Is paradise really worth the hype? Claire Spreadbury spends some seriously quiet 'me time' in the middle of nowhere

A few days ago, I could barely think straight for stress. But having landed (by seaplane - that's how they do it in paradise) in Bawah Reserve, part of Indonesia's remote Anambas archipelago northeast of Singapore, I'm already so relaxed I can barely make a decision and am feeling the tension wash away with the waves. I've only been here three hours.

I've been wined, dined and welcomed, and am now sprawled on one of the two egg-shaped loungers on my deck.

Everything you touch here feels deluxe, but in a wonderfully sustainable and rustic way. Once at risk of destruction by illegal dynamite fishing, the archipelago was rescued and is now protected and preserved as an ecological utopia and designated marine conservation area.

Each of the 36 rooms is wonderfully private and sandy pathways meander through the resort, marked out by stone walls and shaded by mangrove fan and fishtail palms. Giant, heart-shaped colocasia bataviensis leaves make me smile everywhere I walk, but if you're feeling lazy, you can always phone for a buggy to ferry you around, and listen as the wheels crunch gently, making a sound like rain sticks.

Getting here means a 13-hour flight to Singapore, a short ferry to Batam, followed by the 80-minute seaplane journey, but it's worth it.

The honeymoon suite of dreams, each bungalow over the sea is personalised with a wooden sign with your name on (which can also be wrapped up and taken home). Head up the pathway to your deck, where you can lounge about, bathe and - most importantly - tiptoe down the staircase and swim straight into the sea.

From beside your room, you can spot vivid teal parrotfish, cobalt blue starfish, and even big floaty stingrays if you're really lucky.

I plod playfully towards the spa for my first massage. Guests are entitled to a treatment every day and for a special treat, you can book a spa safari, where you get taken to one of Bawah's other five islands by boat, all easily reachable within five to 15 minutes. They're currently just used for resort experiences, although one is under construction, soon to be rented out as an entire private island.

Relaxation is key, but this isn't a fly and flop destination.

Allowing jet lag to awaken you feels joyous if you grab yourself a kayak and head out for a sunrise paddle. We row over to Muerba and spot hermit crabs leaving cog-like trails, as we search for sand dollars (small, flat stones, naturally imprinted with flowers) on the shore, like twinkling treasures waiting to be discovered.

You can take a boat further out to explore, or simply hang around the jetty, where you can spot some of the reserve's 240 species of recorded fish. Bumphead parrotfish (which can grow to over a metre) are everywhere, as are wrasse, but search harder and you'll find delicate damselfish, Nemo-esque clownfish and shy, hiding grouper.

The sunset hikes are an absolute must, but for anyone wanting a less energetic jaunt, you can take a boat trip, drink Champagne and scoff nibbles, as you watch the smoky red sun settle and turtles peek their heads up out of the sea.

When you stay somewhere as luxurious as this, you expect top-notch nosh, something Bawah delivers on across their four food and drink outlets. At Treetops, I taste my favourite foods of the trip (the 'Magnum' of goats cheese dipped in chocolate is a highlight, a dish Italian head chef Roberto is particularly proud of).

This is also where you take in the delirious views of the ocean over breakfast (the poached egg on brown toast with avocado puree is the perfect portion size and the homemade granola is to die for).

There are more laid-back options at the Boat House, a Chef's Table experience and even a traditional cookery course.

And of course, because this is paradise, you can also have your meal shipped to another island, just in case you need a change of scenery.

We cruise over to Coconut island, where breakfast is served on the sand next to a shaded four-poster day bed, and we're left for an hour or two with a walkie-talkie for company. Ceramic bowls of noodles, pearl barley, fish balls, sandwiches, pastries and papaya are served up with tea, coffee and watermelon juice.

So, is paradise worth the hype? I really wish it wasn't, but when total relaxation is served up with such an array of activity, in a destination most of us can only dream of, the answer was always going to be yes.

How to get there

Rates at Bawah Reserve start from $1,980USD (around £1,115) per night for two people on a full-board basis, including round-trip transfers from Singapore, daily spa treatments, laundry, in-room minibar and a host of land and water-based activities. For more information visit

British Airways (; 0844 493 0787) flies from London to Singapore twice-daily from £440 return, including taxes.