Since May, the normally sleepy islands of Wakatobi at the southern-most tip of Southeast Sulawesi have been astir with activities collated in the Sail Wakatobi 2011 Event.
This year, Wakatobi in east Indonesia, together with the island of Belitung off South Sumatra in west Indonesia, were chosen to host participants in the Sail Indonesia Yacht Rally that was flagged off from Darwin, Australia, on July 23 (see: Sail Indonesia). For this purpose, this year, the mega-event is called “Sail Wakatobi-Belitong 2011.”
Although the majority of Yacht Rally participants are expected to be in Wakatobi only from mid-August, yet activities in Wakatobi have already begun in May, with highlights peaking in August during the festivities to welcome rally participants to Wakatobi, this pristine underwater paradise.
In fact, the Sail Wakatobi-Belitong 2011 event has been developed so as to call national and international attention to the importance of the Indonesian seas for sustainable food supply and mineral resources, as well as the need to preserve the oceans and underwater life in the context of climate change and global warming.
The Sail Wakatobi event, therefore, which carries the theme “Clean Ocean for Future Life,” includes seminars on the Coral Triangle, beach cleaning activities by youths, underwater photography, the opening of the School for Marine Protected Area Management, cultural performances, and also the provision of free medial care by the Navy to all Wakatobi inhabitants. especially to treat cataracts and other illnesses.
August 10–17: Wakatobi Photo Exhibition
Spearheading the festivities, the Wakatobi Photo Exhibition is scheduled to take place on August 10 to 17 at the Gedung Wanita on the island of Wangi-wangi. The exhibition displays the natural and cultural beauty of Wakatobi in pictures, including photos of winners in the Wakatobi Underwater Photo Competition held last July.
August 17: Indonesia’s Independence Day Underwater Ceremony
On August 17, on Indonesia’s Independence Day, this year, Wakatobi will have a special ceremony where the official flag-raising ceremony wiill take place on the ocean floor. Besides being attended by professional divers, the ceremony will also includ Sail Indonesia participants, the Indonesian Navy, and the general public. The ceremony will be held at the Sombu Dive Site at Wangi-wangi.
Underwater Mass Wedding
After the official commemoration of Independence Day on August 17, the ocean floor of Wakatobi will become an altar for 30 couples who will take their marriage vows in a grand Underwater Mass Wedding ceremony, the first underwater wedding ever held in Indonesia.
Watersports Fiesta & Competition
Then, on August 24, 2011, Waha Beach on Sombu, Wakatobi, will be the scene of various water sports competitions, featuring boat races and swimming. The event will be attended by Indonesia’s Minister for Youth and Sport, as well as the general public and Sail Indonesia participants.
Sail Wakatobi-Belitung Ceremony
On 27 August, Sail Indonesia participants will be flagged off from Wakatobi to travel west to Belitung at a special ceremony to be held at Wanci Ferry Harbor. The occasion is expected to be attended by Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Before flag off, baby turtles will be released back to the sea, and arts and cultural performances will be given by the local population. This day will also mark the official opening of the “School for Marine Protected Area Management.” Sail Indonesia participants and visitors will be presented with various traditional dances and musical performances at the Lapangan Merdeka Square in Wangi-wangi. Since the event takes place during the fasting month of Ramadhan, there will also be a communal breaking of the fast at sunset.
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