 and 90 minutes, not including the 7 to 15 minute dive boat rides to the dive/snorkeling sites. The water was warm and a rash guard was all we needed to maintain comfort. We had sunshine most of the time and the visibility was very good. We saw hundreds of different kinds of fish and coral, and the density, extent and health of the coral was far better than we had seen elsewhere: a real feast for the eyes.

Each site had a plateau where the water was about 3 to 9 feet deep and then a wall that ran down from the plateau. We went back and forth across portions of the plateau and along the edge of the wall. Wherever we went we saw a lot of very colorful fish, most of which were about 1 inch to 12 inches in length. Naturally, some of the fish were larger, such as the barracuda, moray eels, puffer fish, trigger fish and sea snakes. In addition to the highly colorful reef fish, our favorites were the spectacular lion fish, the surprisingly beautiful clams, the sting rays and the banded sea snakes. We saw no sharks, which was fine with us.

These sites were all very well suited for snorkeling, and even though the majority of the vacationers at Wakatobi are divers, we snorkelers were not at all made to feel like second class citizens. We are from San Francisco, and spent most of our interactive time with a group of 6 people from Australia,and 2 each from England, Switzerland, and Canada. We quickly became a friendly, fun community of divers and snorkelers, pleasantly co-mingled.

Our snorkeling guide for each outing, Toto, was very knowledgeable about the reefs and fish and pointed out numerous things we would not have otherwise seen. He also was safety conscious, a good communicator and very personable. Toto had a good eye and kept us atune to new finds we would have otherwise missed. He also assisted on some great underwater photography, diving down to grab great closeup or action shots of the fun creatures found. (My wife notes that Toto is cute, with a dazzling smile, and very, very sweet.) What an asset to this resort! We were also fortunate to have Allen, a fellow guest, in our group. He was extremely knowledgeable about the wide variety of fish we were seeing and was also helpful in pointing out interesting fish such as the monstrous and well-disguised scorpionfish we saw while checking out some interesting seashell creatures.

The currents were usually mild, although we did have a couple of faster currents that were fun to ride. Naturally, the boat met us at the end of the session, so we did not have to swim against the currents for any long periods. The dive staff had hot or frozen towels, dry towels, light snacks and drinks for us when we got back on the boat, and they also did a very good job taking care of and transporting our equipment. Those dive masters extended the same care and friendliness to us snorkelers as they did their own charges. The rest of the Wakatobi staff was also very friendly and very well trained. This was a pleasant contrast to the Maldives where we had a lovely time and were well treated but somehow did not consistently feel the same level of friendly embrace and welcome.

We were in Bungalow 15, which is a “Palm Bungalow” (the least expensive level of accommodation at the resort). Nevertheless, we really liked it and would gladly take that bungalow again. It was attractive and extremely comfortable. The bed was great and we slept quite well despite the jet lag. Unlike some of the other Palm Bungalows, Bungalow 15 has an ocean view, even though it is not an ocean front bungalow. It does not have a view of the sunsets. We do not know if there are any Palm Bungalows on the other side of the resort that do have a sunset view. My wife was impressed by how romantic the canopied bed was, complete with tasteful linens and a new elaborate “towel art” each day on the bed. She is still peeved she had to miss the towel folding classes they held. (Snorkeling took precedence.)

Each evening we went to the jetty bar for drinks and watched the gorgeous sunsets set against the backdrop and palm trees of Sawa in the distance, one of the great island sites we frequented. My wife found a new favorite drink, the Caipirinha (rum and muddled limes/lime juice and sugar cane sugar). Just the right level of tart and sweet. It was a must every night. The entire jetty bar and dining room staff knew and referred to us from day one by our first names, and it was delightful to have cocktails and to dine while barefooted. The dining room had a very nice ambiance: a kind of upscale casual. Ephram and his dining room team were terrific. Again, the top notch training was evident.

