29 October 2021
Sometimes even a digital detox isn’t enough — you need solitude and silence. From the Indonesian archipelago to the lochs of Scotland to the middle of the Indian Ocean, these new and improved secluded island retreats give you the chance to get away from it all.
Bawah Reserve, Indonesia
The barefoot pilot of our 10-seater could hardly wait to jump into the ocean. We’d just landed after the 80-minute flight from Singapore to Bawah Reserve, when I saw him scurry down the jetty. How could we blame him, given the unreal turquoise that beckoned?
But guests at Bawah Reserve — a resort on Pulau Bawah, one of six islands in an archipelago between Borneo and the Malay Peninsula — don’t have to rush. There, you’re invited to take your time. (In fact, the resort sets its clocks an hour ahead of the rest of western Indonesia, to sync cocktail hour with the sunset.)
The resort has 36 villas made of bamboo and recycled wood; 11 stand directly over the water. They combine the advantages of alfresco living — including unencumbered views of the ocean and, in some cases, retractable canvas walls — with air-conditioning, solar-heated showers, and Wi-Fi.
Eilean Shona, Scotland
There’s a rambling main house that sleeps 20 and can be rented with or without a chef. For smaller groups or solo travelers, there are eight cottages, hidden in the woods or on sheltered bays. Shepherd’s Cottage is a 45-minute walk along the coast from the disembarkation point. “You can’t get lost,” Paul Waddington, the estate manager, said with a smile as we clambered out of the boat. “Just follow the path.” Along the track, I passed a shed that had been transformed into a cozy game room, with old sofas, books, and table tennis. It’s also the only place to get Wi-Fi on the island; there are pockets of cell phone reception, but this is a place to log off. Guests bring their own provisions, although there is a shop open for a couple of hours each week where you can stock up on venison casserole and fish pie.
I spent my days exploring: hiking along the coast, poking around ruined cottages, sailing to Shoe Bay, watching red deer graze at my door in the morning. Each night I curled up in front of the fire. The world felt far away, so this island became a far-flung kingdom, its secrets mine to discover.
Four Seasons Resort Seychelles at Desroches Island
Desroches, part of the Seychelles’ little-visited Amirantes Group, is a 35-minute flight from the main island of Mahé. The Four Seasons resort, which opened last March after a complete overhaul of a preexisting property, is a cushy base for checking out the island’s 933 acres. Each guest gets a bicycle, and I pedaled mine along forest pathways, personalized picnic basket in tow, en route to my own private stretch of coastline.
Having the run of the place also means an array of unique activities, including yoga sessions on the very runway where your flight from Mahé lands and family movie nights under the stars. The staff may also surprise you with a treasure hunt. Mine began with a riddle at breakfast directing me to “look up for something that doesn’t belong” at Madame Zabre beach (it was a pineapple), with further clues leading to the discovery of a coconut outside the spa and a bottle of rum tucked into my suite’s hammock. Later, I got to put these treasures to use in a private mixology class atop a lighthouse.
Ranging from one-room bungalows and larger suites to group-friendly villas with up to seven bedrooms, the accommodations have an upscale beach-house vibe: rattan furniture, vintage explorer-inspired curios, outdoor showers. All have plunge pools and direct beach access, while the suites also feature hammocks and thatched-roof cabanas. When you do feel like leaving your room, the public areas — a swimming pool, lounges and restaurants, and a seaside spa — rarely feel crowded.
Balancing all this privacy is the world just outside the resort. The two communities — one Indian, one Creole — have a combined population of about 100. Some residents work for the hotel, while others make furniture or farm. Guests can visit the villages to meet the locals, learn about their crafts, and even cheer on the teams at their weekly cricket matches. Guests can also feed Aldabra giant tortoises at a sanctuary and breeding center operated by the Island Conservation Society, which focuses on land restoration and wildlife protection.
Back at the resort, the marine educators of the Discovery Centre guide visitors on snorkeling trips that reveal the aquatic wonders in the region, which is too remote to be affected by commercial fishing. This access to unspoiled nature is perhaps the most luxurious part of staying on Desroches — and the biggest benefit of this island’s version of going private.
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