The sign the co-pilot of Bawah Reserve’s amphibious seaplane was holding up jolted me out of my sleepy state, having just woken up from a nap. It read: “10 minutes to paradise”.
I instinctively looked out the window and was treated to a show – the plane did a dramatic dip and circled around the private island that was cradled in the most stunning shade of blue. After a few minutes of flying around, which allowed us to capture the stunning sight from various angles on our phone, we did a smooth landing in front of the resort’s two-pronged jetty and were warmly welcomed by various members of Bawah’s staff.
Welcome to paradise
The beauty of a Bawah Reserve holiday, which I would soon discover, is that you just have to show up. The resort, which champions luxury and sustainability, is in Indonesia’s remote Anambas archipelago. If the thought of being in the middle of nowhere makes you want to pack everything but the kitchen sink, trust me when I say that all you need to bring are the essentials because Bawah takes the all-inclusive experience to the next level.
No need for itineraries here. If you’re worried about food, don’t fret because all meals and non-alcoholic beverages are included in your stay, whether it’s from the two restaurants or two bars/casual concepts. When it comes to clothes, pack light because you’ll be treated to complimentary laundry service daily. And for something truly indulgent, daily massages/spa treatments are included in your stay.
If lounging around in your villa gets a little too predictable, or if the spa has kneaded out all the stress in your body, head out and discover the six islands, three lagoons, 13 beaches, and hectares of untouched forest that surrounds you. To ensure that your days in paradise are well spent, you can sign up for activities that range from early morning turtle patrols and meditation classes to scenic hikes on various trails and kayaking.
Bawah Reserve is made up of just 36 stand-alone suites, each one Earth-conscious in its own way. There are the Tented Beach Suites, which line the southern coast of the Reserve, providing direct beach access. The Deluxe Pool Villas boast two- and three-bedroom configurations, its own pool, and a dedicated dining area, perfect for larger groups. Meanwhile, the Treehouse Lodge is ideal for those who prefer the feeling of being hidden away in lush tropical foliage.
To best experience the beauty of Bawah, we’d recommend staying in one of the Overwater Bungalows, which rival those you’d typically find in luxury resorts in the Maldives. Here, the spacious bungalows are built over shallow turquoise lagoon waters, boasting a picture-perfect panorama of the archipelago. Whether you’re catching the sunrise or sunset, you’ll always have a front row seat to one of nature’s greatest spectacles.
As you lounge from the outdoor terrace, fall into a meditative trance while you stare out and take in the various shades of blue, from sea to sky. Inside, enjoy being cocooned in the tastefully decorated interiors that feature elegant color schemes, natural materials, and copper finishings in the bathroom. After turndown service in the evenings, expect gifts to be left on your bed – each one a surprise, ranging from local crafts to artisanal sweets.
Sustainability in action
You may have noticed terms like “sustainability” and “Earth-first” peppered within this story, and with good reason. Sustainability is more than just a buzzword at Bawah Reserve – it is a way of life here. For starters, Bawah Reserve features 18 floating solar platforms, which provides most the resort’s total energy needs. This has reduced the reliance on fuel by 468 liters of diesel a day, or 170,746 annually. To put it into perspective, this amount lets you drive around the world 52 times. What’s more, hot water to the suites and overwater bungalows is supplied by roof solar panels.
Bawah Reserve impressively recycles 70% of its waste, thanks to an on-site waste management center. Here, paper is mulched, food waste is composted, and glass is crushed and used in the water filtering process. Walk around and some decorative elements you’ll see in the boutique and restaurants are made from plastic waste.
Conservation also takes center stage at Bawah Reserve. With its official marine conservation status, fishing, anchoring, or collection of marine life is forbidden here. Turtles found in fishing nets or in dangerous situations are rescued back and released back into the wild, in addition to compromised turtle eggs being collected and hatched at the resort’s dedicated facility. What’s more, the resort is also home to a dedicated group of marine biologists who are responsible for the rehabilitation and preservation of the surrounding coral reefs.
Living it up at Elang Private Residence
Elang Private Residence is one of the six islands that make up Bawah Reserve. It was initially developed as the owner’s holiday home, but has opened in 2022 exclusively for buyouts, accommodating a maximum of 20 guests.
The island features six standalone cliffside lodges, with each one boasting views of the ocean and mesmerizing turquoise lagoons. Indulge in the ultimate resort fantasy as Elang Private Residence features its own spa, restaurant, saltwater infinity pool, a club house, and even a staff village, to make sure the group is well attended to during the duration of their stay.
The perfect way to end your stay on this slice of paradise is a beachside dinner on a private beach, where the staff will put together a dreamy set up comprised of candlelit lamps, beautiful tablescapes, and an unforgettable menu made up of Indonesian and Western delicacies.
For more information, visit www.bawahreserve.com.
A version of this article first appeared in Portfolio.