The Indonesian Phinisi vessel is under new ownership and will be offering a bespoke tours and experiences in the region.
After a year spent indoors and in isolation, it seems that travel has become the epitome of luxury. The romance of the high seas, in particular, beckons as superyacht Dunia Baru—Indonesian for “the new world”—sets sail once more, traveling across some of the most biodiverse waters of Indonesia, Thailand, and Myanmar.
Launched in 2014, the cruise has become known equally for its Indo design as well as its access to far-flung enclaves. What is has always promised its guests are days with golden sunsets, lazy swims in aquamarine waters, and dining under a dome of blazing stars. Under its new owners Jing-Yi Wee and Teng Yuan Wee (who took over from businessman Mark Robba), the boat underwent refurbishment under Deirdre Renniers, the interior designer of the Aman private yacht Amandira.
The 51-meter-long, two-masted luxury yacht can travel under sail as well as motor and has seven en-suite cabins for 14 guests. It was handcrafted in the classic architecture of Phinisi wooden sailboats by the Konjo, an ancient tribe of boat builders in South Sulawesi. The Dunia Baru is built of teak and ulin ironwood, an extremely rare, strong and dense wood that grows just 0.5mm a year in Sulawesi and Kalimantan. Ulin Ironwood is now protected and can no longer be procured.
Jing-Yi says that it is simply not possible to build another boat like it. “She was built with love and without compromise over eight years,” she says.
“Regularly chartering for holidays in the Mediterranean and South Pacific, we sailed on Dunia Baru a few years ago and never quite forgot this boat. The experience stayed in our minds for a very long time,” says Teng Yuan, explaining why he and his sister were so fortunate to be able to take over the stewardship of the yacht in early 2020. “Her reputation precedes her. From the moment we stepped on board, it was clear that she stood far ahead of other yachts in terms of her beauty, build quality, maintenance, safety, and attention to detail.”
Every detail on Dunia Baru is in keeping with the traditions of Indonesian Phinisi vessels. The ship’s wheel, for instance, is carved out of solid ironwood, as are the door hinges, window fittings, balustrades, wall panels, and furniture.
The timberwork, typically executed by a yacht interior contractor or specialist, was done by Jamal, one of the original Konjo craftsmen that built the Dunia Baru. Now a senior crew member, he was taught in the almost lost art of Phinisi building by his family; and handcrafted all the joinery items, both below and on the deck.
The aftdeck, meanwhile, features a communal space that includes a sundeck and a long outdoor dining table. At centerstage is an open-galley kitchen that can be manned by either the onboard chef, or commandeered by guests. For everything else, a dedicated crew of 18, several of whom have been caring for Dunia Baru since she was built, caters to every whim.
Guided by an experienced, onboard cruise director, guests are encouraged to create their own bespoke island-hopping itineraries. These can range from snorkelling in the Banda Archipelago of volcanic, nutmeg-scented isles to nature treks across savannahs. From beach barbecues on deserted white-sanded islands, to exploring the wild reefs of Saparua. From eyeballing the legendary dragon lizards at the Komodo National Park, to spotting hammerhead sharks and manta rays around Kisar Island. From scuba-diving with barracudas in Manuk and dugongs in Nusa Laut, to just lounging under a sun umbrella on an island with a book and a perfectly chilled cocktail.
In this part of the world, aquatic life is teeming. Sunlight shatters in the water to light up fields of soft and hard coral painted in shades of greens, pinks, blues and yellows. Shimmering schools of silver-bait and giant oceanic manta rays with 8-meter wingspans cruise through forests of feathery marine vegetation. And above the waterline, there’s wakeboarding, jet skiing, and paddle-boarding around limpid lagoons.
Avid divers may prefer to steer the Dunia Baru east toward Raja Ampat, where Indonesia meets Papua New Guinea and the confluence of the Indian and Pacific Oceans forms a ravishing backdrop for mangroves, pearl beds, and coral reefs.
Jing-Yi says that immersive cultural programming with specialist experts on everything from botany and local textiles to regional history can also be pre-arranged. “You get to explore parts of the world that very, very few people get to see,” she says.