Just off the coast of Bintan, Indonesia lies a hidden gem. I know this sounds like cliched travel speak, but Nikoi is an island of cliches and I love every single one of them.
Sandy white beaches to walk barefoot on? Check.
View of a tropical sunset from the comfort of your balcony? Check.
Many opportunities for relaxation? Check.
Island bar? Check.
Candlelight and cocktails? Check.
Donuts for breakfast? Check.
(But only sometimes)
Granted, these cliches don’t come cheap, but we loved this island so much we’ve been there twice. It’s the perfect getaway from highly urban Singapore because it’s so close (an hour on the ferry, then an hour across the island in a private car, and 15 minutes by speedboat). Did I mention it’s a private island? There are only 15 villas which means the guest to island ratio is very well maintained.
However, this island isn’t for everyone. Although it is billed (and priced) as a luxury island, the catch cry here is “Crusoe Luxe”. Forget spas, bath tubs, air conditioning, restaurants, room service, TVs or basically any of the usual luxuries you might find in an upmarket resort. Instead, it's back to nature, but in a very comfortable way.
The rooms are basic, and quite open to the elements but beautifully crafted incorporating worn wood and thatched roofs. The bathrooms are big, clean, beautifully turned out in wood and stone, and house a shower. Electricity and hot water in the rooms are powered by solar panels on the roof of the villas. Although the island is quite small, the lush vegetation separating the villas make it feel really private.
Mealtimes are set at three times a day and taken in a dining pavillion. There are two pavillions, one for families and the other for couples. There is no ala carte menu and you get served whatever the chef has planned for the day. The dishes are written up on chalkboards in the dining pavillions and the kitchen can accommodate some changes (very graciously too), but if you have any allergies or intolerances, definitely a good idea to let them know before arriving on the island.
We arrived on the island just as a wedding party had left. So we enjoyed lovely recycled floral centrepieces :)
Meals for the adults include seafood and local dishes, while the kids get favourites like fish and chips and some local flavour too like fried noodles or rice and stir-fries. The food is generally interesting, varied and very good, and we had some amazing baked goods! I was very impressed with what they could turn out from an island kitchen. Rather than feeling restricted by eating whatever was offered, it was a great to just switch off and rock up at mealtimes expecting to be fed. Now I know how the kids feel :)
Speaking of kids, this island is paradise for them. They can walk about barefoot, swim, snorkel, chase lizards, play in the sand and just generally muck about and be kids (a definite luxury in our book). There is a “kids club” where they can go and hang about in a “pirate ship”, laze about in hammocks or meet up with other kids. For more energetic fun, there’s a floating trampoline and a kayak or two. Almost all the water sport equipment is provided free (except for some specialist sailing or windsurfing equipment). At night, the kids can head off to watch movies while dad and mum can finish dinner in peace and have a cheeky glass of wine or three.
Trying to catch "antlions" (or "undur-undur") in the sand
Jumping with joy
While the island itself is beautiful, and the villas and meals a big drawcard, the greatest treasure on Nikoi is the people who work there. All the staff we met were so friendly and helpful but not in an ingratiating way. They genuinely seem happy to be on the island and they are fabulous with the kids. In fact, each time we had to go home, both the MCs did not want to leave, MC Junior even shed a few tears at having to say goodbye to the lovely people who looked after us. (Thank you to all the staff, especially Gugun, Isti, Yogi Bear, Bembeng, and the lovely guy I had a chat to over coffee one morning - sorry I was too short sighted to catch your name!)
The folks who run Nikoi seem to have their heart in the right place too. Not only is the island run as “green”ly as possible, they’ve set up a foundation to help the local community with education and employment opportunities.
Not bad for a weekend away eh?