DANA BROWN uncovered more than she expected on an expedition cruise in Indonesia. Find out why she’s now singing its praises from the rooftops.

YOU’VE MOST likely never heard the name Wakatobi roll off someone’s tongue before.

You could even be forgiven for thinking the name sounds like somewhere you’d find in Japan.

But in reality, you’ll find this tranquil paradise hidden far from the crowds in southeastern Sulawesi, Indonesia.

I discovered it by chance as I sailed on an expedition from Bali to Papua New Guinea on the inaugural voyage onboard Heritage Adventurer.

I had spied Wakatobi on the itinerary but to be honest, I overlooked it in a haze of excitement for some more well-known places like Komodo and Raja Ampat.

Silly me! Now I’ve had the opportunity to experience Wakatobi’s aquatic wonderland firsthand, I’m singing its praises from the rooftops.

This is one of the reasons I fell in love with expedition cruising. It gives you a taste of an area and if you fall head over heels for the place like I did, you can start planting seeds to go back and spend time there in depth.

Now if this is not a sign, I don’t know what is.

Onboard the ship I had the opportunity to spend time with Dr Thomas Bauer, who is the team leader for the Indonesia Tourism Development Program specialising in the planning and development of environmentally sustainable tourism in Wakatobi.

While we only had one day on the ground (and underwater) in Wakatobi, I spent two weeks onboard probing Thomas with more questions.

What really stood out to me was that the destination is being developed as one of six up and coming must-visit regions in Indonesia.

This will help relieve pressure on the over tourism that is happening in certain areas in Bali and show how much more Indonesia has to offer.

Sadly, like many places over the past couple of years, flights have been drastically cut at the moment. I did find two workarounds though.

You can do what I did and visit Wakatobi as part of an expedition cruise. You still travel a significant distance but you don’t notice because you’re too busy enjoying everything the ship has to offer.

Or, you can do what I plan to do when I go back. If you line up a stay at Wakatobi Dive Resort you can fly direct on their guest charter from Bali to the resort’s private air strip in two-and-a-half hours.


Even though Wakatobi is relatively unknown and completely secluded, this resort has built a reputation as the place to go for world-class diving and unpretentious luxury.

Not to mention there is no other dive resort in more than 150 kilometres and you have exclusive access to this stretch of pristine reef at the world’s epicentre of marine biodiversity.

Wakatobi is a part of the Indo-Pacific Coral Triangle. Home to six of the world’s seven marine turtle species, more than 700 kinds of coral and thousands of types of fish. Plus, new and undocumented species continue to be discovered here.

The real question though is, how soon can you get there? Since Wakatobi is going to be developed over the coming years, you really want to go now to experience the unspoiled natural environment before it becomes well known.

Plus, who doesn’t want to be the first of their friends to visit?