Exploring Equator-Asia

Equator Asia cruise

The Equator Asia cruise is an opportunity to enjoy cruising through a diversity of anchorages, events, islands, shore excursions, attractions, eco-resorts, towns and cultural experiences in the four countries of BIMP-EAGA - Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

The next Equator Asia cruises are scheduled to begin in  2013. Yachts will begin their cruise at one of the Indonesian entry points for cruising yachts - either Kupang, Saumlaki, Tual or Ambon - to journey through some of Indonesia's amazing natural and cultural attractions, to exit Indonesia at Tarakan (Kalimantan), then enjoy the highlights of eastern Sabah (Malaysia), the Sulu Sea and eastern Palawan (Philippines), then south via Malaysian islands along the west coast of Borneo, to finish in Brunei.  

The Equator Asia cruise concept is to operate as multiple small cruising groups of 2 to 10 yachts (approximately 4 to 30 people), in order to minimise congestion and environmental damage at anchorages, to avoid overwhelming local transport, guide and other resources, and to reduce supply/demand pressure on local prices for cruisers.

Equator Asia cruise groups can operate in a loose format, with some yachts choosing to spend more or less time in a town/venue/anchorage, and slightly different routes. Key stops, local events and meeting with our local area co-ordinators will be occasions when all yachts in the cruise group will probably come together.

By operating multiple cruise groups, travelling approximately two weeks apart, our goal is to create a flow of yachts, crews and income to local communities in BIMP-EAGA; rather than an overwhelming peak - with competition for local resources, anchorages, transport, fuel, shore accommodation, etc - followed by almost nothing. 

Cruise groups can begin as early, and late, in the favourable east Indonesian cruising season - April to November - as they choose. Our  Sail BIMP-EAGA CAITs (Cruising Authority for Indonesian Territory)can be extended/renewed as required to suit each cruise group's dates and cruising duration inside Indonesia.

It is expected that yachts will team up into small groups of like-minded cruisers to explore together along a similar route and similar schedule, under the co-ordination of Sail BIMP-EAGA. Equator Asia cruise groups can choose to integrate selected local events, cultural festivals, celebrations, attractions, shore excursions - and other yacht oriented events - into their route and schedule, to create a cruising experience that suits their personal preferences, their starting date, their desired speed of travel, interests and departure date from Indonesia.

The  Equator Asia cruise is a journey with like-minded cruising friends, not a strict schedule.

Our Sail BIMP-EAGA support network of local area co-ordinators in the region, in combination with our overall cruise management, will provide participating yachts with the on-site and external support networks to help facilitate their journey, assist with problems, and give guidance about the route, stops, shore attractions, boat repairs, fuel supplies, markets, supermarkets, spare parts etc.

At key shore venues, a variety of shore activities and visits will be available to help enjoy the particular area's attractions.  Our local area co-ordinators  will be available to assist participants with information abut tours, attractions, travel and accommodation options, plus boat repairs, fuel supplies, CIQ and port formalities. And where feasible, options to leave the yacht securely while travelling further inshore on a day, overnight or multi-night basis. And suggestions about places to visit on route to the next key shore venue.

Our Sail BIMP-EAGA office will update each cruising group's yachts with additional information, local area contacts etc via email as their journey proceeds. Email will provide a direct communications link between each yacht and our Sail BIMP-EAGA office, and each yacht with our local area co-ordinators.

Some key attractions include:

1. Wakatobi, at the southern tip of Sulawesi - which hosts a research base from where a succession of young scientists have been studying the marine and rainforest ecology for the past fifteen years. A variety of strategies have been developed for sustainable marine and land based food production suited to local communities.  Participating crews will have the opportunity to see the research centre and learn about their projects.

2. Conservation groups, (eg: there is a turtle conservation group that wants yachts to stop for a few days - and bring chain saws - to cut up logs so turtles can get ashore to lay eggs), education groups (eg; briefings about projects undertaken by communities and researchers), a mother ship (eg: a live-aboard dive boat to tie alongside for diving, snorkelling, shore excursions, tank refills, meals and relaxing on board), and startup community based ecotourism programmes.

Timing of the Equator Asia cruise is designed to integrate with:

1. Favourable sailing conditions and wind directions. The "winter" SE wind flow will help push yachts north along the east coast of Australia, and east from the South Pacific, to reach Indonesia. 

