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Since opening its doors in mid-2017, Bawah Reserve has captured the hearts of media and travellers alike, earning itself the alias ‘Asia’s eco-luxury private island’ and taking out a slate of international accolades, including a spot in the prestigious World Travel Magazine’s ‘luxury 50 list’ for 2018.

The previously undiscovered paradise is celebrated for its natural beauty and sustainability practices, as well as its impressive level of luxury, but a key chapter of the resort’s story that’s not commonly told is that of the prolific foundation it supports.

The Bawah Anambas Foundation was independently established in 2018 to rehabilitate and conserve the marine and terrestrial life across the six islands that make up Bawah Reserve, and the wider Anambas archipelago, which comprises more than 250 islands across seven sub-districts.

Working closely with local government; non-government organisations; academic and research institutions; as well as private organisations with the same ethos, the foundation manages a land-based conservation program and a marine conservation program aimed at protecting coral and fish on the surrounding barrier reef. It also hopes to lift the community’s welfare.

According to the head of Bawah Anambas Foundation, Jerry Winata – who embarked on a two-month expedition throughout four of the villages in the area to gain a better understanding of the aspirations, challenges and potential of the inhabitants – the biggest problem in the Anambas is a lack of education and awareness of environmental impact.

One of the key learnings of Jerry’s travels was that at least 80% of those living in the Anambas rely on the surrounding ocean for their livelihood, with the average income equivalent to USD $150 – 350 per month, per household.

Born and raised on remote islands, the 45,000 locals simply don’t realise that many aspects of their lifestyle and day-to-day practices – such as dumping waste into the ocean, consuming turtle eggs and meat, using plastic products, and collecting stones from the forests for construction – are detrimental to the region’s outstanding biodiversity.

As such, the overarching focus for the foundation is breaking down barriers through education and one of the projects the team has implemented is teaching locals English through a digital media program.

The four other key projects are inter-related and critical to the improvement and protection of the ecosystem in the area: coral and turtle conservation; reforestation; organic farming; and solid waste management.

These projects extend beyond Bawah to Talaga, Kiabu, and Mengkait, the poorest and farthest villages from Tarempa, the capital of the Anambas Islands.

As an independent operation, Bawah Anambas Foundation works harmoniously with Bawah Reserve. Many of its programs have been created in accordance with input from the luxury resort, whose sustainable efforts undeniably support the foundation’s conservation and community welfare programs.

Tim Hartnoll, Executive Director of Bawah Reserve, who spotted the remote island utopia on a sailing trip, wanted to preserve its pristine waters, colourful corals and white sand beaches the moment he discovered it.

“When the opportunity came up to develop Bawah into a resort, we wanted to preserve and keep it as the first time when we saw it. Making it all even more important that we follow a sustainable operational plan protecting the land and the sea, while lifting the welfare of the surrounding communities,” he said.

“We are not only responsibly removing our waste, but we are also able to regularly clean our beaches and keep harmful rubbish away from the ocean, and one of programs tailored by the Bawah Anambas Foundation is to educate the locals on the importance of keeping the ocean clean. From day one, our plans have been created with sustainability and the environment in mind, thus the Bawah Anambas Foundation has an incredibly important role,” he explained.