South East Asia – the next destination?
Caroline Blatter 19 Jan 2018 South East Asia
It’s no secret that the Asia region is developing at a pace that the west can only watch in awe. The increase in wealth and the development of the economies in the countries of the so-called ASEAN region, along with China, are underpinning a rapid growth in facilities and resources for visiting yachts. New marinas and cosmopolitan urban centres are filled with thriving eating, shopping and cultural experiences. Stunning natural beaches, flora and fauna are found amidst the coastlines and incredible scenery not just in a few hotspots around the region but through a vast expanse of many thousands of islands and destinations.
The tropical climate that dominates the major part of the region puts in on a par with other warm weather destinations like the Caribbean. Here you can swop the European and northern winters for balmy tropical temperatures in an area that covers more than four million square miles.
Governments in Singapore and Indonesia are working hard in the region to promote marine tourism and the anticipated increase in yacht arrivals. According to an International Boat Industry report, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Indonesian President Joko Widodo highlighted the importance of marine tourism at September’s Singapore-Indonesia Investment Forum. They discussed a major plan to create 10 new 'Bali-style' resorts. There was also real excitement about the potential economic impact from yacht arrivals in Indonesia, including marina developments and the subsequent growth of leisure boating. Meanwhile in Thailand, the government is already changing regulations to encourage superyacht charter.
But even now as the region sows these seeds, there are plenty of opportunities for ocean going cruising yachts. A good range of well-reputed organisations are on the ground there to take care of everything from the countless number of itineraries to provisioning and repairs.
Phuket, in Thailand, remains one of the most popular destinations in South East Asia, aided by easy accessibility and Thailand’s recent loosening of charter regulations. Phuket is packed with a range of marine suppliers, and hosts the annual Asia Superyacht Rendezvous each December sponsored by Feadship Royal Dutch Shipbuilders.
The island is also home to a state-of-the-art superyacht marina Phuket Yacht Haven Marina which can accommodate yachts up to 100m. Accommodation, pool and restaurants are all on site. Zara Tremlett, Marina Manager at Phuket Yacht Haven comments “Facilities like this are built to international standards. The quality of such standards are maintained to an even higher level, as there is a lot to prove. Add this to the flavour of South East Asia and it is little wonder that the superyacht owners in the know lay their deposits and keep coming back!”
Still in Thailand, Ocean Marina Yacht Club hosts the Pattaya Boat Show which promotes Thailand’s marine industry, dates for 2018 are 29th Nov - 2nd December. The show’s year on year growth in terms of numbers of visitors and exhibitors is a good indicator of the health of boating in the region.
One of the most famous marinas in the world is Raffles Marina in Singapore, which has space for yachts up to 100m. Raffles is a full service boatyard and it’s also where you will find Promarine Yacht Sales & Yacht Support and Marina Yacht Services chandlery so there is plenty of assistance on offer to get your yacht prepared for a longer cruise around the region. JMSL Shipyard is a commercial shipyard at Tuas, Singapore which can take yachts up to 120m for engineering and dry dock work. The facilities here are a great base as a springboard to many other destinations within easy reach, including the islands off Malaysia and Thailan, Langkawi and Phuket.
If you are overwhelmed by choosing which of Indonesia’s 17,000+ islands to visit the Lighthouse Consultancy can help. With over a decade of experience supporting extended cruising the regions, they can help make the experience memorable for guests and crew. In addition to logistical assistance, immigration, customs clearance, cruising permits and bunkers the Lighthouse team’s strengths lie in itinerary planning and ensuring the real wonders of the Indonesian cruising grounds are fully experienced. They can arrange excursions through Komodo National Park to see the legendary dragons, visits to 16th Century forts and even helicopter tours to see whalesharks.
Andy Shorten, of the Lighthouse Consultancy, which is based in Bali, describes how these magical islands have become more accessible. “Over the past four or five years, Indonesia has become an easier destination in terms of the spectacular cruising regions. The feedback of our visiting yacht captains is that the remote locations are amongst the most idyllic they have seen anywhere in the world. The cruising is year round, and with more adventurous vessels heading our way, or vessels returning from even more remote cruising and sharing their experiences with us, we are forever learning and improving. In September and October we had vessels cruising in the Mentaiwais – West Sumatra, Komodo, central Bali, The Banda Sea, and Raja Ampat all at the same time. That’s supporting an area the same size as mainland USA! The scale of this place is just immense – and the cruising areas are diverse too. The landscapes are different, the diving is different, the local populations and historical attractions are different, there are just so many adventures to be found here.”