As foodies, we had been pleased to see the very positive comments about the food; however, we had also noted that the food was being served buffet style and that raised some concerns. In fact, the food was terrific and quite varied. The textures and flavors were spot on, and we really looked forward to each meal. Many wow bites.

The other travelers we met at the resort were quite friendly and interesting. A few of them had been at Wakatobi several times before, as well as at other highly regarded dive areas such as the Red Sea and the Maldives. Several of them said that Wakatobi is their favorite overall dive resort. We can relate.


For foodie snorkelers, except maybe those who really want to see sharks and large manta rays when they snorkel, Wakatobi should be at the top of your bucket list. We realize that it is an expensive vacation, but, as our 35th wedding anniversary celebration, it was well worth the cost and travel time.

There were two somewhat negative aspects of our stay: 1) the go, go, go pace we kept. A couple of other 5 night guests made similar comments, and a few of the snorkelers skipped one or two of the snorkeling trips to have some more down time. For those who can afford it, we recommend going there for more than five nights and only doing two water events a day, at least on some days. That way, you will squeeze in more reading/relaxing time; 2) the erratic internet access, at least in the morning. Our first several days were a bust access-wise; although, it seemed to improve later in our visit. According to some other guests, access was better in the late afternoon to early evening, which is when we were cleaning up and then off to the jetty.

An unavoidable concern related to our Wakatobi vacation is that when we take snorkeling trips elsewhere, there will be a bit of a letdown due to the inevitable comparisons we will make with the Wakatobi experience. Five stars, yes.

  • Stayed: May 2013, traveled as a couple
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4  Thank R M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 1, 2013

I joined several others who have been to and raved about the Resort and how wonderful it was. I did not go there expecting to see large creatures. I did expect outstanding service considering the additional costs of this trip.

I arrived in Bali 10 days prior to everyone else and starting my "Dive Vacation" in Tulamben for a week. Wakatobi staff met me at the airport and provided me with VIP service through the airport in a matter of minutes and then escorted me to my waiting driver to take me to my first portion of my trip.

Wakatobi staff also arranged for several others in our party to complete some Denpasar land based tours with a local guide prior to our actual departure to Wakatobi. At this point I was extremely impressed with Wakatobi so I couldn't wait to actually arrive at the resort.

Arriving finally at the resort on their private airplane. Everyone was greeted by name from the beginning by all of the staff throughout the resort. My bungalow was comfortable though it did have a septic smell and water bugs in the bathroom.

Food portions, variety and presentation were impressive considering the difficulty of obtaining supplies. All meals were buffet style but they did not feel that way. The managers of the resort interacted and ate with guests throughout the stay.

Now to the diving which I came for. The boats were large and comfortable. Dive briefings conducted before each dive. Dive guide to guest ration was 1-4 which was great. I was asked what creatures I wanted to see. There were nice walls and pinnacles filled with fish. The currents were random and unpredictable throughout the bulk of the dives. Guides indicated that was unusual. Not impressed with the marine life that I saw, though I never tired of crocodile fish or cuttle fish.

All gear was setup for us on the dive boat and then also broke down and returned to our dive locker. Fresh water camera rinse was provided for cameras and regulators. Salt water rinse was provided for dive gear throughout the stay. Within a few days I developed rashes from this which was problematic for me. So took my suits back to my room and washed them in the bathroom.

I'm not a demanding traveler but expect to get what I paid for. I don't feel that my 1st and only experience with Wakatobi came any where close to the cost of the stay. Anything more than 5 days stay here is to long and 5 days costs you plenty. I have had much better dive and stay experiences at other resorts for a fraction of the cost. I will not recommend or stay here again.

