The fishing town of Labuan Bajo is getting more and more busy these past few years. Located at the western most tip of the island of Flores, the city is the gateway to the Komodo Islands with its exotic “Jurassic” landscape and vibrant marine life beneath the waves. Now, with more direct flights from Jakarta, the city and the islands is gaining fast traction as tourism destination spot including for luxury travelers. Besides new resorts and hotels openings, the port is now packed up with boats and phinisis, a wooden traditional Indonesian two-masted sailing ship, that offers live on board experience cruising the islands.
In September, ForbesLife Indonesia went with luxury travel service Dreamscape to the islands to taste three days and two nights luxury cruise aboard Prana, the newest and the biggest luxury phinisi yacht yet sailing exotic Eastern destinations. Commencing in June, Prana is the first entry point to Indonesian market by Ibiza-based boutique hotel brand Atzaro. At the busy port of Labuan Bajo, the 55 meters-long phinisi really stands out from the crowd by the size and the look of the ship. The white paint color of the phinisi with lines of natural color of teak and ironwood material creates a stark contrast with the blue color of the sky and the sea. Stepping on board, one thing that easily noticed is how huge the phinisi is with 4 decks and a total of 900 sqm usable space is handcrafted with attention to details and decoration. Prana was built in Bira, Sulawesi – where the local Bugis people has been building phinisi for centuries – over a 21 months period.
“Ours is the biggest phinisi in Labuan Bajo and Raja Ampat, the next one is 52 meters (long) and we are the only one with nine cabins including two suites,” Andy Brusselmans, Prana’s cruise director, says as the ship pulls its anchors and start the sail.
At the upper deck is the Batavia master suite and Uluwatu grand suite. The master suite is simply a floating presidential suite with 77 sqm space -more than double the space of the grand suite - with big windows, 180-degree panoramic view, and a private spacious deck with large indoor and outdoor sofas that guests could basically throw their own private party in it. The master suite is also the only room with a bathtub. There is one cabin located at the main deck and six at the lower deck. The room size varies: 18 sqm, 23 sqm, and 27 sqm but neatly arranged so that even the smallest room feels really comfortable. Each has wood and veneer finish, king-size and queen-size bed with sofa, entertainment system, large wardrobe, hot and cold shower with separate toilet, air-conditioned and soundproofed. In each room and alleys there are classic monochrome photos of the process when the ship was built, which is very interesting.
Andy assures that the ship luxury feel goes in line with the five-star service. So despite the comfortable rooms it is surely best to wear those beach outfit or swimsuit and go to the open spaces at the main deck to get sun kissed and smell the fresh ocean breeze with cold drink and tasty Western and Indonesian fusion food served by the chef. If you feel adventurous, the cruise has surely a lot to offer in terms of activities: trekking, diving, water ski, wakeboarding, snorkeling, paddle boarding, kayaking, fishing, you just have to tell the crew and they’ll prepare it for you and assure your safety. So, while we had our lunch the ship steadily heads to our first diving and snorkeling site in Sebayur Kecil.
Underwater life in Komodo Islands is among the most vibrant in the archipelago and even the world. The islands are located between two great seas: the Flores Sea to the North (fed by the Pacific Ocean) and the Sumba Strait Sea to the south (fed by the Indian Ocean). On a daily basis these waters rise and fall through three narrow channels, converging in a nutrient rich blend that gives life and splendor to the marine creatures that reside below, and creates challenging currents. So we started at Sebayur Kecil where the current is low to mild, which is perfect to get to know the equipments or for beginners. Guests are divided into three teams: divers, snorkelers, and those who just can’t let go of their cold drink on the boat. The first dive team gets lucky with shark and turtle encounter, while our team notable encounter only stingray, flatfish and eel.
Prana and Dreamscape assures all his guests are having a good time. For example on the next day the agenda was diving at Batu Bolong, which requires a more advance diver due to the currents. So, the crew arranged a nice picnic at Taka Makassar, a small white sand island for those who didn’t dive. There are no trees in the island, so parasols were set up for shade, including some lazy chairs and a cooler box filled with cold drinks. Snorkeling gears were also prepared for those who want to dip in the shallow water full of fish and corals. The timing was also right, the island feels like a private island of ours. Bet, other people at the boats that passed gave an envy look. Getting too excited and your muscle got sore, don’t worry Prana has on board spa and massage that can be taken on deck, in-room or in the peaceful Atelier de Beauté. For the treatment product partnered with French cosmetic designer Anne Sémonin.
As the sun slides to the horizon, the captain heads the ship towards the sunset while finding the perfect place for guest to enjoy the calmness and the beauty of the evening. Ours was a small hill on the west part of Gili Lawa Darat with options of soft drink, beer, or gin and tonic. When the night falls it doesn’t mean the fun is over. Guests could enjoy barbeque on the beach followed up by watching cinema under the stars. Or if you happen to have a DJ on board, like we did, the sound system on the ship can be pumped out while enjoying drinks and rounds of light canapé. And make sure to wake up early the next day to enjoy sunrise, join the yoga on the upper deck and start a new adventure.
With maximum 18 guests on board, Prana is also suitable for office gathering or wedding and honeymoon cruise. The cost of the on board luxury starts at $12,500 per night with a required minimum stay which varies depending on the destination and peak season, for example the minimum stay at Komodo is four days, but during peak season it’s ten days. Beside the Komodo Islands, Prana also offer cruises in Raja Ampat, Banda, and Alor. The price pretty much covers everything, from food and beverages (including beer and table wine), activities and laundry. Prana even throw a free of charge one-hour massage or beauty treatment per each person. Beside full charter, the ship is also available to rent per room on scheduled dates. Andy says most of these are discovery cruise, which is when the ship is moving from one destination to another for example from Komodo to Raja Ampat. The cabin price starts at $1,120 per night and the main suite starts at $2,800 per night. The length of the journey varies from four to ten nights. However Andy warns this discovery cruise can be a bit rough as the ship sails in the open seas.