With the Indian Ocean gently lapping at its feet, Asia is home to some of the most gorgeous coastal regions in the world. Many of its paradisiacal islands make sublime hideaways to retreat, relax and discover pure local treasures that remain off limits to the majority of visitors.
Private travel has long been a favourite amongst discerning travellers. In the post-COVID era, as our desire to visit places that offer space, safety and relative seclusion increases, exclusive accommodations and locations offer the perfect solution and allow for those who have a taste for the finer things in life to create their own ‘bubble’. Such locations offer a truly bespoke and stress-free experience that lets travellers discover the most fascinating and astounding landscapes and cultures with the same sense of warmth, comfort, privacy and well-being that one enjoys at home.
Exclusive sanctuaries situated in untouched locations are becoming increasingly sought-after destinations for those seeking authentic and unhindered explorations of Asia’s cultural and natural wealth and diversity. Besides complete and utter personalisation of all aspects of the trip, it allows you greater freedom to engage with the destination at a much more intimate and meaningful level.
Following are my current favourite private island resorts across Asia that offer the very best in terms of luxury, sustainability and local flavour:
Set within a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve teeming with an astounding array of underwater wonders in the Maldives’ remote Baa Atoll, this gorgeous and intimate hideaway is located on a 5-acre private island boasting a luxurious, exclusive-use seven-bedroom resort. Additionally there is a private 62-foot luxury yacht that can be used for active adventures in the surrounding azure waters.
The living spaces are really spacious, comfortable and luxuriously appointed in the typical Four Seasons style. The main beach house features a lounge, dining room, library, gym, guest kitchen and a pool deck. The accommodations consist of:
From the moment you arrive by a private seaplane, which in itself is a memorable journey with breath-taking views and a super fun landing on water, the resort’s amazing staff will pamper you to no end, catering to all your whims and fancies. Whether you want to relax and enjoy expertly tailored spa treatments, explore nearby islands with castaway picnics, or indulge in exhilarating water sports and beach games; Four Seasons Private Island at Voavah offers the ultimate ‘Sun, Sea and Sand’ experience with utmost privacy and luxury.
The standout feature of this region is PADI diving, snorkelling and fishing, and the expert guides at the resort’s 5-star dive centre can curate fun and engaging excursions for amateurs and experts alike. The trips are planned using the resort’s private luxury yacht – Voavah Summer, which can accommodate up to 12 people and sleep up to four people in two cabins.
Like the rest of the features, food at the resort is second to none, with the chefs specialising in multinational cuisines and being able to create unforgettable culinary experiences including picnics, cooking classes and romantic sandbank sundowners and dinners. If you ever feel the urge to mingle with others, just a short hop away is the Four Seasons Resort at Landaa Giraavaru, which offers a wide range of formal dining choices including Asian, Lebanese, Teppanyaki and Italian specialities.
Whether you are planning a family vacation, an active diving and snorkelling adventure or a special celebration, Four Seasons Private Island at Voavah offers the ultimate ultra-exclusive piece of the Maldivian bliss.
Aman is a Sanskrit term meaning ‘peace’. True to its name, since the brand’s inception in the 1980s, Aman properties have remained focused on creating a sanctuary where privileged guests can reconnect with nature and find pure inner harmony.
Renowned for space and privacy, Aman destinations instil a sense of peace and belonging, and celebrate some of the most diverse natural and historical landscapes. What I find most striking about Aman retreats is their understated style and uber-discreetness, where luxury is defined by unparalleled service and attention to detail.
Thanks to its unique topography, Indonesia offers some of the most stunning and secluded locations in Asia. Located east of Bali, in the Flores Sea at the western fringes of the Nusa Tenggara archipelago is the 32,000-hectare untouched island of Moyo.
It is a paradise of virgin rainforest surrounded by a coral-rich marine reserve. An important area for conservation, the island is home to an incredible array of flora and fauna and the surrounding sea houses an astounding 75 percent of all known corals, which is undoubtedly the star attraction of this area!
The retreat features twelve standalone safari tents located on the island’s beachfront rainforest fringe. The hardwood-floored, high-ceilinged tents are well-appointed with air-conditioning, en-suite facilities and modern amenities ensuring your stay is supremely comfortable, allowing you to interact with the island’s abundant wildlife and nature during the day, and create a safe and intimate sanctuary at night.
