Whenever most people talk about Indonesia, Bali is always at the forefront. And for good reason. It’s a tourist haven and an incredible place to visit multiple times. However, on this trip of ours I wanted to explore beyond Bali and see what else Indonesia had to offer. In my research, Raja Ampat kept coming up. Indonesia is one massive collection of islands (20,000 approx.) and in the northeast are a collection of islands called Raja Ampat. These hundreds of jungle covered islands are actually quite famous in the diving world, any diver of any repute apparently has to make a pilgrimage to this part of the world as the underwater marine life is of another world, and now we can certainly attest to that.

 The only way one can properly experience this part of Indonesia is by living on a boat and we were about to do that for 10 days! The wonderful owners and team of Allikai, a luxurious sailing yacht, had offered us their sailing home and we could not be more excited..

 

But first, how to get to this slice of paradise? It can be quite tricky as it’s a remote part of the world but there are plenty of local Indonesia airlines operating, you just have to find the best option. For us, coming from Bali, it made sense to take a 1 hour flight from Bali to Jakarta and then 4 hour flight to Sarong - just shows how big Indonesia is. But don’t be put off by the flight time as the result is truly amazing! 

 

Sarong was a bustling little airport and town, but the moment we walked out, we were met by the wonderful Eko from Alikai Voyages, whisked into a couple of cars and driven just 10 min to the nearby port; we were effortlessly moved to a speeding boat and after an exhilarating 10min ride we came upon the majestic Aliikai sailing yacht.

 

Allikai means “queen of the sea” and she certainly lives up to that exalting title. Comprising of 7 cabins, meaning only a maximum of 14 guests, it has the appropriate space and size to offer everything a boat needs and present it in a very luxurious feel. Joining us on the boat were two other couples from the US, meaning there were only 9 guests for this trip so sometimes it felt like we had the whole boat to ourselves. But the beauty of these live-on-board experiences is that you get opportunities to meet people from different parts of the world and bond through a collective adventure and that was certainly the case with us as 10 days later we can consider them as part of our family and people we will certainly keep in touch with for the rest of our lives.

 

As we settled in and checked out the yacht with the kids scrambling to find their preferred cabins, it was only 8am so we had breakfast and waited for the rest of the guests to arrive. Once everyone was onboard we started sailing and Eko (the Aliikai Team Leader) introduced us to the 15 crew members (from Alex and Bose the stewards, to the captain, the chef, the deckhands and dinghy drivers) who were about to become our family for the next 10 days. Everyone was pretty exhausted but excited for what was about to unfold and just on queue, as we began our journey and began leaving the Sorong port area, we were greeted by a breathtaking display of dolphins sliding and jumping through the waters – this sent an adrenaline rush through everyone – our Great Raja Ampat adventure was truly on!

 

Our first destination was at least a day away in what is known as the South Misool area, so we had nearly all the day to lounge around, get comfortable with the beautiful yacht, become familiar with the crew and the rest of the guests and start drifting into “boat life”. Our first lunch on board, elaborately setup on the large outside dining table, consisted of fish, chicken, salads, spring rolls and rice, all amazingly prepared. It was quite evident that food over the next 10 days was going to be simply remarkable. As we rapidly sailed towards our first destination, the beauty of Raja Ampat started coming into view, endless green islands dotting the blue horizon. Around sunset we stopped briefly so everyone could jump into the clear waters for a “sunset dip”. We then witnessed our first sunset, the sky turning fiery red and orange, sending goosebumps through everyone.

 

Dinner on the first night was soup, steak, vegetables and fish and salads. What I love about our travels is how the kids have become so sociable and have great conversations with all kinds of people. They first showed this when we were traveling on the Rovos Rail from Zimbabwe to Pretoria. Sitting in the lounge with other guests, they would introduce themselves and freely begin conversations. Similarly on the boat they immediately hit it off with our 2 US couples. The kids would chat endlessly and the guests were kind enough to play card games and ask the kids questions. 

It’s great to see when they can hold their own and share their own memories. 

 

While the kids had 2 cabins right in the front of the yacht. I had a room right at the back, a lovely cabin, with a queen size bed, a big terrace with two day beds and with the bed facing the terrace, I would just sit there and admire the view and watch sharks and dolphins swimming past. The inside of the cabin was like the rest of the boat, beautiful wooden floors and Boho chic furniture all white coverings, so spacious with lots of different areas to relax and communal areas for dining and for the movie nights under the stars. There was turn down service every night which after a sumptuous dinner and drinks, just felt divine, I would snuggle into my covers and stare out through the back, watching the islands whisk by as we effortlessly glided along the flat waters.

 

For the next 4 days we were going to explore the area around Misool which is basically the southern part of Raja Ampat. To make things more interesting and adventurous, this was also the area where there was essentially no WiFi. For 4 days we were truly cutoff from the rest of the world. It was an exhilarating and also a nervous feeling for me as on one side I fretted about my clients not having access to me while the other side of me implored me to just let it go and just experience the next 4 days for just what they were: a chance to disconnect from the material work and deeply connect with the nature world.

 

And wow did we reconnect with Mother Nature. Over the next 4 days, all we did was dive. Up to 3-4 times a day, with the divers going for night dives, we just simply slipped into a routine of diving/snorkeling, eating, sleeping – rinse and repeat. We would move the yacht around to various spots which would then be the base from which we would take smaller dinghy’s to the actual dive spots, the scuba divers jumping in and going deep meanwhile we donning our snorkels and fins and exploring the magical marine life. The kids became so comfortable with them easily free diving, getting close to the coral reef and playing with the various fish and fauna. On Day 3, we got up early to dive/snorkel and see manta rays – the gentle giants of the underworld, gliding along silently and mesmerizing us with their effortless movements. On Day 4, we changed it up a bit, going for a exhilarating hike up a sharp mountain, reaching the top from which we looked down onto a “Love Lagoon”, a heart shaped pool of water, strikingly pearl blue, surrounded by ultra green mountains – the quintessential postcard image that perfectly reflected the unique beauty of Raja Ampat.