These same SE winds will push participating yachts from south to north through the east Indonesian cruising area to northern Sulawesi.  

Winds varying from SW to SE and perhaps NE are expected for passages along northern Sulawesi and across to Tarakan, the Borneo (Kalimantan) exit point from Indonesia. As yachts progress north to Sandakan and north-west across the Sulu Sea to Puerto Princess ( Palawan - Philippines), the last of the SW Monsoon is expected to exert it's influence and the NE Monson to begin. The NE monsoon begins in early October in northern Palawan, and progressively extends south to the west coast of Borneo; where is is actually NW along the coast. The last part of the journey - island and coastal hopping south along the east coast of Palawan followed by the west coast of Borneo - to Brunei,  is expected to be in the establishing NE Monsoon as it progressively extends from northern Palawan down the west coast of Borneo. 

April to October is the dry season in northern Australia, and the off-season for tropical storms in the southern hemisphere. The same period is the northern hemisphere tropical storm period, with most storms developing in the warm waters to the north of PNG/Irian Jaya, and east of the Philippines. However, since tropical storms do not occur in equatorial areas - from 10 degrees south to 10 degrees north - and the most northerly point of the Equator Asia cruise is Puerto Princesa, the rally route is clear of the direct impact of any Tropical Storms.

2. Existing events departing northern Australia. The Darwin to Ambon Yacht Race, Sail Indonesia and the Darwin to Dili Race/Rally  provide organised events, great venues.  Each can be used as an initial departure from Australia to meet existing Equator Asia cruise yachts, or establish another cruise group.

However, it is also possible to enter direct from the South Pacific, through Torres Strait to Indonesia, without stopping in Australia. An increasing number of yachts are choosing this option to avoid the landing requirements - eg: advance notice, proof of recent anti-fouling etc - in Australia.

Options after the Equator Asia cruise finish in Brunei:

1. For yachts heading to Singapore/Thailand. The NE Monsoon (actually NW along the west coast of Borneo) provides a fresh breeze to push yachts down the west coast of Borneo (Sarawak - Malaysia) to arrive in the Singapore, Peninsula Malaysia or Thailand areas for Christmas and New Year. 

The transition from SW Monsoon to NE/NW Monsoon normally occurs during November or early December on the west coast of Borneo. This fresher NE/NW Monson - normally 15 to 20 kts afternoon NW sea breeze along the west coast of Borneo and lighter NE wind overnight - facilitates a quick passage south in a persistent sailing breeze.  

Another Sail BIMP-EAGA event - the West Borneo cruise  - starts from participants' choice - either Miri marina, Labuan marina, Sutera Harbour marina, or the Royal Brunei Yacht Club in Brunei. This cruise hops south along the west coast of Borneo - including stops for shore excursions - to Kuching. Shore programmes and support services are arranged by the Sarawak Travel Association. Yachts choosing this cruise are expected to begin late November/early December and finish in Kuching about the 20th of December, in time for participants to reach Singapore or Peninsula Malaysia by the 25th. Participants therefore have the opportunity to enjoy the Christmas/New Year period in Kuching, Singapore/Peninsula Malaysia, or to leave yachts in marinas to travel home to Eupore, North America or Australia/New Zealand for the end of year holiday season.

2. For yachts planning to spend more time in NW Borneo. Following the mid/late November Equator Asia cruise finish in Brunei, there is the opportunity to further explore shore venues in north west Borneo - Brunei, Sabah and Sarawak.

Marinas in this area - at Miri, Labuan and Kota Kinabalu - and the anchorage off Royal Brunei Yacht Club, along with a variety of international flight linkages, provide options for those people planning to leave yachts while they fly home to Europe, North America and Australia/NZ for the Christmas and New year period. 

NW Borneo provides a number of options for haul-out and boat maintenance  of yachts while owners are away.

3. For yachts planning to cruise the Philippines.  A growing number of yachts use the NE Monsoon period (approx October to March) in the southern Philippines, to cruise north along the less developed and beautiful western coast of Palawan - when the coast is a protective weather shore. This route takes yachts from north-west Borneo along the Palawan island chain to Coron area. 

