A five-day itinerary through the remote islands of Raja Ampat

With its emerald waters, pristine beaches and mushroom-like islands scattered across the sea, Raja Ampat is a sight to behold. And now thanks to social media, the remote island paradise is fast becoming the newest ‘it’ destination for luxury travellers being guided by the ‘gram.

Located in the West Papua province of Indonesia on the island of New Guinea, Raja Ampat (which means ‘Four Kings’) is an archipelago made up of over 1,500 islands. The sparsely populated region is part of the ‘Coral Triangle’ and boasts the richest marine biodiversity on earth, making it the ultimate divers’ mecca.

On land, Raja Ampat has just as much to offer including thrilling hikes, exotic birdwatching and up-close encounters with local villagers.

The last paradise

Raja Ampat is known as ‘the last paradise’ due to its remote location and lack of resorts, especially those of the luxury category.

Untouched by mass tourism (imagine Thailand or Bali 30-40 years ago), there are just two types of accommodation to choose from: local homestays or liveaboards—boats that allow divers to access far-flung dive sites without having to return to shore. And while liveaboards are convenient, they are often far from luxurious.

Enter Prana by Atzaro, the “world’s most luxurious liveaboard.” Brought to you by the owners of the prestigious Atzaro Hotels in Ibiza, Spain, the luxury yacht blends the glamour of Ibiza with the local flavour of Indonesia.

Prana by Atzaro

Spanning four decks and 900 square metres of usable space, Prana by Atzaro can accommodate a total of 18 guests in nine gorgeously appointed suites.

The luxury yacht is built in the style of a phinisi—a traditional two-masted Indonesian sailing ship that was originally used for transport and cargo—and comes with all the modern amenities a luxury traveller has come to expect.

We’re talking air conditioning, rain showers, electricity, onboard Wi-Fi (when in range), same-day laundry, rooftop yoga, open-air cinema, and all the water sports you can handle: wakeboard and water skis, stand-up paddleboards, sea kayaks, as well as fishing, diving and snorkelling.

With a crew of 18 boatmen, chefs, baristas, mixologists, housekeeping and masseuses onboard (a 1-to-1 staff to guest ratio), you'll certainly be well taken care of.

How luxe is "the world’s most luxurious liveaboard"? Well, Kim Kardashian herself chartered Prana by Atzaro in Komodo last fall—and if it’s good enough for Kim, it’s good enough for us. We hopped on board to experience Prana by Atzaro for ourselves on a five-day itinerary through Raja Ampat:

Getting there

To get to Raja Ampat, fly to Jakarta (5 hours from Hong Kong) and take a connecting flight to Sorong (4 hours). There are currently no direct flights available from Bali, so you’ll have to transit through Jakarta, Surabaya, Makassar or Manado.

From Sorong airport, it’s a 10-20 minute taxi ride to the harbour, where we were whisked off to our liveaboard by speedboat. 

See also: Is This Europe's Most Luxurious Resort?

Day 1: Sorong to Mioskon

Our first day on board Prana by Atzaro started with tropical welcome drinks (something we soon learned to expect each time we came on board), followed by a tour of the boat by cruise director and Frenchman, Cedric Lesenechal.

Over a giant breakfast spread of exotic fruits, Indonesian fry-ups and Western dishes paired with slow-pressed juices, smoothies and coffee, Cedric gave us a rundown of the house rules which included no shoes, no smoking in the rooms and no jumping into the ocean unannounced, especially when the boat is moving (it happens, apparently).

An expert of Raja Ampat and passionate diver, Cedric explained that it’d take about five hours for us to reach Mioskon, a heart-shaped island known for its lush corals and bat colonies. There, we came across moray eels, bumphead parrotfish and a wobbegong shark, a rarely-sighted bearded bottom-dweller that our divemaster treated like an everyday occurrence.

Day 2: Saporkrem and Sawandarek

Day two started bright and early (5am, to be exact) with a “light breakfast" (read: full spread) and hike up Saporkrem to see the exotic birds of paradise and their daily mating rituals.

