The Raja Ampat islands are so remote that most Indonesians have never even heard of them. Excursions to this corner of the archipelago in eastern Indonesia, off the coast of Papua in Cendrawasih Bay, require at least seven to 10 days, but few visitors ever regret making the journey for this is the country's largest national marine park and offers a range of marine life believed to be the most diverse on the planet.
Yayu Yuniar, a Jakarta-based journalist, fell in love with the area during her first trip there in 2007 and has been back four times since then. "Because it is so remote, there is an incredible excitement knowing that you could be the first person to have gone down this reef or to have seen that fish. It's incredible," says the 39-year-old seasoned diver.
Such was her passion that she and a friend decided to pour their life savings into building a live-aboard boat that would make it easier, and somewhat less expensive, for her fellow dive buddies to explore the riches of the Coral Triangle, as the area is known. In 2009, they commissioned shipbuilders in Tanah Beru, South Sulawesi, the birthplace of the Buginese schooner, and in under a year the Pearl of Papua was launched.
At 33 m in length, the luxury schooner is made of ironwood and teak, features seven cabins and has a capacity of 15 people. A chef with experience working at five-star hotels in Miami and Dubai whips up three meals a day, while a British dive instructor and two assistants are on hand to lead trips.
Chartering the boat for seven to 10 days is normal, but rooms can also be booked individually if available. Rates (which do not include dive gear) start at $285 for a standard room, going up to $350 for the master suite, and all accommodation is air-conditioned.
In between dives, you can watch DVDs in the TV lounge or read a book in the library, but chances are the world below will prove far more engrossing than any fiction you pick up. See papualiveaboard.com for more.