Sail Away For The Holidays
Hubert Burda Media
Water is my element. Not just because some BuzzFeed quiz said so. Iâve always known it. My first home was by the sea and Iâve had sand between my toes even before I could walk. Itâs no surprise then that I am far more likely to pick a beach vacation over any other, as if to relive those carefree days. You can imagine the smile on my face when I was invited to spend a few days on a yacht called Rascal.
Isnât she gorgeous? With her Indonesian Phinisi solid timber structure, Rascal offers more warmth and character than the typical white fibreglass boat. If luxury cruise ships are floating hotels on the high seas, then Rascal is the chic villa on a private odyssey, nosing into pristine reefs and secluded beaches between Komodo and Rajah Ampat.
The first thing to do on board is to kick off your shoes and get comfortable. The yachtâs interior is styled like a cosy beach house in the Hamptons, with sun-drenched colours, plump upholstery, brass fixtures and natural materials.
Rascal has five double ensuite cabins across two decks, all above water. It is currently the only Phinisi superyacht to offer this advantage. You wake up to sunlight filtering through the blinds, or if youâre on the lower deck, to the aroma of coffee and breakfast wafting from the galley.
We started out from the port of Labuan Bajo, on the western edge of the East Nusa Tenggara land mass, and made our first anchorage off the island of Gili Lawa Darat. Itâs a calm quiet spot in the shelter of a bay. After breakfast we spied a pod of dolphins, their arched backs cutting through the water in swift succession. If they didnât seem to be in such a hurry, it would have been insanely cool to swim among them.
But there are other opportunities to see the marine life. Rascal carries scuba equipment to enable guests to explore what are unarguably the best dive spots on the entire planet, both in terms of biodiversity and geography. The Flores Sea is teeming with some 1,400 species, including blacktip reef sharks, manta rays, barracudas, turtles and a mindbloggling array of reef fish, in its astounding coral gardens and secret chasms.
I unfortunately havenât learnt to dive, but even just snorkelling, I was able to experience a slice of this amazing aquatic paradise. Next time, perhaps, Iâll ask Rascalâs cruise director and superstar dive master Garry Phillips for a PADI course.
From A Brotherhood Of Good Food
Diving and snorkelling aside, you can take a kayak out to explore mangroves and unmolested beaches. Rascal also keeps a couple of SUP (stand up paddle) boards in its arsenal of toys, if you want to give your abs and glutes a workout. You can even do yoga on them â" the savasana pose for sure. The sea is that calm. If you feel a need for speed, get towed on the Jumbo Swordfish by one of the two speedboat tenders.
Having fun often works up a ravenous appetite. Itâs great to find that Rascalâs owners are passionate about healthy and nutritious food and have roped in the people behind Baliâs beloved Watercress, Milk and Ma du and Shmurger Burger restaurants to create a menu for her guests.
And so that all the delicious grub washes down in the most delightful way, they had the mixologists behind Singaporeâs award-winning bar 28 Hongkong Street devise Rascalâs signature cocktails.
Rascalâs crew is also fond of springing surprises on her guests, like setting up a private gazebo on Pantai Merah, complete with fluffy towels, lounge cushions, snacks and chilled champagne, while we frolicked with Nemo and friends. One evening, they orchestrated a barbeque dinner on a beach for us, illuminated by hundreds of candles that looked as if the stars had descended on us, followed by a great bonfire party.
Walking Among Dragons
For us city dwellers, it was wonderful to reconnect with nature. Trekking on the Gili Lawa Darat island provided a breathtaking 360Â° view of the bays and islets. One afternoon, we also spotted a parcel of graceful Sunda sambar, the indigenous wild deer. Later that same day, we saw some white-breasted sea eagles hunt. Excited at the opportunity to make like a wildlife photographer, I stalked them with my trusty old Canon, but eventually bowed to the better alternative of just watching them soar, circle, swoop and strike in turn, each time they moved in on a likely prey.
For the chance to glimpse Komodo dragons, the largest lizards on earth, we made our way to Komodo National Park one afternoon. We were lucky to see not just a few majestic specimens who obliged to pose for photos, but also one that was tearing up the carcass of a wild boar. A man recently suffered a venomous bite when he got too close, so I was glad I had my zoom lens.
To say it was a memorable trip would be a vile understatement. I believ e I left a part of the watery soul on Rascal, mingled in the Flores sea. Now if the owners were to build her a sister â" you could call her Minx â" I might get to come sailing around the Indonesian archipelago once more. Rascal, you know where to find me.
Sheâs a Phinisi yacht designed for the been-there-done-it-all leisure traveller. She combines a traditional solid teak construction with technology from a contemporary superyacht â" engines, navigation systems and AV solutions. Thirty-one metres long and seven metres wide, she is perfect for those who want to push the boundaries and venture beyond just Bali and Lombok, to the remote reaches of the Indonesian archipelago. Her bases stretch from Komodo National Park to Raja Ampat, offering the worldâs finest destinations for scuba divers as well as outsta nding beaches and lush volcanic landscapes. And she is available for private charter of groups of up to 10 adults, with itineraries that are tailor-made to provide a bespoke cruising experience. Rates start from USD8,500 a night full board, varying with group size and itinerary. More information at rascal-charters.com