Armed with headlamps and walking sticks the size of us, we trekked up a slippery slope crisscrossed by gnarly roots and leaves, led by the sound of the birds’ mating calls. After about 30 minutes, we reached a clearing in the bushes where we craned our necks up to catch glimpses of the showy birds hopping from branch to branch, spreading their rust-toned wings in a mesmerising dance.

On our way down, we passed through the colourful village of Saporkrem, where locals stared back at us with a mix of scepticism and curiosity. The kids, many of whom had fiery orange-tinted hair, were especially cute and obliged for photos, all without saying a word.

Back onboard, we enjoyed a “second breakfast”—another Prana by Atzaro institution that we got used to in no time—before enjoying free time for the rest of the day.

Two dives followed in the afternoon—one at Cape Kri and another at Sawandarek Jetty. At Cape Kri, we spotted a teeny-tiny pygmy seahorse on a coral fan within minutes of the dive and played tag with the friendly batfish under the Sawandarek jetty. The corals were unlike any we’d seen before, ranging from giant cabbage patches to mushroom-like corals as far as the eye could see.

That night, we set sail for Wayag, the poster child of Raja Ampat with its beautiful scenery of conical karst islands. 

Day 3: Wayag

Like kids on Christmas morning, we awoke with much anticipation to see Wayag at dawn, with several of us paddling out to get a better view. After a quick breakfast, our group assembled for another hike, this time straight up a raggedy limestone cliff that promised sweeping views of Wayag from above.

The hike was no joke and not for the vertigo-inclined. More of a vertical rock climb with sharp nooks and crannies we held onto for dear life, those who made it to the top were rewarded with 360-degree views of Wayag’s iconic limestone atolls.

Coming down was another harrowing affair, but all was forgotten when the Prana by Atzaro team delivered us by speedboat to another private island, where Chef Fazul and his team had prepared a seaside lunch for us, tasselled umbrellas and all.

With our toes in the sand, we feasted on a neverending buffet of barbecued lobster, sausage, steak, and fish, along with large platters of chickpea salad and roasted balsamic vegetables. Washing it all down with cold beer and soft drinks, we let the food digest while watching baby sharks swim along the shoreline.

Not one to waste, our leftovers were fed to a group of hungry nurse sharks at the nearby ranger’s station, creating the perfect #sharknado for Instagram.

Day 4: Wayag to Wofoh

Day four began with a visit to a local pearl farm at Alyui Bay, where we discovered how South Sea pearls are farmed and turned into precious jewellery sold all over the world. We then set sail for Wofoh, home to one of the best coral wall dives in Raja Ampat.

Descending 25 metres down the wall, we marvelled at the mix of colourful soft and hard corals while watching schools of fish swim by. On our way back to the surface, we swam along with a disapproving green turtle, shoals of bright yellow sweetlips and a rather rotund giant pufferfish.

That evening, we opted for a casual dinner on the rooftop deck of Prana by Atzaro, complete with music, cocktails and canapes. The crew then set up the rooftop cinema with beanbags for all—the perfect way to end the evening under the stars.

See also: 7 Most Romantic Resorts In Southeast Asia

Day 5: Piaynemo to Sorong

Sailing overnight, we arrived by day at Piaynemo, arguably the most Insta-famous spot in Raja Ampat right now. Unlike Wayag which requires Spiderman-like agility to reach the top, Piaynemo is much more accessible with steps that lead up to the double-decked viewing point.

Back at sea level, we bid farewell to the locals selling homemade coconut oil and iridescent coconut crabs (a type of endangered hermit crab) and hopped back on the speedboat. On our way back, we made one last stop at a private lagoon where everyone jumped in, joining the turtles beneath us in the crystal clear water.

See also: This Is Asia's Largest Yacht—And It Comes With A Helipad

Schedule and bookings

Prana by Atzaro sails year-round in Indonesia—Raja Ampat from December to April, Komodo National Park from June to October and The Spice Islands in November. The yacht is available for private full charter and rates range from US$12,500 to US$18,000 per night; for enquiries, contact info@pranabyatzaro.com.

Learn more at pranabyatzaro.com

See also: 10 Things To Know About The Muraka, The World’s First Underwater Villa

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