The thousands of individual limestone cliff islands of Ha Long Bay or ‘Bay of the Descending Dragon’ are a UNESCO World Heritage site and are both mystical and magnificent, an incredible feat of nature where fishermen still live on floating villages.
The growth of yachting is evident with the many leisure related businesses which are springing up especially around Nha Trang where a brand new marina, the first international standard marina in Vietnam, just opened in September 2017. AnaMarina provides sheltered berthing for up to 220 yachts. Developed, designed and built by a team of local developers and international experts, it sets the benchmark for marinas nationwide by meeting the strictest international marina standards.
AnaMarina offers a huge range of services and facilities for dinghies to super yachts. It places Nha Trang, and indeed Vietnam, on the worldwide map as a new and luxury destination for yachting and nautical lifestyle hub.
Nha Trang beach offers nearby anchorages which are perfect for a few days relaxation, where the sand stretches along the bay for 6km and for most of the year the sea is a brilliant turquoise colour. There is some fabulous scuba diving, and it’s easy to hop around the local islands of Mieu, Mot, Tam and Mun, as they are close to each other. The city also has arguably the best nightlife in Vietnam outside of Saigon.
Perfect Marine JSC are a full service yacht agency which will handle formalities, provisioning, bunkering, itineraries, visa-on-arrival, stern-to superyacht berthing facility, repair and maintenance in superyacht standard yard, personal owner/guest & crew tour requirements, April to Sept. high Season.
Langkawi in Malaysia lies just south of the border with Thailand and only 100 miles from Phuket. It is well established as a destination for diving on coral reefs and beautiful scenery, as well as being a centrepiece of Malaysia's tourist industry. It is also the premier yachting destination for the region, with plenty of good facilities for superyachts and the stunning beauty of 99 islands highly suitable as cruising grounds for yachts of all sizes. Several good operators there include Asia Pacific Superyachts who will manage everything from refit and repair to fuel supplies and provisions. Seal Superyachts also have a dedicated team to handle all yacht services requirements and local administration protocols.
The island offers a wealth of cruising, with natural protection from the elements year round. Dotted around the islands are many pristine beaches, river systems, caves and hill tops, just waiting to be explored. In addition, you will find 5 star hotels, internationally renowned golf courses, pristine rain forest, abundant wild life, a town centre with all the modern facilities of a small city, and an International Airport.
Off the beaten track
Much of South East Asia’s beauty is still a well kept secret. For many visiting yachts, part of the appeal of charter lies in finding more remote spots, and the rewards they bring.
Formerly known as Burma, Myanmar is starting to make a new name for itself. To the north of Phuket are the 800 islands of Myanmar’s Mergui Archipelago, densely forested and mountainous where impenetrable jungle meets white silica sand beaches. Natural harbours provide plenty of anchorages for cruising yachts. Scuba diving and snorkelling are simply superb with plentiful fish life and undamaged corals. Myanmar has plenty of natural harbours, so the anchoring is easy enough. The sea life is teeming with undamaged corals and a plethora of tropical fish.
There are plenty of yachts for charter too in the region – ranging from some of the world’s largest superyachts to traditional Asian-style ultra-luxurious sailing yachts. Most of the large European and US based charter operators can provide guidance on the vessels they have available in the region for the coming season.
Time for something different…
Caribbean marinas & anchorages can fill up quickly every season, but SE Asia’s remarkable scenery, dazzling shorelines and unique architecture are fast becoming a real alternative to get away from it all. There are so many undiscovered and tranquil corners of this vast region to discover. White sandy beaches and unchanged fishing villages are easy to reach by tender or kayak, while world-class city facilities and yacht suppliers are never far away.
There are of course still challenges in these developing areas, but governments are working hard to overcome these. Rapid wealth creation in Asia centred in China is driving a surge in the desire for luxury standards and world class facilities; South East Asia is working hard to achieve a destination that is unrivalled anywhere else.
Watch out for our new 2018/19 Pacific Asia Guide which will be available in May 2018.
Photographs supplied, with thanks, to: