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Discovering cruising in Indonesia with the Lighthouse Consultancy

Travel
Written by
Georgia Tindale

With an increasing number of superyachts choosing to move away from the hustle and bustle of the Mediterranean and Caribbean and going off the beaten track to cruise around the world's most exciting destinations, the role of the superyacht guide is becoming an increasingly important one. 

Paradise in Raja AmpatPhoto: Blair van BoheemenThe 34-metre Paradise in Raja Ampat 

Alongside their provisioning and shore support services, The Lighthouse Consultancy - which has been assisting yachts in Indonesia since 2009 - offers superyacht guiding services from their highly qualified and experienced local experts. Although the vast scale of Indonesia's cruising grounds may make cruising in the area seem simple, the region's unforgettable diving experiences, unique treks and beautiful flora and fauna can easily be missed without the assistance of a specialist guide. 

To find out more about the life of a superyacht guide in Indonesia, we spoke to the founder of The Lighthouse Consultancy, Andy Shorten, whose extensive network of cruising guides in the region stems from 15 years in the diving and marine tourism industry in Indonesia.  

Clients that have utilised Lighthouse's guiding services include the 96-metre superyacht Vava II, the 90-m Laurel L, the 85.2-metre Pacific, the 73.3-metre Dragonfly, the 78.5-metre TV (now Rocinante) , the 66.7-metre Triple Seven, the 45-metre Big Fish the 58.04-metre Ethereal, the 58.83-metre Seawolf, the 57.49 sailing yacht Twizzle, the 55-metre La Familia, the 44.2-metre sailing yacht Hemisphere to name but a few. 

CV-9 in Raja Ampat Photo: Ethan LeeCV-9 in Raja Ampat

Cruising in frontier locations such as Indonesia presents a different set of challenges than established cruising grounds, so having a knowledgeable guide on board is vital for a successful and memorable cruise. The role of a cruising guide in Indonesia is varied and requires a great deal of flexibility. With over 17,000 islands stretching across an area the size of the continental USA, Indonesia could be considered a daunting destination, however, breaking down the country, there are a number of smaller cruising grounds filled with a variety of hidden gems. Although knowing where beautiful anchorages are located is a key part of a guide’s responsibility, it’s far from the only part of a guide’s duties.

La Familia in Komodo Photo: Garry Bevan The 55-metre La Familia in Komodo 

Months in advance of a yacht's arrival into the country, the Lighthouse team begins to create the perfect itinerary, tailored to the yacht owner's needs. Factors such as seasons and weather patterns play a large part in the creation of an adventure to visit the best destinations at the ideal time, this will maximise the owner's enjoyment in the region. Of course, it's not only the weather that plays a role in trip planning - the needs and goals of the guests are the overriding focus when it comes to deciding on locations.

Some guests prefer to focus on marine activities, others on seclusion and privacy, some owners want to climb volcanoes and others might bring a support yacht to maximise opportunities to spend exciting days in Indonesia’s prime fishing grounds. Although scuba diving is often one of the top activities for clients in Indonesia, not every visitor is a scuba diver. Knowing the best dive sites in a location is certainly a benefit, but having an in-depth knowledge of all regional attractions is a fundamental necessity. 

Plans on board change regularly so anticipating the needs of an owner is of utmost importance. The key requirement to ensure the guide is of benefit to the yacht is working with the captain to create a handful of different activity options each day. Snorkelling on a hidden reef, visiting a local weaving village trekking through rainforests, kayaking around beautiful karst islands, wakeboarding, or spending a lazy day on a secluded beach are a few of the many options during a superyacht cruising experience in Indonesia.

Archimedes in Raja Ampat Photo: Mike Veitch The 67.75-metre Archimedes in Raja Ampat 

On a daily basis, the role of the guide is to provide a list of interesting activities to the captain, who in turn relays these possibilities to the owner: this is where having a truly experienced guide is important.  Having a backup list of activities available in a certain location is key, in case the initial planned activity isn't feasible. 

Although many other activities are available, diving is often the biggest attraction for many visitors. The world famous marine parks of Raja Ampat and Komodo are just the tips of the iceberg of Indonesian diving. It’s important to have a guide who is experienced in diving many different areas, as the conditions can be tricky. Many of the best dives in the country are current dependent and should not be attempted without a guide familiar with the sites. A guide who has only dived in Komodo or Bali would not be the best option in Raja Ampat for example. 

Party Girl in Raja Ampat Photo: Posh Freddie  The 62.5-metre Party Girl in Raja Ampat 

One element Lighthouse insists upon is that the role of their guides on board a yacht is not only to advise on anchorages and lead excursions, they also need to fit in and work as part of the crew. If no guide activities are required, early mornings should be spent washing and detailing decks alongside the other deck crew. Guides are not rock stars, they are an integral part of the yacht team and can benefit the vessel's experience by easing the workload of other departments when things aren't busy for their guiding role. 

Finally, part of the charm of cruising in Indonesia is anchoring in front of a remote village whose
inhabitants have never seen a superyacht before. In parts of West Papua, for example, the village
‘property’ extends several miles into the ocean and so a visiting vessel is essentially anchoring on the village’s back yard. As such a calm and friendly guide must visit the village elders to explain the purpose of the visit, perhaps offering gifts such as school books, footballs or rice and fuel to the village. An experienced guide also knows which villages have a specific villager that can coordinate an interesting cultural experience – trekking for bird of paradise for example. 

Abbracci in Komodo Photo: Mr Stav The 55-metre Abbracci (ex: Serenity) in Komodo 

Of course, for a location guide in Indonesia, having a good understanding of the Indonesian language is also a requirement. In the local ports of embarkation, there is always paperwork that needs inspection and communication with Indonesian speaking officials can be challenging without a grasp of the local language. A guide may use their language skills and work in hand with the Lighthouse Consultancy to make sure that everything runs smoothly, with regard to provisioning, bunkers, and customs or immigration needs.

Seawolf in Banda Photo: Mike Veitch The 58.83-metre Seawolf in Banda 

For superyachts thinking of visiting Indonesia, a hard-working, knowledgeable and flexible guide is
an integral part of any cruise. The Lighthouse Consultancy can provide the perfect guide for every
itinerary, whether the focus is on diving, fishing, immersion in cultural experiences or to enjoy
any of the other wide variety of activities that Indonesia has to offer. Their network of top-quality
international and Indonesian guides are available to join cruises of any duration and have received
glowing reviews from owners and captains alike. 

“Mike proved to be very versatile, knowledgeable and extremely popular with the guests, doing
everything from leading scuba dives and snorkelling to accompanying them on a trek to the
summit of Mount Rinjani.” 
Richard Bridge, then Captain of the motor yacht Vava II.

"Garry was always willing to help on deck when needed and was a real pleasure to have onboard.
His local knowledge of anchorages, dive locations, beaches and adventures was priceless and
sincerely appreciated.”
Tom Hartman, Captain of the motor yacht Party Girl.

“Made proved to be an excellent dive guide, knowing all the great dive spots and the best times to
dive them. He also arranged excursions ashore for us, and always went along to ensure that
everything went to plan. He also dealt magnificently with the local bureaucracy.”
Gordon Percy, then
Captain of the sailing yacht Twizzle. 

To find out more about the superyacht guiding services offered by The Lighthouse Consultancy, contact the team directly using the details below, or visit their website here.

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