The island lends beautifully to active explorations such as hiking and mountain biking on jungle trails, bird watching and waterfall excursions. For those in search of solace and relaxation, there is an open-air seaside spa offering expertly curated treatments.
Out at sea, you could indulge in world-class diving and snorkelling, paddle boarding and kayaking. Aman has a fleet of vessels for day trips and fantastic private yachts for longer sailing journeys that are ideal for a more elaborate and off-the-beaten-track exploration of the archipelago, where you could walk with the legendary Komodo dragons in their natural habitat, as well as dive and snorkel in some of Indonesia’s finest reefs.
The resort is totally committed to protecting and preserving its natural environment and the dive centre runs an excellent programme focusing on sea turtle and coral conservation. This is particularly engaging and educational for children as we strive to nurture eco-aware and conscious leaders for our future generations.
Wa Ale is a privately-owned eco-tourism project on the 5,000-acre island of Wa Ale. The island is located in the Lampi Marine National Park in the Myeik Archipelago of southern Myanmar. Often referred to as one of the last hidden paradises on earth, Myeik Archipelago, (also known as Mergui Archipelago), consists of around 800 islands and is a heaven for marine life.
The island of Wa Ale is blessed with a terrain that features a scenic rocky coastline with pristine white sand beaches with bays and inlets surrounded by lush evergreen and mangrove forests. The intimate and luxurious island retreat sits in a beautiful protected cove, overlooking a pristine beach and majestic rock formations.
From the onset, the owners of Wa Ale Island Resort, Christopher and Farina Kingsley, have remained committed to preserving and protecting the region, given how fragile and untouched its eco-system is. They have actively engaged with the Myanmar government to set an excellent precedent for future tourism projects in the area. Before building the resort, Christopher and Farina set up the Lampi Foundation to help fund social welfare and conservation projects in and around the Lampi Marine National Park.
Over the years, the foundation has undertaken various initiatives including:
The foundation is funded through the efforts of Wa Ale Resort – 20% of the resort’s total net profit and 2% of room revenue is annually donated to the foundation - and other partner contributions including Global Medical Volunteers and The Wildlife Conservation Society.
The main resort features 11 tented beach villas and 3 treetop villas. A new four-bedroom Beach House was added in 2020 on the private Honeymoon Beach offering ultimate space, luxury and privacy to its privileged guests. In line with the resort’s ethos of supporting conservation and sustainability, all the structures have been carefully constructed using locally reclaimed materials so that it has minimal ecological impact on the surrounding environment.
It is such a splendid destination for families and active travellers. You could spend your time:
The food at the resort is amazing and focuses on a healthy blend of Asian and Mediterranean inspired dishes using organic produce from the chef’s organic gardens as well as the 10-acre Wa Ale organic farm on Honeymoon Beach. The resort also operates a mariculture programme in the Lampi Marine National Park to support sustainable fishing. All the seafood served at the resort is sourced through this programme.
Wa Ale is one of my favourite retreats in Asia because of its wonderfully off-the-beaten-track location and the way it has excelled in blending the offerings of an ultra-luxurious and exclusive island hideaway with the positive and regenerative impact of conscious travel.
Home to the iconic Angkorian temples including the majestic Angkor Wat, Cambodia is one of Southeast Asia’s historical gems. Despite its striking geographical features, the vast majority of travellers do not venture beyond the well-trodden cities of Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, which has left large parts of the country, including its beautiful coastal regions, largely unexplored.
Located in the remote Koh Rong Archipelago in southern Cambodia and spread over the two islands of Koh Ouen and Koh Bong in warm turquoise waters of the Gulf of Thailand, Song Saa Private Island Resort has put the stunning Cambodian coastline on the visitor map. Country’s very first luxury private island hideaway and the only resort featuring over-water villas, Song Saa continues to capture the imagination of the most discerning travellers by championing the region’s rich natural environment through its supreme commitment to green initiatives.
The resort features 24 private pool villas set either amidst lush vegetation, overlooking the ocean, or over water. Each villa is a private sanctuary offering beautiful views, space and comfort. There are two restaurants and bars, a stunning infinity pool and spa and wellness sanctuaries that focus on the ancient Buddhist philosophy and traditions.
