Snorkeling Alor and Wakatobi!
The Alor archipelago resides in the eastern end of the Lesser Sundas. Located about 8º south of the Equator, the Lesser Sundas formed over 10 million years ago when the Indo-Australian plate interacted with the Sunda plate creating a series of large volcanic islands with many volcanoes that are still active. The unspoiled underwater wilderness contains an enormous diversity of marine life. The reefs in Alor Strait are classic in terms of mixed hard and soft coral communities, but almost prehistoric in terms of the abundance and size of coral and fish. Nutrient-rich, but sometimes cool water, brings a ton of food into the area for both sessile corals and planktivorous fishes. Alor is also great place for whale watching between snorkel sessions. Aside from the nearly daily sightings of spinner dolphins, larger cetaceans like pygmy blue whales and minke whales often use the Strait to feed and for shelter.
North of Alor by approximately 240 km, and 100 km southeast of Sulawesi sits a group of four large islands and several satellite islands that make up the Wakatobi Regency (the first two letters of each of the four islands combine as a singular reference to the Regency – see map). Wakatobi Islands were once ancient coral reefs that have since been uplifted due to plate interaction in the region. The Wakatobi Marine Conservation Area was established in 1996 to protect the healthy and diverse marine environments around the islands, and in 2002 the entire archipelago became the third largest national parkin Indonesia. Rare amongst the other islands in the Indonesian archipelago, the islands of Wakatobi are part of Indonesia’s largest barrier reef. Fantastic shallow reefs with hundreds of species of corals surround the islands and years of protection have promoted robust populations of reef fishes.
The Gaia Love plays host to us to explore Alor and the barrier reefs of Wakatobi, then transfer to the award-winning Wakatobi Resort. This is a special itinerary giving us the chance to explore the best of Alor and Wakatobi, as well as visit one of the largest barrier reefs system in Indonesia!
Our snorkeling adventure in Alor and Wakatobi begins and ends in Bali, Indonesia. We have three internal flights (Bali – Kupang, Timor; Kupang – Kalabahi, Alor; Wakatobi – Bali). Our journey on the boat generally follows a localized route, stopping to visit several islands and island groups in Alor and and around Pantar. After spending a five (5) days in Alor, we will begin our journey to Wakatobi, again stopping off to snorkel on some fantastic seaward reefs along the way. We spend the last five (5) days of the tour in the Wakatobi Regency and at Waktobi Resort (4 nights). The following is a general itinerary based on a combination of our own experiences in the area and that of the crew onboard our expedition vessel. Please note that this is a general itinerary and that weather, tides, and other unforeseen or unavoidable circumstances may affect the schedule at any time.
Day 1: Bali / Sanur / Hyatt Regency
Meals provided: D
Arrive in Sanur, Bali check in at the group hotel/resort. Welcome dinner and trip orientation at the resort. Overnight Hyatt Regency.
Day 2: Timor / Kupang
Meals provided: B,L,D
An afternoon flight brings us to Kupang, Timor and our hotel for the evening. This is a required stop to make the connection from Bali. Overnight Kupang.
Day 3: Alor / Kalabahi / Kepa Is.
Meals provided: B,L,D
We arrive in the morning and transfer to the Gaia Love. In the afternoon, we will have the chance to snorkel in the afternoon at Kepa Island, where an extensive shallow reef is made up of two very distinct marine habitats. Along the exposed side, robust coral grow in spur and grove formation, and just around the corner the leeward side has shallow coral gardens with sandy slopes. Both habitats are gorgeous if we plan the currents just right, we should be able to drift this site going from one habitat to the other. Overnight Gaia Love.
Day 4 – 6: Alor / Pantar
Meals provided: B,L,D
Alor has magnificent, healthy reefs that grow right up to the rugged shoreline. Many of our snorkel sites take place along fringing reefs lush with both hard and soft corals. Strong currents bringing in nutrient (and sometimes cold) water feed dense populations of sessile invertebrates and planktivorous fishes that reside in . As well as snorkeling along some of the Alor and Pantar coastline, we’ll also visit several of the islands in north Alor Strait including Ternate and Buaya Islands and Pura volcano, a dormant stratovolcano that looms over the entrance in Kalabahi Bay. Overnight Gaia Love.
Day 7: Alor / Wakatobi Regency
Meals provided: B,L,D
We say goodbye to Alor and cruise north towards a series of small atolls that lie in the southern portion of the Wakatobi Regency. These classic examples of atolls give us the chance to snorkel along true barrier reef systems where thousands of anthias, damsels, wrasses, and surgeonfishes create schools of fish so think it’s hard to see the substrate below. Fish are everywhere and it’s hard to stay focused on one part of the reef without being distracted to another part. Overnight Gaia Love.
