Journey to the east
Sailing is one of the best ways to explore the vast maritime tapestry made of 17,000 islands that is Indonesia. Eve Tedja uncovers four luxurious private boat charters that explore the remote eastern part of the archipelago.
For the longest time, the eastern part of Indonesia holds a certain mystic for its uncharted islands, tales of the legendary Komodo dragon, abandoned fortresses, vast jungles and dangerous volcanoes. Many have forgotten the fact that the history of Indonesian colonisation started on tiny islands in Maluku called Banda, renowned for its nutmeg. The yellow fragrant fruit native to those islands was the raison d’être for conquest and three centuries of Dutch colonisation that followed.
Even fewer people are aware that in 1858, Alfred Russell Wallace wrote an outline of his theory of evolution through natural selection while being delirious with malaria in a small ramshackle hut on Ternate Island. He sent the outline to Charles Darwin who have arrived at the same theory. The letter prompted the Victorian naturalist to quickly publish his work, On the Origin of Species, and changed the course of nature. Today, Wallace’s heritage is found on the line that delineates the boundaries of Southeast Asian and Australian fauna, a line that we call the Wallace Line.
The tiny islands are populated with curious children with big eyes and even bigger smiles, betelnut-chewing, red-toothed mamas, and stoic men who may say little but are always ready to assist a traveller. It feels like a vastly different destination from the rest of Indonesia, a far cry from the bustling megalopolis of Jakarta or the resorthotel vibe of Bali. The best way to discover its rugged, wild and hidden beauties is by boat.
All of the yachts and phinisis – the handcrafted traditional wooden boat made by the seafaring Bugis tribe of South Sulawesi – are sights to behold. Gone are the days when living on board was deemed as a rudimentary torture. In the hands of four experienced operators, these boats offer elegant suites with tasteful tribal decor, Egyptian cotton sheet bedding, and Bloody Marys to welcome you on board. A massage therapist, dive master and chef will be part of the entourage when you charter a yacht or book a suite in one of these sea vessels.
Naturally, the wind and season play a huge part in ensuring a relatively tranquil sailing experience. Raja Ampat Islands are perfect to visit from November until June. Sailing in Flores and Komodo, Alor, the Mollucas and Banda Island is ideal from June to October. Pack your sense of adventure and let the crew of these boats take you on a memorable voyage.
For what is a luxury than to set sail to an island that is privy to a few?
True to its signature style of providing contemporary luxury living and impeccable service, the floating five-star resort is a 46-metre, teak-hulled beauty. Alila Purnama offers a private charter as well as individual suite bookings. Opt for the master suite that offers 180-degree wraparound windows, a private balcony and sun deck, as well as a bathtub. Have a massage with the waves of the ocean for company and enjoy an Indonesian feast for dinner. In between, there are various excursions to choose from, but diving is a must-do on the five- or six-night trip to Raja Ampat. With more than 1,600 fish and 600 coral species, the island boasts one of the richest marine biodiversities on earth. For a shorter trip, book the three-night Komodo National Park journey where you can have an up-close encounter with the ancient lizard. Ask the captain to drop his anchor at one of the most stunning beaches or take you to the the thick tropical forest of Cendrawasih Bay for bird watching. Us$12,500/night for a full charter and Us$2,221/night for a standard suite. Tel: +62 361 236384 or e-mail: pur[email protected]hotels.com
Having lived in Indonesia since 1983, Patti Seery is devoted to the preservation and cultural understanding of Asmat and Dani, two indigenous tribes of West Papua. Apart from being an advisor of Lemba ga musyawarah Adat Asmat, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the preservation and development of Asmat tradition, Seery also owns two gorgeous phinisi vessels, Silolona and Si Datu Bua. Made from massive timbers and recycled 300-year-old colonial teak planks, the boats are a testament to the art of Indonesian craftsmanship.
The interior of the five staterooms in Silolona and three suites in Si Datu Bua are decorated with artefacts that are inspired by the cultural heritage of Indonesia, from a 16th century seafaring chart map to indigo-dyed woven textiles from Sumba.
Culture and community involvement feature heavily in Silolona Sojourns’ itineraries. Be it a voyage to Komodo, eastern Flores and the Savu Sea, the Spice Islands of Banda, Raja Ampat or Cendrawasih Bay, storytelling, cultural performances and land expedition are inseparable parts of the cruise experience. Seery often comes onboard with the guests to acquaint them with the local culture. Menu-wise, expect fragrant spices of the archipelago in dishes such as freshly caught steamed fish wrapped in banana leaf, roast duck, and pineapple tart with star anise sauce. Accommodation starts from Us$1,360/night/person. Tel: +62 (0) 361 286 682 or e-mail: [email protected]
Nautical elegance sums up the design essence of the Rascal Voyages fleet. Launched in 2017, the private charter only phinisi offers a spacious layout that allows for six en-suite cabins and plenty of indoor and outdoor spaces. Apart from the flexibility to tailor-make your itinerary, such as a six-night Spice Island Culinary Adventure in Banda Islands or a four-night Komodo Wellness & Health Retreat, Rascal Voyages recently launched The Exploration Series with Conservation International that combines luxurious experiential travel with marine biodiversity preservation.
The maiden voyage takes place this month and will be led by scientists from Conservation International. After the first voyage in Mapia Atoll for five days where guests learn the ropes of drone technology to survey turtles and mantas, there will be expeditions, including exploratory dives with manta rays from Flores to Sumba, a voyage with the whale sharks in Cendrawasih Bay, Papua, the walking sharks along the remote North Papua coast, and hammerhead sharks in Banda Sea, as well as following thresher sharks in Alor. Prices for The Exploration Series start at Us$12,000/night for a group of eight. e-mail: en[email protected]calvoyages.com
Prana by Atzaro
As the latest newcomer to the Indonesian yachting scene, Prana by Atzaro sure knows how to make an entrance. The Ibizabased boutique hotel group, Atzaro, commissioned an ironwood and teak phinisi which took 21 months to complete. The 55 metres, two-masted beauty boasts nine suites, a yoga terrace that doubles as an open-air cinema under the stars, indoor and outdoor living and dining spaces, a spa, and a water sport deck. With an 18-man crew that includes spa therapists and chefs, all of your expectation will be met on board. Get ready for up close and personal encounters with the Komodo dragons, dive in UNESCO Heritage Site’s Raja Ampat Islands, hike up the historical Mount Api in Banda Islands or explore the remote island of Alor with its stunning coral reefs. Scuba dive with the resident dive instructor or experience adrenaline fuelled activities such as water skiing. Have an al fresco dinner from the fusion Asian and Western menu or ask the crew to arrange one for you on the beach where the phinisi moors. From Us$12,500/day for a full charterand US$1,120 for a single suite. Tel: +34 971 188 894 or e-mail: [email protected]abyatzaro.com
Handcrafted by the builders from Sulawaesi, the beautiful Silolona is built according to The Lloyd’s standards.
Dine under the stars on the upper deck of Silolona Sojourns’ Si Datu Bua.
Alila Purnama’s living and dining room
Breakfast with a view on Rascal Voyages’ phinisi
Enjoy an exquisite meal onboard Prana by Atzaro.