Aman Yachts offers two luxury yachts to explore Indonesia’s Raja Ampat, Komodo Island and more
Evoking the romance of the spice trade and epic voyages of the colonial era, unique resort group Aman continues its acclaimed luxury expeditions in Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago
Many boutique vessels ply Asia’s exotic seas and straits, including custom-outfitted Indonesian phinisis, but it was Aman Cruises and Amanpuri in Phuket, the first resort that Singapore-based Indonesian octogenarian Adrian Zecha established in 1988, which set new standards for sumptuous sailing in the region.
30 worldwide Aman resorts later, control has passed to other international investors, but Zecha’s strong Indonesian influence lives on with Amanjiwo, beside the amazing ninth century Buddhist temple Borobudur in central Java; Amandari; Amanusa and Amankila in Bali; and the super-tent residences at Amanwana on Moro Island off Sumbawa in the Flores Sea.
Here are based two Indonesian-built vessels, the Aman Yachts 32-metre Amanikan, and the 52-metre Amandira, launched in 2015, which can take six and ten passengers respectively in ultra comfort. Short expeditions are made to see the dragons on Komodo Island 150 nm away, or in season, the yachts locate much further east at Raja Ampat, whose diving waters are legendary and near the famed Banda spice islands. Itineraries are suggested, although well-heeled repeat Aman guests, known as “Amanjunkies”, often choose their own.
Why Indonesia? It is home to some of the world’s most spectacular natural wonders. Cruise director Glenn Wappet said, “Indonesia’s size, tropical climate, and archipelagic geography of over 14,000 islands support one of the world’s most bio-diverse ecosystems. East Indonesia alone has more than 1,650 species of coral reef fish. The Raja Ampat and Komodo national parks boast wildlife found nowhere else on the globe, such as the Komodo Dragon and Birds of Paradise, not to mention the multitude of endemic marine species.”
Despite Indonesia’s proximity to Singapore, its remote regions have never felt more untouched and far-flung. Just a domestic flight connecting international passengers from Jakarta to Sorong in West Papua, where the yachts launch for Raja Ampat, takes 3 hrs 40 min. Alternatively, to get aboard the boat for Komodo, a 1 hr 30 min flight to Sumbawa, followed by a car ride and then a boat crossing to Moyo Island, are required.
Anyone who has ever been an Aman resort guest can imagine how a voyage run by this group must be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. My journey last November was a five-day sojourn across the north of Raja Ampat aboard both the Amanikan and Amandira, which were sailing in tandem and hosting two groups of passengers who swapped boats halfway through the journey.
After we boarded Amanikan and settled into a long glide across the Dampier Strait in a flat calm, Glenn introduced us to the 10-member crew and gave us a tour of the wooden phinisi-hull motor yacht, which has been sailing under the Aman flag since 2009.
The main deck features an expansive dining area in front of the bar, and a splendid canvas-sheltered daybed at the bow. Wraparound passageways lead aft to the two above-deck deluxe cabins. The upper deck houses the bridge, the master cabin and sun-lounge areas both fore and aft.
The large master cabin features a king-sized bed, a writing desk, double wardrobes and vanities, separate shower and lavatory chambers en-suite. Its vaulted ceilings give the room an airy spaciousness, and windows on three sides offer panoramic 270-degree views. The deluxe cabins are slightly smaller, but outfitted similarly. The interiors’ caramel-grained wood panels and vanilla rattan accent evoke a sense of both colonial romance and laid-back luxury.
Meals aboard the Aman Yachts are equally bespoke, with menus presented to guests and confirmed beforehand to allow for menu change requests. At our first stop, against a backdrop of the verdant Cape Kri and surrounded by azure waters, we enjoyed our first lunch that seemed to have been carefully planned to complement the sensational scenery.
We were roused from our post-prandial meditation by Glenn, who said there would be an evening itinerary briefing, but with the sun still overhead, we should seize the light and do a first dive or snorkel in the early afternoon. The crew had already assembled our dive gear, and within minutes, we boarded the tender and sped across the glassy sea to a nearby dive- site. As we neared the shallows of the fringing reef, cerulean waters turned brighter to a crystal aquamarine, with fish and coral outcrops beneath clearly in sight.
Below the surface, the underwater seascape was a heaving kaleidoscope of colours and movement. Around every turn, a different species of fish, crab, shrimp and mollusc came into view, and with every glance, diverse growths of coral, sponge and tunicate filled our vision. As we ventured deeper, larger creatures emerged: turtles were napping or feeding, white and black-tip sharks patrolled through the bommies, and sleeping nurse sharks and tasselled wobbegongs were found nestled in coral hollows. What Glenn had said about the marine biodiversity was all true.
The adventure continued the next day, when a 5 am knock on my door signalled the start to our search for the rare and endemic Red Bird-of-paradise. After a quick coffee, we were whisked off to Gam Island to pick up Pak Jimmy, a local village elder who built the path to a makeshift tent where the birds could be observed. After a brief uphill climb through brush and thicket from the mangrove beach, we reached a clearing where we waited as Jimmy made the distinctive call of our quarry. As if on cue, a bird with a green feathered head and brown body appeared out of nowhere high in the thick canopy.
“A female,” Jimmy whispered. In just a few moments, his calls were replaced by the female’s, and we were absolutely enthralled when two more birds joined in. Zooming in with our cameras, the first snapshots confirmed them to be males, which were larger than the females, bearing crimson plumes and long, spiralling tail feathers. The quiet encounter quickly erupted into a vigorous mating ritual, with the fluttering males flaunting their bold colours in a scintillating courtship display, and replacing their chirrups with a crescendo of fever-pitched screams. This thrilling episode was made even more magical when Glenn mentioned that he had never witnessed such a spectacle despite having guided other guests through the same tour.
This article was written by Ken Chia and was first published in Yacht Style 37.