72 hours at Bawah Reserve

6 islands, 3 lagoons, 13 beaches.

Say hello to #ThatBawahLife in Indonesia’s tropical and secluded Anambas Archipelago; just 300km northeast of Singapore.

For those of you who haven’t come across Bawah Reserve yet (or discovered its highly addictive Instagram), the resort officially opened in late 2018, and since then a plethora of media from Conde Nast Traveler to CNN have noted it as “one of the best paradise islands in Asia” – all thanks to its clear turquoise waters and coral reefs.

Me: You’re a quite natural at this Instagram BF thing. Him: Does that mean I’ll be invited back…

How I ended up in Bawah: Part of the job Perks of the job!! Whilst I rarely get to check out new properties that often anymore, when Bawah came on the radar, I made a mental note that this was one visit I needed to do personally.

However given the romance factor is 10/10 at Bawah, it certainly wasn’t a trip I was going to do with one of my girlfriends, so it took me a little while to finally go. Lucky for me, the stars (eventually) aligned and I finally found that someone to go to this very special place with!

Getting there:

Stay overnight in Singapore and get picked up the next morning by limo at 7 AM. From there, catch a 30-minute ferry from Singapore. After that, hop onto the Bawah seaplane for an hour-long flight. Look out for the charming American pilot who likes to fly in his slippers… true island style!

Limo -> Ferry -> Seaplane and voila – door-to-door in 4 hours.

The seaplane: This was my very first time on a seaplane, so, that was exciting in itself (though I did do a Hail Mary before lift off! #catholic). The plane fits 9 passengers and was cosy. We loved that the flight came with all sorts of little gifts too, such as your own copper plated water bottle in lieu of the typical plastic water bottles. Say “no” to plastic!

Arrive in style at Bawah Reserve – on the water!

The arrival: Get your phone ready because the landing into Bawah is spectacular! And it is really something else to land on the water – I might add it’s somewhat smoother than your typical flight! Upon arrival, we were greeted by the General Manager and the team. We then met our host, Agus, who took us for a little tour of the resort in his buggy.

The staff:

Bawah makes a point to hire locally from nearby islands and villages, and I have to say one of the resort’s key plus points is its staff. Unlike at some high-end resorts, the staff were very down to earth and genuinely warm – nothing was ever too much trouble.

Where to stay:

Beach Villa: The luxury tented beach villas provide a glamping experience that’s located right on the beach. Shrouded by flora on each side, they are rather private even though they are located in the centre of the resort.

The lovely overwater bungalows. Picture courtesy of Bawah Reserve.

Overwater bungalow: While they are the most expensive of the room types (naturally!), the overwater bungalows are stunning. Ours was located on the East Side of the resort, looking over the lagoon and a small island in the distance. We spent our mornings having breakfast on the balcony and then popping down our roped stairwell for a dip in the water. The BF (Jack) particularly liked the old school copper bath where he could relax and read his book (he is British…).

Tip: We preferred the east side of the island for the overwater bungalows. Though slightly windier as it is located next to the ocean, it is somewhat more private as the west side is where the restaurant is located and little boats are docked.

Activities

Wooden paddleboards – much easier to stand up on!

Besides the island itself, one thing I loved about Bawah is that there no shortage of things to do. From the beach cinema to star gazing to watersports – there’s something for everyone.

Crystal clear kayak? Yes, please!

Watersports: Paddleboarding, kayaking, sailing, snorkelling; there’s an array of things to do in the water! I particularly loved the see-through kayaks (perfect for an Instagram pic) and wooden paddleboards.

Hiking: A remarkable thing about Bawah – which distinguishes it from other destinations such as the Maldives – is that besides its white sandy beaches, it is also home to beautiful untouched rainforest. While we didn’t have the time, there are hiking trails you can take to view the resort from a high vantage point.

Our itinerary:

Upon arrival, the guest experience manager will sit you down to curate a personalised program. For us she created something special for Day 2 (although she later told us we were on the ‘honeymoon itinerary’ – guess we’ve ticked that one off the list ha! #pumpthebreaks).

Jack and I en route to our ‘surprise experience’…

A surprise experience (warning spoilers ahead..!):

“Please, Stephanie can you get on the boat for your next activity.”
“Ok great, what is it?”
“It’s a surprise!”

10 minutes later and our boat drops us off to a nearby island, where we find a hidden sala amongst the trees with two masseuses on standby – ready to give us a 90 min massage!

I know it’s not much of a surprise now, but seriously do request this experience (at least you can surprise your other half!).

 

With the BF down with man flu, staff member Halim came to the rescue!

Private picnic for two on (another) secluded beach: After our massage, it was time to head back to our boat and off to a private picnic (I tell you our Honeymoon schedule was jam-packed).

Unfortunately, halfway through the boat ride back, my other half starts to feel very ill. Having pretty much come straight from a ski trip in the States which saw him embark on 3 connecting flights (including 17 hours on United… which explains the illness ha). The heat (or is it all the private excursions?!) becomes a little too much, and we promptly send him back to the bungalow with a bout of post-snow-sunstroke.

But no problemo… at Bawah there’s nothing the team can’t solve!

Our host, Agus and his assistant Halim kindly volunteer to take his place – the picnic must go ahead! Thus the three of us set off again on our little boat.

Forty photos (clearly, I’m not a natural influencer), some tea and crumpets later – and I have to say Agus and Halim may have out-Instagram boyfriended my real boyfriend!

Sunset cruise around the islands: No rest for the wicked as this faux honeymoon is not over yet! After the picnic, I return to our bungalow to find Jack has somewhat recovered (or perhaps he is worried about the local competition lol). Back on form, we get ready for a sunset cruise around the harbour. With champagne and plenty of delicacies onboard, we set sail for an hour-long trip.

Because Bawah has done such an excellent job in preserving the natural surroundings, there’s so much nature to see. Not only are there colourful fish swimming around but we spot a large turtle passing by!

All about #ThatPrivateTime! Dinner for two.

Private dinner for two on the beach: By now, I have come to the realisation that honeymoon itineraries are all about private this and private that..! As we return to the jetty, the sun has set, and the sky darkened, revealing an array of stars. The jetty is a signature part of the resort, with its curve like design a prominent feature. With candles illuminating the jetty path, we are taken to a private dinner on the beach where the chef has created a special menu for us. It really was something else to dine under the stars (you will literally see so many stars – which makes me wonder why I can’t see anything in Singapore?!) and while my partner poured over the wine list I had to wonder – could my real honeymoon surpass this? Ha!

Bon voyage…

Short and sweet – but we’ll be back!

Tip: Spend at least 3-4 nights at Bawah because there were many other activities we didn’t experience, such as hiking, diving and snorkelling. For those who are looking at a week stay, there are other excursions such as boating to other islands an hour away. There is also the local village on the other side of the island where the staff stay, which would be a fantastic opportunity to have a glimpse into Indonesian village life (and apparently have a game of volleyball with them!). Or simply let the days roll by with a good book and a glass of wine.

Thinking of going? Get in touch with one of our Trip Curators by clicking here.

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Stephanie Chai

As someone who would find any excuse to jump on a plane, this Chief Nomad turned her love for travel into a business. Having launched TheLuxeNomad.com late July 2012, Stephanie and her team are set on building it to be Asia-Pacific's #1 luxury villa booking and management company. Other than that, in her spare time she has a penchant for dancing on her coffee table whilst her two cats watch on in bemusement, wondering when they will next be fed.

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