Bawah Reserve hotel review, Indonesia: Rustic chic on a private island

Our rating

4.5 out of 5


Ever loved a holiday spot so much that you dreamed of buying it? Tim Hartnoll knows the feeling. The Singapore-based entrepreneur was on holiday when he discovered a picturesque cluster of six islands in Indonesia's remote Anambas archipelago; not long afterwards, he bought the islands and developed this eco-friendly luxury hideaway where guests can laze on one of 13 beaches or go on hikes through the verdant jungle.


The best way to access Bawah is via Singapore; you will need to stay overnight there for the 7am pick-up (we stayed at Swissotel The Stamford). The trip to Bawah involves a ferry ride to Batam, where you cross into Indonesia, followed by a seaplane transfer to the island. Bawah staff accompany you the entire way.


Guests at Bawah can choose between garden suites, beach suites and over-water bungalows. The feel is rustic chic; the buildings, constructed from sustainably-sourced bamboo, are largely hidden amid the trees. At the heart of the solar-powered resort is the Grouper bar; follow the stone staircase to reach the airy Treetops restaurant, which serves three meals a day, as well as the Jules Verne Bar. Lunch is also available at the Boat House, which hosts special events such as grill night and outdoor cinema screenings. The resort also has a yoga pavilion, a gorgeous spa and a croquet lawn. Still under construction are a gym and a new waterfront yoga pavilion, as well as family villas on one of the neighbouring islands.


Bawah's whole ethos is about simplicity. This is reflected in the design of our tented beachfront suite, with floors of recycled teak and walls that can be rolled up to expose you to the elements (although there is airconditioning for those who prefer it). The large bathroom features a copper tub as well as a shower, but the best feature is the spacious deck where we spend a lot of our time. The beach is just a few steps away, and Wi-Fi is available in the room (but not elsewhere in the resort).


Brekky fans will love Treetops' elaborate breakfast sets. The Spa Breakfast Set, for example, includes poached egg and avo toast, quinoa salad, granola, coconut and chia seed pudding, scrambled tofu and yoghurt, among other things. Other options include a more traditional breakfast set with eggs, bacon and sausage, and an Indonesian breakfast set. You can also mix and match any of these elements or order from the a la carte menu. The lunch and dinner menus are equally diverse, ranging from black cod with cashew nuts, green pesto and aioli potatoes to cheese dumplings with tomato sauce.


You can quickly find yourself very busy doing nothing at Bawah. By the time we have slotted a (complimentary) spa treatment and a snorkel into our daily program, we find the rest of our time is eaten up just chilling out. Regularly scheduled activities include sunset boat trips and mindful art classes. However, Bawah is very much a get-away-from-it-all destination, with a vibe that encourages you to slow down and zone out.


When you need some time out, Bawah offers the perfect hideaway.


Beach suites from $US1980 a room twin share, including all meals and non-alcoholic beverages, a daily spa treatment, laundry and Wi-Fi. Return transfers from Singapore are $US700. See


The generous inclusions, such as daily spa treatments, yoga classes and laundry.



The seaplane to Bawah has a 15-kilogram luggage limit.

Ute Junker was a guest of Bawah Island Reserve and Swissotel The Stamford.