In search of trop­i­cal lux­ury with heart and soul, KIRSTIE CLE­MENTS fol­lows the hushed buzz of the eco jet-set to the pris­tine is­land re­sort of Bawah Re­serve, In­done­sia

Harper’s Bazaar (Australia) - - Contents -

Kirstie Cle­ments dis­cov­ers eco-heaven in In­done­sia.

The dis­cov­ery of re­mote and un­spoilt is­land des­ti­na­tions is a great mo­ti­va­tor for the cu­ri­ous trav­eller, but, iron­i­cally, we of­ten don’t want them to be too dif­fi­cult to get to.a trip to a far-flung lo­ca­tion such as the Sey­chelles can re­quire up to three planes and a boat ride, which is daunt­ing for a short-stay va­ca­tion. Bawah Re­serve, a hand­ful of tiny is­lands in In­done­sia’s Anam­bas ar­chi­pel­ago, may just be the an­swer, be­ing largely un­known and very def­i­nitely a new bench­mark in trop­i­cal get­aways.

Sit­u­ated be­tween Malaysia and Bor­neo, these pris­tine isles are straight out of a Hol­ly­wood script, al­most un­real in their per­fec­tion. They are just three hours from Sin­ga­pore (by ferry and sea­plane), and yet you feel you may have made your very pic­turesque land­ing in un­charted wa­ters.

The first thing you see when you alight on the jetty is noth­ing. Noth­ing but a clear turquoise la­goon, bright par­rot­fish and a thriv­ing reef. Bawah Re­serve has been clev­erly de­signed to be com­pletely em­pathic to the lush nat­u­ral sur­rounds, just a glimpse of thatched roofs hid­den in the trees hint­ing at the main win­ing and din­ing ar­eas. Bawah has 21 beach, three gar­den and 11 over­wa­ter vil­las, so su­perbly thought-out and dis­creet that you be­lieve you are the only per­son on the is­land and you may even­tu­ally need a flare gun when the un­for­tu­nate time comes to be res­cued. The gor­geous over­wa­ter vil­las have steps from the sun deck into the pris­tine wa­ters so you can snorkel your way to lunch at The Boat House and back, which is re­ally the next level in hol­i­day chic. There is as lit­tle or as much to do on Bawah as you wish: guided hikes to the top of the peak for an in­cred­i­ble view, kayak­ing in clear ca­noes, boat trips, div­ing, snorkelling, pad­dle­board­ing, sail­ing, yoga, Pi­lates, pic­nics and, of course, swim­ming — pos­si­bly the best swim­ming, in the most beau­ti­ful pale opal blue wa­ter, you will ever do in your life. This is a 24-hour swim­suit des­ti­na­tion, and while there are black­tip (and ap­par­ently shy) sharks in the la­goon, the up­side is the wa­ter is so crys­talline you can def­i­nitely see them com­ing.there are also rather large and thrilling mon­i­tor lizards, one, which lives near the spa, so big she is al­most re­garded as a

“The lack of plas­tic is re­mark­able and a re­minder that walk­ing as lightly upon the earth as pos­si­ble is the only way for us to en­sure idyl­lic is­lands and reefs such as these will con­tinue to ex­ist.”

mem­ber of staff.there is also a trip to a nearby bat cave, ac­cessed by kayak.that is, a dark cave full of tiny horse­shoe bats which will fly into a ter­ri­fy­ing frenzy when you ven­ture in, In­di­ana Jones style, and re­mind you that vis­it­ing a re­mote In­done­sian bat cave is a jour­ney that re­ally needs to be thought through.

With its re­verse-os­mo­sis wa­ter re­cy­cling sys­tem and so­lar-pow­ered wa­ter heaters, Bawah is ex­tremely eco-sen­si­tive, which is such an im­por­tant fac­tor in this new age of travel, when mind­ful, low-im­pact tourism is far more lux­u­ri­ous than fluffy tow­els and spa ob­vi­ous eco men­tal­ity per­vades the ac­com­mo­da­tion, and more sus­tain­able op­tions are pro­vided: light Turk­ish tow­els in­stead of thick, hard-to-wash cot­ton; sun­block that is safe for the del­i­cate reef; wo­ven hats and beach bags that can be used and then left for the next guests; a tea and cof­fee se­lec­tion in the rooms in glass jars, with wooden spoons and ce­ramic pots; re­us­able wa­ter bot­tles for hikes. The lack of plas­tic is re­mark­able and a re­minder that walk­ing as lightly upon the earth as pos­si­ble is the only way for us to en­sure idyl­lic is­lands and reefs such as these will con­tinue to ex­ist. A re­minder of this was the pres­ence in the la­goon of ro­man­tic-sound­ing “sea gyp­sies”, the no­madic Ba­jau Laut fish­er­men and their colour­ful painted long­boats.the Ba­jau have lived in boats or stilt vil­lages on the seas of Su­lawesi for at least 400 years, re­ly­ing on an in­creas­ingly over­fished ocean for sub­sis­tence.the Ba­jau are renowned free­d­ivers, plung­ing to as deep as 20 me­tres with no fins and re­main­ing un­der­wa­ter for as long as five min­utes on a sin­gle breath.

The food at Bawah nat­u­rally has its base in In­done­sian cui­sine, so some­thing as sim­ple as a sa­tay stick on the sand is per­fect and de­li­cious.the fresh fish, waygu beef and grilled seafood op­tions are su­perb, es­pe­cially when one is perched in the fab­u­lous Tree­tops restau­rant, look­ing out over the ridicu­lously per­fect la­goon. Sin­ga­pore-based ar­chi­tect Sim Boonyang was re­spon­si­ble for the out­stand­ing in­te­ri­ors, fea­tur­ing in­tri­cately wo­ven bleached woods and gi­ant rat­tan lamps like float­ing oc­topi.

Bawah Re­serve blends the highly lux­u­ri­ous with the un­ob­tru­sive; its shim­mer­ing magic gets un­der your skin. Don’t tell any­one.

Bawah of­fers limou­sine trans­fers from your Sin­ga­pore ho­tel to Tanah Merah Ferry Ter­mi­nal, where you board the Ma­jes­tic Ferry to Batam Cen­tre. Bawah staff will then fast-track you through In­done­sian im­mi­gra­tion and cus­toms, and you are driven to the is­land’s am­phibi­ous plane. bawahis­

From top: an aerial view of the vil­las on Bawah Is­land; a Beach Suite; the is­land at sun­set.

An Over­wa­ter Bun­ga­low’s canopied bed, which has a sea view. Be­low: the jetty at dusk.

Tree­tops restau­rant. Left: sun­rise and sun­set can both be en­joyed from the decks of the Over­wa­ter Bun­ga­lows.

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