Wakatobi: Your island paradise off the beaten track

Have you ever wanted to run away to an *almost* deserted tropical island where you have no modern technological distractions and only the weather and sun to guide your day?

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The only way to travel. Image: Morgan Pettersson

Well then you need to visit the island chain of Wakatobi in South East Sulawesi.

The name of Wakatobi is an acronym of the first letters of the four main islands: Wangi-Wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia and Binongko.

Over 150 islands make up the Wakatobi marine park and although it is a well known secret amongst the worlds divers, everyone else seems to not have yet heard of it.

And that is part of Wakatobis charm, its still quite laborious to reach the main island of Wangi-Wangi, and to travel out to the other islands requires slow journeys on boats that are most probably not quite sea worthy.

I had heard of an island paradise within this island chain that offered laid back vibes and access to world class reefs.

Hoga Island.

It can only be reached by flying to the airport at Wangi-Wangi, racing through the island by taxi to reach the only boat leaving for the day to Kaledupa, lying under a tarpaulin for two hours and then jumping onto a small fishing canoe to go out to Hoga Island.

I was greeted at the dock in Kaledupa by a waving man coming into the harbour using a long bamboo pole to move his tiny boat to the jetty.

He had come to pick me up and take me to a small island I could see not far into the distance.

Once out into deeper waters he turned the engine on and we wizzed across the flat water, water so clear that I could lean over and see the reef below us as we cut through the sea.

Hoga Island, I had heard about it from friends, and had assumed it would be tiny but it is actually quite a large island with a permanent population of local people living in the only village on the island.

We idled past a jetty and then along coastline of palm trees and jungle growing right up to the sand and meeting with the ocean.

Suddenly the engine cut out and we were left drifting in a circle for a good ten minutes before the captain managed to get the engine started again.

Hoga Dive Resort caters to mostly divers as there is some of the best dive spots in Indonesia right next to the island, but I must admit that I was apprehensive when I heard the word ‘resort.’

Yet what greeted me at the shore line was paradise.

Small wooden huts on stilts, made from the wood of coconut trees, set amongst greenery with hammocks in every corner made up the ‘resort’ and I could not have been more happy to have arrived.

The perfect place to relax. image: Morgan Pettersson

The perfect place to relax. image: Morgan Pettersson

Wia is the woman who manages the resort and has done so for over ten years.

She is bubbly and attentive and was so glad to see me after the friend she had organised to pick me up forgot and she had given me up for lost when the captain of the boat from Wangi-Wangi Island called her to say there was an Australian girl on her way to Hoga.

The perfect thing about Hoga is that you are surrounded  by nature and forced to take a moment to breath, relax and appreciate life.

There is no internet access and limited phone reception and you have no choice but to snorkel or dive, hike around the island, read, write, think or simply sit in a hammock strung between two coconut trees and watch the fishing boats glide by.

Your day is planned around the flow of the tides, the weather and the three meals that are beautifully prepared by Wia and her staff.

If you are a diver then this must be paradise on earth for you.

You will have access to your own private dive master and boat, and you can go to any of the numerous dive spots located a short boat ride from the island.

Where else can you dive with only you and the people you are with, completely private with no big groups?

As a snorkeler I found that the reefs around and near to the island were perfect for snorkelling.

Only a ten minute walk from the resort is a long jetty where five metres away the reef begins and you can snorkel.

Otherwise we hired the resort boat to take us out to a spot about 20 minutes away one afternoon.

Here the coral was incredible and the marine life that we were so fortunate to get up close and personal with was breathtaking.

I was able to snorkel with not one, two but three sea turtles.

Black and white banded sea snakes gently snaked their way through the corals, gliding up to the surface to poke their heads out of the water before moving on.

Tropical fish abounded and there were too many species to count, but lets just say the entire cast of Finding Nemo seemed to be present (minus the sharks).

Each afternoon the local ‘school bus’ turned up with the handful of kids who travel to the main island of Kaledupa each day for school.

Shoes in hand they would jump off the boat and wade through the water before making their way through the jungle paths on the inland of the island to the kampung or small village at the other end of the island.

The children arriving home from school also signalled the time to ask for a coconut, as only the young boys are small and light enough to climb up the trees.

Disappearing into the jungle for ten minutes with a machete they would return victorious and it was fresh beautiful coconut water all round.

If you fancy yourself a bit of a Bear Gryls then a jungle walk is easily undertaken with paths winding their way through the jungle on the island, just make sure you don’t get lost and miss lunch!

The food provided by Wia is fresh and delicious with lots of fresh seafood, rice, vegetables and some nights fries.

Anyway enough from me, I am going to let the pictures do the talking:

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The islands of Wakatobi really are a nature lovers paradise and wether you prefer to soak up nature onshore or under water there really is something here for everyone.

Just make sure you get here before everyone else finds out about it!

For more information about the Hoga Dive Resort visit their website: http://www.tukangbesidiving.com/theresorts.html

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