The South-eastern Peninsula and Buton group of islands are inhabited by descendants of the Torajans. Due to the strong influence of the Islamic Bone Kingdom most of the people in this part of Sulawesi are Muslim. Most of the land area of Southeast Sulawesi is covered by natural jungle, with extensive plantations of teak and ironwood, which are used for local handicraft and contribute to the local economy. For those who like challenging adventures and ecoutourism, check out Lambusango and Kakenauwe Protected Forest, Wakatobi Marine National Park and the Basilika Islands.

Occupying the lower eastern “petal” of Sulawesi. Southeast Sulawesi Province covers 38,067.70 square kilometers. Its population rose from 2,232,586 in 2010 to 2,417,962 in 2014. Its population density is 63.5 people per square kilometer. Kendari is the capital and main city. Garuda Indonesia Airlines fly directly from Jakarta, Surabaya and Manado to Kendari.

A kingdom by the name of Konawe existed in what is now West Sulawesi in the A.D. 10th century. Soon, other kingdoms like Buton, Muna, Kemongga, Tiworo, Kalususu and Moronenen appeared. In the 16th century, the Buton began spreading Islam in the region. The Buton learned about growing spices from Ternate, and began planting spices as well. Because of this the Dutch wanted to control and managed to create a puppet kingdom called Laiwoi, in spite of the heavy resistance from the locals. Southeast Sulawesi then became a part of Indonesian in 1950, and became a separate province in 1964.

There are five diverse cultural groups found in West Sulawesi: The Tolaki, Morunene, Buton, Muna (locally called the Wuna), and the Bajo, or Sea Gypsies. Seafood is the specialty here, and you can never go wrong with ikan bakar or roasted fish. Pisang epe and pisang hijau, desserts made of banana, should be sampled as well. The food here can be spicy. You should try sinonggi, a sago porridge served with clam and fish soup. Pokea or skewered clams with peanut sauce is also tasty. It is often served with baked sticky rice or lontong, steamed rice in banana leaves. For a snack try bagea, cookie made with ginger and cashew, said to be perfect with a cup of tea or coffee. Tourism Office: Jl. Tebau Nunggu No. 2, Kendari 94111, Tel. (62-401) 326634, fax: (62-401) 327435


Sulawesi is a huge crab-, orchid- or K- shaped island east of Borneo and Kalimantan, south of the Philippines, west of the Moluccas and north of Flores. Formerly known as Celebes, it is about the size of Nebraska and consists of four large peninsulas fringed by coral reefs and covered by large wildernesses areas with marshy coastal plains and jungle covered mountains in the interior. There are also smoking volcanos and large agricultural areas. Off the coast in some places are distinctive Sulawesi fishing platforms.

Sulawesi covers 202,000 square kilometers. It accounts for 10 percent of Indonesia's area and 7 percent of its population. Sulawesi has lost 90 percent of its rich lowland forests to logging and agriculture. Many of the highland forests are still in good condition. Most people tend to live on or near the coast. The interior is generally sparsely habited. The major ethnic grous in the south are the Bugis and the Makassarese. The Toradja occupy the southern highlands. A mosaic of other groups are scattered acr

The ancient Chinese made it do Sulawesi. Some people today make their living today by digging up the graves of Chinese mariners and unearthing porcelain from the 11th century Song and Ming dynasties worth thousands of dollars. The mariners were often interned together and grave robbers have found 11th century vases using steel rods to probe the soft mud where they were buried.

Two of the most famous products from Celebes were Makassar poison, which, according to 17th century diarist Samuel Pepys, was given by Englishmen to dogs in their gentlemen's clubs to watch them die, and Makassar oil, which men used to grease back their hair. It was once described as the greasiest of the "greasy kids stuff." ♢[Source: "Ring of Fire" by Lawrence and Lorne Blair, Bantam Books, New York]

Indonesian independence brought name changes: Celebes became Sulawesi and the capital Makassare became Ujung Pandang. There was a Sulawesi independence movement that has since died out. In the chaos after independence, Islamic fundamentalist groups on Celebes held a foreign medical team hostage for 18 months. There were only two survivors. People in Sulawesi have demanded the return of land taken away by a Suharto family company.

