In an age where we are expected to be connected all the time, sometimes adulting can get too overwhelming and a digital detox is truly needed. Trust us when we say this, there is no better wellness retreat than one in nature, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Specifically, an island within the Anambas Archipelago — located in the southern part of the South China Sea.
Enter: Bawah Island (locally known as Pulau Bawah), a marine conservation area spread across a group of five pristine islands — and the subject of our affections for the past week since we got back from our much-needed retreat.
Previously uninhabited, Bawah is set to be an off-the-beaten-path destination only a privileged few will ever get to experience — especially with the launch of its super-exclusive resort. The island is a private oasis set amongst breathtaking scenery, allowing no more than 70 guests on the island at any one time. The luxurious eco-resort, just three hours from Singapore, is a destination in itself — with everything nature has to offer right at your doorstep.
Accommodation on the island comes in the form of 35 gorgeous eco-designed villas by Sim Boon Yang of Singapore-based multidisciplinary firm Eco-id — consisting of 21 Beach Suites that offer breathtaking sea views, 11 Over Water Bungalows (perfect for sunrise watching), and 3 Garden Suites.
We stayed in the Beach Suite, an ultra-luxurious safari tented villa which features a beautifully appointed bedroom, spacious bathroom (complete with double sinks), and a relaxing outdoor patio with incredible views across the lagoon. If that has already convinced you to start packing your beach bags, more surprises await you. Instead of being numbered, the villas are named after each guest — which we felt added a very personal touch to our stay.
What do you eat on a private island, you might be wondering. Only the most delectable meals prepared by a chef who has worked at various Michelin-starred restaurants around the globe. Bawah Island brings in Omar Bernardi, former Chef de Cuisine of Dolce Vita at Mandarin Oriental, to helm its kitchen at the island’s only restaurant.
Bernardi will whip up bespoke Asian-fusion cuisine with locally-grown ingredients alongside a curated drinks menu to showcase authentic flavours. No one meal is the same. The restaurant, called The Tree Top, boasts a lower deck which boasts sweeping views of the lagoon, perfect for diners to relax.
Bawah Island is also home to three bars, the Grouper Bar, Jules Verne Bar, and Boat House Bar — where guests can kick back and unwind with popular or bespoke cocktails. These uniquely-themed bars are situated at different zones on Bawah — with the Grouper Bar (located right after the jetty) slated to be the most popular. Each bar offers all-encompassing views of the turquoise lagoon and the surrounding islands.
Living in the city, one is subjected to many daily stressors — even during days off work. This is the reason why Bawah Island encourages all guests (who they call explorers) to leave their troubles at the door and be kids again. Your playground? Bawah’s five islands, inclusive of their three lagoons and thirteen beaches.
While the Anambas archipelago has long been a diver’s best-kept secret, Bawah stands out among all the other islands as a favourite dive destination — boasting some of the world’s most beautiful coral reefs teeming with colourful marine life. It is a no-brainer, then, that snorkelling and diving should definitely be on every guest’s to-do list.
Alternatively, you can take the kayaks out and explore the surrounding islands — Sanggah, Murbah, Lidi and Elang. We did exactly that one evening and was left in awe of the serenity of the crystal clear lagoons and mangroves surrounding them. In the spirit of being explorers, we stopped by a few remote beaches and came upon a few surprises — such as an empty turtle nest with hatchling (baby turtle) tracks on the sand leading out to sea.
And while Bawah’s iconic turquoise lagoons have attracted travellers from all over the world to this tropical island, its lush forests (that has never been cut or burnt) is another hidden gem waiting to be discovered. Led by our helpful and knowledgeable guide, Fauzi, we trekked beneath the towering canopies — stopping every few minutes to look at the butterflies fluttering past, or unique amphibians that cross our path. Fauzi led us to a few vantage points boasting all-encompassing views of the surrounding islands — which were definitely worth the challenging hike.
Wellness retreat in nature
After a day enjoying all mother nature has to offer, you can choose to lounge and relax at the beach-facing infinity pool — or rejuvenate yourself at the resort’s holistic wellness centre, Aura. The wellness centre is home to a spa and yoga pavilion — and offers personalised yoga, pilates, meditation and reiki sessions from sunrise to sunset. Aura’s mind and body programmes are designed to enlighten the senses, so you’ll be rejuvenated after a tiring day of water activities and exploring the forests of Bawah.
An untouched paradise less than three hours away from the hustle and bustle of Singapore, Bawah Island is the kind of destination that stays with you long after you leave. With its proximity to Singapore, the island is perfect for a weekend getaway. Although we can promise you, you’ll definitely want to stay longer.
If you’re flying into Singapore, Bawah Island’s staff will greet you at Singapore Changi Airport before arranging for your 50-minute ferry to Batam Island in Indonesia. You’ll then board a 70-minute seaplane to paradise — sorry, we meant Bawah.
Slated to open on 31 July 2017, the Bawah Island experience can now be booked from S$2,718 for two people per night. Prices are inclusive of round-trip transfers from Singapore via Batam (car, ferry and 75-minute seaplane), daily laundry service, non-motorised water sports such as kayaking, sailing, paddle-boarding, snorkelling, and boat trips around the lagoon, as well as wellness activities such as the spa, yoga, pilates, meditation, and reiki sessions.