Wakatobi is an island group situated at the end of the southeastern ‘petal’ of the orchid-shaped island of Sulawesi and separated by the deep Banda Sea to its north and east and the Flores Sea to its south. The name Wakatobi is in fact an acronym of its four main islands, which are: Wangi-wangi (WA), Kaledupa (KA), Tomia (TO) and Binongko (BI). Now a National Marine Park, Waktobi comprises a total of 1.4 million hectares, of which 900,000 hectares are filled with tropical coral reefs. It is the third largest marine protected area in Indonesia and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005. Wakatobi is widely recognised as having the highest number of reef and fish species in the world. In addition to the small fish species, it is the playground of dolphins, turtles and even whales. The island group comprises 143 islands of which only seven are inhabited supporting about 100,000 residents.
Besides it underwater majesty, Wakatobi offers white-sand beaches, mangrove forests, traditional weaving villages, blacksmiths and historical ruins. There are a number of interesting forts on Wangi-Wangi. Five kilometres from Wanci is Fort Tindoi, standing on top of Tindoi Mountain, while at Liya Togo Village is Fort Lya, which also has the Lya Kraton Mosque within its compound; the fort was built in 1538. Other forts are the Mandati Tonga Fort and the Kapota Fort. At the Kampong Bajao Mola on Wangi-Wangi, it is possible to meet a settlement of ‘sea-gypsies,’ the Bajao people. Formerly fully nomadic, living on their boats, the Bajao nowadays often occupy more permanent settlements, building their homes on stilts over the sea. The Untete Beach at the Kulati Village is the longest white sand beach on Tomia with endless rows of coconut trees, where the fish grilling tradition takes place.