Wakatobi Underwater Photography

Wakatobi Underwater Photography

All Images © Steve Miller

Wakatobi is a bucket-list dive destination for a lot underwater photographers, and for good reason. Find out why so many divers consider Wakatobi the mecca of the Coral Triangle. 

Why Dive Wakatobi

Wakatobi is located at the world’s epicenter of coral reef biodiversity and is designated a UNESCO Marine Biosphere Reserve. This means that while diving at Wakatobi you can see the greatest variety and diversity of marine life. New and undocumented species continue to be discovered at Wakatobi. This, combined with warm and calm water is reason enough to dive there- but it is the consistent 100 foot plus visibility that blows the photographer's mind.

Where is Wakatobi?

Wakatobi is a dive resort in southeastern Sulawesi, Indonesia. In a tranquil island setting far from crowds and cities, with no other divers for at least 100 miles.

wakatobi map

Getting to Wakatobi

The resort has its own airstrip, and is serviced by a direct flight from Bali of 2.5 hours. You will arrive in time for an afternoon dive. 

Water Temperatures

Conditions are good year round. Only 4 dives have been skipped in the last 10 years of operation. The water is warm 79-84 °F (26-28.8 °C) but most people wear wetsuits because the dives are long. The standard dives or snorkels are 70 minutes, but a shallow dive on the famous House Reef can be double that.

Essential Underwater Photo Equipment

  • Macro and Wide Angle Lenses

A macro lens will allow you to shoot a myriad of subjects in every square yard of reef. But the wide angle lens will accent the clarity of the water, and the lushness of the corals. Wakatobi is as beautiful topside as it is underwater, so don't forget your 8" Dome Port to capture all of the stunning split shot opportunities. Bring it all.

  • Strobes

Colors abound in Wakatobi - purples, pinks, and reds that you don't want to miss because you left your strobes at home. 

Nice to have

A small tripod or bean bag can help if you decide to try Astrophotography. There is only a little light pollution, and the Milkyway is very visible at night. Your super wide lens will work great for this.

Signature images

"Know before you go" is an excellent mindset to adopt as an underwater photographer - being prepared will help you make the most of your precious time underwater. Here are some underwater shots you can capture at Wakatobi.


Many varieties of anemones and their clownfish counterparts can be found at Wakatobi. Strobes are key to capturing the bold colors of anemone and clownfish.

Anemone Underwater Camera Settings and Technique

Clowning Around | Shooting the Anemonefish Circus

anemone clownfish steve miller taken with an ikelite underwater housing and strobes



Hard coral formations are a testament to calm waters. It is rare to see hard corals growing so large but so shallow. Using your dive buddy as a subject can add a sense of scale to your image.

Divers on the Reef Underwater Camera Settings and Technique

coral reef with diver image by steve miller taken with ikelite underwater housing and strobes



Reef Top, part of Wakatobi's famous House Reef, is a perfect place for snorkeling and working on your split shots. But there are a ton of places to work on your split shots, and a lot of animals who will make fun subjects for your split shots - like turtles.

How to Shoot Split Shots (Half-In, Half-Out of the Water)

Dealing with Droplets when Shooting Split Shots

split shot on wakatobi by steve miller taken with an ikelite underwater housing and strobes



Known for their "million dollar eye" crocodilefish make great subjects for macro and luminance underwater photography.

Shooting the Colorful and Camouflaged Flathead Crocodilefish

Fluorescence and Luminance Underwater Photography

steve miller crocodilefish image taken with ikelite underwater housing and strobes



Large cuttlefish are famous for staying put while being photographed as long as you are slow and careful. 

Cuttlefish Underwater Camera Settings and Technique

cuttlefish by steve miller taken with ikelite underwater housing and strobes



Turtles are very common on Wakatobi. Large turtles have come onto the beach at night to lay their eggs right in front of the bungalows.

Turtle Photography Underwater Camera Settings

Sea Turtle Portraits with DS230 Strobes

sea turtle by steve miller taken using an ikelite underwater housing and strobes



Wakatobi is considered one of the best places in the world to find pygmy seahorses of various species. Many of these species were discovered in Wakatobi.

Pygmy Seahorse Underwater Camera Settings and Technique

Super Macro Underwater Photography Techniques

pygmy seahorse taken by steve miller using an ikelite underwater housing and strobes



Wakatobi's diverse marine life is what sets it apart from so many other locations. Giant clams, octopus, shrimp, and more can regularly be found. Sightings of pelagics like whale sharks or manta rays happen, although not as commonly seen as turtles or clownfish. 


Additional Reading

Why Wakatobi Should Be On Your Bucket List

Understanding Octopuses for a Friendly Photographic Experience

Why You Need Strobes Underwater

An Insiders Guide to Diving Wakatobi Resort Indonesia

Why You Aren't Shooting Great Landscapes Underwater

What I Wish I Knew When I Started in Underwater Photography [VIDEO] 

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