Welcome to the Turquoise Travel Diaries, a collection of interviews, stories, and excerpts from our fabulous team, as they travel around the world. Here at Turquoise, we pride ourselves on unrivalled knowledge of the destinations in which we specialise, so that we can provide honest, expert advice to all our guests and fellow travellers. This week, Asia specialist Antony has returned from the remote Bawah Reserve and shares his moments and memories from his time on this lush island getaway…
Upon my return from Bawah Reserve, an island in Indonesia’s Anambas archipelago, the most common question I was asked was “What was your favourite part?”, to which I’d respond truthfully with “All of it!” The whole experience was so magical, I couldn’t possibly pick one highlight that outweighed the others. But now I’m back at my desk, I’ve had time to reflect on my time at Bawah – mostly when I’m staring out of my office window wishing I was back there – and I’ve realised that I did have a favourite part: the arrival.
The journey to Bawah is worth the effort! It’s only accessible from Singapore where you catch a one-hour ferry to Batam, a small island in Indonesia’s Riau archipelago. Then, from there, it’s a seaplane to paradise.
I’ve been very lucky to travel on my fair share of seaplanes in the Maldives before, so I thought I knew what to expect, but this journey was completely different. You don’t fly at a particularly high altitude in the Maldives as the journeys are so short, so their benefit is having a bird’s-eye view of the atolls and the resorts. As the flight to Bawah is 80 minutes, you fly above the clouds, which adds to the theatre of the big reveal upon arrival.
My top tip is to sit on the left-hand side of the plane, as these seats have the best views of Bawah Reserve. The pilot will give you a 10-minute landing notice, so make sure your camera is at the ready as the plane will do a spectacular 360-degree tour of the islands. The real journey starts when you arrive! This was the most unforgettable experience and the highlight of my stay. The memory of this arrival will stay with me for a very, very long time.
The main island is where all the guest accommodation is located, all made up of spacious tented-safari and overwater suites. The land suites are made up of Garden and Beach Suites. In my opinion, you don’t travel all that way to look out over foliage, so I’d always recommend paying the extra for the beach suite – you’ll thank me when you’re there!
The overwater suites are equally impressive as the beach ones. I don’t think I have a preference, but having steps down to the pristine shallows from your luxury suite is definitely one for the bucket list!
Bawah is home to some of the most inviting and clearest turquoise waters I’ve ever seen. The only thing I can compare them to is those found on the shores of the Maldives. Though the waters may echo the Maldives, the abundant jungle that blankets each island reminds you you’re in Asia – despite the fact you may feel like you’re in another world. These assets make Bawah the perfect hideaway for the inner explorer in you.
There are plenty of activities for filling your holiday with, ranging from sunset cruises and sunrise treks to island-hopping, stargazing and private island picnics. Every detail is taken care of and is of no extra cost. All of these experiences are included in your room rate – all you need to do is enjoy!
Sustainability is the way forward at Bawah and you would hope so on an island that is miles and miles away from anywhere! There is a zero-plastic policy on the island, they distil their own water so even the tap water is drinkable and their permaculture gardens produce fruit and vegetables that end up beautifully plated up for you in their restaurants.
They have four dining options, including toes-in-the-sand alfresco dining at their chilled-out beach bar Boat House and fine dining with a view at Treetops, which is set under a jungle canopy overlooking the horizon – perfect at sunset.
Though Treetops may seem to be the perfect place to enjoy the sunsets, for me Jules Verne bar is the place to be to watch the sun paint the sky crimson and enjoy some sundowners. The bar rests above the trees and overlooks the ocean – never have I felt so relaxed and have a sense of place. This is the perfect place to end the perfect day.
When I left Bawah, the team asked me how my stay was and I was lost for words. I still am. Maybe I left them behind with a little bit of my heart as well. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to find the right adjective to describe my experience at Bawah. I suppose the only way you’ll ever be able to relate is if you go yourself. Nature’s playground is waiting to be explored.