What do the Rockefeller family, the former head of the New York Stock Exchange, the owner of a major aircraft company and board members from Porsche and BMW all have in common?
They have all spent time relaxing on the Silolona, one of the most unique and exclusive luxury yachts sailing in Asia. However, the Silolona is not a billionaire’s plaything commonly known as a superyacht, with helipads and guest rooms by the dozen.
She only has five cabins for guests – three luxury king-size suites and two double cabins and can accommodate only 10 guests. All the cabins have air-conditioning and ensuite bathrooms. She is a modern copy of the classic wooden Indonesian cargo ships called phinisi, which historically plied the spice routes in the region.
The 50-meter, or 164-foot, long Silolona was built in 2004 by the legendary Konjo Boat Builders in Sulawesi, Indonesia, to modern German Lloyds specifications, and unlike its wind-powered ancestors, it has a powerful motor that can push it along at up to 12 knots. Made from the finest tropical hardwoods, mostly ironwood, this beautiful vessel was hand-built in the jungle, just as her phinisi cargo ancestors were.
American Patti Seery, who owns the Silolona, never talks about the rich and famous clients who charter the boat for their holidays, and privacy. But she does like to talk about where she takes them – from the remote spice islands in Indonesia – the dragon-dotted shores of Komodo, the scuba fantasyland of Raja Ampat, Bali and Lombok – to the picturesque Phang Nga Bay in southern Thailand and the largely unexplored islands of Myanmar. Seery has spent decades in Indonesia and nearly all the crew on her boat are Indonesian.
Guests can choose to simply relax on a sun-lounger on the wide deck with a cocktail, go swimming or diving, do a spot of waterskiing or go exploring in one of the two tenders – small, outboard-powered speedboats. The Silolona has a 17-strong crew which includes an expedition leader to show guests the sights, a chef who can whip up some of the best Asian or Western food, and a dive instructor for those who want to explore below the waterline.
For those with no diving experience, the Silolona is a registered PADI center and guests can get certified onboard.
The Silolona’s luxurious suites, fitted out with rare textiles and artifacts that Seery has collected on her travels throughout Indonesia, make life aboard very comfortable for its paying guests. But not all of Silolona’s guests have paid to be on board.
In late 2004, when a tsunami devastated large parts of Asia, the Silolona was off Phuket in southern Thailand and survived unscathed. Seery and her Indonesian crew quickly headed for Banda Aceh, where thousands were killed by the earthquake and tsunami, stopping in Langkawi, Malaysia, to pick up a team of Sikh doctors and supplies.
The Silolona pulled into port at Sabang, just north of Banda Aceh, where the doctors and crew worked to help survivors from surrounding islands. The Silolona later took two local captains on board and sailed along the western coast of Sumatra, providing relief organizations with vital reports about surviving villages and the extent of the help needed. They also mapped the coastline, which had changed after the tsunami, to allow other relief boats to get there safely.
Humanitarian work aside, the Silolona has proved to be one of Asia’s best five-star floating holiday resorts, with luxury accommodation, fine dining, water sports and a view that changes constantly. As demand and bookings grew, a slightly smaller sister ship, the Si Datu Bua, was launched in 2012, in the same phinisi design and to the same luxurious standards. The Si Datu Bua has three suites, can take six guests and has a crew of 12.
Cruising schedule and prices
The schedule for the Silolona and Si Datu Bua in 2019 is:
April to August: Based in the Komodo National Park
Sailing in the following areas: Komodo National Park, Flores.
Departure port: Labuhan Bajo, Western Flores.
Domestic flight: Departing from Bali.
October to March: Based in West Papua
Sailing in the following areas: Mollucas, Raja Ampat and Cendrawasih Bay.
Banda and the Spice Islands – Ambon
Raja Ampat – Sorong, West Papua
Cendrawasih Bay – Biak, North Papua
Domestic flight: Departing from Bali or Jakarta.
Public rates with the details:
The Silolona public rate is US$17,000 per day plus taxes 10% (VAT), for the charter of the full boat, up to 10-12 guests.
All-inclusive on board except, alcohol and dive certification. Diving is included for certified guests.
The Si Datu Bua public rate is $12,000 per day plus taxes 10% (VAT), for the charter of the full boat, up to 6-8 guests.
This includes all costs on board except alcohol and dive certification. Diving is included for certified guests.
Some destinations have a surcharge – Papua, Andaman Islands, Mergui archipelago. This is due to extra administrative fees in the region.