I’d long dreamt of going to Raja Ampat, a pristine and exotic paradise located near the northwestern tip of Indonesian Papua. If you’ve spent enough time around divers, you might have heard of this place, often spoken of with reverence and lustful longing. Raja Ampat is considered the crown jewel of diving destinations, an otherworldly paradise where marine biodiversity captivates even the most seasoned adventurers. I finally had my chance to see it up close this past January, when my husband and I joined eight of our close friends aboard the Fenides Liveaboard for a 10-day odyssey through the Maluku Islands, Halmahera Sea, and majestic wilds of Raja Ampat. The Fenides, a vessel that marries the historic charm of Indonesian naval heritage with the uncompromising luxury of modern amenities, promises an unparalleled dive safari experience. A promise, I can safely say, it delivered.

Fenides Yacht Raja Ampat. Courtesy of Tom Park Photography-94
Fenides Yacht Raja Ampat. Courtesy of Tom Park Photography-94

Diving into Luxury and Adventure

From the outset, the Fenides distinguished itself as a masterpiece of at-sea hospitality. Its design, inspired by the traditional Phinisi vessels of Indonesia, evokes a sense of adventure that is deeply rooted in the country’s maritime heritage. However, stepping aboard, one is immediately ushered into a world where luxury and attention to detail reign supreme. In addition, the Fenides’ commitment to eco-friendly practices underscores a respectful harmony with the pristine environments it explores. For instance, the boat recently installed a solar system to power the on-board operations when not ferrying guests.

aboard Fenides Yacht culinary

Culinary Delights on the High Seas

Each day on the Fenides began with the simple pleasure of sipping a warm, oat milk cappuccino courtesy of our ever-smiling host, Wayan. Wayan and the other hosts consistently ensured that specialty coffees and other small luxuries – including on-board massages for weary adventurers – were always within reach. Of course, the culinary delights went beyond our morning brew, with pre-dive snacks of fresh fruit and toast, followed by bespoke breakfasts of eggs, smoothies, pancakes, and other offerings that catered to every palate and preference. Our seated, multi-course lunches and dinners were always enjoyed al fresco on the sunny main deck, with feasts that centered on the freshest catch of the day, direct from the hands of local fishermen. The kitchen’s attempts to cater to my vegetarian diet, while delicious, unfortunately, lacked variety as the meat enjoyed by others was simply swapped out for either eggplant or tofu. Still, I appreciated the effort and beautiful plating. And each meal would not have been complete without an indulgence at the end – fresh tropical fruits at lunch and decadent desserts at dinner, including a particularly memorable rich chocolate pudding and comforting apple crisp.

Fenides Yacht

Beyond Diving: A Mosaic of Memorable Experiences

While diving was the heartbeat of our expedition, the Fenides offered an array of activities that enriched the overall experience. When not exploring vibrant coral reefs, swimming through giant schools of fish, or hunting alien-like nudibranchs in a massive underwater cave, we were either relaxing on one of the ship’s many sumptuous deck lounges or enjoying one of the many other pleasurable pursuits they provided.  

Fenides Yacht

The highlight was perhaps our New Year’s Eve, spent on an uninhabited atoll where the crew set up a bar, dining table, and decor for our party, complete with fresh lobster and bonfire-lit dancing under the stars. They even set off our own personal fireworks display, which we tipsily cheered before being ferried back to bed, grateful that our morning dive was pushed back so we could sleep in. Beyond that magical evening, our itinerary included hikes up to breathtaking viewpoints, exploring ancient cave paintings, and sunset glides over crystal-clear waters on a stand-up paddleboard. 

Fenides Yacht

A Sanctuary of Comfort and Elegance

As hosts, my husband and I were privileged to reside in the master suite, a sanctuary of soothing, muted tones that boasted a large bed, a desk (at which, of course, we spent zero time), and a day bed for relaxed afternoons reading in the comfort of AC. The only downside was its proximity to the anchor windlass, which we could occasionally hear being raised or lowered at odd hours. Our friends enjoyed equally comfortable accommodations in both the upper and lower deck cabins, each a haven of tranquility with en-suite bathrooms, and thoughtful amenities like personal trip journals, sunscreen, and sarongs.

Fenides Yacht assistant

Service that Exceeded Expectations

The crew of the Fenides were the unsung heroes of our journey, transforming exceptional service into an art form. Their ability to anticipate our needs, from hauling a pack of refreshing, ice-cold towels to the top of our hikes to offering fresh fruit juices and warm towels immediately post-dive, was remarkable. The meticulous preparation of our dive equipment and the thoughtful provision of polaroid cameras for capturing memories while aboard exemplified the crew’s dedication to creating a seamless and unforgettable experience. The enthusiasm of Matthias, our boat leader, added to the onboard spirit of camaraderie between guests and crew. Despite staying up late to plan our dives and activities, and rising with the sun to prep the crew, his positive attitude was unflagging.

drinks onboard at Fenides Yacht

A Voyage of Discovery and Connection

Beyond finally getting to experience the underwater marvels of Indonesia’s easternmost waterways, I am so grateful for the connections fostered on this trip. The Fenides served as our gateway to an untouched paradise. It was our home away from home, and the scene of unforgettable moments shared among friends. It was an experience I will always cherish not just for the incredible diving, but for the opportunity to be enveloped for those ten days in a world where every detail was curated and considered with care, so all that remained was the opportunity to connect more deeply with friends and create memories that will last a lifetime.