  • Stayed: May 2013, traveled with friends
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7  Thank Divereb
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 20, 2013

Our stay here was the third of 5 stops in Indonesia in which our planning began with this week-long booking. In traveling that far around the world we decided to spend 6 nights in Bali before our 7 nights at Wakatobi and then another 6 nights back in Bali afterward. For reference, you may also see my reviews for Kupu Kupu Barong Villas and Tree Spa, The Sandi Phala in Tuban, Damai Lovina and Ibah Warwick as continuations of our customized itinerary that was arranged through Wakatobi's VIP Concierge service, which I highly recommend (and if you ask for Dharma you won't be disappointed).

More on the VIP Concierge Service: you will be greeted at the airport upon arrival and departure to ensure an efficient connection with your local driver (Bali). A complimentary Bali cell phone is provided pre-loaded with the equivalent of $10 USD and pre-coded with appropriate telephone numbers (for use on Bali). Also, I was handed a wad of Indonesian currency equivalent to $51 USD for immediate use as part of the VIP package and, if you request this in advance, you will be given a very good exchange rate for additional currency on the spot.

Words may not be enough to describe the resort and overall care provided before, during and after our Wakatobi stay... concierge services facilitated all our Bali arrangements and then we enjoyed exceptional diving, snorkeling and non-diving activities in a beautifully remote tropical setting while there. Because of the remoteness, utilizing the resort charter flight from the Denpasar Airport on Bali is the best (perhaps only) means for getting there. The flight took about 2 1/2 hours and, upon arrival at the air strip, passengers were whisked via a fleet of small vans to a pier where one of the dive boats conveyed us for the 15-20 minute ferry to the resort.

Upon arrival at the resort we were met by a designated greeter, served a refreshing tropical beverage and shown to our bungalow. Ours was a 'Select bungalow' situated directly on the beach with easy access to the long house (lobby), dive & photo center and resort pier from which the spacious dive boats departed. The diving is well-organized and, with 6 divers among our group of friends, we were comfortably split into 2 groups so that we never had more than 4 divers to a guide. I also appreciated that we could choose to boat dive or shore dive according to our preferences.

A sense privacy pervades the guest quarters, which are connected via shaded, sandy paths that meandered the manicured grounds. Considering the absolute remoteness of the resort I was further impressed by the variety and quality of the food offerings during breakfast, lunch and dinner, which were all served buffet-style and was freshly replenished. Service was readily for beverages and any other guest request simply for the asking, including help with carrying our selections to the table.

Wifi is available, but only near the long house. There is no cell phone service but, if needed, one can use a resort phone which will be billed by the minute to your room. Would I stay here again? Yes.

Room Tip: The Select Bungalow is excellent, an individual unit with spacious quarters, in-room safe, refrigerator and mini bar, and private bathroom with an outdoor shower.
  • Stayed: May 2013, traveled with friends
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Thank pvschmieder
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 9, 2013

This was our fourth trip to Wakatobi, we love it. After years of travelling to the bet dive sites in the world and often experiencing poor conditions, we found Wakatobi. They have a perfect balance of luxury with outstanding diving. Everything has been considered - accommodation, food, service, items in the shop. It really spoils you for all the other dive trips, as they are nothing close to this experience. The diving is stunning, with an extraordinary program in place to preserve the reefs and environment. It is a "must" for any diver. We plan to visit every year!

Room Tip: Beach Villas are wonderful.
  • Stayed: April 2013, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank Katepadgetkoh
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 7, 2013

I must begin by telling you that choosing Wakatobi was not my decision. It was my husband’s and his best friend’s idea of a male bonding/diving vacation.

The website’s accommodation photos certainly did not appeal to my aesthetics. Neither was the idea that I would be ‘marooned’ on a faraway island for six nites! To top it off, as much as I love the sea, I’m no diver.

Once we arrived into Bali, my mindset began to change. I’ll have to give it to the Wakatobi folks; they’ve perfected their logistics. From VIP meet and greet at Bali airport to the seamless check-in through to the domestic charter flight to arriving at the island, everything was smooth sailing. Service was top-notch and goodness, even the chartered flight food was rather good!

