Bawah Reserve isn’t the easiest to get to, as I discovered when I traveled there through Singapore, on a ferry To Batam, Indonesia and then an 80 minute flight on the Reserve’s seaplane. But that out of the way journey is the point. Once there, you’re in the middle of a six-island archipelago in Indonesia’s remote Anambas Islands in the South China Sea, surrounded by turquoise water, coral reefs and not much else. I didn’t think it could be more private. But now with the opening on November 1st of Elang Private Residence, the six-lodge private island off the Reserve’s main island, it is.
Originally envisioned as the owner’s residence on a previously uninhabited island, the lodges were transformed during the two-and-a-half-year pandemic closure by Singapore designer Sim Boon Yang using repurposed natural materials and local fabrics in a stylish, but not jarringly stylish, scheme. Self-contained with a two-story clubhouse/restaurant/bar, a spa, private beach, activities lawn, butlers for each lodge and a saltwater infinity pool refreshed by the waves, it’s available for an exclusive takeover. The maximum occupancy is 20 in the six cliffside lodges, five of which are one bedroom, and one is two bedroom.
Since Elang is only a three-minute launch away from the main island, if private becomes too private and guests want to take advantage of the main resort’s facilities, it’s easy to do. The reserve overall has 13 beaches and three lagoons so finding a stretch of beach or a coral reef without any other explorers is exceedingly possible. The 247 acres of forest also provide plenty of space for hiking undisturbed. Dining facilities include three restaurants offering a variety of settings from up in the trees to beachfront and dishes that range from local fish poached in coconut broth, slow cooked beef rendang and prawn and avocado Poké bowls to wood fired pizza.
Bawah overall also went through some enhancements during the closure, reopening on September 1st. Two new accommodations were created for families or friends who want to travel together but don’t need the amount of space that Elang provides. The two-bedroom Infinity Pool Villa comprises two stand-alone beach suites connected with a spacious alfresco lounge and dining area. The two suites share a private infinity pool and direct access to the lagoon for snorkeling, paddle-boarding, kayaking, sailing, diving or just splashing in the waves. Two garden suites have also been combined as a two-bedroom Garden Pool Villa with a shared lounge and dining area surrounded by the jungle. Those who prefer Polynesian-style overwater villas have 11 of those lodges here each with a fresh redesign comprised of new furnishings, layout, and art. The uninterrupted ocean views, however, remain the same.
That, of course, is the main positive of Bawah, particularly for anyone who cares about sustainability and conservation: the owners are devoted to maintaining this protected marine reserve including installing a new floating solar farm that supplies all power. Other measures in place since the reserve’s opening include the banning of plastic, the offering of reef friendly products to guests, the employment of marine biologists to care for the coral and the banning of fishing around the islands. Anyone who visits now as they did before the pandemic will find the same pristine place they saw before, something very few places can guarantee.