Southeast Asia Pilot by Bill O’Leary & Andy Dowden

Incorporating the Andaman Sea, Gulf of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia… and more

Southeast Asia Pilot by Bill O’Leary & Andy Dowden
See also anchorages in Darwin, Australia



In the print version of Southeast Asia Pilot 4th Edition, the chartlet for Banda was omitted. This can be downloaded as a high resolution pdf file by clicking the thumbnail below.Banda island

Straddling the equator for 3,200 miles, Indonesia has more islands and covers more longitude than any other equatorial country. It’s a diversely cultural tropical cruising paradise, still mainly undiscovered. The region is hot with wet Northerlies from October to April and drier Southeasterlies from May to September. The 8th parallel band of islands, including famous Hindu enclave Bali, have the opposite tourist ‘high’ season from Phuket. Cruising yachts, Asian-based superyachts and some private dive charter operators often ply both destinations year-round, slipping in Singapore on the way through.

Indonesia’s population is over 270 million with a median age of 26. It’s a fascinating and constantly evolving nation where ancient traditions and modern technology survive in an uneasy symbiosis. The melting-pot of cultures, dream surfing and diving destinations, Komodo Dragons and Orangutangs − and the welcoming local peoples − make Indonesia a wonderful cruising destination.

With over 17,500 islands and tens of thousands of square miles cruising grounds, Indonesia is the most mind-blowing archipelago on the planet. It certainly deserves its own destination-specific sailing guide, but to adequately explore and then write about its entirety for cruising would take a lifetime. We recommend only a tiny portion of what’s on offer here as we continue to collect data and information.

We’ve divided this chapter into five regions dependent upon the best ports of entry for foreign-flagged yachts. These are the 8th Parallel Region, the Central Region, the Equatorial Region, the Sumatra Region and Raja Ampat. Our ports of entry for the 8th parallel region are Kupang on Timor, coming from Australia, and Batam or Bali en route from Singapore. The Central region port of entry is Ambon on the south coast of Ceram, Equatorial region port of entry is Bitung / Manado on the northern tip of Sulawasi and Batam for Sumatra region.

Clearing into Indonesia can be time-consuming and problematic. The rule of thumb is the larger the vessel, the more patience required. Five government departments must be visited and signed off on visiting yachts’ cruising permits before vessels can start their itinerary in the Republic. The Immigration, Customs, Quarantine, Navy and finally (but certainly not least) the local Harbour Masters are involved in facilitating every step of this procedure.

For all yachts not familiar with Indonesian customs and protocol we suggest contacting local agents three months prior to arrival for assistance in obtaining cruising permits − and then to help clear into Indonesia. Agents are not expensive, can save time and will definitely provide peace of mind, especially for larger vessels on the longer more remote and adventurous itineraries.

Please don’t be put off by the irritating official protocols. Cruising Indonesia is educationally and recreationally spectacular. It’s the last great unexplored frontier.

Indonesia - unity in diversity - Photo by Jimmy Blee
Anchorages in Indonesia
Below, we list the main anchorage locations for Indonesia that are featured in the book – together with one sample anchorage. For a complete list of all 533 anchorage locations, go to Southeast Asia Pilot index


Komodo Dragon: they grow up to 3 metres long and their diet mainly consists of deer, although they have been known to attack humans. Photo by Ricard buxo
Pulau Dao (off the southern end of Pulau Roti) Photo by Paul Johnson
Komodo National Park Photo by Paul Johnson

The 8th parallel route is the traditional journey from Australia in the east or Singapore to the north. En route are the Komodo Islands, famous for their dragons, and Bali, the Hindu island of the Gods.

  • BALI

The route from Bali to Singapore is not famous for its scenic cruising. Java Island is one of the most densely populated areas of the planet… …only the major ports… as stopovers or emergency shelter on the route to Singapore.

See sample Indonesia anchorage
Teluk Nara, Lombok &
the North Gilis


Southeast Asia Pilot co-author, Bill O’Leary, visiting with Asmat tribeswomen

The central region lies generally between the 3rd and 7th parallels. The port of entry is Ambon south of greater Ceram.