Provinces of Sulawesi: Area in square kilometers, Population in 2010, Population in 2014, Density per square kilometers
South Sulawesi: 46,717.48, 8,034,776, 8,395,747, 179.7
West Sulawesi: 16,787.18, 1,158,651, 1,284,620, 76.5
Central Sulawesi: 61,841.29, 2,635,009, 2,839,290, 45.9
Southeast Sulawesi: 38,067.70, 2,232,586, 2,417,962, 63.5
Gorontalo, 11,257.07, 1,040,164, 1,134,498, 92.9
North Sulawesi: 13,851.64, 2,270,596, 2,382,941, 172.0
Total Sulawesi: 188,522.36, 17,371,782, 18,455,058, 97.4

Kendari: Gateway to Southeast Sulawesi

Kendari (on the east coast of the peninsula of Southeast Sulawesi) is the capital and largest city of Southeast Sulawesi and is the starting point for adventures in the province such as seven-tiered Moramo Waterfalls, the Giant Clam Marine Park, and Wakatobi National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Park. Kendari has the fourth largest population in Sulawesi, behind Makassar, Manado, and Palu.

Formerly named Kandai, and also sometimes referred to among the locals as Kantahi. Translated literally, Kendari means “the coastal region.” Situated along sloping hills around Kendari Bay, it is home to about 350,000 people and known for its skilled craftsmen who make crafts using original designs and motifs handed down through the generations, using indigenous roots and ironwood.

Kendari is know for its colorful ceremonial events and culture. To be present at an important cultural event and participate is real treat. The closing of any ceremonial event in Kendari features the local “Lulo Dance”, performed by local men and women. And all people watching are invited to join the dance, as part of the conclusion and harmonious farewell.

Kendari Haluoleo Airport, formerly known as Wolter Monginsidi Airport, is the main airport of Kendari. There are flights directly to Kendari from Jakarta and Makassar. Airlines that fly to to Kendari are Garuda Indonesia, Merpati Nusantara Airlines, Lion Air and Sriwijaya Air.

Kendari offers many good accommodation options. Listed below are the top eight hotels and inns: 1) Hotel Horison Kendari, Jl. Jend. Ahmad Yani No. 3, Kendari South East Sulawesi,, Kendari, Indonesia, Tel. (0401) 3127999, E mail:; 2) Swiss-Belhotel Kendari, Jl. Edi Sabara No. 88,, By Pass, Kendari 93122,, Indonesia, Tel. (0401) 3128777; 3) Imperial Hotel, Jl. Ahmad Yani, No. 77,, Kendari 93117,, Indonesia, Tel. (0401) 3191222, E mail:; 4) Continent Wonua Monapa Resort, JalanWolterMonginsidi,, PorosBandara, Ranooha,, Ranomeeto Km.23,, Kendari 93371, Indonesia; 5) Zahra Syariah Hotel Kendari, Jl. Haji Edi Sahara No. 1A,, Kendari, Indonesia, Tel. (0401) 3121264, E mail:; 6) Hotel Aden, Jl A Yani 54,, Kendari 93117,, Indonesia; 7) Plaza Inn, Jl. Antero Hamra 57-59, Komplex Pier 29,, Kendari 93117,, Indonesia, Tel. (0401) 3131888; 8) Putri Wisata Hotel, Jalan MT Haryono No 104,, Kendari, Indonesia

Beaches and Sights Near Kendari

Kendari Conservation Giant Clam Marine Park (1 hour from Kendari City or 1 ½ hours from Kendari airport) is located in the Toli-toli Village and has a large number of endangered marine life. The marine park was opened in January 2010. Up to this time the marine park has been successful, having collected and preserved as many as 700 Giant Clams (Tridacna), and various other species such as Tridacna Gigas, Tridacna Derasa, Tridacna Squamosa, Tridacna Maxima, Tridacna Crocea, TridacnaTevoroa, Tridacna Rosewate, Hippopus-Hippopus and HippopusPorcellanusand other creatures that live in shallow waters. The Marine Park not only preserves and protects the Giant Clam, but also other marine biota such as starfish, sea cucumbers, ornamental fish, and the lobster.

Moramo Waterfalls (about 60 kilometers east of Kendari) is located in the area of Tanjung Peropa Nature Reserve and is regarded as the most beautiful natural wonder in the region. It has seven large, main levels, and 60 smaller levels of cascading water, with some pools that are ideal for swimming, with clear and cool water. The water slides and falls on granite boulders. The height of each level ranges from 0.5 — 3 meters.. Surrounding the waterfalls are large, ancient trees, which are home to a large variety of colorful butterflies and tropical birds, creating a picturesque scene, ideal for relaxation.