Day 8 – 9: Wakatobi Regency
Meals provided: B,L,D
The barrier-reef theme continues as we visit one of the largest barrier reef systems in all of Indonesia. Lying to the southwest of the main island in the Regency, this well-developed barrier reef is as picturesque as one could imagine. Steep, seaward facing reefs with hard coral gardens in the shallows are on tap for the next few days with this rare opportunity to snorkel a barrier reef habitat outside of our trips to Palau. Overnight Gaia Love.
Day 10: Pulau Lentea / Wakatobi Resort
Meals provided: B,L,D
Our morning snorkel takes place along the southern end of the barrier reef that extends from Pulau Lentea. In the afternoon, we transfer to Wakatobi Resort and meet in the early evening for an orientation to the next five days at the resort. Overnight Wakatobi Resort.
Day 11 – 13: Wakatobi
Meals provided: B,L,D
Wakatobi is know the world over for incredible reefs that grow in just a few feet of water right from shore. Reefs are covered with an abundance of soft and hard coral and all types of tropical reef fish, from those that associate with coral to those that feed in the water column can be found here. Many of our sites also have sea grass habitats in the shallows where we can look for rare fishes such as cowfish, scorpionfishes, and seahorses. And while the house reef (front) is easily one of the most famous in terms of shallow coral reefs, it is also the adjacent dock that can capture our attention for hours at a time. Around the southeast corner gives us the chance for seaward reef environments, and for big fish such as snapper, grouper, and Napoleon wrasses. Overnight Wakatobi Resort.
Day 14: Wakatobi / Bali / Sanur / Hyatt Regency
Meals provided: B,L,D
Transfer to the airport in Tomia, Wakatobi for our flight to Bali. Transfer to the Hyatt Regency and have our farewell dinner in Sanur. Overnight TBD.
Day 15: International flights or extensions
Meals provided: B
Prices and Payment schedule:
$10,100 USD per person, double occupancy
Reservation deposit: $1000 USD
November 17, 2024: $5000 USD
February 17, 2025: $4100 USD
Tour cost includes:
- Accommodations on day 1 through day 15 (Gaia Love 7 nights; Wakatobi Resort 4 nights)
- All meals on days 2 through 14 (dinner on day 1 – breakfast on day 15)
- All internal transfers including international arrival and departure transfers
- Non-alcoholic beverages
- All snorkeling and park fees
- All gratuities
Tour cost does not include:
- Round-trip international airfare
- Additional hotel accommodations and meals as a result of travel outside of the program dates
- Visa requirements including payments
- Alcoholic beverages
- International departure taxes
- Extra / overweight baggage fees
- Trip insurance (recommended; (we recommend Travel Guard, World Nomads, or Travel Insure)
- DAN insurance (required unless personal insurance program has worldwide emergency evacuation services)
- Additional accommodations while on tour in the event of flight schedule changes or events of force majeure
- Fuel surcharges (if applicable)
180 – 91 days prior to departure: 50% of trip cost
90 days or less prior to departure: 100% of tour cost
Please see our Terms and Conditions
We use the finest live-aboard boat in Indonesia to host us on our snorkeling adventures in Alor, the Gaia Love. In Wakatobi, we stay with Wakatobi Resort. In Bali, we stay at the Hyatt Regency in the quiet beach village of Sanur. Please visit our accommodations page for more photos or use the link to visit the resort/live-aboard website.
The Gaia Love is a modern 40-meter steel hull vessel build from the ground up in Batam, Indonesia. Designed with a modern contemporary look and with an emphasis on diving in comfort, she accommodates up to 20 guests in ten spacious ensuite rooms: six on the upper deck and four on the lower deck. Each room is 20 square meters and has individual air-conditioning and ensuite bathrooms with hot water. Upper deck rooms feature an additional private outdoor balcony. Gaia Love has a total of four decks (lower, main, upper and top/sundeck). The lounge, restaurant, and camera room are located on the main deck. Adjacent to the lounge is the seating area for plated meals. At the rear is an over-sized dive deck that can accommodate up to 28 divers. The partially shaded sundeck is perfect for evening gatherings and relaxation under the stars. More photos
Wakatobi Resort is one of Indonesia’s top 5-star beach resort and is located in the Tukang Besi island group near Tomia, one of the four main islands that makes up the Wakatobi Regency. Their website says it best, “set amidst verdant landscaping along a white sand beach, Wakatobi’s grand villas and bungalows provide the perfect blend of natural surroundings and five-star amenities. Each offers privacy, large shaded porches, climate-controlled comfort and sleeping arrangements for singles, couples or families. Interiors are finished in rich native woods, with separate sitting areas and spacious shower rooms.” Rooms are large and offer twin-share or double occupancy. The dining area is open air and located along the beachfront that allows incredible views of the beach and azure blue sea. More photos
The Hyatt Regency in Sanur, Bali, is a beachfront property built on nine hectares of lush tropical gardens. Relax in one of the 363 rooms, designed with contemporary Balinese and Japanese elements and comforts. Each room features a patio or balcony overlooking lush gardens or partial ocean. The property has three gorgeous swimming pools and three restaurants to choose from: Omang Omang, Pizzaria, and Piano Lounge. The hotel is conveniently located near Bali’s main tourist attractions, and the International Airport Ngurah Rai is just 16 km away. Hyatt Regency Bali is a CHSE certified and GBAC STARTMaccredited hotel. Our room type is the Premium King or Twin. These rooms are 39 sqm and feature a sitting/lounging area and terrace with easy access to the pools, restaurants, and gardens. More photos
WHAT TO EXPECT
Alor is eight degrees south of the Equator, and enjoys a tropical climate with temperatures around 82º F (28º C). Afternoon and early morning showers are common but the sun generally shines throughout the day creating a perfect environment for swimming in the clear, blue seas. Water temperatures vary between 68º – 86º F (20º – 30º C). The large range in water temperature reflects the influence of oceanic upwellings that affect the south side of the archipelago. The northern parts of the islands are surrounded by warm, equatorial seas (Flores Sea), while the southern parts are exposed to the deep Savu Sea. The combination of the southern Tradewinds from the northwest and the Coriolis Effect export the waters of the Savu Sea away from the islands. Consequently, cool water from the depths upwell to the surface resulting in much cooler sea surface temperatures.