Upon arrival at the island though, I was met with two hiccups. My request for a villa close to our friends’ was not met. Then my luggage was lost for four hours. I was not a happy camper. A fabulous lunch helped alleviate my spirits and soon the beauty of the island revealed itself – the blue of the sea, the marine life right at the water’s edge and the happy, smiling staff all around me.

I was upgraded to Select Villa 4 next to the LongHouse. Our friends were in Villa 2. I’m a clean nut and was thrilled when my sweep of the villa with Dettol wipes revealed it was spotless. The a/c worked well and the bed was firm. No mozzies in the room. Best of all, the House Reef was right in front and I could see the activity on the Pier from my lanai.

Of the many ‘dive’ vacations I’ve been with my husband, this certainly was the least ‘luxurious’. But what Wakatobi has no equal with is their dive/snorkel coordination. BoWo’s initial briefing with us at the Dive Center was detailed, insightful and got us all so excited to jump into the sea! At no time in the island or on Wakatobi III (our boat) did we not receive personalized, attentive service. All your gear is taken care of. When I didn’t feel like snorkeling anymore, no problem, I would be ‘guided’ back to the boat, was offered a hot beverage and lots of tasty snacks! Ed, my husband really enjoyed his Dive Guide, AhChoo who pointed out and even took close-up photos of numerous critters for him. Needless to say, in the next few days, they became fast friends.

Another aspect that Wakatobi excels in is their quality of Staff. As mentioned by many reviewers, the folks that work there seem genuinely grateful and happy to be on the island. And they come with credentials too. Chef Andy who fed us so wonderfully in our six nights on the island is Aman trained. Ibram from F&B hails from Four Seasons. Amazingly too, on the island, everyone knows your name. And your preferences.

Wakatobi’s House Reef is sublime. The shallows are so calm everyday I did my laps in front of my villa. Head out near the end of the Pier and you’ll come to the dramatic drop-off. Here you’ll find amazing corals and critters from another world. I went on a few snorkel trips out with the boat and my favorite site remains closest to home – the House Reef.

Another aspect that I love about Wakatobi is how safety conscious they are. Regardless whether you’re a diver or snorkeler, everyone needs to sign out at the Dive Center when you hit the water. Choose to use the free services of a Water Taxi and your boatman will determine the current, drop you off at the appropriate place on the House Reef then you simply drift back to shore! Best of all, there’s someone on the Pier looking out for you at all times.

On days that the hubbie went out diving, I went for marine life slide show presentations, cooking, towel folding (what fun!) and language classes. Early on, a sweet grey cat ‘adopted’ me and she soon became a feature on my lanai. Tip – do attend the Welcome Cocktails. You’ll get to meet your fellow guests and resort staff early on in your stay. There’s also an interesting tour of the island, a comfortable library with a/c, tea time snacks at the LongHouse and Hwee Keng, the co-owner’s wife!.

Hwee, you are a treasure and Ed, Luke, Michelle, baby Sophia and I had such a fun time with you! We loved going out into the sea with you and admiring all your dresses at dinner! Thank you also for bringing Ai to the island! (Ai Futaki is a Guinness World Record holder for ‘Longest Swim in a Cave with One Breath’). She’s also the gentlest, sweetest and inspiring teacher! She not only taught the Dive Staff breathing techniques and Free Diving, she also taught us guests! I loved her theory class and Ed is still raving about his Free Diving lesson out at sea! If you ever get the chance to do a class with Ai, just do it! Now I want to take her to Honolulu with me!

Thank you all at Wakatobi for such an enlightening week! A huge Mahalo to Made who made me my own villa signage and seahorse keychain! Apologies I was so silly and superstitious about being in Villa 4!

Wakatobi was top of my hubbie’s ‘Bucket List’. Now I can see why.

  • Stayed: April 2013, traveled with friends
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4  Thank happy2bealive
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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