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Sailing the Coral Triangle on board a luxury phinisi

Siblings Jason Tabalujan and Jasmine Chong spent the pandemic building a luxury yacht. Now it sails some of Indonesia’s most stunning - and remote - islands

Sailing the Coral Triangle on board a traditional phinisi

Exploring remote Indonesian waters on board Celestia

As his family locked down in various parts of the world, Jason Tabalujan dreamed of the time when everyone would be able to get together again. And so he came up with the idea of building a yacht, which would represent a place and a reason to finally meet up. 

Pandemic over, Celestia, which means heavenly, is now available for private charter, ploughing the seas of Indonesia’s Coral Triangle and island-hopping its way from Komodo to the world class dive mecca of Raja Ampat and the romantic Spice Islands. 

The stunning 45m ‘phinisi’ designed vessel boasts seven, air conditioned cabins that sleep up to 14 guests. Phinisi boats have plied the waters of South Sulawesi for hundreds of years, travelling as far as Burma and Vietnam and even Australia. The phinisi is a two-masted ship and resembles a mix of a dhow and a western schooner and the centuries-old building methods are these days UNESCO-recognised. 

The siblings commissioned professional phinisi boat builders in remote Bulukumba to craft the yacht, although Tabalujan admits it was no easy task building a boat over zoom from his home in Jakarta. 

While the two-mast and seven-sail boat is traditional in style, it offers all mod cons inside. All cabins have ensuite bathrooms and upper deck cabins are fitted with floor-to-ceiling windows and private balconies. There’s also a sitting room with flat-screen television for guests to gather together.

Chong, a fashion designer based in New York, worked on the interior design with acclaimed yacht designer Deirdre Renniers, picking up “bits and pieces” of homewares she thought would work in New York and carefully transporting them back to Indonesia. Chong’s artistic background and fund manager Tabalujan’s technical bent has made for a perfect combination of skills to oversee the building of such a boat. Once the technical side of the build was completed, the vessel was hand-finished by Indonesian artisans.

Celestia is available for small group, private charter sailings. Tabalujan recommends three to seven nights exploring the Komodo area or up to two weeks taking in other parts of the Coral Triangle, such as Raja Ampat and the Spice Islands.

On-board chefs take care of dining, preparing a bespoke menu tailored to guest preferences and dietary considerations. 

Activities on board of course include diving and snorkelling, although Chong was keen to offer options for non-divers like herself. “If you don’t want to dive, one of the tenders can whisk you to a desert island for swimming and a picnic,” she says. “Nobody should feel they have to dive if they don’t want to.”

Otherwise, there’s paddle boarding, kayaking, wakeboarding, yoga, birdwatching, massage treatments and nature hikes. Stargazing is also recommended in this area of the world that is renowned for its dark skies. The crew can also arrange private beach dinners and island-hopping.

For more details about Celestia, click here.

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