This region contains the historically significant Spice Islands of the Banda Sea and the lesser-known Kai, Wakatobie and Gorong groups.

Further east is central Papua, home of the fantastic Asmat coastal tribes. Cruising west from Ambon are the Selayar group of southern Sulawasi, Bira the home of traditional wooden boat building, Makassa the ancient sea port and the entire south coast of Southern Kalimantan. Again we only list a few stops amongst the hundreds of anchorages on offer here.

Gunung Karangetang, active volcano on Pulau Siau, North Sulawesi Photo by Paul Johnson
They learn young... Photo by Ed Shiels
    Ambon is the capital of the Maluku province (formerly called the Moluccas). From here the famous Spice Islands…
    Most of the protection of the harbour comes from the 1000-foot live volcano last erupting in 1988. This cluster of 10 volcanic islands is the famed ‘Spice Islands’.
    This small cluster of tiny atolls is highlighted by… spectacular white sand beaches…
    This region is home to the Asmat tribes who fiercely hold onto their traditional culture and have been able to… Until recently head hunting was the norm…
    This area is the gateway to Toraja to the north in the central highlands…


This massive region from the 3rd parallel south to the 5th parallel north encompasses some of the most magnificent cruising grounds on the planet. From Chandrawassy Bay on north Papua this equatorial region includes the incredible Raja Ampat group, the stark island of Halmahera and northern Sulawasi.

As with all equatorial regions, the weather is hot and wet with plenty of calm doldrum days.

Photo by Ricard Buxo
Ternate CityTernate City
SorongPhoto by Ricard Buxo
Dolphins off Moyo IslandPhoto by Ed Shiels
    Manado is the provincial capital… whereas Bitung on the opposite coast is the main port and anchorage. Manado… has the only active synagogue in Indonesia.
    From his house in Ternate in 1858, Alfred Wallace wrote the crucial letter to Charles Darwin in England, outlining his theory of evolution…
    There are hundreds of potential anchorages in this area but we’ve chosen this one…
    There have been reports of ‘non-standard’ behaviour… with the local officials in Sorong…
  • BIAK
    Biak is close to the beautiful reefs and beaches of Padaido islands…


Pulau Sikuai (7 miles south of Teluk Bayur Harbour)
Fitri Agung /

Sumatra is the westernmost of the Sunda Islands and is the largest island entirely Indonesian governed. The two larger islands, Kalimantan and New Guinea are shared between Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. It’s the world’s sixth largest island with a population of over 50 million. The capital is Medan on the northeastern coast in the Malacca Straits.

Sumatra’s Indian Ocean west coast has the famous surfing island groups of Simeulue, Nias and Mentawai. The northeast coast forms the narrow Malacca Strait with the Malay Peninsular and the southeastern Sunda Strait separates her from Java.

On the lower eastern side are the islands of Bangka and Belitung and the Karimata Strait in the Java Sea. The equator crosses the centre of the island giving the land mass a hot humid climate where tropical rain forests dominate the landscape.

The Great Sumatran fault runs down the entire west coast of the island. On 26 December 2004, the Indo-Australian plate slid under the Eurasian plate causing the devastating Boxing Day tsunami. More than 170,000 Indonesians were killed, primarily in the northeastern Aceh province. We mention only a few of the many anchorages on offer here and welcome comments and notes from cruising yachtsmen for the next edition.

