One of my first questions in my conversation with Nikko Karki, director of Indo Yachts, was to ask, “What is the biggest selling point for someone in yachting to travel to Indonesia?” “Just one?” he replied, “There are too many to mention, in an area the size of Europe.” Fair point, and one I should take seriously, especially from a man who had been chartering yachts for years before deciding to set up as a broker in the area. “What I think got me so hooked is that you can feel like an explorer onboard, like you're going on an expedition and that sense of adventure is addictive,” he offers.
Karki finds that Phinisi yachts – the traditionally-built wooden vessels associated with the area – are a striking introduction to the client. “I love the wooden yachts and still feel a sense of awe each time I board. White yachts are impressive in a totally different way and here, I think they stick out a bit. The wooden yachts blend in more to their surroundings and they're all unique, just like the incredible people who custom built them.”
It isn’t just the vessels themselves that make quite the impression, but the incredible archipelago of Indonesia, most of which is untouched by developers. “One can't help but wonder what some of these geographically breathtaking regions would look like if they were developed. Anywhere in Europe, there would be port towns and houses with the most amazing views. Here, it's just totally untouched, and I think that's just amazing to see.”
To truly understand the range of the region (and the different activities when compared to a charter in the Mediterranean), I placed myself in the shoes of a charter client. I created a hypothetical profile for Karki to formulate a bespoke charter itinerary for me and my imaginary guests. My brief? 10 adults (formed of five sets of couples) and two children who wanted to escape and explore for 10 days in Indonesia. I explained that within this dream cruise would be a mix of new and experienced divers – as scuba diving in Indonesia has long be seen as a huge draw for the region. I requested lots of activities, the opportunity to explore different areas and interact with the local culture. I also placed a big focus on experiencing the region’s food, suggesting a culinary course or similar. When creating my trip, Karki explains how the types of charters are not ones seen in the Med. “This one is not about glitz, it’s about a voyage where you’ll become explorers together, venturing well off the beaten track into the Bird’s Head Seascape, off the coast of West Papua.”
Depart from Sorong, north for Raja Ampat's most breathtaking natural scenery. Dive along the way at Mioskon's rich reefs.
Explore Raja Ampat’s natural formations in Wayag. Go for a morning dive, then explore the area by RIB and hike up a rocky ridge for a view of the iconic mushroom islands. Enjoy a day of water sports.
Visit the Wayag ranger station where baby black tip reef sharks circle in the shallows.
Visit Kawe Island, straddled on both sides of the equator. Hike to see the waterfall on the west side of the island in the morning, then dive or snorkel across the equator in the afternoon.
Wofoh Island. Visit Manyaifun village in the afternoon for a taste of local culture.
Kabui Bay and The Passage. Separating Gam and Waigeo islands is a narrow waterway that looks like a river in the Amazon framed by thick rainforest. Take a RIB tour through the islands, or go on a jungle trek through rainforest.
Giant manta rays
Waigeo Islands. A trek to see the Bird of Paradise, snorkel at Manta Sandy with manta rays and visit the conservationist village of Arborek in the afternoon, known for its jetty snorkel.
Batanta Island. Morning trek to see birds from Arefi village on the north coast. Walk along riverbed to see the two jungle waterfalls.
Enter Misool Eco Reserve for some of Raja Ampat's most exciting diving around Farondi at Teardrop and Killer Cave.
Cruise to Tomolol Bay, where dolphins can sometimes be seen in between the islands. Venture into Tomolol cave, which is the the size of a cathedral, leading to a grotto of turquoise water surrounded by sharply rising cliffs on all sides.
Disembark in Sorong
Although Karki explains that he has seen a rise of three-generational trips as a growing trend for charters in the region, I see the experiential charter market as attracting wealthy individuals who are under 40, active and keen to be exposed to experiences that go above and beyond their previous holidays on African safaris, luxury skiing retreats or an island in the Maldives. It’s for this reason that Karki began to market the charters as ‘yacht safaris’. “I had this idea to call it a yacht safari. It just makes sense to people and it’s essentially what we’ve been doing before we gave it a name. This has elicited more interest from the experiential travel market and the people we have had on board have been thrilled beyond words.” Karki estimates that the above charter trip would cost a total of $150,000 (US dollars), and includes everything except the crew tip.
The phrase ‘yacht safari’ is indicative of the type of experience that can be had for charter clients beyond the Mediterranean. By offering an alternative – non-traditional – cruise, yacht itineraries for those that want to experience the luxury of yachting off the beaten track, can tap into the growing pool of UHNWIs searching for something a little different.
Main image: © Ethan Daniels
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