When it comes to superyacht cruising grounds, sometimes it may be easy to forget that there is a big wide world to discover outside of the hustle and bustle of the Mediterranean and Caribbean hotspots. With more and more owners and charter clients opting to stray a little further from the beaten track, here we shine a spotlight on some of the more exciting cruising destinations from all four corners of the world, with the help of the expert Captain’s and Owners who have fallen in love with it. This issue we take a closer look at Indonesia, with the help of Captain Winston Joyce-Clark, who takes us through the ideal itinerary for those looking to really explore the best of the region comprised of a staggering total of over 17,000 beautiful islands.
Take me to… Raja Ampat with Captain Winston Joyce-Clark
Though I am currently Captain on board the 59-metre Seawolf and, as I speak, we’re in the Caribbean, my Indonesian cruising experience was on board the 45-metre Big Fish with Aquos Yachts, as well as a ten day charter aboard a local 65-metre phinisi (traditional Indonesian two-masted sailing ship) called Lamima, which a client chartered for his 50th birthday ‘Equator Crossing’.
I have had the good fortune of cruising from Sumatra to West Papua and pretty much everything in-between over a number of seasons and can’t recommend Indonesia enough for diversity and perfect tropical cruising without the threat of any cyclone activity. Indonesia fits perfectly into a niche between the some of the world’s most prolific hurricane belts and yet it has a clean slate when it comes to suffering from extra tropical weather, except for infrequent earthquakes and tsunamis, as a result of seismic tectonic plate activity.
I cannot sing Indonesia’s praises enough. It lays claim to 20% of the world's coral reefs, over 3,000 different species of fish and 600 coral species, deep water trenches, volcanic seamounts, World War II wrecks and an endless variety of macro life. There are somewhere between 13,466 and 18,307 islands in the Indonesian Archipelago (depends if you count those that are ‘tidal’ as some are below water at high tide). Each region has its own highlights - the Mentawais, Komodo, Banda Sea etc. etc. - but the most amazing topography, diving and wildlife is located in the area known as Raja Ampat. It is certainly one of my favourite places to cruise on the planet and it never fails to deliver both above and below water. Marine surveys suggest that the marine life diversity in the Raja Ampat Islands is the highest recorded on earth. The area has a wealth of incredible cays, bays, caves, 1000 jungle covered islands, hidden lagoons, pearl farms, luminous turquoise waters that average 29 degrees celsius and a quiet tranquility, as it is the least populated part of Indonesia.
If you have never visited Indonesia simply type in the word in a Google search and hit ‘images’. Active volcanoes, diverse cultures (300 distinct native ethnic groups), 742 regional languages, spectacular temples, idyllic beaches and even though the population is around 250 million people there are still a ton of deserted hideaways that are only accessible by boat.
So without further ado, here is one of my favourite itineraries in Indonesia: The Four King’s Cruise in Northern Raja Ampat.
Arrival on day one is to Sorong Airport, just a 15 minute transfer from the vessel. We start our adventure from the bustling Indonesian seaport and cruise for 43nm to Mioskon Island. White, sandy beaches await with plenty of time to get a first taste of some of the best dive spots in the world or, if that’s not your thing, guests can take a walk on the beach and soak up the incredible surroundings.
After a delicious breakfast on board, we head just 10nm from Mioskon Island to Kabui Bay. Here we find a beautiful area of karst formation rock islands, where we can go kayaking through the narrow passage between Gam and Waigeo Island, embark on tender boat rides, visit a local village, as well as a fascinating bat cave. Not for the faint-hearted, there is also the possibility to sacrificial human skulls found in a hidden cave...
Today we head to the Penemu Islands, a 50nm cruise away. More mind-blowing dives such as Melissa’s Garden and the Galaxy Reef can be explored from here, as well as another picture-perfect white sand beach and beautiful blue lagoons.
Day four sees us cruise 34nm to South of Kawe Island and Aljui Bay. Guests can enjoy a chilled day on board soaking in the sun, or choose to take a tender into the channels that surround Aljui Bay. Not one to miss in my opinion!
A short 25nm cruise to the Quoy Islands brings us to half way through our Raja Ampat experience. Guests are offered the opportunity to dive Cathedral Rock - an incredible dive site with some of the clearest water in the world.
The Wayag Islands on day six are one of my favourite spots on this itinerary, where guests can take an easy hike to get the perfect Raja Ampat vista shot. Kayaking is a must in this anchorage, with hundreds of rock islands making for an exciting adventure. This is also where we cross the equator, and there really are just some spectacular sights up here.
One of the great aspects of cruising in Indonesia is that the cruising really is untouched. Remote, unspoiled and with a huge variety of interesting destinations and anchorages, including our day seven destination, Batang Pele. With a beach accessible at low tide only, it’s a great spot for snorkelling.
The only problem with a 10 day itinerary of the region is where to choose to visit. The possibilities are endless, though on day eight I prefer to head 30nm to the Fam Islands, where a dreamy lagoon with hundreds of small rock islands awaits. There’s also another nice hiking option here to get a perfect shot of the lagoon.
Today we cruise just 20nm to visit Arborek Island, an interesting village that is warm and welcoming to all who visit Raja Ampat. You can snorkel underneath the village jetty as well as pick up souvenirs and enjoy the presence of people after several days of almost ultimate privacy. The divers amongst us will be more than satisfied a visit to one of Raja Ampat’s unique manta cleaning stations, Manta Ridge.
Cruising 50nm to Mayalibit Bay, here we experience a huge bay with a particularly scenic narrow entrance. Fit in one last dive at the Blue Magic dive spot, and make the most of a truly spectacular place to enjoy your cocktail at sunset!
After a final cruise of 50nm, we arrive back to the bustling port of Sorong, and our adventure comes to an end… and not without a heavy bout of ‘I wish we could stay longer…’.
The cruising logistics in Indonesia can be a little complicated, so it is important to have the right advice for your visit to the country. Contact regional experts the Lighthouse Consultancy to discuss all aspects of your Indonesian adventure.
This article was featured in an edition of the SuperYacht Times newspaper. Subscribe now to get your copy straight to your door and never miss another issue.