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Beyond Bali: The Ultimate Insider’s Guide To Yachting In Indonesia

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Bali, Indonesia has risen to the top of many people’s travel bucket lists, and for good reason! Breathtaking landscapes, sandy beaches, and ancient temples are just some of the highlights that draw tourists from every corner of the globe.

But what many people miss is that Indonesia, a land of some 18,000 islands, is filled with incredible diversity. There are life-changing experiences to be had far from popular tourist hotspots of Bali and Komodo.

“Indonesia is so vast and varied you can’t really claim to be an expert on ‘Indonesia’,” says Nikko Karki of Indo Yachts. “You can, maybe, say you have some degree of proficiency in certain regions. But if you think that Indonesia from tip to tip is as long as the continental United States it would be like saying you’re an expert on the whole of Route 66.”

That’s why we, at OceanScape Yachts, are lucky to have relationships with several luxury yachting providers in the region who can share with us insider info on everything Indonesia has to offer.

Why travel to Indonesia by yacht?

“Since 90% of the country consists of water, the best way to enjoy the beauty of Indonesia is by boat,” says Yessi Maya Sari, co-owner of Sequoia.

“The most beautiful beaches and most exciting dive sites are only accessible by sea,” she says. “It is remote and vast with undeveloped infrastructure. Therefore, the ultimate mode of transportation is sailing on a luxury yacht.” 

Yachting in Indonesia is unlike anywhere else in the world. The yachts are built in the traditional, Phinisi style: large wooden vessels reminiscent of boats that have sailed these waters for hundreds of years. Today’s Phinisi yachts include all the modern amenities you would expect on a luxury cruise, but they retain the character of this ancient maritime culture.

Cruise director Sebastian aboard Dunia Baru describes it this way, “Just imagine a five-star wooden cocoon able to sail the ocean, bringing you from one beautiful destination to the other one, travelling remote regions almost inaccessible by any other means, while being taken care of by the most dedicated and friendly crew you have ever met.” 

A totally unique way to explore the history

Mark Robba, owner of Dunia Baru summed up what it’s like to sail on a Phinisi yacht:

“There is something special about sailing between the islands, anchoring in perfect bays on a beautiful wooden yacht. It is truly authentic. And when the captain raises the sails – I dare you to not feel like an early explorer, discovering these islands for the first time.”

phinisi sailing yacht Dunia Baru

And speaking of early explorers, there is an incredibly rich history here in Indonesia that you can experience first hand.

“Imagine if you can, a tiny speck in the middle of the Indonesian archipelago and the Banda sea miles from anywhere. These Islands were the producer of the world’s only nutmeg, worth more, centuries ago, than its weight in gold,” explains Garry (Gaz) Phillips, cruise director on board Rascal.

“The wars, the trades, the history is remarkable,” he says. “One island (Run) was swapped for Manhattan and fought for by the Portuguese, Dutch and British. The old forts and cannons still sit perched on the hillsides overlooking the vast seas.”

An underwater wonderland is waiting for you!

Sitting as it does at the heart of The Coral Triangle, Indonesia is home to the single greatest concentration of marine biodiversity on Earth making it a can’t-miss diving experience.

“Imagine swimming with your first stingless jellyfish to your first whale sharks, scuba diving with your first Epaulette ‘walking’ shark to your first Wobbegong ‘carpet shark,’” says Yessi.

“Our oceans are facing a serious threat from increasing population leading to overfishing as well as increasing CO2 emissions,” she explains. “The resulting acidification of the seawater causes coral bleaching which is devastating much of the Earth’s reefs.

“Fortunately, the reefs in and around Raja Ampat have yet to be affected by these threats. It is considered by many to be the most beautiful reefs on Earth. Scientific research that has been conducted by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Conservation International (CI) has shown that Raja Ampat is home to 533 coral species 75% of the world coral species, 1,437 reef fish species, 700 species of mollusk including 7 species of a giant clam.”

colourful fish in Indonesia

And you don’t have to stay near any well-known diving spots either. Nikko tells us:

“We’ve done these expeditions where we have some GPS coordinates passed on by someone who had been there earlier. And you're diving in places where you know no one has been in at least a year if not more. You're going on islands where it’s possible that the last outside visitors haven’t stopped in more than a few years. The sheer size of Indonesia presents so many opportunities for discoveries, wildlife encounters, for just having this feeling like you’re alone in this world or that you have this luxury of space where you can spend each day doing what you most enjoy.”

