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This private island reserve is the perfect getaway from the bustle of city life.
It’s hard to believe that paradise lies just two hours away from the small Indonesian island of Batam. But that’s just what global baker Dean Brettschneider discovered on his recent trip to Bawah Reserve, a private island reserve where the skies are electric blue, the food is sunny and delicious, and the rainforests offer a cool respite from beaming sunrays.
To be sure, the collection of six islands, three lagoons and 13 white beaches were first discovered by Singapore-based financier Tim Hartnoll, who has turned the area into a beautiful hideaway. Hartnoll has also set some bar-raising sustainable practices in place. For instance, no dynamite fishing is allowed in this area, and the villas are built from recycled teak and bamboo.
Dean, who was at Bawah Reserve to share his knowledge on bread-making with the resort’s passionate kitchen team, shares more about his experience.
Your adventure begins with a private car arriving at your doorstep to take you to the ferry terminal. From there, it’s a short, escorted ride over to Batam airport where you go through a private immigration line, then get on a sea plane that takes you to Bawah Reserve in under two hours.
The door-to-door journey comes up just over four hours, but it’s worth it when your plane glides over the vast waters that glitter in various shades of turquoise. Upon touchdown, your bags are immediately whisked away and your personal host is ready and waiting to shake your hand. This is the person who will be making sure you feel at the top of the world.
Bawah Reserve is impressive from the get-go. While most beach getaways from Singapore are rambunctious family affairs with all-day dining buffets, there’s a sort of quiet calm about this place. Kids over five years of age are more than welcome, but you get the sense that this is more a place for couples or solo adventurers.
SUN, SAND AND SEA
Across this sprawling piece of land with over 35 villas, you get your choice of either an over-water bungalow or a tented beach suite closer to the earthy jungle soils. The canopied beds are plush and lined with crisp, pressed sheets. By the side, the staff thoughtfully provides your own set of flippers and snorkel mask, so it’s easy to get suited up and slip into the waters for a roam-about.
Feeling a spot of fatigue after the flight? Book yourself in for a massage or facial at Aura Spa. Of all resort stays, Bawah Reserve tops the list with their ultimate all-inclusive spa experience, which really means you get to enjoy facials, wraps, scrubs, massages, and even yoga sessions. Try the Prana Vital Energy, a rejuvenating full-body oil massage that kneads away the tensions in your body. Spa treatments are limited to one per person each day, and you can choose to have your treatment in-suite, or at the spa overlooking a wonderful view.
The waters here are crystal clear, and a welcome reprieve from the hot sun. Go for a fun snorkel or dive deep with a certified dive master from Ocra Nation, and swim alongside plenty of tropical fish. Rare finds include the large-sized Bump-Head Parrotfish with its distinctive bulbous forehead and beak-like jaws. Though nearly half the size of your body length, these gentle giants are docile creatures who can swim near you without a care in the world.
There’s also the option to kayak, or take a sunset cruise and pack a picnic with you. Come back just in time for movie nights, an open-air experience where you relax on cabana-style chairs, plug in with provided headphones, and take in classics like Grand Hotel playing on the makeshift screen with gentle waves in the background.
“Diving in Bawah also offers an interesting first hard look at all the destruction that previously happened under water,” says Dean. Bawah Reserve’s focus on conservation and their fierce protection of the coral reef is a key reason why the area is slowly, but surely, regaining its under-water beauty.
“It’s sobering, but also a good reminder that not everything is as wonderful as we like to see it as. We all need to play a part in being environmentally conscious.”
EAT AND BE MERRY
At Bawah Reserve, free-flow of food (you only pay for alcohol here) is spread across four restaurants so you never have to feel bored. For a light meal post-snorkelling, head to the Boat House for poke bowls and fresh fruit juices. And if you’re catching the sunset, Jules Verne Bar is the perfect spot to sip on fruity cocktails while seeing the sky turn different shades of blazing coral. Twice a week, the kitchen puts together an amazing beach barbecue where you get to try little tasting portions of fresh salads and grilled meats. Sink your teeth into slices of juicy, medium-rare beef, or perfectly-seasoned seafood like fish, shrimp, and crabs. There’s also Treetops if you’re in the mood for a fine-dining meal, with candlelight and a selection of Indonesian specialties like beef rendang, nasi lemak, and grilled skewers of meat. Tip: Break into the fluffy white rolls served at the start of your meal, a little taste of Baker & Cook’s know-how passed on from Dean to the kitchen team.
Bawah Reserve villas start from USD1,870 ++ per night. This includes the pick-up from Singapore and flights for door-to-door transportation. For more information and to book, head to www. bawahreserve.com
Follow Bawah Reserve on Instagram @ bawahreserve