If you're looking for amazing scuba diving with world-class hospitality, then look no further than Wakatobi. This absolute gem of a resort is located in Indonesia's South Sulawesi, a rugged region which lies almost smack bang in the heart of the Coral Triangle. 

The Coral Triangle is renowned for mind-boggling marine biodiversity, harbouring hundreds of different kinds of reef-building coral species, thousands of fish species and six of the seven known marine turtle species. This is evident from the moment you enter the water - it's a  riot of colour.

Graceful angel, trigger and parrotfish in rainbow hues flit amongst delicate Gorgonian fans,  iridescent sea squirts and barrel corals so large you could curl up inside. Every so often, a black-and-white banded krait would wriggle past. Less showy were the scorpionfish but if you got too close, some turned a threatening shade of pink. 

On almost every dive, we saw green or hawksbill turtles - there was one occasion where I stopped counting after twelve! They were complately unafraid of humans - happy to keep munching on seagrass while delighted divers watched on. And on one very lucky day, we witnessed a graceful school of over a dozen spotted eagle rays gliding over a sandy plain some 40 metres below the surface.

Spotted eagle rays in the deep

Our wooden bungalow had a comfortable verandah out front with two generously proportioned cushioned seats - perfect to while away warm afternoons. A string hammock stretched out between two coconut palms invited lazy appreciation of the house reef beyond, which buzzed with life. Given we were diving three times a day, we didn't spend a lot of time in or around our room, but it was clean, spacious and contained everything you needed for a comfortable stay.  Someone - or something - that did spend a lot of time in our bungalow: an elusive tokay gecko who woke us just before dawn every day with its loud, distinctive "to-kay" call. 

If I had to choose one word to describe Wakatobi's brand of hospitality, it would be thoughtful. Some examples: all the staff greet you by your first name and know your drink preferences by day 2 of your stay. There are toothpaste tablets in a tiny glass vial your bathroom (extra points for being eco-friendly!) as well as a pair of scissors on the desk because so few international travellers remember to pack this handy little tool! 

A different towel animal greeted us each day

Our very own hammock

Sunsets were best appreciated from the bar at the end of the jetty. In the waters below, you could watch parrotfish snack on hard coral and moray eels hunt their prey.  On one breezy evening, we even had a small banded sea krait sidle up to the bar to join us for sundowner drinks, causing a minor commotion before it was literally swept off the pier with a broom.

At the restaurant, meals were served buffet-style and as I may have mentioned before, every one of the waitstaff knew your name! The menu changed daily, with bakso one day (Indonesian noodle soup), roast lamb another. Of course, there were also a wide variety of salads, breads, fruit and an assortment of desserts including ice-cream. Soft drinks were free, other drinks were not; by all accounts, the espresso coffee, lunchtime mocktails and wines were great.

The Dive Experience

At Wakatobi, there was a policy of limiting dive group sizes to four to ensure personalised attention from your dive guide. A fleet of three or four boats were in service throughout our stay, carrying a maximum of around sixteen divers - but often, far less . During our stay, we found the morning double dives the most popular - in the afternoon, sometimes there were only half a dozen passengers on board.

No matter which boat we were on, the crew were very friendly and helpful to the point where you didn't have to lift your tank onto your back. A hot towel was offered as soon as you got back on the boat, and there were always dry towels, fresh drinking water, hot drinks and a generous assortment of snacks. Ham, cheese and tomato toasties were a hit. Other times, we had roast beef sandwiches and egg-and-salad focaccias. There was also always fresh fruit and a few delectable baked goodies from the kitchen. 

Depending on the location of dive sites that day, we would either spend surface intervals on the boat, or back at the resort. The bathroom on the boat rates a mention: it was completely tiled and had a hot shower inside it. Fancy! 

The diving itself was pretty fabulous. Wakatobi is a macro paradise so don't come expecting manta rays or big sharks - while these species are out there, they are definitely not the stars of this destination.

Other Activities

So if you don't scuba dive, is Wakatobi worth the trip?  

Given how easy it is to reach this resort from Australia (and probably anywhere in South East Asia), the answer is a resounding yes! 

While I didn't undertake any snorkelling excursions, other guests raved about their experience. They saw sea kraits, squid, shark, moray and even spotted eagle rays up close. Your accompanying guide carries with them a brightly coloured buoy and a pointer so they can show you the sights.

There were inflatable stand up paddleboards and big plastic kayaks to paddle. 

Wakatobi also had plenty of activities: cooking classes, local village visits, sarong-tying demonstrations, Bahasa Indonesia lessons and evening talks on local marine life.