The Perfect Dive Vacation for Families and Small Groups.

The Perfect Dive Vacation for Families and Small Groups.

Nataraja at Sea

Nataraja at Sea

They dream of the perfect dive vacation. Diving at remote dive sites with perfect visibility, warm waters and more marine life than they could ever imagine in one place. They want a liveaboard that is more than just a dive platform and someplace to eat and sleep. They want something comfortable, even luxurious, but not stuffy and snobbish. Someplace as suitable for a bottle of local beer as it is for a bottle of imported Champagne. It needs to be modern with all the comforts of home, but still maintain the feel of an era long ago past.

They see themselves watching the sunset with a love one as the rays of lights highlight the grain of the teak wood decks. When those dreams come true, they find themselves on a handcrafted Phinisi yacht sailing and diving the Indonesia archipelago. A vessel that pays homage to the culture and craftsman who created her. They find themselves on the Nataraja.

The Phinisi Yacht Nataraja

Nataraja is the Hindu connection between the spirit and the arts, and is the perfect name for this 32 meter Phinisi yacht. Since ancient times, the boat builders of South Sulawesit have been building boats. First it was simple fishing boats, so they can feed themselves, later larger vessels such as a Phinisi for exploration and trade. As the builders skills improved, they passed it to the next generation becoming in itself an art form. A Phinisi is a traditional Indonesian two-masted sailing ship, generally built from Ironwood and Bangkirai with teak being used as finishing. Yacht owners took notice of the craftsmanship of these vessels and soon the were being built as custom designed yachts.

The keel of the Nataraja was laid in 2015, making her first sailing in 2016. She was built with an eye on comfort and luxury. Nataraja’s deck plan is one with an open living concept as well as privacy. There is a large shaded dining area for al fresco dining, and a spacious lounge at the stern. Nataraja has 5 cabins aboard, 1 master cabin and 4 Double cabins with an optional 3rd Bed. The master cabin boasts a private terrace in the stern with two large windows, offering splendid views of the sea. It has 1 large bed and two smaller ones, with a bench and desk. Each cabin is air-conditioned and has a private bathroom with a hot water shower, sink and toilet. She is designed to carry 9 adult passengers and 4 children in four beautiful cabins, with the fifth cabin generally reserved for the cruise director/tour guide.

Nataraja Phinisi Master Cabin

Nataraja Master Cabin

Diving Indonesia

Depending on the season and your personal preference you can charter the Nataraja for sailing Komodo National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site or Raja Ampat.

Komodo National Park is best known for being the home of the Komodo dragon, the world’s last living dragon and the largest lizard. Komodo National Park includes three major islands: Komodo, Rinca and Padar, as well as numerous smaller islands. The scuba diving is some of the best in the world and there is diving for all skill levels. The Nataraja can take you to Pink Beach for an unforgettable picnic after snorkeling in the crystal clear waters with manta rays. Later trek to the peak of Padar for one of the most incredible views in the world. The balance between land excursions and diving is up to you, it is your yacht.

Raja Ampat translates to “Four Kings” a name to honor the 4 main islands. It is a land of breath taking land and seascapes. These easternmost islands of Indonesia have drawn adventurers and explorers for centuries. Today they also draw scuba and free divers. Indonesia is included in the Coral Triangle, the area considered the most bio-diverst in the world, and the Raja Ampat area has one of the highest number of different species within the coral triangle. Being remote and in an area of scattered population and low urbanization means you will find pristine conditions for both diving and sailing.

The traits and details that make the Nataraja the perfect liveaboard for scuba and free diving also lend themselves for making the Nataraja perfect for other styles of sailing vacations. Feel for yourself why yacht owners around the world hold Phinisi style yachts in such high regard.

Visit remote islands in the Raja Ampat that get few if any tourist. See what it is really like to live here. If you enjoy kayaking, let the Nataraja bring you to places that are so incredibly beautiful that words alone cannot describe.

Being the one responsible for planning a dive vacation for a scuba diving family or a small dive club is a daunting task. Even after shifting through dozens of suitable dive destinations, you then have to find a liveaboard that is just perfect for your group. Diving a Phinisi style yacht  in Indonesia is the perfect solution.

Komodo National Park

Komodo National Park (KNP)

Located in a very remote portion of the Indonesian islands is a place that seems mythical, a place forgotten by time and controlled by dragons. The island of Komodo is the only home of the 10 foot (3 meter) long Komodo dragon. The island has about 2,000 people living on it with a mostly traditional lifestyle.
Numerous small islands and three larger islands, Rinca, Komodo and Padar, make up the park that was established to protect the dragons. That protection has been expanded to include Manta Rays and sharks protected areas.

Komodo Island north aerial.jpg
By jon hanson from London – indonesian islands, CC BY-SA 2.0,

When is the best time to dive Komodo National Park (seasons)

Diving in the KNP is year round, however, March to October provides the best conditions. The rainy season of December to February is the best time for diving with Manta Rays. However, The conditions can be so difficult leaving and returning to port that many of the land based operators close for January and February. Liveaboards are able to adjust for the weather better.

