AN AFFAIR OF THE HEART
This was just going to be another regular underwater expedition, but Tim Hartnoll discovered more than he bargained for in Indonesia’s Anambas archipelago.
Some investors like to park their money in stocks or funds. Others favour real estate. For Tim Hartnoll, a Singapore-born shipping executive, a recent vehicle of choice was to build a private island resort. That is how Bawah Island, in Indonesia’s Anambas archipelago, opened in the second half of 2017.
“I’ve always had a deep interest in the underwater world and exploration,” he explains. “During one of my expeditions to the Anambas islands in 2006, I stumbled on Bawah. Instead of staying for one night (on a boat there), I ended up staying for over a week.”
Hartnoll wanted to create a luxurious, authentic travel experience in a sustainable, community- enriching manner. The dream became reality three months later, when the opportunity to buy this group of untouched islands came up.
Together with eight investors, he set about developing a pristine site — one teeming with flora and fauna and surrounded by healthy corals and rich marine life — in a responsible, sustainable way. “We are fiercely protecting (the environment) through our firm stance against fishing, anchoring and collection
of any marine life on Bawah. We’re in the midst of developing Bawah into a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the next 10 years.” The resort, which is on the largest island, took five years to build without the use of any heavy machinery. “We made the decision very early on, as we wanted to preserve and protect Bawah’s 300 acres of natural environment, so the challenge was to complete the resort construction by hand – from recycling stones to breaking boulders for building material. It was very fulfilling to see this completed.”
The result is a gorgeous private island idyll with 35 overwater, beachfront and garden villas made of bamboo and recycled teak, each with recycled copper tubs and showers, and day beds that look out onto gorgeous waters. In addition, the resort offers a full spa, three bars and restaurants with a nautical theme (and each with stunning marine-themed installations or fixtures), a full water-sports centre, marked hiking trails through the primary and secondary forests that form the interior of the island, and crystal clear seascapes that recall the Maldives but enlivened by dramatic, hilly, tree-filled mountains. Bawah is vigilant about being environmentally and socially conscious, hence its forest replantation programme, use of recycled and sustainable wood in the construction of villas, water recycling, biological filtration systems, permaculture garden, sense of community with staff, and more. Bawah gives guests the feeling of
“The challenge was to complete the resort construction by hand – from recycling stones to breaking boulders.”
This type of project is rarely grounded in practicality and will be riddled with obstacles, so it’s good to have lofty ideals at which to aim and to maintain your focus.
There will be frustrations and doubts along the way, but the process will be illuminating. The experts that you need to work with will be immensely educative, the bureaucratic processes probably eye- opening and the completion gratifying beyond belief.
Determination and patience are key. Remember this isn’t a short time investment, but a long- run play.
Guests of private islands are often entrepreneurs, decision makers, movers and shakers. You should plan to inspire them with your resort so that they make decisions that change the world for the better. Plus, having strong CSR principles is a sound business practice, plain and simple.
Even if you are clear from the outset what type of development you want to build, the cost is going to be higher than any initial forecasts. Even so, it is vital to plan everything out carefully and be clear with your concept before you go ahead; the effort will save you time and money.