Bawah offers barefoot luxury for a maximum of just 70 guests, with an expert, perfectly trained team that’s ready to satisfy your every whim. In fact, we’re going to call it out upfront – besides the magic of the surroundings and the castaway luxury of being here, the thing that brings Bawah to life is its super-friendly, enthusiastic ‘can’t do enough for you’ family of imported islanders.
Arriving in Bawah, Indonesia is like coming home to family – and not in a ‘hotel school’ kind of way, but absolutely authentically. Within a matter of minutes, we knew everybody by name and vice versa; we were having a laugh and talking about how we were going to spend the next few days together.
Accommodation at the reserve consists of tented camps and overwater villas made out of Javanese bamboo, in harmony with nature and the surrounding forests and designed to bring the outside in and the inside out, complete with a bathroom and terrace exposed to the elements. The tented camps are far more luxurious than glamping, so don’t get us wrong – but if you’re looking for a more solid structure, the overwater villas are available at a premium. In our humble opinion, though, to stay in a tented beach suite is to experience Bawah properly, especially since ours provided direct access to a private stretch of sand that invited us to run freely into the perfectly clear sea.
There are also fabulous culinary adventures to be had, with three meals a day included – whether in the amazing and aptly named Treetops restaurant, where we dined on multi-course gastronomy, both local and international, and watched dramatic thunderstorms over the sea, or at the idyllic beachfront Boat House, where we grazed on long satay-and-spring roll lunches and belly-busting BBQ dinners while gazing at the most perfect view of a sandspit leading out to a nearby island, the gentle lapping of waves as the soundtrack. When we craved some privacy, we ate in the comforts of our own villa, but we only did it once, as it was so lovely being an islander. Meals are generally quite relaxed affairs, with thoughtful and creative fare, always fresh and delicious and tailored to guests’ tastes. We knew we weren’t going to find five-star-hotel palatial buffet breakfasts or award-studded Michelin cuisine on the island, but there was something mouthwateringly charming about the food.
Take a kayaking expedition and picnic to one of the nearby islands in the archipelago on/in an ‘invisible’ canoe, a see-through fibre-glass boat that will let you see all the sealife and coral around you in the crystal clear water under the boat. It’s magical.