By Ong Chin Huat
Stepping on board the Amandira at the port city of Sorong in West Pupua, Indonesia is akin to entering a privileged and rarefied world albeit for only a few days where all your cares and concerns are blown away with the gentle light breeze permeating the decks of this ultra-luxurious yacht.
Greeted by smartly dressed crew members, I’m offered a cold wet towel and a refreshing tropical juice drink as a welcome gesture while my luggage is efficiently taken to my cabin – one of only five – on board this stunning 52-metre custom-built Phinisi sailing vessel.
Made famous by the Konjo tribe of Sulawesi, a Phinisi sailing vessel has a distinctive look with twin masts housing a patchwork of sails while the bow has an elongated silhouette, perfect for slicing through the turquoise blue waters of Raja Ampat, located at the northeast seas of the Indonesian archipelago, the area where we are sailing to.
Accommodating a maximum of 10 guests, the Amadira has a total of 14 crew members consisting of a private chef, waiters, massage therapist and a diving instructor. Three spacious ensuite king-bed cabins and two bunk bed cabins ensure complete privacy while an air-conditioned indoor sitting and dining lounge complete with television and library provides respite if the outdoor deck area becomes too warm.
A quick freshening up in my cabin and I’m ready to indulge in a delicious lunch consisting of Greek Salad, Grilled Tuna flavoured with lemongrass and shallot sambal accompanied with sautéed vegetables and rice and a fruit salad as dessert which was cooked by our very own personal chef and served al-fresco on the foredeck.
Having left Sorong, we headed to Frimbonda, our destination for the evening. As we sail past spectacular islands such as Mioskon, Batanta and Kri which are as picturesque as any postcard worth writing home about, I see smaller islets cloaked in verdant greenery and fringed with karst landscapes inhabited by sea eagles, monkeys and tree kangaroos. I even manage to catch a sight of the rare birds of paradise performing a mating ritual which any enthusiastic bird watcher would swoon over.
Part of the Aman Group of Hotels and Resorts, the Amandira is the only yacht in this collection of intimate retreats which stretches across the globe. Encompassing 32 hotels across 20 destinations (with a further eight opening soon), encoded in Aman’s DNA is exquisite service and jaw-dropping décor not to mention personalised excursions and mouth-watering fare all which are offered in this ultimate in five-star hospitality.
On the third day, while cruising at around eight knots and crossing the equator, we arrived at our much anticipated destination – the Instagram-worthy Wayag Island Chain, the shiniest pearl in the Raja Ampat Archipelago. Straddling the area where the Pacific merges with the Indian Ocean, Raja Ampat, which loosely translated means ‘Four Kings’ is a collection of over 1,500 islets, cays and shoals which surround four main islands. Possessing one of the richest marine biodiversity in the world, the crystal clear and turquoise-hued waters around this marine utopia contain over 1,300 species of fishes and over 600 different types of corals.
Snorkelling in Raja Ampat is comparable to being in a technicolour movie where a myriad of fluorescent-shaded tropical fish flip around colourful and vibrant coral reefs. Swimming in this underwater wonderland among manta rays, turtles, sea urchins, sea stars, tropical fishes and the odd barracuda or two is an experience second to none. However, do beware of sharks which might suddenly appear from nowhere. Luckily for me, my diving instructor spotted a 1.5 metre black tip reef shark heading towards us but he led us to safety!
On our final night, a beautiful bare-foot beach barbecue dinner was arranged for us on Wayag Island, one of the most breath-taking islands in Raja Ampat. Boarding a tender to get on shore, we arrived just as the sun was sending out its last rays for the day and the entire beach area was illuminated with candles and fire torches, a breath-taking sight to behold. Decorated with flowers and palm leaves, a delicious seafood and steak dinner was complemented with the crew serenading us under the moonlight and stars.
Marooned on this fantasy island, we were the only inhabitants that night apart from the crickets and birds. If an escape from civilization is the aim of this cruise, then the Amandira succeeded brilliantly. After dinner, everyone released candle lantern into the night sky, but not before making a wish – mine being to make a return on this sublime yacht one more time.
Bookings for the Amandira cruise begin on 1st September 2020.
For more information on cruises on the Amandira, please visit www.aman.com