What is the first thing on a hotel or resort developer’s mind as they sit down with architects and planners, engineers and interior decorators, to put together the plans to create a new and unique property? Is it ‘the guest experience’? Perhaps a desire to amaze with brilliant food venues? What about simply ‘let’s make sure it’s popular and profitable’? I’m betting that the last factor is not far from their minds, and in 90% of the brainstorming over the last 50 years, sustainability probably was never even mentioned. Not an important factor over the years.
But what if I told you that there is one resort that started its planning with the concept of sustainability and worked backwards to create the ‘guest experience’ and culinary expertise? Would you believe me? Well, you’d better because it’s here in Indonesia and is worth celebrating, and visiting!
So where is this place? Bali? Lombok? Labuan Bajo? Well no actually, it’s much closer to Jakarta than any of those destinations and easier to access. It’s an island called Belitung and it’s about halfway to Singapore from Jakarta, approximately 45 minutes flight and is quite literally what the world describes as a ‘tropical paradise’, with pristine beaches and crystal clear water. But there’s more than that, the whole coastline is beautifully punctuated by massive formations of Triassic granite boulders, giant, artistically arranged piles of rocks, which define the whole destination and the islets that dot the ocean around. It is beautiful, fresh and most importantly for Jakartans these days… unpolluted.
So the biggest fear that many of us have, is that the developers who are granted the right to build on such properties, do not do so with sensitivity and care for the environment. Why do we fear that? Because almost all such resorts have taken their developments to the very limit. But not so at Tanjung Kelayang Reserve, and their resort hotel Sheraton Belitung which is at its centre.
First of all, the reserve is exactly that – a natural reserve of untouched forest of some 350ha, bustling with birds and small animals safe in their natural habitat. Guests at the resort can walk (guided of course!) through the trees and bushes, finding nature untouched and refreshing including a colony of stingless bees providing high-quality honey to the resort.
Tanjung Kelayang Reserve has pledged 200 ha of land as a natural reserve, leaving it untouched to protect the biodiversity and water catchment area to maintain the water resources in the area. Then there is the natural reservoir, a huge pool cut out of the kaolin clay-based soil, accumulating rainwater to supply the resort in a totally and possibly unequalled sustainable fashion.
A major hotel’s water supply being accumulated rainwater, then purified on-site using solar energy? Hardly seems possible, but they have done it. Here’s how: the water capacity of the reservoir
is 44,000 m3, with a surface area of 7,700 m2 able to supply water up to 20-25 m3/ hour and purified into a sustainable water treatment plant using floating solar panels which provides 50% of the total electricity consumed with its capacity at peak hour is 10,000 Watt/hour.
Zero runoff water management is the way of the approach by harvesting rainwater and processing every drop of grey water as reusable water for landscaping. As far as I know, there is no other resort with this level of sustainability in its water supply. This is itself admirable. But it’s not the only thing.
Next is the native vegetation between the low-rise buildings, which are not lawns but eco-ponds because grass lawns require energy so converting to eco-ponds makes them not only environmentally friendly but cooler and beautiful too!
On a daily basis, the eco ponds use zero energy. They don’t require any electricity to supply the water pumps, because the water comes from the water treatment plant. At the bottom layer of the pond use kaolin clay which can be found locally in Belitung as the coating. Kaolin has a certain acidity to prevent bacteria from growing and this keeps the water clean without using any chemicals or insecticides.
That whole complex is designed along the same lines, focused on using local materials, built with minimum disruption to the local environment, but still designed to welcome guests in a beautiful and luxurious manner. There are extensive walls of white bricks which were discarded by other contractors and used as a sign of sustainability.
These hand-pressed kaolin bricks have now become a global architectural pride. Air conditioning is not installed in public areas to keep low energy of the building. The roofs used in the lobby are hand-made from Renggadai Wood which is locally sourced on Belitung Island, and there is furniture made from driftwood that is gathered from the ocean as sustainable action without harming the natural forest.
This is Tanjung Kelayang Reserve: accessing and adapting local materials to reduce emissions and the carbon footprint throughout the supply chain. And we haven’t even mentioned the perfect seas lining the shores.