One-night weekend cruises by the Indonesian Ayana brand deliver a five-star island-hopping adventure to those with limited time off.
Every evening in eastern Indonesia’s Komodo National Park, a motley group of vessels drops anchor off thickly forested Kalong Island to wait for sundown, when thousands of flying foxes leave their roosts in the mangroves in search of food.
I watch the spectacle from the roof deck of the Ayana Lako Di’a (from US$600 per person, all inclusive), a nine-cabin phinisi schooner operated by the Ayana Komodo Resort in Labuan Bajo on nearby Flores. Behind me, crew members are illuminating the mizzen mast in changing colors and arranging fairy lights ahead of an alfresco dinner I’ll be enjoying with five other guests on this overnight cruise.
The 54-meter Lako Di’a is by no means the first recreational phinisi to ply these waters, but it’s among the most sumptuous. The high-ceilinged cabins feel both snug and spacious; in place of portholes, large windows flood each berth with natural light, and a sliding screen door leads to a private balcony. There’s even a flat-screen TV (not that one would ever need it) set into the wall above a cabinet that recalls a vintage steamer trunk, with leather handles and smooth wooden edging. The bathrooms, too, are surprisingly well proportioned: mine features a rain shower in a separate window-side compartment, as well as rustic-chic wood and brass fittings.
Behind the bridge lies the midship saloon, a dining room and lounge where one can sink into the sofas and padded armchairs while going through the onboard movie collection. The 69-square-meter master suite farther back is just the thing for privacy-minded couples: it features a king bed, a walk-in closet, and a sizable balcony atop the stern.
But the biggest draw, of course, is the scenery. Hours before the flying foxes rouse from their slumber, we’re whisked on a rubber boat to tiny Kelor Island, where the steep climb up a small hill rewards us with postcard-perfect views of Flores. Up next? A snorkeling session off nearby Menjerite Beach. Finning over a reef largely composed of staghorn corals in vivid blues and purples, I encounter striped surgeonfish, Moorish idols, a school of fusiliers, then a chocolate chip sea star in the shallows.
Back on the Lako Di’a’s roof deck, we sit down to a three-course dinner that includes a tangy citrus-and-cashew salad and slabs of grilled tuna dressed in chili sauce. The portions are generous and the flavors punchy, but in between bites, I find myself wishing we could stay long enough to see another sunset over this constellation of reef-fringed islands.
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This article originally appeared in the October/November 2019 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Smooth Sailing”).