Looking to get away from it all? There is a private paradise waiting for you just two hours away
I first heard of Nikoi Island in 2013 before the invitation to this trip. I had read about the private island in a publication, where the island was the venue for a beautiful intimate wedding. When Options was asked to spend three days and two nights on the island, I was excited to see it myself.
Nikoi Island is a 15ha private island that is managed by an internal team. The island is located just 8km off the eastern coast of Bintan Island in Indonesia and 90km from Singapore.
We stayed in one of the three pool villas (pictured) on Nikoi. These villas, which were added in September 2022, were the first to boast private pools on the island. Photo: Nikoi Island
About two-thirds of the island is left untouched for conservation purposes. Around Nikoi’s waters is a stunning coral reef rich in marine life and a sight to behold. Nikoi Island has a sister island, which is the 17ha Cempedak Island. This private island is located 9km off the southeast coast of Bintan Island and 91km away from Singapore. Both islands seek to offer guests a unique experience that positively impacts the local community and environment. Nikoi, I was also told, means papaya in the Teochew dialect.
Our trip to Nikoi began at the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal. It will take an hour’s ride from Bintan Resort Ferries to the Bandar Bintan Telani Ferry Terminal. We were then whisked off to the private lounge, where refreshments were served while our passports were processed.
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One of the day beds in the pool villa. Photo: Nikoi Island
A car then came to pick us up from the ferry terminal to head to the private jetty. The ride took another hour. It was a 15-minute speed boat ride from the jetty before we saw Nikoi Island. The trip from Singapore to Nikoi took over two hours, so I recommend taking the morning ferry to make the most of your stay. It is also best to book the later ferry on your way back.
We were instantly transported to paradise as we stepped on Nikoi, where crystal-clear waters, pristine white sands and warm-hearted resort staff greeted our arrival. Following a gracious welcome briefing — where we were also served a drink made mainly with ingredients sourced from the island — we were escorted to our beach-facing, two-bedroom pool villa, a delightful abode for the next three days.
Our main bedroom occupied the entire second floor. A smaller bedroom occupies the first floor with a living area, two-day beds, and a private plunge pool.
The main pool at Nikoi is located next to Restaurant Biru. Photo: Nikoi Island
There are 18 villas within the resort, of which there are six types, including the pool villas we were in. There were also one-, two- and three-bedroom beach houses, all suitable for couples or families. The smallest, one-bedroom beach house houses between two to three people, while the biggest villa houses between seven and nine people.
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The villas reflect traditional Indonesian architecture and modern design and are made with driftwood and alang-alang roofing (the latter is a coarse grass native to Asia and Indonesia), providing natural ventilation.
When you are not relaxing in your villa, there are many activities, like kayaking, sailing, going on a catamaran, paddle boarding, snorkelling and diving. Some of these may come at a fee. On land, there is rock climbing, tennis (on grass!), table tennis and croquet. Families can find solace in the dedicated kids club or at rejuvenating spas.
Restaurant Biru has a Mediterranean menu, unlike Nikoi’s main restaurant, which serves mainly Indonesian and Western dishes. Photo: Nikoi Island
A trio of meals — breakfast, lunch, and dinner — await guests as part of the inclusive package. The main restaurant, situated near the jetty, offers Indonesian and Western culinary delights, while Restaurant Biru, nestled by the pool, serves up Mediterranean cuisine.
Guests can enjoy these flavours in idyllic settings, whether dining by the beach or on your private balcony. For a unique experience, arrange a picnic hamper to enjoy on a nearby deserted isle or within a secluded spot on Nikoi itself. For these arrangements, additional charges will apply.
Embracing sustainability, the resort staff will inquire about meal preferences in advance to minimise wastage. For instance, a staff member takes breakfast orders during dinner, ensuring seamless dining experiences.
Snorkelling is one of the many activities available at Nikoi and Cempedak. Photo: Nikoi Island
Each dish arrives in generous portions, accompanied by multiple courses per meal and predominantly features locally sourced ingredients, including farm-fresh chicken and eggs from the group’s Bintan farm. Supplies come onto the island fresh daily by boat, guaranteeing the freshest flavours.
During our trip, we were invited to tour Cempedak Island, about 30 minutes away. Sitting in a small motor boat and cruising past the numerous islands in Indonesia in the middle of the South China Sea was an experience.
Dinner on the beach can be arranged for both Nikoi and Cempedak. Photo: Cempedak Island
Cempedak Island was opened in 2017, a decade after Nikoi. Unlike the latter’s flatter space, the island is slightly larger, with 20 villas spread over a hillier terrain.
There are two types of villas on the island: One with a beach view and another with sea views. Each villa has curved roofs made from local grass and is two-storey high, each with a private plunge pool and a generous deck. The rest of the island is saved for conservation purposes.
Guests are greeted by the pristine waters surrounding Cempedak Island upon their arrival. Photo: Cempedak Island
Cempedak is only open to adults and children above 16. A villa host acts like a concierge there, and daily activities are updated on iPads. Mealtimes here are similar to Nikoi’s, with several courses made with sustainably-sourced ingredients.
The island also has daily land and sea sports like snorkelling, windsurfing, diving, tennis, croquet and volleyball. You could also take a tour to discover the vibrant flora and fauna. Nikoi and Cempedak boast turtle nests along its sandy shores, as well as sightings of otters. Cempedak also has sightings of pangolins, sea otters, silver leaf monkeys and the critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins. There are also tours to the uninhabited islands nearby.
The main restaurant at Cempedak overlooks the waters and the neighbouring islands. It has a menu of Indonesian and Western dishes. Photo: Cempedak Island
As with every trip where I tend to leave a piece of my heart in every locale, Nikoi was no exception. There are so many fond memories, but the ones that stood out were us having dinner by the beach under a sky littered with stars and a brilliant crescent moon with Venus at its tip.
The boathouse pool at Cempedak Island is where guests get to relax. Photo: Cempedak Island
Another memory I will always cherish is lying in bed under the canopy of the mosquito net (a necessity) and being lulled to sleep with the sounds of the waves crashing on the beach in front of us.
Nikoi and Cempedak are lovely destinations for couples or larger groups. The staff are thoughtful, friendly and very knowledgeable. For larger events, Nikoi can host up to 48 guests on the package and up to 100 at an extra charge, while Cempedak can accommodate 40 guests on the package with additional guests at an extra charge if you want to book the entire land.
Visit https://nikoi.com and https://cempedak.com for details.