Beaches: Batugong Beach (15 kilometers north of Kendari) has sparkling white sand and its location on the coast a ways from any villages or buildings making the atmosphere very natural and quiet. This beach faces directly in the Banda Sea, while on the other side you can see the vast array of the Nipanipa Mountains. Nambo Beach (30 minutes, 14 kilometers south of Kendari) is a sloping beach, with breezy winds, and beautiful palm trees blowing in the wind. The water itself is calm and clear, making it ideal for swimming or boating. There are pavilions built on the beach, where you can see the small Bokori islands in the distance. Mayaria Beach (10 kilometers to the east of Kendari) is a beautiful beach with white sand that slopes into the water. For tourists who want to spend the night, there are near-by inns and cottages complete with restaurants and facilities.

Sea Garden of Pulau Hari (32 kilometers from Kendari, 1 ½ - 2 hours by speedboat) is a beautiful island. Pulau Hari, literally translated, means Daylight Island. Because of the way the sun’s rays reflect over the water of the sea surrounding this island, the local people call it the “Island of Daylight.” Swimming, boating and diving can all be done here. There are colorful fish and reefs.

Wakatobi National Marine Park

Wakatobi National Marine Park (accessible by air or air and boat from Bau Bau) embraces a group of islands formally known as the Tukangbesi islands and described by Jacques Cousteau as an “Underwater Nirvana”. Now a National Marine Park covering the entire Waktobi District, it comprises a total of 1,390,000 hectares, of which 900,000 is water filled colorful species of fish and coral reefs. Wakatobi is widely recognized as having the highest number of reef and fish species in the world. The islands are also famous as the largest barrier reef in Indonesia, and one of the largest in the world. There are found fringing, atolls and barrier reefs and more than 50 spectacular dive sites easily accessible from the major islands. Dolphins, turtles and even whales are often seen. The island group comprises 143 large and small islands, of which only seven are inhabited, with a total population of around 100,000 people. The most interesting inhabitants are perhaps the Bajo, the seafaring nomads

Wakatobi National Park has been nominated to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2005.According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “Wakatobi National Park has very high marine resource potential, in terms of both species and uniqueness, with enchanting submarine landscapes. In terms of configuration, the marine waters of the park generally start flat and then slope seawards, with sheer precipices in some parts. The water depth varies, the deepest parts reaching 1,044 meters with sand and coral at the bottom. This Park has 25 chains of coral reefs, and the total circumference of the coral islands is 600 kilometers.” [Source: Ministry of Environment]

Located right in the heart of the Asia-Pacific Coral Triangle, the Wakatobi Islands offer crystal clear pristine waters and a rich bio-diverse underwater life, a true paradise for divers. The islands are said to be home for 942 fish species and 750 coral reef species, out of world total of 850. Vcomparing with the two world's famous diving centers, the Caribbean Sea owns only 50 species with 300 coral reef species in the Red Sea, in Egypt.

The Wakatobi Islands are situated at the end of the south eastern “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). Due to its magnificent underwater life, Wakatobi is fast gaining worldwide attention for its quality dives that can be made by beginners to professionals. Small wonder, therefore, that many liveaboards make this one of their main ports of sojourn. Aside from its dive sites, Wakatobi has many superb beaches. The conservation group “Operation Wallacea” is very active in this marine park, conducting underwater research and conservation.

In addition to diving and snorkeling, visit the Kampong Bajo Mola on Wangi-Wangi and see the life of the local Bajo sea nomads. There are also a number of interesting forts on Wangi-Wangi. Five kilometers 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 by an influential Islamic cleric called Syekh Abdul Wahid. Other forts are the Mandati Tonga Fort and the Kapota Fort. Kaledupa has some of the best beaches such as the Hoga Beach, Sombano Beach, Peropa Beach, and Puncak Jamaraka The Untete Beach at the Kulati Village is the longest white sand beach on Tomia with endless rows of coconut trees, where the usual fish grilling tradition is held. There are also mangrove forests to explore. For handicrafts, Binongko is the center for weaving. You can buy hand-woven traditional cloths at the traditional markets of Binongko or Pasar Togo Binongko.

Accommodation in the Wakatobi Islands

The best time for diving in Wakatobi is from March through December. Of the four main islands, Tomia Island was the first to be developed. The Wakatobi Dive Resort here offers luxurious accommodation from Villas to Beach bungalows and garden bungalows. The Resort also runs private charter flights, that pick up passengers from Bali to fly direct to remote Tomia. This beautiful Dive Resort caters to the high end market. The resorts have restaurants that serve Western, Indonesian and local dishes. You can also find simpler meals at the many small restaurants in Wanci. Seafood is the main dish.

