A trip to the tropics reveals a colorful underwater world in Southeast Asia. By Rina Chandarana
Some places are designed to blow your mind. Others are born with a certain x-factor and bestowed with blessings: lush, green islands cloaked in white sand, wrapped in blue-green oceans; a kaleidoscope of sea life, protected and thriving; a natural playground for all. The Coral Triangle is such a place. Encompassing the vast aquatic expanse that includes Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, East Timor and the Solomon Islands, the planet’s epicenter of biodiversity invites you to dive into the adventure of a lifetime.
Bask in Luxury
Feel happily stranded in paradise at Bawah Private Island where rest and delight are the only items permanently on your agenda. An official marine conservation area, the protected waters surrounding the lavish eco-retreat enable the Anambas Archipelago’s reefs to flourish. Accessible only via ferry and seaplane from Singapore, the six islands that constitute Bawah are rich with adventure. Tuck into one of 35 villas—overwater, on the beach or in a tropical garden—and choose your adventure, or not. Snorkel in clear waters as rays gracefully glide by and majestic whale sharks pass through the property’s three lagoons. On foot, explore uncut primary forests teeming with birds. Or luxuriate in your villa bath, clad in recycled copper, teak and bamboo. A place to both unplug and to connect to nature, Indonesia’s most exclusive new resort is sure to inspire a fresh perspective.
Explore Nature’s Aquarium
Wade into the clear waters surrounding Indonesia’s Raja Ampat Islands and discover soft coral jungles in hues of orange, red, purple and pink. Home to more 30 percent of the world’s reefs and over 2,000 species of fish, this archipelago is the bullseye for ocean diversity.
Take in mother nature’s beauty on a sailboat ride on the Si Datu Bua. Navigate eleven jungle-draped Indonesian islands, explore white sand beaches and dive into the postcard perfect waters. Whether you enjoy snorkeling or scuba diving, you won’t miss the spectacular show below the water’s surface.
Six of the seven marine turtle species—including Leatherback and Loggerhead turtles—spend most of their lives in this region. Turtle conservation programs ensure that the local species, many of which are endangered, continue to thrive by protecting their nesting beaches and trying to curb overfishing, which accidentally traps sea turtles. In an effort to protect the biodiversity of this region the Raja Ampat government became the first Indonesian regency to declare its waters a shark sanctuary in 2010, outlawing the capture and killing of sharks, rays, dugongs and turtles. Since that year, the World Wildlife Fund has worked with local communities and lent a hand, establishing marine protected areas to monitor the health of the coral reefs.
Become a Steward of the Sea
Locally, the nature-based tourism industry employs millions in this region while ensuring a minimal environmental footprint. Eco-conscious travelers will love the secluded feel of the Pangulasian Island Resort in the Philippines, located on a private island surrounded by a marine sanctuary.
Conservation of these reefs is also vital for the longevity of other world reefs because they help to restock oceans throughout the South Pacific and Indian Oceans as small living organisms travel through the waters and settle elsewhere. See many majestic creatures, large and small, in the wild at the Reef Dive Resort at Mataking Island. From there, discover an underwater world of sharks, barracudas, parrotfish, whale sharks and Green and Hawksbill Turtles on an excursion to Sipadan Island.
Pro Tip! A sarong is the perfect multitasking cover-up for walking along the serene beaches of this slice of paradise. - Jessica Rizzolo, Luxury Travel Expert