EXPLORERS WANTED

Written by root. Posted in Featured Article, FEATURES

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Published on November 02, 2018 with No Comments

Remote and intimate, Bawah Reserve is all about the experience.

Words ANIS RAMLI

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It’s been called The Maldives of Asia. A New Eden. However way you cast it, Bawah Reserve is best described as a lesson in blissful, wild abandonment. Though it spans 300 hectares, much of it remains enveloped in lush tropical forest, hence why since it opened in 2017, Bawah has gained accolades for offering carefree luxury in the midst of tranquil nature.

A private island, Bawah Reserve is part of the 255 islands in the Anambas cluster in the Riau Archipelago. Though just 260km northeast of Singapore, Bawah’s existence was only known to dedicated divers and recreational sailors, which was how owner Tim Hartnoll found it through this twin passions. Determined to preserve as much of Bawah’s natural landscape as possible, it will take five years for him and Singapore architect Sim Boon Yang to realise the Bawah of their vision. This meant an eco-conscious blueprint that would forego heavy machinery, constructing by hand and using as much sustainable material as they could.

And this is why Bawah is every explorer’s dream come true.

Within its six islands, three lagoons and 13 beaches that make up the luxury retreat that is Bawah Reserve, guests have every opportunity to explore nature, appreciate the remoteness and bask in the intimate tranquillity in both luxury and comfort. The adventure starts with the island transfer. Guests arrive into Bawah Reserve from Batam via an 80-minute private seaplane journey from Hang Nadim Airport. You know you’re off to a laidback start when even the captain goes barefooted in the cockpit. As the plane makes the approach to the resort, it tips its wings just slightly for you to get your first glimpse of the reserve. And what a glimpse it is! Multi-hued crystalline waters call out to you from beneath, their shallow water corals a mottled carpet of moss green. And then you make a splash entrance as the plane lands on the waters, announcing your arrival to the awaiting resort team at the signature forked jetty.

The resort’s tagline: “Do as much or as little as you wish” will be your island playbook. With wifi limited to room only, Bawah encourages you to explore and disconnect to reconnect. There are daily hikes to lookout points, where guides can point out to the local flora and fauna; a private picnic to enjoy at any two of the beaches, where access is strictly yours; sunset island cruises to seek the unique in all of Bawah Reserve’s islands; daily pampering at the Aura Spa; water activities that range from kayaking to paddleboarding and snorkelling; stargazing at jaw-dropping, licorice-black skies and snuggling up for a movie under the stars.

But if you prefer to not do anything, a retreat into your chic, sustainably-built accommodation is still worthwhile. At the 11 over water villas, you can jump right off from the deck into the lagoon for a swim every morning. The 21 beach fronting suites offer easy access to the waters while the three garden suites are perfect for a family or group of four, complete with a living room and a loft fitted with beanbags. Any of the 35 intimate villas you choose is equally inviting. Each is hand-built, some from sustainable bamboo, others a mix of bamboo and recycled teak. Bathrooms have his-and-hers vanity and seem to call you every evening for a soak in their recycled copper tubs.

Everywhere you look, you can see the effort in which founder Hartnoll had painstakingly taken to map out the resort’s design. Bawah has its own seawater treatment plant to produce RO water, rainwater is collected from the roof gutters and harvested and treated on site, warm water that runs in guests’ bathrooms are heated by solar energy, and wastewater is treated and recycled to water the fruit and vegetable garden. “We are not just building a resort, we are building a town,” Hartnoll said as he gave a back of the house tour of the resort, pointing out to the generator room, the water treatment plant and sites where underground and underwater cables and pipes run to make the resort self-sustainable. “There is still a lot to do. We hope to grow more of our fruit and vegetables in the garden to rely less on stuff coming from the mainland. And we are working towards a plastic-free environment,” he says. Bawah is also run entirely on a renewable energy microgrid that harnesses energy from multiple sources – solar, wind and hydropower.

In the rooms and restaurants, treated water is bottled in glass that can be washed and reused. Bamboo straws replace plastic ones, while amenities such as shampoos, shower gels and body lotions are stored in refillable bottles. Food waste and paper are composted and all other waste is recycled and sent back to Batam. Even guest bath towels were specifically selected for its quick-drying and quick laundering time against a typical terrycloth towel (though this is still available should a guest requests for one). So popular are the eco-towels with guests that they run out at the resort boutique as soon as they are stocked!

Bawah has four F&B outlets that, despite its remoteness that prove to be a challenge in supply logistics, celebrate the richness of the archipelago. At Treetops, the elevated main dining venue overlooking one of the lagoons, locally caught fish are always on the menu and Chef Roberto gives his own spin to bring the food up a notch. Tongkol, akin to tuna, is cleverly used in Bawah’s version of the nicoise salad while grilled Red snapper or Giant trevally is served with three local condiments, one of which is an Indonesian favourite – sambal matah. At the Boat House that overlooks the eastern lagoon, the vibe is more pub-style with fish and chips, burgers and chargrilled seafood served amidst swing chairs and wicker daybeds. At the Jules Verne Bar and the Grouper, tropical fruits such as honeydews and watermelons are turned into ice cold designer drinks that are perfect thirst quenchers in the island heat.

As Bawah Reserve is an all-inclusive resort, it does take the worry off you so you can enjoy everything the resort has to offer (meals, non-motorised water sports, non-alcoholic drinks, roundtrip transfers are all included). This also means daily pampering at the Aura Spa, with foot reflexology, body massages and scrubs to enjoy. There is still much Bawah Reserve can offer, says Hartnoll. “We draw inspiration from all over the world in terms of sustainability and remote locations, from places like the Green School in Bali to Richard Branson’s Necker Island. There is sustainable learning across the globe and anything we can pick up and implement, we will do it!”

 

Royal Brunei Airlines flies Singapore 2x daily for easy connections to Batam/Bawah Reserve. Discover things to do in Bawah Reserve in www.muhibah.com.bn

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