On Wangi-Wangi island is the 40 room Patuno Resort that offers upper and medium range accommodation. All resorts, however, allow easy access to Wakatobi’s numerous dive sites and organize professional dive operations.

Patuno Resort is a luxury hotel, and is Wakatobi’s most accessible Resort, situated just a 10 minute drive from the Matahora Airport in Wangi-Wangi. Patuno Resort offers the choice of the Standard Room, Deluxe Room or Executive Bungalow; each equipped with air-conditioning, hot water, TV, mini bar and a private balcony facing the beach. Hotel facilities include a beachside restaurant, incorporating a range of local and international dishes, beach side cabanas, library, bar, ballroom and meeting rooms. Room rates range from USD70-215 and are all inclusive of free airport transfers, welcome drink, breakfast buffet for two, and free WiFi in restaurant and lobby areas. Patuno Resort Wakatobi, Jalan Raya Patuno, Wangi-Wangi, Wakatobi, Southeast Sulawesi, Tel. 62 — 8114002221, E mail:, Website:

Wakatobi Dive Resort is not on Wangi-Wangi island, but on the neighbouring island of Tomea, Wakatobi. It is an award winning, eco dive resort offering four levels of accommodations: Villas, Select Beach Bungalows, Standard Beach Bungalows and Garden Bungalows. All accommodations are spacious and available with a either a king-size bed or twin beds and are equipped with air-conditioning as well as ceiling fans. All rooms have a private balcony as well as two lounge chairs for sun-tanning and reading outdoors, a desk with internet access, and mini-bar. The resort facilities include a restaurant in a relaxed, yet elegant setting, bar, boutique and spa. As there is no public airport on Tomea Island, it also offers chartered flights from Bali direct to the resort’s private airstrip. Many types of dive boats are available at the resort to take you on the type of adventure you desire; locally crafted dive boats, shore diving on the house reef, and taxi boats to take you to the further points along the house reef, which is over three miles long. Full equipment rentals and camera facilities are also at your disposal. Wakatobi Dive Resort, Tel. 62 — 361 759669, 62 — 812381 1084, E mail:, Website:

There are other smaller establishments in the town of Wanci, among them are: 1) Nita Sari, Jalan Kemakmuran 3. Wanci, Waktobi,, Tel. +62404 21636; 2) Gajah Mada II, Jalan Kemakmuran 82, Wanci, Wakatobi, Tel. +62404 21527; 3) Jelly dan Setiana,, Jalan Samburaka 77, Pongo, Wakatobi, Tel. +62404 21112: 4) Lamongan, Jalan Merdeka 5, Pongo, Wakatobi, Tel. +62404 21017

Getting to the Wakatobi Islands

Since the opening of the Matohara Airport on Wangi-Wangi, these remote islands are now more accessible and can be reached by flights from Jakarta or Makassar. There is also another landing strip on Tomia island, which receives charters from Bali. Wangi-Wangi, or Wanci, is the District capital of Wakatobi. Express Air is the only regular airline that flies from Jakarta to Bau-Bau, in Southeast Sulawesi, and continues to land on Wakatobi’s Matohara Airport on Wangi-Wangi.

The Wakatobi Dive Resort operates Charter flights so they can pick up passengers from Bali arriving direct on the island of Tomia. For information check: Otherwise you can fly to Bau Bau on mainland Sulawesi and take a boat to Airlines flying to Bau-Bau from Jakarta, Bali or Surabaya are Garuda Indonesia, Lion Air, Batavia Air and Sriwijaya Airline.

Wangi-Wangi airport is served daily from Makassar and Kendari on Express Air and twice a week on Merpati. Starting in 2012, Batavia Air began daily Jakarta-Kendari flights, leaving Jakarta at 2.45 am West Indonesia Time, arriving Kendari at 6.15 am Central Indonesia Time. The flight returns t 07.00 am and arrives back in Jakarta at 08.30 am local time. (click

