Checking In: Bawah Reserve

Blessed with rich marine life and driven by sustainability, the 35-room Bawah Reserve will leave you instantly charmed by its rustic yet laid-back vibes.

The Look

Five years in the making, Bawah Reserve is the private island retreat worth writing home about—from eco-luxe villas to azure waters teeming with rich marine life. The cherry on top? Guests enjoy a full-board experience inclusive of dining, activities, and even spa.

The overwater villas offer direct access to the crystal clear waters.

Accessible via a 75 min seaplane ride across the South China Sea, the resort sits on the remote Anambas Archipelago, also a marine conservation area. What you’ll find: Six jungled islands and three sparkling blue lagoons, all flanked by 13 white sand beaches.

The resort’s organic yet earthly vibes.

We were instantly charmed by the resort’s organic yet earthly vibes, made inviting with bamboo lattice walls, sandy pathways, and large palm trees. Driven by sustainability, Bawah Reserve makes its own water via reverse osmosis of filtered rainwater and captured seawater, as well as grows an array of organic fruits and vegetables on a permaculture farm. The warm and friendly staff running the resort feel more like family than anything else, with 41 percent of the employees here hailing from local communities.

The beach suite resembles a giant teepee at first glance, with peaked ceilings and bamboo lattice walls.

The Rooms

Built to blend seamlessly with the natural landscape, the 35 eco-villas span from overwater bungalows to beach and garden suites. Located steps away from the lapping sea, my beach suite resembled a giant teepee at first glance, with peaked ceilings and bamboo lattice walls. The safari-style interior is cozy and rustic, featuring a canopied bed, teak floors, patterned rugs, and chandeliers shaped like sea creatures, while the spacious bathrooms come with a vintage copper tub and separate areas for dressing up. Other thoughtful details include organic bath amenities designed especially for the resort and bottled water that has been distilled in-house. Those who fancy going off the grid will be pleased that there’s no television in sight, nor stable Wi-Fi signals to be found (save for a couple of strategic spots in the villa). Massages and in-room dining can also be arranged in the comfort of one’s villa.

The signature Treetops restaurant offers delicious local cuisine set against panoramic views of the surrounding lagoon.

The Food

The four bars and restaurants each embrace a different aspect of island living, from wildlife exploration to the tropical rainforest. Perched under lush greenery, the signature Treetops restaurant offers all-day-dining set against panoramic views of the surrounding lagoon. Among the local selection, the beef rendang and curried prawns were excellent. If a proposal or special occasion is at hand, book “The Lookout” to enjoy private dining lit by glittering lanterns. Down a long flight of stairs, you’ll find the jetty-side Grouper Bar, named after the large fish that’s a common sight in the area. Luxuriate in ambient music and sip on coffee, cocktails, fine wines, and 18-year-old highland malts. Over at the resort’s east beach and near the water sports center is the gorgeously laid-back Boat House, which serves grilled seafood, ice cold beer and more. Finally, there’s Jules Verne Bar, which comes with a wildlife viewing platform — making it the perfect spot for winding down with a drink in hand.

Bawah Reserve is a haven for watersport lovers.

Don’t Miss

Blessed with crystal clear waters, Bawah Reserve is a haven for watersport lovers. Go diving or snorkeling at various sites in the preserved marine area of The Anambas, and you might just spot marine life such as black-tipped reef shark, angelfish, batfish, giant sea star, and more. Alternatively, cruise around the lagoons at your own pace on either a clear-bottom canoe or a traditional wooden paddle board — both of which allow one to easily admire the colorful corals.

Sunny days call for a leisurely picnic on a remote island.

For a more laid-back activity, embark on the six-island sunset cruise, best paired with canapes and wine; or head out for a private island picnic. To wind down, make a booking at the Aura Spa, where rejuvenating spa rituals can be had. I especially enjoyed the facial treatments, which featured jade rolling and detoxing masks made with local ingredients.

More information here.

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