Escape to an eco-friendly luxury resort only hours away from Singapore
Indonesia's Bawah Reserve – sitting amidst a clutch of jewelled, white-sanded islands – is the kind of place you imagine Robinson Crusoe might have lived in, if he’d had the budget.
These days, more and more island hotels and resorts, especially those camped out in the luxury end of the market, trumpet their eco-friendly credentials. Often, though, it’s the guest who needs to take the proactive role by, for instance, remembering to place a card on the bed to indicate that bed-linen should not be changed.
Meanwhile, little is said of the single-use plastic water bottles that are scattered through the room, or the energy-inefficient air-conditioning.
The good news is that a generation of green – literally and metaphorically – boutique island resorts has come to the fore. Each genuinely sensitive to its environment and proactive in minimising its carbon footprint; and, bonus, quite a number of them are within easy reach of Singapore.
Exhibit A is the sublime Bawah Reserve. Opened last year in the southern tip of the Anambas Archipelago – a stretch of jewelled, white-sanded islands to the north-east of Singapore – the resort is the kind of place you imagine Robinson Crusoe might have lived in, if he’d had the budget and the taste.
The geography sounds daunting, but getting here is a breeze. The resort sends a Mercedes taxi to your home for the drive to Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, where a resort rep escorts you all the way to Batam and you are then handed over to a second rep who, in turn, delivers you to your Twin Otter plane.
An hour later, you touch down on an expanse of water that is as clear as light blue topaz and shimmers with coral and fish. Minutes later, a beach buggy slides you and your luggage to the front step of your villa. Total travelling time, door-to-door, is about 3.5 hours, which, really, is about the length of an Avengers movie.
From the moment you slide open the doors of your villa till the day of departure (when you’re dragged screaming to the sea-plane for the exact reverse journey, and you’re personally delivered back to the front door of your home), you exist in a world that’s blissfully carefree.
Bawah Reserve sits amidst a clutch of bijoux tree-shrouded islands, and comprises three sheltered lagoons and, count them, 13 beaches.
Eschewing pesticide and any heavy machinery during construction, its 35 spacious villas – garden, beach and over the water – are made of recycled teak and bamboo, capped with canvas roofs, and furnished with great taste in rustic island-chic of wicker and linen.
The garden villas start from US$1,780 (S$2,452) for a couple. But before you reflexively tighten your grip on your Bottega wallet and moan that the world has gone mad, know that the rate includes the car-pick up, ferry and air plane transfers; all meals and drinks excluding alcohol; a butler to help with unpacking and packing; daily laundry; guided jungle hikes; snorkelling excursions, daily yoga, pilates and spa treatments; sunset boat trips; and all non-motorised water sports.
The best rooms, in my view, are the beach villas where a faithful sea-breeze and ceiling fans mean that we literally never turn on the air-conditioning. By day, we lounge on the shaded deck, alternating between watching the horizon, fitfully thumbing through Game Of Thrones, and dashing into the sea for a quick, refreshing dip.
At night, we sleep with the doors open, lulled softly to sleep by the waves lapping lowly on the beach and a cocooning quiet.
Each day, the most important decision you have to make is whether to have your spa treatment before or after your siesta. The island is big enough that you rarely see the other guests, except at meals, and there are moments when it feels as if you have the place all to yourself.
And so the days pass in idyll. They have an almost cinematic quality – a montage of mental images that, later back at your desk in the city, you replay with the kind of quiet desperation one normally associates with an episode of Prison Break.
It’s the sea that I remember the most – a blue-green shade that, like a giant furl of sheer chiffon stretching clear to the horizon, drapes over huge donut-shaped coral stuffed with blue and yellow-trimmed clams. Floating on our backs and staring up at an untrammelled blue sky puffed with snowy clouds, it is tempting to believe, even for just a second, that this is our new reality.
And, every evening, a dusk of deepening purple gather us all towards the grass-thatched perch of the Jules Verne bar for cocktails, and later down to the Tree Top restaurant for dinner of gado-gado, grilled seafood and mild curries.
Later, we walk along the beach back to our villa, our path lit only by the waxing moon. Our feet splash on the sea, its warm silvery touch weaving in and out between our heels like sleepy puppies; and we forget that tomorrow, we are leaving Bawah Reserve for home.
It's that kind of magic.