Living on water

WHILE MOST TOURISTS FLOCK TO THE PICTURESQUE BEACHES OF BALI, HEAD FURTHER EAST FOR A SAILING HOLIDAY IN INDONESIA’S EAST NUSA TENGGARA REGION…

Located on the westernmost tip of the island of Flores, Labuan Bajo is a fishing town in the Nusa Tenggara region of east Indonesia. It is the perfect central point to explore the neighbouring islands dotting the Flores Sea, including Komodo, Rinca, Padar and Banta.

While there are many exotic destinations in East Nusa Tenggara, what has captured the interest of most visitors is the existence of Komodo dragons, locally called Ora, at the Komodo National Park. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991, it is home to many exotic wildlife, both on land and underwater, but prime among them is the Komodo dragon, named after the island.

Komodo National Park is located a few hours away from Labuan Bajo and includes three major islands: Komodo, Rinca and Padar, as well as several other smaller islands around them, which together covers around 603 sq.km. Labuan Bajo itself is known as the city of sunsets, so you can be sure to find plenty of vantage points to enjoy the end of every day with a spectacular view. The village is also known for the Mirror Cave, founded by a Dutch archaeologist in 1951, who concluded that Labuan Bajo was once a city underwater. Nearby Komodo Island is also famed for its pink sand beach, one of only seven in the world.

While visiting the Komodo Archipelago, as this area is more commonly known, is a must during your visit, however short or long it may be, the best way experience it is through a liveaboard experience. This is where you get to live on board a sailing boat/catamaran for several days, visiting the islands by day and sleeping out in the ocean by night.

Here are several options to consider…

1Simplicity at its best – LE PIRATE
The Le Pirate EXPLORER is an overnight island-hopping catamaran that can accommodate 8-10 people at a time. The upper deck of the boat has sleeping arrangements similar to a bunk bed, while the bottom deck is where guests can drink, dine or relax on net hammocks.

You can even enjoy an outdoor movie on the boat itself. In addition to providing all the basic necessities such as beds, fresh water showers, meals and plenty of spaces for relaxing and enjoying the view, the cruise package includes visits to Komodo National Park and stopovers at some renowned sites on the islands.

Aside from sightseeing and island trekking, there is also plenty to do on the boat itself like snorkeling or just chilling. But come nighttime, be sure to pick a suitable spot on the boat, drink in hand, to watch the epic sunsets this locality is known for.

Le Pirate has a fleet of such boats providing liveaboard experiences. Another to experience is Le Pirate Boatel, where boat meets hotel. This boat-hotel is larger to accommodate 10 waterfront cabins, fitted with a semi-private deck, hammock and ladder into the sea. The Boatel also features its own BBQ restaurant, bar and sundeck, complemented by many more activities on offer like paddle boards, canoeing, rock fishing, beach explorations, snorkelling and island exploration day tours.

2For pirates-in-waiting – MOANA CRUISING
Fulfilling fantasies of being a pirate on the high seas, the Moana Cruising liveaboard is right out of Peter Pan. The Moana is a fully wooden, 90sq.m boat the mimics the pirate ship in every pirate movie you’ve ever seen, right down to its 22-foot dining table that allows its guests to enjoy mealtimes together, promoting camaraderie and celebrating food – like pirates do! It’s easy to feel like you’ve just stepped on to the Sea Devil (see, Captain Hook).

In addition to the dining area, there is also a large chillout and outdoor sleeping area on the main deck, shaded by a retractable roof. And should guests like to enjoy a pre-dinner drink, they can retreat to an indoor (and air conditioned) saloon below deck. With five cabins in total, each sleeping two people, the boat can host up to 10 people at a time, with ample space for more.

In addition to games and organized hikes for guests, Moana Cruising provides snorkeling and diving gear for guided tours of some of east Indonesia’s best sights, underwater!

3Luxury cruising – TANAKA CRUISE
This private liveaboard is a luxury phinisi (a traditional Indonesian two-masted sailing ship) offering travelers a first-class option for diving, snorkeling and island hopping in complete luxury.

The Tanaka Cruise is everything Captain Jack Sparrow would have wanted for his crew, with five spacious cabins that can accommodate up to 16 people and a cosy sundeck to while away the hours, a bottle o’ rum in hand. Tanaka also provides 5-star cuisines in the indoor or outdoor dining areas, while you savour the breathtaking views of Indonesia’s Komodo Archipelago.

When you need a break from cruising, the crew will take you on trekking excursions in the hills or along white (or pink) sandy beaches. However, snorkeling or diving is a must to experience Indonesia’s amazing marine biodiversity, where guests can see everything from manta rays and sharks to giant turtles, dolphins, dugongs, pygmy seahorses and frogfish.