These Islands | Bawah Reserve



I must say that I was very attached to these islands. I hadn’t been to before. Of course, I had assumptions- mosquito nets, slippers, massage, yoga, rocking chairs, kayaks, coconut cocktail. All of the above can be found at Bawah Reserve. The keyword being can. The real range of all things can only be seen on site. 


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“The Voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes”
— Marcel Proust



To be a traveler is to wander with both peculiarity and earnest wonder. 


The curtain flutters lightly, a mild rustling of the sea wakes me up, the open book lies next to me. I see the world through the lens of a mosquito net. The sun shows itself gently, the ocean in front of me gently caresses the shore. I leave the Jule Verne Bar behind me, in front of me, a small path opens up and rises to 150 meters altitude, the gate to an enchanted forest. The climb is worthwhile, palm leaves are wrapped in a blanket of fog, there is a mysterious rustle sound in the undergrowth. A lizard crosses the path. The sun struggles through the scrub. On the other side of the island, I find my goal and reward: the power of vastness, 


I climb downhill, the damp sand under my feet carries me up to a ledge on which a plateau blends into the rocks. Time for my wellbeing. Time to loosen my mind and feel the sensation of coffee and oils on my skin. Pure joy, inner peace. A boat comes, it berths and I board it. 


How can I understand this place better? My gaze wanders to the resort’s logo: co- ral. Sometimes there is this fleeting moment that, before it dissolves, it leaves its distinctive mark. Less than 200 meters from the island, I plunge into the water and understand the real beauty, magnificent coral reefs with innumerable shades of color open up my view on things and I understand this place. 



I turn right to dinner, the path offers me a pleasing crunch underfoot. Suites branching off to the right. The many routes transform into a simple wooden walkway that leads to clutch the overwater suites. I find myself at the Boat House a venue constructed entirely of driftwood, which offers an astonishing view towards Sanggah Island and Muerba. Time to eat green. The permaculture gardens produce fruit and vegetables used in the kitchen, straight away onto my plate a superb locally driven cuisine. 



At night. I would look out over the immense sea of reflections. My thoughts hang like a cloud over this island. She is ready to give tremendously, are we ready to give back? Maybe that’s the greatest treasure I can take home. 



“Anything one man can imagine, other men can make real” — Jules Verne. 


The name Bawah refers to the position at the bottom of the Anambas Islands archipelago. The Anambas are located between peninsular Malaysia to the west and the island Borneo to the east and comprise approximately 250 islands with less than 50.000 inhabitants, and only about 10 percent of the island is inhabited. The Anambas has been slow to develop the touristy sector, most of its population getting by through fishing and limited agriculture. 

The main island, Bawah Island, is home to the Bawah Reserve and is a lush green, mountainous island that exudes its pristine charm on every inch. The crystal clear water and the untouched coral reefs embrace the archipelago, consists of 6 islands, no more than 100 meters apart. 

The question might be: How do you sustain the soul of a place? Tim Hartnoll, the owner of Bawah Reserve, invested six years to create a resort with existing materials that only use local resources such as bamboo or recycled teak, recycled copper which was built exclusively by hand without the use of machines. Particularly impressive, local hand workers only break up granite by fire to create the appropriate base for bungalows and suites. Today the conscious traveler is spoiled with a choice of one of the 35 domiciles: garden suite, beach suite, overwater suite or beach villa. 

But sustainable development is of course not enough to maintain nativeness. Rather, since the beginning of the project, the idea has been to focus on the conservation and protection of this area. Thus, the independent “Bawah Anambas Foundation” was created to protect and expand the biodiversity in the Anambas Islands. 


The foundation implemented a series of programs to address the key development challenges within forest conservation. To name a few: the reforestation of the Anambas with indigenous endangered species, the marine conservation to protect and rehabilitate the coral reef and turtle population, and finally a community development program that provides alternative livelihood through organic farming and empowerment of women’s groups. 

And what about your part? Of course, it’s all about the art of being kind to ourselves. To find something special means to seek for it. Eat well, sleep enough, exercise,  all of that you can find here. But put it on stage and rethink it: isn’t there something more you could do? Yes. You can give something back. Coral tree deployment, organic farming, cooking with a women’s group. Or you just go for one of the adoption programs to adopt a branch of coral nursery or release a sea turtle. 


This article was featured in Luxiders Magazine Issue 4. To buy the Magazine, click here.


+ Words and Photos:  Jens Wittwer