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Photo credit: YOUTHOPIA/AMANDA TAN, JIA QIAN

‘Staycation at sea’: Living my best life on a private yacht

Ultimate happiness is only $1,805 away.

Amanda Tan
Amanda Tan

Skills include buying the same jeans in different colours.


Published: 19 November 2021, 2:44 PM

Never in my life would I have thought I’d be able to set sail on a private yacht, let alone spend the night in one. Fortunately for me, I recently got a taste of what it’s like being a Tai Tai, cruising the waters of Singapore.

As part of a 2D1N “Staycation at Sea” voyage, Discover Sailing Asia (DSA) invited my colleague and I to experience their newest Pulau Ubin sailcation package.

A twist from the regular staycation, the “Staycation at Sea”, or “Sailcation”, allows customers to spend a night beneath the stars away from the city as well as explore the shores of Pulau Ubin, an island reminiscent of 1960s Singapore.

Here’s an honest review on whether this sailcation experience is worth it.

First impressions:

Walking towards the end of the jetty where the yacht was docked, I was slightly baffled. Sure, the boat was big but it didn’t look big enough to fit three private cabins as I’d seen in the pictures.

 

We boarded the Oceanis 45, Megan – a sailing yacht which can hold a maximum capacity of 12 people. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/AMANDA TAN

 

Not to be a cynic, but I thought that we would have to sleep on the shores of Pulau Ubin that night. However, upon hopping on deck, I was amazed to see how spacious the yacht actually was. Everything also looked really clean and luxurious, nothing short of impressive.

Accommodation:

Upon stepping in, we were greeted by three friendly staff who helped us settle in and showed us around the yacht. Going down the staircase, we were led to the saloon area as well as the cabins.

 

The lower deck is fully air-conditioned. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/AMANDA TAN

 

In pictures, the bed looks small but it can comfortably fit up to two people. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/AMANDA TAN

 

It pales in comparison to your five-star hotels but the stunning sea view more than makes up for it. The toilet wasn’t the most spacious, to the point that it was almost impossible to capture a nice photo of it. It’s not the best but considering it’s on a yacht, it’s pretty great. I just wouldn’t recommend it for those who are claustrophobic. 

Personally, the only thing that I had difficulty getting used to was the “no throwing of toilet paper into the bowl” rule. As someone who does it out of habit, it was frustrating (and absolutely disgusting) whenever I had to fish the toilet paper out to avoid the $180 unclogging fee (as well as the embarrassment that would ensue).

Apart from that, everything else was user friendly. As we were out at sea, everything had to be done manually, including the flushing of water after showering – something I wasn’t aware of until I nearly flooded the cabin. Luckily I saw the instruction manual plastered on the back of the door just in time. After pushing the flush button about five times, all the water was successfully drained out!

Exploring Pulau Ubin:

After getting comfortable, our host Jia Qian shared with us the itinerary for the day which included a free and easy exploration of Pulau Ubin. However, as it was our first time there, she kindly offered to give us a tour!

We sailed for about two hours before reaching the island.

I’d imagine this would be more fun if there was entertainment on board but because we didn’t have much to do, the two hour ride to Pulau Ubin felt a little longer than it should have.

Nonetheless, it was rejuvenating to breathe in the fresh air and admire the gentle waves as we cruised by. Along the way, we even spotted several kelongs, which are traditional fish farms built on stilts.

 

There were also many fishermen speeding past us, getting ready to reel in their catch of the day. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/AMANDA TAN

 

I even got a hand at hoisting the sail and navigating the yacht with the help of the staff. They explained to us how to read the GPS and how to ensure that the yacht doesn’t sail off route.

In front of the steering wheel, there was a small navigation screen where I was able to identify our yacht as well as our intended course. There was also a dotted purple line which indicated the area we shouldn’t cross as it belongs to Malaysia. 

Being able to be behind the wheel was fun but I also realised how tiring it is to continuously steer and make sure that we aren’t going off track. It’s even harder when weather conditions are rough and currents are choppy.

 

Me struggling to tug on the rope. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/AUDREY ONG

 

Once we reached, our first stop was Sin Lam Huat, a popular Zhi Char restaurant amongst the locals.

 

We ordered lemon chicken and salted fish fried rice to share. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/AMANDA TAN

 

We then proceeded to board a minivan, the island’s equivalent to Grab cars in mainland Singapore. Our driver was none other than the famous wild boar whisperer of Pulau Ubin. About a year ago, he went viral online for being able to train the undomesticated pigs as if they were his own pets.

 

He drove us around the island, making jokes as we went along. He even teased Audrey, my colleague, calling her an Ang Moh (well, because she has red highlights in her hair). PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/AMANDA TAN

 

We managed to spot and get up close with a couple of wild boars, much thanks to the uncle. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/AMANDA TAN

 

Looking out the window, I was shocked to see how big Pulau Ubin actually was. With all the meandering roads and undulating terrain, we would have taken almost an hour to reach Chek Jawa if it weren’t for the van.

Finally, we reached the second checkpoint, the Chek Jawa Visitor Centre which used to be a holiday home used by Landon Williams, the Chief Surveyor of Singapore back in the 1930s.

 

The visitor centre is Singapore’s only remaining authentic Tudor-style house with a fireplace. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/AMANDA TAN

 

The former holiday resort faces the sea and even has its own jetty.

 

Unfortunately, we couldn’t reach the end of the jetty as a monkey was blocking the pathway. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/AMANDA TAN

 

Directly opposite Chek Jawa Visitor Centre is an islet called Pulau Sekudu, also known as Frog Island.

