Seaplane arriving at Bawah Reserve

Everything you need to know about our seaplane

No arrival to an island is as thrilling as via seaplane, the aircraft gradually descending to its runway of open sea before slicing into the still waters. Since the nearest traditional airport to Bawah is at Letung, two hours away by boat, seaplanes are a much more efficient — and expedient — option for guests. Most visitors come to us via Singapore, and as there are no immigration and customs clearance at Bawah transiting in Batam, an Indonesian island with border facilities that’s a short ferry ride southeast of Singapore, is required.

Bawah’s seaplane takes off from Batam’s Hang Nadim International Airport and guests are weighed with their luggage at check-in to ensure even distribution of weight aboard the plane (just be sure to keep prying eyes off the scale). Safety briefings take place in the airport prior to boarding, with guests offered a chilled towel to make the viewing comfortable, followed by a one-minute bus ride from the terminal to the plane. Our aircraft is part of the Airfast fleet, an Indonesian aviation company with more than 35 years experience in the industry and an impeccable safety record. The amphibious Twin Otter 300 has wheels and float pontoons, giving it the enviable ability of taking off and landing on water or land. Built in Canada, it’s a STOL (short take-off and landing) aircraft that’s become a commercially successful commuter plane.

Currently the plane can hold nine passengers, though the plan to increase the number to 12. Given the small size of the vessel, passengers feel intimately connected to the process of flying. You’ll watch the pilots turn round to give a quick briefing to passengers before the propellers slowly wind up, and they push buttons, pull levers, check gauges and move the aircraft forward. Soon the plane is airborne and the land of Batam cedes to open sea for the majority of the 80-minute flight. The passage is smooth, with the occasional bumps we’ve come to expect from plane travel, and all flights take place during the hours of light. Before landing at Bawah, the aircraft makes a circle of the island so that guests can get an overview of the layout and snap those once-in-a-lifetime aerial shots of the resort.

Each flight has two pilots in front, one international and one Indonesian. One of the international pilots, the dry-humoured Captain Wolski, boasts 6000 hours flying experience on seaplanes. “Landing and taking off on the tarmac is the same but the water is the biggest difference,” he explains after a routine landing. “You start as a boat, satisfy the boat planing like a speedboat, and by the end you are 100% an aircraft. In between you need to satisfy the conditions of both the boat and an airplane. The same considerations are also true for landing. The runway is always changing, always moving. Our plane is designed for short take offs and landing, with thick wings that generate a lot of lift without the need to point the aircraft at the sky.”

The plane flies six days a week — one day is set aside for the weekly servicing — and there are mechanics and engineers on standby at the departure and arrival points. One of the advantages of a seaplane is that guests can bring in full liquids (no need for travel sizes) and alcohol, though only 20% proof or less. There is a 15 kilogram luggage restriction per passenger, but thankfully given Bawah’s easy-going vibe, you won’t need to pack much.

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