On Sunday, 8 May, Communications Minister Jonan accompanied by Tourism Minister Arief Yahya officially declared open the new airport at Wakatobi, among Indonesia’s astonishing underwater destinations, located in South East Sulawesi.
Named the Matahora Airport, the airport boasts not only a brand new modern air terminal and is equipped with all standard air safety requirements, it is now set to receive Boeing 737-800 type aircrafts so that planes from Jakarta or Bali are now able to fly direct to Wakatobi, which will take around 2.5 to 3 hours flying time, said Minister Jonan. The Matahora Airport is built to strengthen access to national tourist destinations and thus occupies a strategic position.
Located on the island of Wangi-Wangi by the village of Matahora, the airport, Code Named : WKB, now has a runway of 2,000 meters with a width of 30 meters. The taxiway is 107m x 18 m, and apron area is 103m x 73 m. The terminal itself covers an area of 1,524 square meters, and can handle 150 passengers at one time.
Despite the fact that surrounding residents number only 125,000, nonetheless, as a world class underwater destination and one of Indonesia’s marine tourism icons, the government plans to further extend the length of the runway to 2,400 meters with a width of 45 meters, to be able to receive wider bodied aircrafts, due to the fact that Wakatobi is targeted to receive 50,000 foreign visitors arrivals by 2019.
In support of Indonesia's tourism development, the Communications Ministry has completed upgrading 110 airports across Indonesia, with 15 more to be ready by 2017 next year.
Tourism development in the Wakatobi Islands (formerly called Tukang Besi islands) was initiated by the present District Head (Bupati) Hugua, and pioneering airline to Wakatobi was Susi Air using a 12 seater Caravan C206D. Today, Wakatobi is served regularly by Wings Air by ATR72-500/600 from Kendari, the province’s capital.
Emphasizing the fantastic wealth of Wakatobi’s underwater world, Bupati Hugua said that the surrounding seas are rich in fish and coral species. Where the Red Sea and Caribbians have 500 species and 50 species of fish respectively, experts have found here no less than 942 species of fish in Wakatobi. Similarly, the islands boasts 90,000 reefs species while Kaladupa has a 48 km atoll, the longest in the world. Wakatobi is part of the world’s Coral Triangle.
On his part, Tourism Minister Arief Yahya confirmed that Wakatobi is not only rich below the sea surface, but it is, moreover, an ideal tourist destination for its beautiful beaches with island hopping opportunities for yachts and cruiseship calls. Local residents are also trained to become certified dive masters, added Minister Yahya.(Indonesia.travel)