The Most Exclusive Experiences to Book for 2023

Bawah Reserve, Indonesia

When it comes to experiencing luxury, some discerning travellers look beyond thread counts, private charters and 24-hour butler services. Whether it’s the natural beauty of an entire tropical island at your disposal, a gastronomical experience tailored specifically to your taste buds or unrivalled immersion in some of Uluru’s most sacred stories, it’s those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that truly elevate a luxury escape. Here are the singular stays to bookmark in 2023 that really take you there.

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The eco-luxe, nature-lover’s paradise of Bawah Reserve, Indonesia

Bawah Reserve, Indonesia

We know it’s about the journey and not the destination but at Indonesia’s Bawah Reserve, both are equally impressive. The six-island strong Anambas archipelago is accessible only by seaplane or private yacht, ensuring a spectacular entrance. Once on land, it’s the eco villas that impress: it’s the only accommodation on the previously uninhabited namesake island, nestled quietly among an ancient landscape that has barely changed over the past 10,000 years.

Every effort has been made to blend in and preserve this enduringly pristine environment: the driftwood that washes up on any one of the island’s 13 beaches have been fashioned into furniture, the jaunty Bawah Island jetty is built as such to protect the coral underneath it and a conservation programme, lead by a team of on-site marine biologists, ensures the ongoing protection of the island's local marine life. All the propertyThe property’s pastimes apply the same approach. You won’t find a TV in your villa; activities hiking through 2,000-year-old palms to the deserted Coconut Beach (keep your eyes peeled for the 50-metre high 500 year-old Keruing tree), sunrise qigong (a traditional Chinese meditative, slow-moving practice) and kayaking to the nearby Sanggah to find remnants of an ancient volcano.s focus is pointed to nature: you won’t find a TV in your villa, for one. Instead, opt to spend your spare time hiking through 2,000-year-old palms to the deserted Coconut Beach (keep your eyes peeled for the 50-metre high 500 year-old Keruing tree), engaging in sunrise qigong (a traditional Chinese meditative, slow-moving practice) or kayaking to the nearby Sanggah to find remnants of an ancient volcano.

Sensational seclusion at Lizard Island Resort, Queensland

Situated 240km north of Cairns, 27km off the coast of Queensland and occupying the northernmost position along the Great Barrier Reef, Lizard Island Resort – the only accommodation on theis remote paradise – is unrivalled in its picturesque seclusion. Turquoise-blue water, startlingly white sand, 1,000 hectares of national park and, delightfully, no phone signal, make the island an attractive spot to be marooned for a night or two.

Access to the island is restricted and the facilities are available for guests only, so there are no crowds to contend with when exploring the surrounding 24 beaches. This glorious lack of footfall means that the island is unspoilt, the coral is pristine and the beaches are largely deserted.

Lizard Island Resort, Queensland

Snorkelling even in the shallows comes with high reward – turtles, clown fish and giant clams can all be spotted just footsteps from your sunlounger. Alternatively, charters can be arranged to take you to spectacular dive spots on Cod Hole and the Outer Reef. Or, you can pick up a motorised dinghy and putter around the island at your leisure – and don’t forget your gourmet picnic hamper, organised through the property. End the day by heading up to Cook’s Look (named after James Cook, the first European explorer to visit the island) and watch the sunset over the Coral Sea, accompanied by a glass of something crisp and cold.

Culinary excellence at Saffire Freycinet, Tasmania

Sweeping views of the Freycinet National Park, luxurious suites and an exceptionally high level of service has long secured Saffire Freycinet’s place in Australia’s affections. However, the jewel in the property’s crown is surely Palate restaurant, the guest-only dining venue that’s widely considered one of Australia’s most exclusive.

Headed up by executive chef Paddy Prenter, the multi-course degustation menu fluctuates daily in its inclusions, subject to the seasonal (and local) produce available. The oysters are sourced from nearby Coles Bay, the produce is grown within the on-site garden, the honey is collected from the hives within the grounds and the fish is freshly caught from local fishing villages, resulting in dishes such as Freycinet Marine Farm black mussels or pan roasted Murray cod. Freycinet is famed for its cool-climate boutique wines (don’t be surprised to see a glass of Tasmanian sparkling wine appear during check-in, as if by magic), and Palate has first dibs on the best local wines the region has to offer, such as Freycinet Vineyard and Craigie Knowe Estate.

What sets Palate further apart is that it caters entirely to your, well, palate. Every requirement, request or whim is catered for, so if you like something you will be sure to see it featured heavily on the menu, while anything that isn’t to your taste won’t appear.

Saffire Freycinet, Tasmania

Access to Uluru at Longitude 131, Northern Territory

Longitude 131 is exceptionally well placed, both literally and figuratively, for an unrivalled Uluru experience. There are 16 tented pavilions perched above the red dust dunes of the Central Desert, all of which offer unobstructed views of Uluru through the floor-to-ceiling windows.

There’s also a spa, a pool, a library and a 360-degree viewing deck where you can soak up the panoramic views, take a refreshing dip in the plunge pool or watch the sun sink below the horizon while enjoying a private dinner for two. Yes, this is glamping, but not as you might know it.

Longitude 131 the closest hotel in proximity to Uluru and the experienced guides that work with the property steer you away from the crowds and towards the less trodden tracks surrounding the historical site during their small group tours. During a sunrise trek to The Olgas (or Kata Tjuta), a sacred site for the local Anangu people, the Longitude 131 guides share some of their stories, helping visitors forge a deeper connection with the site that goes far beyond the view. You can learn more about the Anangu’s ancestors (Mala) during a guided sunset walk along Uluru’s base, where the cave paintings inside the walls of Kantju Gorge will be ablaze with the light of the setting sun. There’s also the option to take a private tour, tailored to your pace and specific interests – advance booking is essential.

Longitude 131, Northern Territory

An island adventure at Vomo Island Resort, Fiji

Finally, an opportunity to live out your Robinson Crusoe fantasies. If Crusoe was stranded on a private island with a sumptuous day spa, opulent villas dotted along the sandy shoreline and a sprawling infinity pool perfectly positioned to watch the sunset, that is.

For all its indulgence, Vomo Island Resort, located in the north of the Mamanuca islands group in Fiji, feels blissfully low-key thanks to its proximity to nature. It’s a 103-hectare private playground, abundant with secluded swimming spots, rocky outcrops and long stretches of deserted beaches.

At the island’s centre is Mount Vomo, a vantage point offering breathtaking 360 panoramic views of the island and the azure blue waters surrounding it. Breakfast is provided at the summit for those who “‘scale” the mountain to see the sunrise (it is a fairly arduous 15-minute walk). Let staff know in advance if you would like to toast your triumph over the elements with a glass of Champagne.

For those looking for further seclusion, guests can be transported by boat to the tiny neighbouring island of Vomo Lailai (Little Vomo) which you’ll have entirely to yourselves, save for the lunch that’s set up by staff in the shade of an umbrella. The island is then yours to explore, until you get in touch with staff via the two-way radio for a return time. If you can bring yourself to leave, that is.  

Vomo Island Resort, Fiji

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