Indonesia is fast becoming one of the most sought-after luxury yacht charter destinations in Southeast Asia. It offers pristine underwater seascapes along with on-shore villages, eateries and sights unlike any other in the world.
A standout is the region of Raja Ampat (which translates as ‘Four Kings’), an archipelago comprising over 1,500 small islands, which offers the highest recorded marine diversity on earth, and can only be reached by boat, which means they’re beautifully unspoilt.
“It’s quite simply a stunning, entirely pristine location, which is increasingly rare these days,” says YPI Senior Charter Broker Annemarie Gathercole (pictured below). “The four main islands are Waigeo in the north, Batanta and Salawati in the centre, and Misool to the south. The whole area offers crystal-clear waters for incredible diving, breathtaking rainforest landscapes and hardly a soul to be seen.”
Arrival in Indonesia is typically by way of Bali, where there is an international airport as well as five-star hotels along the beachfront. The Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay and the InterContinental Bali Resort both offer sea views plus separate pools, in-resort dining, and spas. Spend a day or two adjusting to the time zone, perhaps taking in a traditional dance show or sampling the flavourful cuisine, such as fried duck, seafood fried in coconut oil, or noodle and egg dishes, including mie celor (coconut milk and prawns). Then catch an in-country flight to join your charter yacht in one of the two prime Indonesia yacht charter regions: Komodo and Raja Ampat.
Komodo charters are ideal from April through November, and Raja Ampat bookings are best from November through April, says local yacht Captain Nur Prasetyo Widayat. The yachts move from region to region seasonally to take advantage of the best weather and Raja Ampat is fast becoming an alternative winter destination to the Caribbean for clients seeking an adventurous landscape. Scuba diving and snorkelling are particularly memorable, with reefs that seem endless thanks to minimal development or human interference.
There are more than 1,500 species of fish, 500 species of coral and 700 types of mollusks to see. Wobbegong sharks and other rare sights are common during dives, which also tend to include schools upon schools of brightly coloured fish – even in the lagoons.
BEST TIME TO VISIT November-April
GREAT DIVE SPOT: MELISSA’S GARDEN
This mesmerising scuba site, with water so clear you can see the colourful coral 18 metres (60’) beneath you before you even descend from your yacht’s tender, is part of the Fam Island group in Raja Ampat. It is named after the daughter of pioneering Indonesia scuba diver Max Ammer, and it’s just as special today as it was when he found it 20 years ago. Amid massive coral heads and schools of fish, including manta rays and masked rabbitfish, are ancient giant clams that have all but vanished from other parts of the world.
KAYAKING AND PADDLEBOARDING PARADISE Some of the coral reefs near shore are so close to the water’s surface that you can see them – and the fish swimming through them – without a snorkel or mask. Hop onto a kayak or standup paddleboard and meander through the shallows of crystal-clear water.
IF TIME ALLOWS: UBUD The town of Ubud, made famous in the film Eat Pray Love, starring Julia Roberts. There’s a bustling bazaar with hand-woven tablecloths and scarves, paintings and wood carvings, along with a sanctuary for monkeys, which will take sweet potatoes and bananas from your hand.
This article was first published in the issue 1 of YPI printed magazine "360° Magazine"