Marine life found in Komodo


The water around these islands are the home of more than 260 species of reef-building coral, about 1,000 species of fish, and 70 species of sponges. Here is what the UNESCO said about the marine life. “The coral reefs fringing the coast of Komodo are diverse and luxuriant due to the clear water, intense sunlight and rapid exchange of nutrient-rich water from deeper areas of the archipelago. The marine fauna and flora are generally the same as that found throughout the Indo Pacific area, though species richness is very high, notable marine mammals include blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) and sperm whale (Physeter catodon) as well as 10 species of dolphin, dugong (Dugong dugon) and five species of sea turtles.” With that statement as a backdrop here is some the most sought after marine life while diving:

  • Manta rays, this is considered one of the best Manta Ray destinations in the world
  • Dugong, they can reach 11 feet (3.5 meters) and 925 pounds (420 kilograms)
  • Sharks, including Blacktip, Grey reef, Whitetip and Hammerhead sharks
  • Whales, at least 14 species visit the area
  • Sea turtle
  • Dolphins

Always dive with a reputable dive operator. Most of the sites are best for experienced divers. The park is located at the conjunction of the Indian and Pacific oceans. This plus numerous small island create a condition where there is always currents, sometimes brutal.

Dive Komodo Land based or Liveaboard?

Both options have their strong points. If you are diving in the wet season, then the liveaboard is the stronger option. At other times of the year, it is more about your viewpoints and diving skills. Liveaboards will get you to the more outlying dive sites, and since you are not headed back to shore before sunset more opportunities to enjoy nature and be in your own world. The strong currents might be too intense for some divers to do every day. Some liveaboards offer short options were you can combine the two. Given the distance many divers will travel, consider a vacation in Bali leading into a Komodo liveaboard.
Divezone.net has some reviews of the different Indonesian Liveaboards including those going to Komodo.

The Coral Sea & Ribbon Reefs

The Coral Sea & Ribbon Reefs- The Worlds Best Year-Round Liveaboard Destination.

 

There are dozens of special destinations around the world that are normally only dived by liveaboard vessels. Often these destinations are very remote and difficult to get to. The Coral Sea & Ribbon Reefs is one of those destinations that is on many a diver’s bucket list. While the dive sites are very remote, the liveaboards depart from Cairns on the Queensland coast of Australia. A couple of different liveaboard companies sail from Cairns on a week long dive vacation to the Ribbon Reefs a portion of the Great Barrier Reef and out to a remote reef, often Osprey reef, in the Coral Seas. The two that dominate are Mike Ball’s Spoilsport ( read a review on the Spoil sport here) and the Spirit of Freedom ( Spirit of Freedom review). The liveaboards use different sailing dates and some will start with the ribbon Reefs and others will head to the Coral sea from Cairns. The week long trip is presented in a three day Ribbon Reef Segment and a four day Coral Sea segment. Lizard island acts as a transfer point for guest taking only one segment.

 

Spirit of Freedom

Spirit of Freedom

Ribbon Reef Section

 

The Ribbon Reefs are a series of long narrow reefs stretching about 55 miles in the Northern Reef area of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. There are ten of these reefs, no names just numbered 1 to 10. They are to the north and east of Cooktown. Cooktown a town of about 2,000 is itself isolated, a five hour bus ride from Cairns with one trip a day. The Ribbon Reefs are unique in their make up. They share the same characteristics of typical barrier reefs, on the edge of steep drop offs on the ocean side with calm shallow lagoons between them and land. They do not have the broad flat tops that barrier reefs are known for. Some scientist classify them as a separate reef type. Breaks between the reefs are few and often present a strong current. It was these reefs that confounded Captain James Cook when he sailed to them. For the diver, they are perfect. The rich nutrients brought from the deep trenches causes the coral life to grown to immense sizes. It also brings pelagic species in to visit and feed. The outgoing current flushed away any sediment and waste built up from the vast marine life. The impact caused by humans is not apparent. They are far from any major human settlement and the pollution they can create. Only a few small liveaboard visit the area each week. Cod Hole get special attention as it has a number of man sized 90kg Potato Cods. Photographs and movies, In 1982, were used as part of a campaign to protect Potato Cod from commercial fishing. Not only were the images highly successful to protect the Cod, they also prompted making the area a marine sanctuary. To divers around the world, it showed what a perfect reef looked like. Over thirty years later, the visibility is still perfect, the marine life healthy and the Cod Hole dive site is still awing divers with perfect conditions and unbeatable marine life.

Mike Ball's Spoil Sport

Mike Ball’s Spoil Sport

Coral Sea Diving-Osprey Reef

 

If you got a group of experience divers together and ask them to describe their dream dive and if you put all the answers together you have the Osprey reef. A ten hour boat ride from the Ribbon Reef, is a massive underwater mountain that reaches over 3,000 feet from the ocean floor to just under the surface. The mountain top covers an area of about 195 square kilometers roughly 25 kilometers long and as wide as 12 kilometers. The central lagoon area is 30 meters deep at its deepest location with many dive sites as shallow as 10 meters. Osprey reef has an atoll appearance to it, as the central lagoon is surrounded by coral above sea level. The floor of the lagoon has massive crevices in places. One site got it name, Castles as the steep walled crevices and spirals create the image of a medieval town, with high walls and towers. Caves exist but inside and outside of the lagoon. Outside of the atoll, the reef takes on a different look. 45 degree slopes to depths beyond diving limits, in other locations shear walls. Seemly unlimited visibility with pelagic fish in abundance. The Osprey reef is one of the leading field research locations studying sharks. The variety and numbers of each specie is unmatched anywhere in the world. A dwarf nautilus is also found in these waters. The nautilus lives in the deep hundreds of meters deep but on some nights venture into shallow waters. Some of the largest coral fans in the world have been cataloged here and it is also the home of the stout infantfish a previous record holder of the world’s smallest fish. The remoteness adds to the thrill of the diving. Unless there is a scientific team doing research, your vessel will be the only one on the reef.