Asia’s tropical island playgrounds of Bali, Phuket, and Koh Samui are home to more than 4.5 million square kilometers of pristine cruising grounds. There are few more beautiful locales on earth and, at three times the size of the Mediterranean, there’s opportunity to truly escape from it all, without the hustle and bustle of the goto busy ports frequented around the world. Step aboard the luxury sailing yacht DUNIA BARU in the Komodo National Park, 200 miles east of Bali, and you will discover snorkeling with manta rays, diving with turtles and facing down a Komodo Dragon eye-to-eye, if you’re so bold.
Kayak a saltwater lake through the warm, volcanic gas bubbles of the active volcano Sengean or take a horse cart ride to Giri Trawangan, a picturesque island where you will find trendy coffee bars and restaurants, thanks to its recent discovery by young, adventurous backpackers. DUNIA BARU also sails to the equally stunning Raja Ampat. A grouping of four main isles approximately 200 nautical miles from Bali, off the northwestern tip of Papua New Guinea, these islands are ripe for scuba.
According to the marine survey of Conservation International, The Raja Ampat boasts the highest marine diversity recorded on earth, featuring 1,508 fish species and one of the richest coral reef ecosystems worldwide, with 537 corals on hand. The islands also features exotic flora and fauna, a scull-cave village, tide streams — perfect for an exhilarating kayak trip — wreck diving, rock paintings, natural pearl farms and incredible scenery.
Beyond Bali, the Andaman Islands of India comprise some 550 isles. This archipelago in the Bay of Bengal is a prime location to get away from it all, but only a two-day’s sail from Phuket. The Andaman Islands encompass everything a modern-day eco-traveler in search of adventure could wish for. Crystalline waters washing pristine beaches and untouched marine habitats make the Andaman Islands perfect for exploration.
For the last 17 years, Captain Paul Johnson has cruised these waters on the stunning charter sailing yacht ASIA. “The Andaman Islands wow guests in every way,” he proclaims. “There are thousands of square miles of untouched jungle, exotic and thriving wildlife and primitive hunter/gatherer tribes to enjoy. As well as probably the best catch-and-release fishing in the world.” Captain Johnson recommends Barren Island, where a live volcano regularly spits fiery cinders and sparks, then red-hot magma, dramatically accompanied by lightning strikes and claps of thunder. It’s a magical, awe-inspiring sight. After the remoteness of the Andamans, a visit to Phuket, Pearl of the Andaman Sea, is the perfect way to get back in touch with society. A Southeast Asia destination frequented by the elite, Phuket is home to million-dollar private villas, boutique hotels, upmarket shopping centers, trendy clubs and five-star restaurants.
To get away from well-known, crowded tourist spots, take a tender to one of the relatively quiet anchorages and nearby beaches. Phuket is the gateway to many popular day trip destinations such as Racha, Lanta, Phi Phi Island, Krabi and Phang Nga. Further afield, attractions like the wellknown Marine National Park, including the nine Similan Islands and Surin, are renowned for excellent scuba diving.
Despite its close proximity to busy, buzzing Bangkok, Koh Chang in the Gulf of Thailand has quietly stayed out of most guidebooks. Koh Chang Marine National Park comprises 52 islands, fabulous for leisurely cruises and watersports. Kayakers will be smitten by the many striking beaches, coves and bays to explore. Koh Chang has various jungle nature trails appealing to aspiring Tarzans as well as families with children. Instead of following a shady path along the river, the adventurous can climb to the top of Klong Plu Waterfall and will be rewarded with an impressive view. Koh Kood has lovely west-side beaches, some small fishing villages and the exhilarating cascades of a stunning waterfall. Waters here have healthy corals, although not a large variety of fish. Koh Kham is a tiny island, well known for its swallows’ nests and turtle eggs, as well as abundant coral gardens and underwater rock formations.
From the bustling city of Bangkok to the beyond-beautiful Raja Ampat, Southeast Asia boasts some of the world’s most incredible charter locales, and although they may be farther afield to travel to, the memories will be well worth the flight.