The resort is built using local reclaimed timber and materials with an open-plan design and a wonderfully local and eco-friendly décor that allows you to fully appreciate the island’s magnificent nature and seascapes. The Jungle Villas are set on an elevated ground affording great views of the ocean and a natural cover around each villa and its plunge pool for utmost privacy.
The Ocean View Villas are located on the sunrise side. These are my favourite villas as they offer direct access to a private beach area. The Over-Water Villas are located on the sunset side with direct access to the sea.
It is a sort of a place where you can be as active or as inactive as you desire. Over the years, the Song Saa Foundation has set up Cambodia’s very first Marine National Park and undertaken various initiatives to rehabilitate the surrounding reefs. As a result, the area is now thriving in biodiversity with a wide range of tropical fish and healthy corals. Although it does not compare to Indonesia or the Maldives in terms of its marine richness and diversity, Koh Rong Archipelago still offers great options for snorkelling and scuba diving, with the latter suitable only for qualified divers.
You could spend your time relaxing on the pristine white-sand beach, taking a dip in the gorgeous swimming pool or the refreshing warm waters of the Gulf of Thailand, or indulging in spa treatments in hidden corners across the two islands. There are also options for active explorations including water sports, sea kayaking, guided mangrove and nature tours, visits to nearby fishing villages and learning about the foundation’s excellent local nature conservation and humanitarian initiatives.
Imagine a virgin paradise of six islands, three turquoise marine conservation lagoons and thirteen pristine beaches where you can enjoy the ultimate barefoot-luxury experience, celebrating an exemplary balance between eco-consciousness and five-star flair.
Situated in an off-the-radar fringe of Indonesia’s Anambas archipelago between Malaysia and Borneo, the story of how Bawah Reserve came to life is truly inspiring. It all began when the owners serendipitously discovered this previously uninhabited, untouched paradise on a routine trip from Singapore (300km to the southwest).
The islands are enveloped by lush tropical forests and clear azure waters which shelter lagoons and coral reefs. Sadly, the coral-rich region was badly affected at that time by illegal dynamite fishing and was on the verge of destruction, which led the owners to acquire them in 2012 with a desire to rehabilitate and regenerate the area’s natural wealth through a project that would ensure long-term sustainability.
With the help of Singapore based architect Sim Boon Yang, the vision for Bawah Reserve started to take shape in 2013 culminating into an extraordinary model of a conservation-led luxury island retreat in 2017.
The area around the six islands is now designated as a marine reserve prohibiting all forms of commercial fishing and a number of initiatives undertaken over the years by the Bawah Foundation have helped the underwater ecosystem to regenerate and flourish. They operate the reserve with an Earth-First philosophy.
The resort houses 36 beautiful villas that were made by hand from natural local materials and were designed to allow you to fully immerse in the surrounding nature. They are elegantly appointed yet understated in a true Robinson Crusoe style.
My favourite suites are the Overwater Bungalows that offer unmatched privacy and a direct access to the shallow coral rich waters, but there are also Beachfront Villas and Garden Suites available, as well as a totally private residence currently being planned.
The entire resort is powered by solar energy and innovative systems are used to ensure that majority of water, food and other materials used by the resort are recycled and minimal waste is generated. Besides creating alternative employment for the locals, the resort is actively engaged in empowering the island communities through numerous initiatives funded by the Bawah Foundation.
Whether you are looking for a peaceful environment for quiet reflection or a bit of fun and adventure to share with your family and friends, Bawah Reserve is much more than a beachside retreat. The Reserve is ideal for adventurers who wish to indulge in the outdoors before returning to luxurious surroundings in a paradise setting.
Whether you are in the mood for hiking, water sports, gastronomic experiences or snorkelling and diving, each of the six islands offers unique experiences and a chance to feel that you are on an amazing castaway adventure in the middle of nowhere.
These are just a few of the very many private travel options available in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Please do feel free to get in touch for more ideas, whether you are interested in a private villa or safari house, private mobile camping with expert guides, or indeed private flying holidays – there is an option for everybody! Alternatively, if you would just like to dream for now, you can do so at our Video Library.
Images by kind courtesy of:
Four Seasons Maldives, Aman Hotels, Wa Ale Island and Scott A Woodward, Song Saa Island, Bawah Reserve.
This blog was originally posted in October 2020 then updated and republished on 9th March 2021.