Five-star travel takes to the water in Southeast Asia
There are numerous remote spots to choose from Myanmar and the Mergui Archipelago to Raja Ampat and the Lesser Sunda Islands
Mark Robba, owner of the majestic 51m sailing superyacht Dunia Baru, recalls “one memorable morning in Myanmar last year, we jumped off the yacht onto a big rigid inflatable boat (RIB) and raced out to a fishing boat where we traded two packs of Red Bull and a couple of cartons of cigarettes for two big buckets full of fresh ocean shrimp. “What a treat!”
Robba has endless travel tales to tell, but his joy lies in sharing moments like this with those he invites to charter the boat throughout the year. More owners are jumping on the bandwagon, keen to recoup some of the cost of ownership and driven by a steady rise in demand for charters in Southeast Asia.
The region is fertile ground for those in search of rich traveller tales. While Phuket remains one of the most popular destinations, aided by easy accessibility and Thailand’s loosening of charter regulations, for many, part of the appeal of charter lies in finding more remote spots. There are plenty to choose from. Myanmar and the Mergui Archipelago are up there with Raja Ampat and Indonesia’s Lesser Sunda Islands.
Trend forecasters and industry insiders talk about a “new type of high-net-worth traveller”, tired of identikit luxury at five-star resorts who seek out something with new experience and exploration at its core instead. “Once owners have decided they’ve enjoyed the Med and the Caribbean, they are taking their yachts further afield,” explains Tom Debuse, director of charter management at Y.Co. “As a result there are more yachts available and a growing market.”
There are charter brokers galore in the region now, all touting superyachts to the world’s fussiest clients. So how do these experience-hungry travellers choose which one to set sail on? “If you’re working with a good broker, they’ll be able to match a yacht to your needs,” Debuse says. Those needs, though, can vary greatly – from families seeking smaller yachts with intimate lounge spaces, to gourmet travellers who might want a Michelin-starred chef on board, to party people, whose priorities might include a good speaker system and enough deck space to dance freely under the stars. One must-have, regardless of the customer, seems to be a well-stocked toy garage.
Robba agrees. “My motto for charter is that he with the most toys wins. We carry four RIBs on board, three jetskis, three stand-up paddleboards, three sea kayaks, a sunfish and two banana boats. We’ve got diving gear for 14 and the most awesome stereo system, so if you want to have a party it’s the place to be.”
At last year’s Monaco Yacht Show, toys were everywhere. From inflatable climbing walls and electronic surfboards to ecological golf balls that dissolve into fish food and helicopters which can land guests straight on deck after a day’s sightseeing, there seems no end of innovation. The new Aurora-6 personal submarine comes decked out with its own mini-bar and an emergency bathroom. Fractional jet ownership giants NetJets were also at the show, explaining how the most hassle-free way to reach a charter yacht in these far-flung, remote destinations is by flying private. Naturally.
The ability to ensure that time off the boat is as enjoyable as it is on board, is also paramount. Enter Based on a True Story, a company which promises to take charter to “the next level”. Founder Niel Fox explains: “Chartering a yacht for two weeks is a pricey investment, we’re an insurance policy to make sure guests experience something truly amazing.”
The company organises once-in-a-lifetime experiences, choreographed to the most minute detail sometimes involving thousands of extras hired to help act out their awe-inspiring narratives. It’s no surprise that the founder used to work as a fixer for a wealthy superyacht owner. An adventure organised by his company can involve anything from running with dog-sleds on a frozen Arctic lake, to a family fantasy pursuing mythical creatures through Greece; or witnessing the enactment of ancient sacrifices by an Indonesian hilltop tribe. At the end of each trip, guests get a beautiful leather-bound book chronicling their experience.
It’s no surprise that charter clients who have grown tired of their regular haunts are gearing up for these thrilling experiences. Robba recalls a trip to an island east of Flores in the Mergui archipelago. “It’s so remote,” he says, “We never saw another yacht. One day, we took the RIB out to a secluded bay and there were thousands of dolphins, it was unreal. Being in these places where nature is so untouched leads to wonderful experiences.” No wonder five-star travel is taking to the water.
Three charter boats for hire in Southeast Asia
This beautiful 54m sailing yacht designed with an elegant art deco flavour, features an open-air cinema, jacuzzi and a tender garage bursting with watersports toys – for starters. There’s room for 10 guests, and an equal number of crew (including a kitesurfing instructor), ensuring the highest levels of service. An on-deck DJ set-up is ready and waiting to get the party started.
From €180,000(HK$1,468,260) per week – available for charter through Y.Co
At just under 20m, this sailing yacht is on the small side with room for justsix guests and two crew. Yachties will love her for her rich history, most notably her participation in the 1977 Whitbread Round the World Race where she placed second. It’s worth noting that the price is all-inclusive, an unusual bonus on a charter yacht.
€13,200 (HK$107,672) per week – available for charter through Northrop and Johnson
This immaculate 29m motoryacht was refurbished in 2015, and she’s looking beautiful inside and out, with room for eight guests in four luxury cabins. The crew of six (including a stand-out Thai chef) are on hand to ensure guest are well looked after and a wellstocked toy garage including jet skis, kayaks, wakeboards and paddelboards promises plenty of fun in the water.
From US$11,667(HK$90,568) per week - available for charter through Northrop and Johnson.