Gone with the wind: The best trips by yacht
June 10, 2021
With the Singapore travel bubble back on hold, the day we’ll be able to board a plane again seems to be sailing further and further into the distance. So why don’t we do the same? Natasha Gillespie-Wong investigates the best travel destinations accessible by yacht
With the Covid-19 pandemic throwing the travel industry into disarray, safe destinations and private travel have become top priorities. While conditions and regulations can change in a split second, there is a mode of transportation that stands out when it comes to offering travellers both protection and peace of mind – yachts.
For the yacht industry, the pandemic has meant a dramatic increase in both interest and sales. Turns out, closed borders mean business as local demand for yacht sales and charters has significantly increased, with people finding themselves heading out to sea, the closest thing to freedom for the time being.
“There has been an increased awareness among Hong Kong people of the beautiful islands and coastline right on their doorstep”Mike Simpson
With Hong Kong being made up of more than 250 islands, it’s little wonder that interest in yachts has ramped up so significantly in the last 15 months. Secluded beaches such as Lo So Shing are reminiscent of Thailand, minus the coconuts and papaya salad. Tai Wan Beach sits with Sharp Peak towering behind it.
“There has been an increased awareness among Hong Kong people of the beautiful islands and coastline right on their doorstep,” says Mike Simpson, founder and managing director of Simpson Marine. “Instead of escaping by jumping on a plane to a regional tourist destination, Hong Kong people who can afford it are jumping on a boat and exploring the local islands and beaches .”
And they aren’t the only ones. Retail unit sales of new powerboats in the US increased by 12% in 2020 compared to 2019, surpassing pre-pandemic expectations of a 2% increase.
Yachting offers a front-row seat to history, culture, rare wildlife and some of the most amazing destinations on Earth. And after being confined to our homes for the last year, it’s safe to say that people are ready and raring to go. Somewhere, anywhere.
Towering cliffs cutting through pristine waters, white sand beaches and verdant rainforests shrouding ancient temples – Thailand has plenty to offer super yachts sailing the Andaman Sea. With vaccine rollouts and easing restrictions, the country’s tourism industry is on the path to recovery as the government welcomes foreign-flagged super yachts under special conditions.
“Opening up super yachting is important for the government,” says Adam Frost, founder of Phuket-based agency Seal Superyachts, in an interview with Boat International. “They see it as one of their flagship tourism activities.”
Matthew Nagara, chairman of the Thai Yachting Business Association, adds that the programme is already helping to lure yachts back to the country. “We have a lot of interest,” he says. “So far about 30 yachts have been quarantined already.”
Once the 10-day quarantine is completed, the enclaves of Thailand await. A mere 6km from the home of the Thailand Yacht Show, Royal Phuket Marina, lies Koh Rang Noi, a private island sanctuary in the expansive Andaman Sea. The 10-acre island is home to three villas offering 19 rooms in total. The island’s greenery is the backdrop for colourful Thai murals that pay homage to the nation’s artisans.
Available to reserve in its entirety, Koh Rang Noi redefines the concept of exclusivity. And if you happen to get bored of your own yacht, the island’s 70-footer is at your disposal along with speedboats, Hobie Cats, jet skis, wakeboards, kayaks and windsurfing boards. After a day on the water, enjoy sunset over the Koh Rang Yai and Phi Phi islands on the horizon.
If you can withstand a five-day hotel quarantine in Jakarta, the freedom and romance of the high seas awaits on superyacht Dunia Baru. Indonesian Bahasa for “the new world”, the Dunia Baru specialises in bespoke journeys, catering to your every whim. Rather than stopping at just one place why not visit 1,500 islands in one go?
Also known as The Last Paradise, Raja Ampat provides thick jungle, teeming aquatic life in the surrounding waters and a welcome break from the rest of the world. Anticipating the future of post-pandemic travel, luxury 167ft phinisi Dunia Baru speaks to emerging trends such as private travel, slow tourism and off-the-beaten-path exploration.
Anchoring in waters rarely visited by other yachts, guests can unwind and revel in utter solitude on the seven-cabin vessel as the days pass in cinematic slow motion. “You get to explore parts of the world that very, very few people get to see,” says owner Jing-Yi Wee, noting that immersive cultural programming with specialist experts on everything from botany and local textiles to regional history can be pre-arranged. “And, of course, you will be sailing in absolute luxury. Holidays don’t get more exclusive and unforgettable than this.”
The confluence of the Indian and Pacific Oceans forms a ravishing backdrop for mangroves, pearl beds, lagoons filled with vibrant marine-life, and coral reefs that are jaw-dropping in their colour and variety. In the same vein, the Spice Islands – a cluster of seven tiny islands in Eastern Indonesia’s vast Banda Sea – can be explored aboard the Amandira, meaning “peaceful intrepid”.
The custom-built, two-masted vessel sails through the raw natural beauty of the islands, once home to the world’s only source of nutmeg. Today, traces of this past lie hidden beneath the blanket of dense forest. The pearl beds of Tolomol also provide the perfect opportunity to learn the secrets to farming these precious salt-water gemstones. With these far-flung places just waiting to be explored, it appears that adventure can still be had in the midst of a pandemic. You just have to raise the anchor and set sail.