In Indonesia, six islets and three lagoons — a nature reserve — are looking to make themselves self-sufficient in the production of energy, water, and food
2˚30 ‘north latitude and 106˚03 ’east longitude, in the middle of the South China Sea. Tim Hartnoll, a British entrepreneur who grew up in Southeast Asia and is passionate about scuba diving, visited the Indonesian archipelago of the Anambas Islands a decade ago. Bawah Reserve is a group of six islets and three lagoons located about three hundred kilometers northeast of Singapore.
A driver picks us up at seven in the morning to take us to the Singapore maritime station. The ferry connects us to the Indonesian island of Batam, where once completed the entry procedures in the country — for which we benefit from reserved access according to the resort’s agreements — we are transferred to the island’s airport. Bawah Reserve is in Indonesian territory — customs formalities of an hour and a half cannot be avoided.
After checking the luggage, we are offered a coffee and a welcome cake. We are boarded on a ten seater seaplane that takes us to our destination in seventy-five minutes. Below us only the blue of the open sea, in front of a coastal basin. A turn and we land in the lagoon of the main island of Bawah Reserve, an eco-resort, opened in 2018, consisting of thirty-five bungalows in the nature reserve. Walking along the jetty we see blue corals and underwater life.
Activity on the island is contact with nature — a picnic on uninhabited islets. Explore the lagoons on canoes or walk in the forest inhabited by colorful butterflies and birds of unknown species. Wait for the sunset as you sail aboard small dinghies. No phones — they only work in rooms and three restaurants.
During one of the lunches by the sea — a dish of nasi goreng, fried rice – we meet Tim Hartnoll, an English entrepreneur who settled in Singapore. The design of Bawah Reserve began in 2012 when Hartnoll signed a rental contract for the entire archipelago with the intention of building a resort dedicated to environmental conservation.
The project was commissioned to Sim Boon Yang, an architect from Singapore, whose goal was to design a hotel in line with the criteria of sustainable development, respecting the natural context that would surround it. All facilities — from bungalows to restaurants — have been entirely built using recycled wood and bamboo harvested on Java plantations.
Electricity is produced by photovoltaic panels. The island has a rainwater collection system and a reverse osmosis treatment system for sea water, which desalinate water using multistage filtration technology. The combination of these technologies allows Bawah Reserve to be independent from a water point of view and to use the water obtained to irrigate some areas where vegetables and fruits are grown, used in dishes.
Cauliflower, spinach, potatoes, melons, pineapples, citronella and mint grow within the garden developed according to the principles of permaculture (a method to design and manage anthropized landscapes so that they are able to satisfy the needs of the population and maintain resilience, the richness, and stability of natural ecosystems, ed.). The goal is to make Bawah Reserve at least 60% self-sufficient.
To protect the development of both marine and terrestrial ecosystems, the island has been named a nature reserve becoming a conservation area where fishing, anchoring and collecting any form of marine life are prohibited.
Text Agnieszka Faferek
Pulau Bawah, Siantan Sel
Kabupaten Kepulauan Anambas, Kepulauan Riau