Southeast Sulawesi is one of the least visited parts of the island, and indeed, its remoteness does not make it an easy destination. Forming the south-eastern ‘leg’ of the spider-shaped island, it comprises of the peninsular mainland and a number of large and small offshore islands, including Buton, Muna, Kabaena and Wawonii.
The region is visited almost exclusively for its coast – glorious seascapes and magnificent underwater world. Apart from Wakatobi Marine Park – Bunaken`s main competitor, the little known Labengke archipelago, also called ‘Raja Ampat of Sulawesi’, presents an ultimate couples hideaway and truly a feast for one`s eyes!
The capital city of Kendari, the gateway to most of the attractions, sits on the east coast of the peninsula. Although the city itself is not exactly a place to linger there are a few points of interest around.
Whether it is the picturesque Moramo Waterfall and Toronipa, Nambo & Taipa Beaches, the dotted with fishermen villages, or one of the Kendari`s offshore islands and their sea gypsy Bajau tribes – the journey might often be long and bumpy yet thrilling and surely something to remember.
THINGS TO DO AROUND KENDARI
KENDARI OFFSHORE ISLANDS
Pulau Labengki is a must-see when in Kendari. Just an hour away from the capital this truly is a natural marvel and a beach paradise for those who are fond of secluded bays, secret coves, forested rocky islets surrounded by coral reefs and brilliant, emerald shallows.
Labengki is a collection of barely touched islands with a population as many as 500. There are 5 main islands – Labengki Besar, Labengki Kecil, Alnamira, Mauang and Tukoh Kulay among which only one is inhabited.
Often called “Sulawesi`s Raja Ampat”, this is a fantastic ‘castaway’ destination. Diving, snorkelling, sea kayaking, canoeing or simply just enjoying the ultimate peace – that`s all you want to do!
While the honeymooners and couples would surely love to discover the ‘Lover`s Cove’, Long Sand Beach and the splendid Kimaboe Lagoon, scuba divers and snorkelers can take a boat tour to the nearby Hari Island, and all adventure seekers should pay a visit to the Bajo sea gypsy stilt villages.
THINGS TO SEE & DO ON KENDARI`S OFFSHORE ISLANDS
WAKATOBI NATIONAL PARK
The French explorer Jacques Cousteau called these tiny islands in the Banda Sea “Underwater Nirwana”. The Wakatobi marine Park archipelago is home to the largest barrier reef in Indonesia and the second only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
Sitting at the very heart of the Coral Triangle, Wakatobi Marine Park has the highest number of reef and fish species in the world. The tentative World Heritage Site is the habitat of almost 1000 species of fish, 400 varieties of tropical corals and surreal undersea sceneries. Wakatobi is the place to be for the explorers who would like to take their underwater encounters to the next level.
MAJOR ATTRACTIONS IN WAKATOBI
Apart from the terrific underwater world, there are plenty of natural attractions on the islands of Wakatobi; mangrove forest, coastal swamp forest, lowland rainforest, mountain rainforest, fringing reefs, barrier reefs and atolls, paradisiacal isles with white beaches, azure waters, exotic fauna and flora but also Dutch colonial architecture, historic sites and stunning eco-resorts.
Wakatobi National Park is definitely a diver`s heaven as well as a perfect beach vacation and eco-tourist location for both budget and demanding travellers.
TUKANGBESI ISLANDS (WAKATOBI)
Wakatobi Marine Park is home to 143 islands encircled by epic coral reefs are home to small and large fish, dolphins, turtles and whales, and the fascinating Bajau communities – the world`s last seafaring nomads have been inhabiting these outlying marine territories for centuries.
Tukangbesi Islands are mostly known among divers, for some of the world’s best dive sites. There are four main islands: Wangi-Wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia and Binongko, and many other smaller isles and islets where to dive, such as Tokobao, Lintea, Kampenaune, Hoga and Tolandona.
Other spectacular islands for scuba diving and snorkelling are Muna and Buton (Bau Bau) – both largely covered with rainforest and known for abundant wildlife and eco-tourism.
WHAT ISLANDS TO GO TO IN WAKATOBI
If you book one of the luxurious dive resorts, they typically organise a charter flight from Bali, which saves you a lot of time and hassle. However, to travel around the islands takes time (as you will constantly need to use local boats) and you should definitely add a few extra days to your itinerary as everything is very slow and not always reliable. At the end of the day that is the reason why to come to this secluded paradise!
WHEN TO TRAVEL
The ideal time to visit the south-east Sulawesi is the dry season when winds are at their mildest and visibility at its best (May-Oct). The peak season generally runs between July and August which also reflects on prices.
HOW TO GET THERE
Fly to Makassar first. There are daily flights from Jakarta/Java and Denpasar/Bali.
To reach Kendari:
1.overland: South Sulawesi has no real highway road connecting to the rest of the island, and the primary transportation link is a Pelni ship between Watampone (Bone) and Kolaka (7 hr voyage). Then catch a bus from Kolaka to Kendari or hire a vehicle/scooter and self-drive.
NOTE This option is probably more suitable for the independent travellers and backpackers who are flexible with time
2.via air: For those who prefer flying there are frequent flights between Makassar and Kendari (1 hr)
Hire a scooter to move around locally.
For all domestic flights check out Wings Air, Lion Air and Merpati
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