 

Early on day 5, we grabbed our snorkeling equipment and headed towards these special caves that get darker and darker as we swam more inwards (requiring flashlights) but then saw this blinding white light in the distance which turned into this wide gap in the cliff side, opening the caves onto the rest of the island. Quite the adventure as swimming in the dark can be quite a unique experience. Then we hiked up another mountain, navigated towards the peak and from there treated ourselves to the incredible views of the Raja Ampat archipelagos in all their glory. 

After a quick pit stop back at the yacht for lunch we continued our adventures with a simply surreal experience. We were heading to the “Jellyfish Lake”, which was literally what it meant and we were going to swim in it! I have to be honest I wasn’t that excited to swim in jellyfish lake given its name but we were told the jellyfish don’t sting. My nervous apprehension was tempered slightly by the exciting rock climbing route/trail we had to take in order to access the jellyfish lake. Well this was pretty amazing. Millions of jellyfish of all sizes. As you entered the lake it felt quite normal, but as you swam more towards the middle, you started seeing the jellyfish. Next minute, you are simply surrounded. These fascinating creatures were everywhere and you had no choice but to let them envelop you. They gently caressed you, bouncing off your skin. Increadible sensation.The twins had no fear whatsoever and helped me and Amara conquer our fears of jellyfish. This was easily up there in terms of the most unique and surreal activities I have ever done. And another powerful reminder of the various incredible complexities of Mother Nature.

 

Halfway through our 10 day adventure and we were heading to the central part of Raja Ampat which meant an 18 hour sail through the night. But bright and early on Day 6, we woke to another part of paradise and finally (for some!) Wi-Fi. As everyone on the board scrambled for their phones, even the crew finding time to check messages, it was interesting to reflect on what we had done and not done in the previous days without Wi-Fi. Did we actually miss it? And did we actually miss anything?

 

Day 7 consisted of an early morning snorkel/dive and then moving to a specific dive site which was known to be a Manta Ray cleaning station. Here we saw lots of mantas, swimming majestically beneath us. After lunch we sailed to another area for a dive and then sunset drinks on a nearby sand bank - we all started playing games - clearly started by the kids -  with group tag involving the guests and crew being the most fun and funniest. Kids really do bring out the fun side of any situation – imagine playing tag literally in the middle of the ocean!

 

Day 8 was Beach Day! A full day on a private beach. The crew set up beds, umbrellas, a volley ball court, a well stocked bar and even racked the sand to perfection! We enjoyed paddle boarding, kayaking and donuts from the back of the speed boat. Then it was time for a special adventure. We had asked beforehand if the kids could be introduced to scuba diving and Eko obviously obliged and agreed to conduct their first “fun dive” especially as he was a Dive Master and very adept at handling multiple first divers. Amara was so excited as shes wanted to dive for a while while the twins were initially slightly apprehensive and nervous but Eko was such a pro, managing to relax them, building up their confidence and then just getting on with it. 30 mins and 7 meters depth later they were back feeling very accomplished and proud of themselves. It certainly seems that we will be doing more trips that revolve around deep sea diving! That evening we were back on the island for an incredible bbq dinner as the crew had removed the beds and set up the dinner table, with lights. A beautiful setting with exhilarating food. After dinner, we had a good, old fashioned party around the fire, with the crew and especially the chef (who was an accomplished guitarist as well) serenading us with Indonesian classics.

 

After the full on activities of day 8 and our Raja Ampat adventure nearing an end, Day 9 was a much more chilled affair, as some of the guests headed for a morning hike and some bird watching whilst others lounged around the boat and I started the thankless chore of packing, the kids already saying they didn’t want to leave! For our last activity we headed towards the famous “blue lake”, a shimmering, ice cold, crystal blue water oasis that required taking the speed boat deep into a water jungle, ditching the speed boat and then traversing on foot, through marshes and jungles towards this water hole that sprung up in the middle of the jungle.It was so pretty but oh so cold.

Back on the boat for our last dinner on board but the crew wasn’t done yet as they surprised all three kids with birthday cakes and another impromptu singalong. Day 10 was a melancholy day as we headed back to Sarong in order to leave the boat and go to the airport.

 

We had never experienced a live-on-board travel itinerary before and we had wondered if 10 days was a bit too much yet at the end we all wanted to stay on longer - we could have easily stayed another 10 days. And even though Raja Ampat and its captivating beauty played a large part, in equal measure, it was Allikai and its crew which made this trip that extra special and one that we will not only never forget but which now sits up there on the “best ever” list. As a luxury travel expert and being fortunate enough to have experienced some of the best travel around the world, I tend to very careful in assigning rankings and preferences but in the case of Raja Ampat and Allikai I do have to say that this ranks in the “Top 3” of my experiences so far.

 

For more information on this “bucketlist” experience, please contact Unique Family Travels; we have an excellent partnership with Allikai and I’m sure we will create something that will be a true luxury travel wonderland.

 

Please Note: Days of sailing vary. Raja Ampat is normally Nov - April

While the Komodo islands are in the summer months.

 

For unique rates and more information contact Unique Family Travels 

Danielle@uniquefamilytravels.com

 

www.uniquefamilytravels.com

Dani
Family Friendly Couple