Recent cruising yacht reports confirm the fresh NE wind shifts E as it comes across Palawan, providing good sailing in relatively flat seas between beautiful anchorages.  Numerous anchorages allow day hop sailing with the afternoon sun from behind when picking a route through shallows to an anchorage.  November to March is also the peak scuba diving season in Palawan because the dry season creates the best water visibility. A number of dive resorts along the coast welcome cruising yachts with access to their facilities.

Our Brunei-Palawan Cruise provides yachts with a similar cruise-in-company event from Brunei to Coron - via the west coast of Palawan - from December to March each year. Some cruisers take the opportunity to capitalise on the Christmas/New Year events at Royal Brunei Yacht Club, the duty free advantages of nearby Labuan, and the relatively untouched and beautiful scenery of the west coast of Palawan to create a memorable cruising experience during the NE Monsoon period.

After arriving in Coron area, further Philippines cruising options include to cruise to Puerto Galera (see Puerto Galera Yacht Club), and from there to Cebu region, returning to Sandakan or the east coast of Palawan before making their passage down the west coast of Borneo, to Singapore, Peninsula Malaysia and Thailand prior to heading to the Red Sea; or in the present situation, to Chagos, Madagascar and South Africa.

Some yachts have sailed from Puerto Galera through the islands of Mindanao to General Santos and Davao prior to making passages back to Australia or New Zealand around the top of Iranian Jaya and PNG to the Solomons.  From Coron area, it's also possible to sail north to Manila and Subic Bay. 

A combination of the traditional craftmanship of the Philippines and western boatbuilding technologies is utilised in yacht repair and haul-out facilities in numerous parts of the Philippines, with Subic Bay and Cebu being the most active areas for yacht haul-out and maintenance..

The SW Monsoon is the period most yachts cruise the Southern Philippines because it provides a favourable wind with relatively slight seas and gentle breezes in the Sulu Sea. This SW Monsoon period is also the northern hemisphere Tropical Storm period. Tropical Storms can impact the Philippines during the period May to November. The Philippines is well organised with Typhoon shelters and there is plenty of advance warning these days if TSs begin to develop in the warm water north of Irian Jaya/PNG.  Numerous yachts have successfully  cruised the southern Philippines during the TS season.


1. Equator-Asia is the tourism destination name adopted by the BIMP-EAGA Tourism Council (BETC) following extensive work on the part of two key BIMP-EAGA supports - the Asian Development Bank and GTZ - and subsequent market research by BETC members.

2. The NE/NW Monsoon on the west coast of Borneo is also referred to as the wet season; characterised by evening storms and overnight rain, with mostly clear days, but less visibility for diving and water-sports because of the increased muddy runoff from rivers.  The afternoon sea breeze is about 12 to 20 knots. This is also the right time for exciting white water rafting trips ashore!

3. The SW Monsoon season on the west coast of Borneo is also referred to as the dry season, with fewer overnight storms and rain. The afternoon sea breeze is about 10 to 15 knots. Sea water visibility improves substantially so it's generally the preferred season for sailing, diving, snorkelling and fishing around NW Borneo.  

4. The NE Monsoon season in the Philippines is their dry season. Water visibility is at its best so this is the most popular time for scuba diving and other water sports in sheltered areas.  It has not been the popular yacht cruising period in the southern Philippines because of choppy conditions in the Sulu Sea and surrounding islands. But it has become the preferred season to travel the attractive west coast of Palawan; mostly day hopping between comfortable anchorages. The clear water makes approaching sometimes poorly charted anchorages much easier, and more so because an afternoon approach has the sun from behind.

5. The SW Monsoon period is the main cruising season in the southern Philippines. It is also referred to as their wet season, and is also the Tropical Storm season. A number of Tropical Storms can be expected to start in the NW Pacific, west of Guam each season. Some of these can track west to cross the Philippines, or run parallel with the eastern coastline of the Philippines. While a considerable part of the southern Philippines cruising area is south of 10d N - the theoretical southerly limit of Tropical Storm activity - there will still be significant wind changes in these areas if a TS approaches or crosses the Philippines. North of 10d N - in the popular cruising areas around Mindoro, Panay and Negros - it's possible to have a TS tracking through these areas. Cruisers need to keep a close watch on potential TSs and act accordingly. As can be expected in an island nation with so much commercial marine traffic, the Philippines has established many facilities to shelter boats during TSs, along with advanced weather warning systems.

Please return here regularly to get further details.
If you would like to add your contact details to our database to be updated with rally information, please email us for inquiries ....   

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