Wangi-Wangi: Gateway to Diving in the Wakatobi Islands

Wangi-wangi is one of the four main islands that make up the Wakatobi Archipelago off the coast of Southeast Sulawesi, and is the gateway to the Wakatobi Marine National Park. Wangi-wangi, or Wanci as it is often called, is a favourite destination for marine tourism enthusiasts. The Wangi-Wangi waters are a magnificent underwater paradise, rich in stunning coral reefs and an impressive variety of marine life to match. The ocean floor is melded with a range of landscapes: flatplains, gentle slopes, steep walls, and deep caves to make every dive a new adventure. Beautiful Coral Reefs can be found in just a few feet of water, while there are also breath-taking “bottomless” dives well below 30 meters. For a more detailed description of the Wakatobi dive sites:; For organized dive trips:

Due to its prime location in the center of the coral triangle, scuba diving is obviously one of the main attractions of the Wakatobi islands. As one of the largest coral reefs in the world, the vast combination of soft and hard formations of pristine reefs is sure to leave you in awe. Wakatobi visitors have described the marine gardens as colorful, enormous, eye-popping, lush, psychedelic, rainbowed, riotous, and stupendous. Many divers with years of experience exploring the subsurface terrains of numerous countries across the globe claim Wakatobi as the easily the most diverse and beautiful coral reef in the world.

The abundance of fish species alone are enough to create an almost endless list from the lovely Picasso Trigger Fish to the lurking Hammerhead Shark. Schools of Manta Rays glide overhead, while lobsters, starfish, sea cucumbers and anemones adorn the ocean floors and walls. With over forty-five available dive spots across the islands, there is more than enough to see and do to keep a dive fanatic occupied for the entire duration of his stay—and more. More dive spots are still being explored, creating the opportunity for guests to visit areas of the ocean never before seen by man.

Not a diver? Fear not! There are plenty of waters shallow enough for beginner divers and snorkelers alike to enjoy a glimpse of this fascinating ocean paradise. Another must-do for marine lovers: Hop on a boat to take you deeper out to sea, and observe dolphins and pilot whales roaming free in their natural environment. Larger whales such as sperm whales and grey whales may also sometimes be seen. A host of other water activities are also available such as banana boat rides, rental jet-skis, and even learning to sail in a traditional dugout canoe.

The Patuno Resort offers a range of dive trips as well as dive courses with qualified PADI instructors. The Patuno Resort offers Diving Packages for 2 nights and 5 dives in Wakatobi for Rp. 6,320,000 twin share per person including the return flight from Jakarta, or Rp. 2,320,000 without airfare, valid until December 2011. Other more extended options are available. For details check at :

Bajo Sea Gypsies on Wangi-Wangi

Mola is one of several stilted Bajo villages on Wangi-Wangi Island. Tourists can take a peek at the traditional seaweed farms and see how they live and have survived for centuries living on the sea. The Bajo, or Sea Gypsies as they have often been called, are a landless people scattered throughout Indonesia, Malaysian Borneo and The Philippines. Records show they have lived off of Sulawesi for centuries.

True to their nick name, this sea faring community is sustained completely and exclusively by the ocean. But not only do they survive solely on marine resources—they actually live in the ocean as well. That’s right. Entire villages are built on stilts and connected by wooden bridges over large expanses of coral reefs and rocks in the middle of the emerald sea.

The Bajo tribe maintain an intimate knowledge of the maritime coastal ecosystems, as well as the seasons, winds, currents, tides, lunar cycle, stars and navigation. They have developed specialized boat building skills, and through expertly constructed watercrafts, are able to chart some of the world’s most dangerous waters. These mysterious sea people are also distinguished by their exceptional free-diving abilities, and through years of practice have acquired physical adaptations that enable them to see better and dive longer underwater. As profound sailors and gatherers of marine products, the Bajo supply many of Sulawesi’s export products for trade with China.

In the past, the Bajo lived almost completely segregated from the “land-people,” preserving their very distinct way of life for generations. But these once sea-wandering nomads, who have lived for centuries at sea, are now adapting to and interacting more with the land-based ethnic groups and being encouraged to settle on land. Apart from living locations, many other aspects of the Bajo culture have been abandoned, and with more and more Bajo descendants now speaking Bahasa Indonesia, the ancient Bajo language is slowly dying out.

As the Bajo have a tendency to migrate from place to place with the change of tides and seasons, it is not known how many remain, though it is roughly estimated at a few hundred families. The 2010 film, The Mirror Never Lies, is a collaborative product of WWF-Indonesia, the Wakatobi administration and SET Film Workshop, and gives insight into the lives and culture of the Bajo people and the marine biodiversity surrounding the Wakatobi islands.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Indonesia Tourism website ( ), Indonesia government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020

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