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Bask in nearby eco-luxury resort Bawah

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The night skies of Bawah are filled with stars. 

Located at the lower end of Indonesia's Anambas in the Riau Archipelago, 300 kilometres northeast of Singapore, Bawah Reserve is a hop and a skip away from Batam. The eco-luxury resort accommodates just 70 guests at any given time, and is comprised of six forested islands, three lagoons and 13 beaches. Closer to home than you would expect, the easiest way to get there is by ferry, followed by an 80-minute ride by seaplane to get to the island. Which means that the total travel time is less than four hours.

Bawah is not as accessible as the other well-known private island resorts in the Riau such as Nikoi or Cempedak Island. But its very remoteness is what ratchets up its exclusivity factor. Fewer than 50,000 people live in the 250 islands in the Anambas, and the nearest village to Bawah is four hours away.

Finding Nemo at Bawah. 

Bawah may be isolated from the modern world but the rich flora and fauna provide enough activity to keep you busy. Wake up at sunrise for a guided walk through lush undergrowth, catching the rays of the morning sun filtering through the thick canopy overhead to form a hazy pattern of light on the forest floor. Enter a clearing at the peak of a hill, and you are rewarded with a view of the surrounding islets.

Bawah Reserve offers both land and sea accommodation. Its 11 overwater bungalows let you leap right into the ocean from your front door, or you can potter around one of its 24 garden and beach suites. Snorkelling is a heady enough delight but scuba diving is a real treat in this "Coral Triangle", which is home to more than 600 species of coral.

Doe-eyed lionfish in the Anambas are an easy and pretty target for the underwater photography enthusiast. 

See-through bottom kayaks can be arranged if you don't want to get your feet wet, and you can also paddle to a secluded beach or a real-life bat cave, filled with large colonies of Batman's friends.

If inner peace rather than cave-exploring is your goal, engage in meditation and yoga with the resort's wellness manager Adeline Blachére, who also happens to be the wife of executive general manager Thomas Blachére. Mrs Blachére, a pilates teacher and reiki practitioner, also heads Aura, the in-house spa, where you can book in for facials and massages.

With so much nature at stake, Bawah is naturally committed to conservation. The man in charge of it is Marcellinus Jerry Winata, the head of Bawah Anambas Foundation (BAF), which is dedicated to improving the environment, ecosystem and lives of people in the area.

At dinner one evening, he shares how BAF works with the villagers who live in Telaga, the nearest inhabited island, helping them to clear and plough their land. They also teach them organic and sustainable farming practices. To support them, Bawah Reserve buys their produce at market price to supply its three food and beverage outlets - Grouper Bar, Treetops restaurant and Boat House bar.

The resort grows its own produce as well. Permaculturist Jonathan Semo and his team have set themselves the goal of growing 80 per cent of Bawah's vegetables, and 60 per cent of its fruit. Even wastewater is treated and used in the gardens.

Bawah island has a zero plastic bottle policy, a philosophy which is shared by the resort's owners including Singapore-based Tim Hartnoll (the biggest shareholder among five). His determination to keep the carbon footprint low meant that it took their architect Sim Boon Yang of Singapore firm Eco-id six years to complete the resort, which opened in 2017.

Mr Sim's signature style of marrying nature with luxury is given full play here. He brings the ocean into Treetops restaurant through the jellyfish-like chandeliers fashioned out of wicker, with discs of mother-of-pearl trailing after them. It provides a whimsical charm that blends naturally into Mother Nature's own architecture around the resort.

Feast on seafood fresh off the boat, grilled and served in an umami broth. 

The cuisine is excellent. Green salads come straight from the garden - crisp, sweet and served with lightly grilled prawns caught from surrounding waters. Bubur ayam - Indonesian chicken congee - boasts an extra-thick broth laced with coconut milk, while resort favourites like panna cotta are perfumed with pandan or ginger.

Relax in a copper bath while being serenaded by the sounds of lapping waves. 

When you're done with the hiking, diving, yoga and the spa, there's one thing left to do - absolutely nothing. Just veg out in your overwater bungalow and admire its structure of recycled teak, bamboo and other natural woods in a soothing palette of neutrals accentuated with robin egg blue.

You can believe Mr Blachére when he says: "Bawah is the kind of place where people disconnect, in order to connect with themselves again".

As you luxuriate in your recycled copper bath and listen to the sea gently nudging the wooden stilts below, you're filled with an overwhelming sense of peace, grateful for the knowledge that while you may be alone, you are far from lonely.

 

A version of this story was first published on The Business Times. Click here to read.