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A review of Indonesia’s Bawah Reserve hotel in the South China Sea

Rain hammers down on the tin roof and the tiny ten-seater seaplane rocks from side to side. ‘You’ve chosen a good day to fly with us,’ the barefoot pilot says with a smile.

The sky is black as we take off along the sodden runway, and lightning strikes the second the plane lifts off the ground.

For more than an hour, we see little but the blue of the South China Sea until, out of nowhere, six jungle-covered islands rising out of a twinkling lagoon loom into sight. The seaplane circles them, creamy in the afternoon sunlight, before landing on the reef-specked water.

Happy days: Indonesia’s Bawah island, which features 36 villas perched on stilts above the ocean, snuggled in the forest or hugging the beach

The view from one of Bawah Reserves’ villas, out over the clear waters of the South China Sea

Bawah Reserve, a remote atoll in Indonesia’s Riau Archipelago between Borneo and Malaysia, is a four-hour adventure by ferry and seaplane from Singapore.

Our journey begins with an overnight stay at the Six Senses Maxwell in the Lion City, where my friend Christina and I spend the evening sipping Singapore Slings in the bustling food markets before setting off the following morning.

Set over 750 acres, Bawah encompasses six islands — Merba, Sangha, Lidi, Elang, Takong  and, our home for three nights, Bawah. Its 36 villas are perched on stilts above the ocean, snuggled in the forest or, like ours, hugging the beach.

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