The dining is a culinary adventure

If you’re a foodie, Indonesia will not disappoint!

“With more than 18,000 islands to choose from and more than 300 living tribes, there is no better place in the world to enjoy a tropical culinary experience,” says Chef Wayan onboard Sequoia

“For centuries, people from around the world have undertaken great risk to visit this immense archipelago in search of exotic food and spices. For many guests, the most lasting memories are the sight and taste of food unavailable anywhere else in the world. Our focus is to create delectable food using locally sourced ingredients, which sometimes can only be found, on one single island.”

Sustainability is a priority

The people of Indonesia have a special connection to the land and sea.

“Something about Bali and Indonesia represents a completely different way of life and living maybe a little bit more simply and connected to nature and the natural beauty of Indonesia,” says Nikko.

And in honouring that connection to nature, many of our yacht partners go out of their way to operate sustainably. For example, Chef Wayan tells us:

“What is good on our plate should also be good for our planet. From sourcing organic and locally grown ingredients to supporting responsible business practices has become Sequoia’s way of life. It is our responsibility to make sure the grandeur of the Coral Triangle, the richest reefs on earth, will last for generations to come. Therefore, we are conscious about the use of plastic and adhere to a ‘no one time use’ of plastic such as straws, plastic bottled water, and other plastic garbage usage onboard Sequoia.”

Rascal Voyages not only eschew plastic but have partnered with Conservation International (CI) to conduct expeditions where you can accompany CI scientists as they research local marine life and create marine protected areas.

rascal yacht cruising in Indonesia

“We’ve done about half a dozen of these voyages,” says Steve Ebsworth, owner of Rascal Voyages, “and we’ve identified about 25 new species of fish and a new species of walking shark.”

Meanwhile, guests aboard Dunia Baru can help build sustainable learning centers in the villages of Indonesia. 

“The idea of a legacy charter on Dunia Baru will be that guests can pledge to build a learning centre of their own and build a connection with the village, villagers and area during their charter,” says Mark.

“We plan to build these centres extremely consciously. This is an incredible part of the world with a delicate ecosystem and precious materials. We will use local materials, building methods ... and teams for the construction, avoiding any endangered or unsustainable materials.” Also, “solar power will also be a key feature as we want the Centre to have an environmentally friendly footprint.”

So as a charter guest you can enjoy a luxury vacation while at the same time giving back to the local community.

Where should you go on your Indonesian yacht charter?

An Indonesia yacht charter truly has something for everyone.

“From the kids to the grandparents, you’ve got all ages and everyone can do things together. Snorkelling is something that everyone can do. You can all go do a snorkel and see manta rays and see fish and you can even see turtles and sharks. Going on hikes together and seeing waterfalls, those are the kind of memories that are just unlike anything else that you can do as a family,” says Nikko.

Where do our experts suggest you go on your trip?

“My favourite destination is Misool, South Raja Ampat to Kaimana...you can paddle endless lagoons while viewing ancient rock art, and end your day with watching the equatorial sun going down at the peak of Harfat Jaya. Here we can still explore land and water without any other resort and/or yacht tourists. To me, that is the true definition of luxury. Wouldn’t you agree?” says Yessi.

Meanwhile, Sebastian suggests the Banda Islands. “Firstly, because of the splendour of the location. They are very secular islands; a haven of peace in the middle of a rough ocean, and the centre point of the Spice Route. These islands have been some of the most coveted on earth for centuries. The atmosphere is very unique there. It is a really relaxed place, with friendly locals and colonial architecture, right at the base of an active volcano. And, besides being purely beautiful, it also happens to be a top spot for diving.”

Wherever you decide to explore, you can rest assured that your Indonesian vacation will be unforgettable.

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