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Lake Toba, set in the core of an inactive super-volcano which last erupted 70,000 years agoLake Toba
Surfing off SumbawaPhoto by Paul Johnson
    …the main entry point for backpacker tourists visiting the famed massive mountain-top Lake Toba set in the core of an inactive super-volcano which last erupted 70,000 years ago.
    … dozens of famous surf breaks where you can drop a day anchor and surf right from your boat…
    The strait is dotted with a dozen islands… the best known being the famed Krakatoa. In 1883 it exploded killing 36,000 people... The blasts are the loudest recorded in modern history, heard some 5,000 km [away]... Krakatoa volcano has re-emerged from the ocean and is the principle upward force in the formation of a new island, Anakrakatoa, or “Child of Krakatoa”.
    Sabang harbour on Pulau We is the northernmost point of the Indonesian archipelago and as such offers full check-in facilities…


Climbing in WayagPhoto by Ricard Buxo
Descendants of Papuan and Indonesian intermarriagesPhoto by Ricard Buxo
Wobbegong shark near Pulau GamPhoto by Paul Johnson
Airborek, where the parallel universe that thrives below the jetty has to be seen to be believedPhoto by Ricard Buxo

Captivating scenery, outstanding diving and exuberant nature has made Raja Ampat an increasingly popular destination. Its name translates as “The Four Kings” in Bahasa Indonesia, referring to the four main islands of Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati and Misool. Myriads of smaller limestone karst spires − similar to those found in Phang Nga in Thailand, or Palau − lay scattered around the major ones, all together hosting vast expanses of mangroves, powder white sand beaches and lush tropical reefs. It is also a cetacean thoroughfare, with several species of whales and dolphins commonly spotted in its waters.

The Four Kings cover an area of 50,000 square kilometres and have mountainous interiors, with the highest peaks reaching 1,000 metres in North Waigeo and Batanta. Conveniently positioned at the threshold of the Pacific and straddled by the Equator, Raja Ampat lays at the western end of West Papua which is Indonesia’s 26th province, widely known as the Bird’s Head Peninsula because of its shape. Just outside the western tip (right by the ‘beak’) is Sorong, the main port of entry. The town has all the basic facilities to supply any visiting vessel and the closest airport to Raja Ampat with several daily flights connecting to other parts of Indonesia.

Raja Ampat remains sparsely populated, with the majority of its 35,000 inhabitants distributed amongst less than a hundred villages. They are mostly located around the coast in houses built on stilts over the reefs and beaches. Descendants of intermarriages between Papuans and Indonesians and with marked Melanesian features, the people here live in a subsistence economy based on a fish-protein diet, taro (the main staple food made from a root starch) and a few fruits and vegetables. Copra (dry coconut flesh) is also a common product.

There are not many good anchorages in Raja Ampat, as they tend to be deep and exposed to at least one quadrant. The locations presented on this guide are a selection of the better spots. Visiting yachts should be prepared to anchor in 40-50 metres since most anchorages are within this range outside of the fringing reef.

  • sorong
    Sorong is the main town on Western Papua closest to Raja Ampat and has a variety of basic facilities.
  • wayag
    Wayag has two lagoons on its west side suitable for anchoring although they are exposed to westerlies. The recommended anchorage is in 45 metres…
  • aljuy bay
    …scenery is ideal for tender boat tours.
  • kabui bay
    Also known as ‘The Passage’, this shallow waterway winds for almost a mile, with jungle cascading over its shores giving it the appearance of a tropical river…
  • yenbeseer
    …jetties offer a good muck dive with common sights of Wobbegong sharks and the endemic Raja Ampat ‘walking sharks’…
Racer Marina, Hua Hin, Thailand Phuket Tide Tables Sailing Yacht Asia IMAGE asia


It is mandatory that all yachts visiting Indonesia obtain a cruising permit and all on board have visitor visas in advance.

To enter Indonesia crew passports must be valid for more than 6 months after date of entry. Current visa laws have country categories so please check with the nearest Indonesian consulate for your particular country’s visa requirements.

Yachts without a cruising permit may stop in Indonesia for 48 hours only, in serious emergency, and only at the port of entry. Even in such cases, the Indonesian authorities scarcely recognise these conditions and will demand some form of payment for harbour entry and processing fees.

For details on how to apply for relevant permits, go to:

For more information in advance, visit:


While every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained in this book is accurate, the charts of anchorages are based on personal experience and satellite imagery and are intended as a guide only. They should not be used for navigation. Please refer to Official Hydrographic Charts of the respective countries.

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