Wakatobi is five degrees south of the Equator, with climate and daily temps similar to the of Alor. Water temps, however, are consistently around 82º F (28º C).
Each day of snorkeling revolves around a schedule that boasts plenty of water time. All of our sites will be accessed via two dinghies (small boats) that have good ladders for entry back into the boat. With the daily goal of snorkeling some of the best reefs in the world, our schedule generally includes two snorkel sessions and a presentation before dinner. Our first snorkel session begins after breakfast and can last up until lunch. We generally budget for at least three hours of water time so it is up to you! About an hour after lunch, we jump back in the water for another session. If we plan a night snorkel, we may follow the regular schedule with a night snorkel in lieu of presentation.
While most of our snorkel sessions will take place in warm water, there are several sites around Alor where we may experience cooler water. Many of the reefs we will snorkel upon are subjected to currents associated with the large tide cycles that prevail in the area. While we often schedule our session during a time when the currents are minimal, there will be planned drift snorkels. These types of snorkels take advantage of the water movement and allow us to float over the reef without having to actively swim. This activity usually becomes an instant favorite among our guests as it is very exciting and yet very passive at the same time! In some cases, however, the unpredictability of the tides may expose us to strong water movement. This may require a bit of effort though we will always have our dinghies standing by to help if needed.
Please read more about our daily schedule.
WHAT TO BRING
The following list is a suggestion of things to bring and applies to almost all our trips. Specific items on a particular departure will be noted on the departure information.
-A good fitting mask, snorkel, and set of fins. If your equipment is brand new, please try it out in the pool. Determining the fit and function of your equipment in the pool includes doing several laps with all your equipment on. Doing several snorkel dives is also very beneficial. It is also important to clean your new equipment, especially your mask. Cleaning procedures for your mask include light scrubbing with toothpaste or dishwasher soap to remove the layer of silicon used to preserve the mask during shipping. Clean both sides of the mask. Doing this greatly reduces the chances of having your mask fog. Not doing this, even when using mask de-fogger, usually results in a fogged mask.
-A wetsuit, rash guard, diveskin, or any type of clothing that can be used for thermal and/or protection from the sun. We suggest bringing a full 3mm wetsuit and some type of core insulation like a vest or shirt made of 1 – 2 mm neoprene (e.g., Lavacore or Sharkskin shirts or vests). These items will not only provide thermal protection but protection from the sun as well. For those who feel that a 3mm suit may be too warm, please consider a full body skin or rash guard to ensure protection from the sun. With regards to thermal protection, remember the saying: It is better to have and not need, than to need and not have. One that note…
-Head protection in the form of a wetsuit hood, a cap, or even a bandana. Anything that can keep the sun off your head is extremely important. It is the most exposed part of our bodies when we are floating on the surface.
-Underwater flashlight on departures with a planned night snorkel
-Biodegradable sunscreen lotion. Sunscreen lotions can be harmful and even kill tiny larvae (baby marine life). It is fine to wear on land, but we highly discourage the use of sunscreen lotions in the water. A full wetsuit or dive skin will protect one from the sun much better than lotions and provide thermal protection. It is truly a win-win for everyone and the marine environment.
-Casual, lightweight, tropical clothing
-Sunglasses (and a spare in case you lose your main pair)
-Comfortable footwear such as active sandals (Teva, Keen, Merrell, etc.)
-Hats. We cannot stress the importance of a hat in the tropics!
-All our boats provide items like shampoo, soap, towels, etc. We bring this up because these items represent added weight or may leak.
Other items to consider:
-Lightweight rainwear to protect from the occasional afternoon shower