I had seen photos of Wakatobi in the dive magazines and it looked stunning; I was looking forward to seeing this beautiful jewel in the blue sea. The reality of the Wakatobi that we saw was quite different; the photo must have been taken at one of the other islands that make up Wakatobi. Wakatobi is a combination of the first two letters of four major islands that make up the area: Wangi Wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia, and Binongko.
The village we arrived at was Wanci and the designated anchorage was in the shallow enclosed lagoon. The channel into the lagoon was barely wide enough for the catamarans and the boats needed the best part of a tide level to get in.
Gino, the local Sail Indonesia contact, took the helm and piloted us into the lagoon in Wakatobi. This was early morning with the sun in our eyes, so we were quite relieved when we got through the channel without scraping sides or bottom!
This was the view off the sides as we came through the channel into the lagoon at Wakatobi. Doesn't look deep enough to bring a boat through does it?
YOLO safely in the lagoon at Wakatobi.
Coming across from Banda, we ran into a debris field of trees, logs, branches and timber that was scattered with a table, chair and some plastic containers. It stretched along a line for quite a way and we had to dodge a few big chunks of wood for a few hours. Another catamaran wasn't so lucky and struck a big log and it took a big chunk out of one of their bows--ouch. They weren't taking on water so they will wait until they reach somewhere to haul out to make repairs.
A derelict boat near the dock at Wakatobi. Note the plank as folks still must use it for something, even if just to get to the boats on either side of it. I think the blue boat on the right is the fuel tanker that was offloading diesel fuel with a long hose. Wakatobi gave every yacht that showed up 200 liters of free diesel fuel and $2,500,000 rupiahs in cash (about $250.00). those were incentives offered to take this alternative route to the north out of Darwin and we were pleased to see that they kept their word. The money was a secret and didn't arrive til the last day or so and they didn't want us to advertise that part of the incentive to the locals.
A few of the village leaders welcoming us to the village where the kick fighting was held.
Rows and rows of the seaweed tied to floating lines created lanes that looked like an Olympic swimming pool.
Jason and other cruisers trying foods prepared for us for lunch. I reckon the kid in the tree has the best seat in the house for watching us 'bule', the local word for white foreigners.
Some of the young women made up to be paraded around the town. The huge headdresses were real neck exercises, I'm sure. They parade the marriageable women around and the young men (and women?) to be circumcised. We never really understood the circumcision part, and there appeared to be boys and girls in the parade of youth; we weren't sure if they were going to be cut or had already had the operation.
We yachties were seated around the bamboo platform on which the boat was to be lifted. They fed us a local meal, which we ate on our laps, surrounded by locals staring at us while we ate and the local elders made prayers and blessings of the offerings in the boats. We were all allowed to take a handful of rice as we entered the area to contribute to the boat. Horns made of coconut leaves were part of the boat booty and they let us blow them to announce the departure of the boat.
The fuel boat in the harbor, offloading diesel for us,
Boats sitting in the mud at low tide. At least bouncing on the bottom doesn't damage these flat bottomed boats.
Other baskets of food prepared by each of the families with children in the ceremony. These huge rounded baskets were filled with dishes of food waiting to be set out and eaten. They were all covered with the rounded lids and a cloth.