Glass gets back to nature with Banyan Tree Bintan, Indonesia

“Watch out for the strange creatures,” says Banyan Tree Bintan’s hotel manager Nicolas Belzic as he hands us our key during check in. Sure enough, on our first morning, we wake up to find curious monkeys peering over the villa’s roof edge and large monitor lizards weaving their scaly bulks through the wild vegetation. Encouraged by this, we sign up for on-site guided nature walks and bird-watching tours, hoping to spot Banyan Tree Bintan’s shyer residents, including blue-tailed bee-eaters and kingfishers, hidden in the treetop canopy.

Bedroom_Banyan_Pool_VillaBedroom Banyan Pool Villa. Courtesy of: Banyan Tree Bintan

Set in a lush rainforest hillside on Bintan Island, part of Indonesia’s Riau Archipelago, the 64 thatched-roof villas of Banyan Tree Bintan are perched along the picture-perfect Tanjong Said Bay and inspired by a traditional Balinese village. The focus here is always the pristine location. Inside, each villa is decorated in earth tones, with marble flooring, four-poster bed, plus a luxurious day bed nestled under palm-frond-framed windows, all with views out over the South China Sea.

Guestroom Pool Villa Sea ViewGuest Room Pool Villa Sea View. Courtesy of: Banyan Tree Bintan

Spa bintan banyan tree spa ryokanSpa Bintan Banyan Tree Spa Ryokan. Courtesy of: Banyan Tree Bintan

Aside from in-room dining, the resort offers three restaurant options. Treetops plates up Indonesian cuisine from morning till evening – for breakfast, choose a shaded table outside and tuck into your choice from the buffet while listening to birdsong. For lunch and dinner, enjoy local specialities, including Bintan Lakse (a spicy noodle soup) and traditional satay with peanut sauce. Saffron is open only for dinner and serves authentic Thai fare with an innovative twist while The Cove has a modern Mediterranean menu.

Blue MoonDining with a Blue Moon. Courtesy of: Banyan Tree Bintan

Restaurant Dinner on the RocksRestaurant Dinner on the Rocks. Courtesy of: Banyan Tree Bintan

Venture beyond the resort for an award-winning Mangrove Discovery Tour boat ride along the winding Sebung River, which passes wooden kelong restaurants pitched on stilts and serving seafood, including crab and lobster, for a song. Continue further along the waterway into Bintan Mangrove’s tangle of swampland where, in the low-hanging branches, stripes of yellow on pitch black give away the napping spots of coiled mangrove snakes. This dense foliage is also home to macaques and silvery lutung (also known as silver leaf monkeys), alongside a thriving network of flora and fauna. But for something even more magical, come at night to see the fireflies: “It’s like someone hung Christmas lights up on the trees,” says our guide over the roar of the boat’s motor.

Villas at Banyan Trees Bintan. Courtesy of: Banyan Tree Bintan

Back at Banyan Tree Bintan, it is 4pm and the sun is casting long shadows across the beach where we’re releasing four eight-week-old hawksbill sea turtles. Indonesia’s more than 130,000 islands and 50,000 kilometres of coastline is a popular breeding ground for these critically endangered marine reptiles (alongside the region’s other turtle species including olive ridley, leatherback, flatback and green turtles) who are threatened by the fishery and wildlife trade, loss of nesting and feeding habitats as a result of coastal development, and pollution. The resort’s Conservation Lab and “baby turtle release” programme is just one of many initiatives led by the Banyan Tree Global Foundation, and so far has protected more than 3,000 turtle hatchlings.

Guest Room Pool Villa Sea View. Courtesy of: Banyan Tree Bintan

Recreational Facilities saffron poolRecreational Facilities Saffron Pool. Courtesy of: Banyan Tree Bintan

Andi, the resort’s trainee conservation manager, paces ten steps back from the water’s edge and draws a starting line in the sand with a piece of driftwood. ‘Female turtles take in their surroundings as they make their way to the sea,” he explains, “they always return to nest in the same place where they hatched.” He then places four half-coconut shells on the line, each one holding a turtle, and we watch, enraptured, as they clamber out and their tiny flippers propel them clumsily towards the sea.

Restaurant Dinner of the Legend Evening SetupRestaurant Dinner of the Legend Evening Setup. Courtesy of: Banyan Tree Bintan

This is an inspiring place, one that’s as much about doing as it is about relaxation. Guests of Banyan Tree Bintan can play a part in the preservation of marine biodiversity by participating in coral planting activities, and mucking in with beach and reef clean-up events, too. Whether you’re walking the winding pathways, practising morning yoga or getting lost in the pages of a novel from your sun lounger, it’s hard not to experience the peaceful and restorative nature of the unspoilt outdoors here.

by Natalie Egling

A Rainforest Seaview Villa at Banyan Tree Bintan starts from £305 a night, on a bed and breakfast basis, including tax.

Book your island getaway with a city break in Singapore, a 55-minute high-speed catamaran ride away from the island idyll. Glass got a feel for the city with Betel Box’s informative Good Morning tour of Joo Chiat and stayed at the historic So Sofitel Singapore, a luxurious boutique hotel housed in Singapore’s most iconic neo-classical building.

For more information on Singapore, visit www.visitsingapore.com.