Off-the-grid, ultra secluded and super exclusive. Indonesia’s Bawah Reserve has 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. Laying within an archipelago so isolated that it takes a seaplane to get there, the journey itself was an adventure!
Flying out of Batam’s Hang Nadim Airport, the journey of 80 minutes takes you over a smattering of islands that make up the Anambas cluster in the Riau Archipelago. Before you know it, and with a signal from our barefooted pilot, we were flying over Bawah Reserve and its surreal collection of six islands, three lagoons and 13 beaches. Multi-hued crystalline waters called from beneath, their shallow water corals a mottled carpet of moss green. The plane landed effortlessly on water, as the resort staff waited on 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. Plus, at this all-inclusive-resort, everything is truly included. There are daily hikes to lookout points, a private picnic to enjoy 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, kayaking, paddleboarding, snorkelling, stargazing at jaw-dropping 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. Every villa was 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.
Bawah also scores in its sustainable efforts. It has its own seawater treatment plant to produce RO water, it collects rainwater and treats it on site, it uses solar energy to warm water in guests’ bathrooms, and it treats and recycles wastewater for its fruit and vegetable garden. Glass bottles for drinking water are used in the rooms and restaurants, 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 may be remote, but it does not stop Chef Roberto from bringing his own unique spin to the menus served across all the four F&B outlets. At Treetops, the elevated main dining venue overlooking the forked jetty, local tongkol (akin to tuna), is used in Bawah’s version of the nicoise salad. At the beachfront Boat House, the vibe is more pub-grub with fish and chips, burgers and chargrilled seafood with wicker daybeds aplenty to enjoy the sound of the lapping waves.
The H Factor
On halal preparation for guests, Chef Roberto says, “We are able to prepare halal items separately and we use new kitchen utensils as required.” He further reassures by saying that there is a separate chiller to divide and segregate the non halal items from halal products. As always, guests are welcome to contact Bawah Reserve ahead of time to ensure a seamless and worry-free stay.
5 Priceless Touches
*A seaplane to start a vacay – need we say more?
*Chef Roberto’s attentive service and bespoke menus whenever you request it
*Qibla sign in room by attentive staff
*Getting to picnic on a truly private beach with no one around is heaven-sent for any hijabi!
*The daily thoughtful gifts at turndown: from bamboo straws to handmade souvenirs and local sweet cakes.