 

Despite its proximity, it is only reachable by boat, even at low tides. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/AMANDA TAN

 

After snapping a couple of photos, we headed back to the trail where we proceeded to the Jejawi Tower, a seven-storey high tower which provides a panoramic view of the island.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t really get a good shot as there were a number of people crowding around. Either way, the view made the tough climb worth it!

Our final stop was Puaka Hill, the highest point of Pulau Ubin which stands at 74m.

 

We could even see the Changi Airport Control Tower from atop the hill. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/AMANDA TAN

 

Before we knew it, two hours had flown by and it was time for us to return to the main centre, which the uncle jokingly refers to as the Orchard Road of Pulau Ubin.

Water Activities:

At around 5pm, we bid Pulau Ubin farewell and made our way back to the yacht. We travelled for another half an hour before reaching the anchor point, somewhere in between Pulau Ubin and a smaller island. We then got changed to get ready for what I personally think is the highlight of the trip – the water activities.

As part of the package, DSA offers a stand up paddle board for one as well as a kayak which can fit up to three people. 

Audrey took the paddle board while I took the kayak and we both paddled our way into the sunset. 

To be honest, words and pictures really cannot describe how breathtaking the view was. As we were further away from the island, there was absolutely no one to disturb us. It was almost as if we had rented the entire space that day.

 

These pictures really don’t do the experience justice. PHOTO CREDIT: JIA QIAN

 

As I see it, the water activities are what you’re really paying for. During those two hours you get to venture into the mangrove swamps or even just lay flat in the kayak and let the gentle current lull you to sleep.

 

The water was so still it looked like we were gliding across glass. PHOTO CREDIT: JIA QIAN
Audrey switched to the kayak after I got out so she could enjoy the sunset. GIF CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/AMANDA TAN

 

This is truly an experience I recommend everyone to try at least once in their life.

Food:

Soon enough, the sun began to set and the staff were already cooking up a storm at the small but handy barbeque pit.

 

The crackling of fire against the stunning backdrop reminded me of a cosy fireplace. GIF CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/AMANDA TAN

 

I had high hopes for the barbeque dinner, in part because of the preview pictures I saw and considering that the trip isn’t the cheapest. Unfortunately, the food turned out to be a slight disappointment – and probably the only one for the entire trip. 

It tasted similar to airplane food. For starters, we had cold pasta and a cheese sausage each. As the food took some time to cook, we could only eat a bit at a time. We also had apple juice, a classic inflight beverage. Thereafter, we had lamb chop and some chicken wings along with a few satay skewers. Then came a few roasted potatoes and fish. 

There was definitely a solid variety but taste wise, it was nothing spectacular.

It reminded me of pre-COVID-19 times when I’d attend chalet parties with friends and indulge in subpar barbeque skewers. But even then, I enjoyed myself and with that, I’ve come to this conclusion – what really makes this trip is the company. If you don’t have a close knit group of friends or family members who’d enjoy exploring the island with you, I think you’d be better off staying in the comfort of your own home.

As there isn’t much on board, it won’t be long before the initial wonder and amazement of being on a private yacht dies out. You’ll soon have to figure out how to entertain yourself for the next few hours before arriving at Pulau Ubin.

Personal Highlights:

Sadly for me, I’m an early sleeper so after a few drinks (of apple juice) and a couple more servings of satay, I resigned to bed. I also decided to turn in to get ready for an early morning the next day as we were eager to watch the sunrise.

True enough, those extra hours of rest paid off. At 6am, we crawled out of bed and made our way to the upper deck where we were greeted by a lovely view.

 

The real million-dollar view. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/AMANDA TAN

 

As someone who’s lived in a hectic city her whole life, it’s hard to imagine what absolute silence is like and how great it can be. However, this trip really showed me how comforting it is to just sit in the quiet of the morning and watch as the world around you lights up in hues of pink and yellow. No birds cawing, no neighbours screaming, no cars honking, just nothing. At that moment, I wished I could stay on that boat forever.

To put it simply, I would genuinely sell my soul to see that sunrise one more time.

 

Admiring the sunrise in silence. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/AMANDA TAN

 

The staff were actually telling us that we could sleep on deck, to really live the experience of “spending a night beneath the stars”. However, as I came without a jacket, I had to regrettably pass on that chance. So here’s a pro-tip if you’re considering going on this sailcation: bring a comfy sweater or outerwear and maybe even a sleeping bag so you can snuggle up on deck and watch the world go by.

At the end of the trip, I was more than thankful towards the staff as well as DSA for offering us this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This goes without saying but the staff onboard made the trip much more enjoyable. As everything is taken care of by them, you can just sit back, relax and enjoy the views.

Final Verdict: Had a blast, wouldn’t pass

Funnily enough, this sailcation made me realise that there’s so many things I’ve yet to explore and that the world really is bigger than what we know on our little red dot. Though it was short, it was undeniably a great experience.

Due to the current COVID-19 restrictions, there’s some limitations regarding who you can go with. For friends, the maximum capacity is two people whereas for families, the maximum is five. However, you’re definitely getting your money’s worth considering how you have a whole private yacht chartered for you and your family or friends.

Even if you’re not big on adventuring, as long as you’re with the right group of people, you’re sure to enjoy yourself.

You can find out more about DSA’s packages here and if you’re keen on embarking on this wondrous journey to Pulau Ubin, here’s a promo code (YOUTH10) that entitles you to 10 per cent off! From now till Nov 26, the Pulau Ubin sailcation will be priced at $1,624.50. Otherwise, the usual price would be $1,805.


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