PHUKET: The Indian Ocean and Asia-Pacific regions are fast becoming some of the best cruising grounds in the world – a fact well known to those who have cruised them for many years, but something that is only now becoming common knowledge around the world.
“Recent expansions in marina facilities have provided the kind of support today’s demanding professional captains are used to and the pristine ecosystems found throughout these diverse regions are exactly what yacht owners have been missing all these years”, reports Nick Coombes of Asia Pacific Superyacht.
An Overview of the Journey
At first glance it might seem daunting… but with an abundance of stunning cruising possibilities and the excellent shore-based assistance now available, it really is a joy to cruise throughout Asia’s wateways. Working on an early September departure from the Mediterranean, a Suez Canal transit and a passage through the Red Sea will put you out into the Indian Ocean to start your journey to the pristine islands of the Maldives.
Journeying on to Sri Lanka and Langkawi, Malaysia respectively in October and November, December and January will find you in Phuket, Thailand and at the half-way point in February in Myanmar. Then it’s on to the Andaman Islands in March, Singapore in April, Koh Samui, Thailand in May, Hong Kong in June and a final stop in the Philippines in July, prior to a stunning end in Indonesia in August and the option to journey further to Australia and New Zealand.
Stunning Asian regions are briefly described below in planning a cruising itinerary, which comprises a Superyacht year-long journey through Asian waters.
Maldives – September
First Port of call is Malé, the Capital of the Republic of the Maldives. Arrival formalities are simple although you will need a pilot for your first entry (Port regulations); clearance is done in an hour’s time and then you’re free to leave the Customs anchorage.
Most yachts head north approximately four miles and anchor off the resort island of Bandos. Unlike some of the other exclusive resorts, Bandos gladly welcomes yacht crews and generally several yachts will be at anchor when you arrive.
Ruhiveli Island (Bird Island)
As there are no Marina facilities in the Maldives large enough for today’s Superyachts, you must rely on your ship’s tenders or boats provided by the agent. Basic spares are available in Malé and Petrol/Diesel can be supplied at anchor anywhere close to Malé.
The Maldives are a nature lover’s paradise with more than a thousand small islands surrounded by pure white beaches, like ‘Bird Island’, and pristine reef systems, providing an unending opportunity to fish ,dive and snorkel to your heart’s content.
In all but the heaviest weather there are plenty of places to cruise. The best and busiest time is November to April and Asia Pacific Superyachts Maldives’ Mohamed Hameed and his team are helpful and can provide excellent dive and fishing guides. A little planning will help you avoid having to ship lots of supplies into the Maldives.
Sri Lanka – October
A very short 450NM passage from the Maldives takes you up to Sri Lanka – a good option for a fueling point. The islands 18 million strong population provides an intoxicating mix of cultures and diverse ethnic groups. There are three main ports: Colombo, Galle and Trincomalee.
Colombo and Galle are both manmade while Trincomalee is one of the world’s largest natural harbors; all have deepwater berths for Superyacht use.
Malaysia – November
Captain Nick Coombes, who’s based in Malaysia, reports: “My first stop east of Sri Lanka is always Langkawi. This group of 99 Islands is the perfect place to re-supply and relax. As the region’s only ‘Duty Free’ port, you will find cheap, low sulphur diesel, as well as petrol, A1 jet fuel, alcohol (including fine wines) and tobacco products. Two Superyacht marinas provide safe berthing, with a varied supply of support services available in the main town of Kuah.”
There is a custom built Superyacht refit center, with a 500 ton travel lift, 2 x 60 meter work sheds and plenty of hard stand. For larger yachts the shipyard offers a 100 meter floating dock for short or extended visits. For the crew there are plenty of beaches, restaurants, bars, 5-star hotels, golf courses, uninhabited islands and an international airport.
Cruising around Langkawi’s 99 islands will provide guests with plenty to do and allow easy access to the southern Thai islands in the Butang Group. Nick suggests the best time to visit is September through May.
Phuket – December and January
Just a few hours north of Langkawi you will find the very popular Island of Phuket.
Dubbed the ‘Monaco’ of South East Asia, Phuket now has two Superyacht marinas and more are being planned.
The locals are very friendly and there is a substantial ex-pat population on the island. For off duty crew the nightlife in Patong and Phuket City is spectacular with plenty of 5-star restaurants and wine bars along with a great mix of local restaurants. Lots of high end beach clubs are being set up, giving owners a choice of secluded bays or exclusive nightlife.
Malaysia – Gayana
Experienced Asia Pacific Superyachts Phuket’s Gordon Fernandes can recommend the best in yacht planning, noting, “Starting out and staying close to Phuket you have Phang Nga Bay with its limestone monoliths rising up out of the sea or further south, the islands of Koh Phi Phi, made famous by the film, The Beach.
World class diving is within easy reach and guests can beach, swim, snorkel, look for monkeys and wildlife before heading off to the Similan Islands; 60NM’s north west of Phuket and classed as one of the ‘top ten global dive destinations’ – a paradise for diving and snorkeling and often guests will enjoy 30M+ water visibility.
For a more private diving experience, head a little further north to the Surin Islands and the Surin Archipelago, a 135 square kilometers area lying in the Andaman Sea some 53 kilometers off mainland Ranong Province (the park’s five islands lie just south of the border with Myanmar).
Gordon suggests a brief return to Phuket for refueling/re-provisioning before heading off for Myanmar. Yachts planning to be in Phuket for Christmas can also join the exclusive Asia Superyacht Rendezvous. It’s an event aimed at both motor and sailing yachts and a great way to start the festive season.
Myanmar – February
Travelling further north is Myanmar and the Mergui Archipelago, partly famed as the home of small groups of ‘Moken’ (sea gypsy) villages. The Archipelago is lightly populated and it’s easy to find perfect places to relax and enjoy the solitude and beauty.
The Mergui Archipelago and the Andaman Islands are among the world’s top preferred diving destinations.
Andaman Islands – March
Moving from the Mergui Archipelago, you will soon encounter the vast spread of the Andaman Islands in India. The journey offers stunning cruising vistas as well as land attractions and discoveries.
Visitors will find deserted islands of pure white sparkling beaches and crystal clear water. Moving inland, lush vegetation and towering cliffs with unusual bird and flora/fauna all wait to be explored and active volcanoes can be viewed during the journey.
The Andaman Islands of India deliver adventuresome cruising and vessels often seek out Asia Pacific Superyachts Andamans’, R Rathnam, to create an itinerary that opens onto a secret world of tropical jungles and serene beaches scattered throughout much of
the Andaman Archipelago.
Travelling on, some of the most enticing of unexplored waters can be found in the Bay of Bengal, with deep seas and hundreds of hidden bays teaming with marine life.
— Captain N Coombes & L Cartlidge
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