Expat Living heads to an adult-only private island escape in the nearby Riau Archipelago of Indonesia.
After the success of Nikoi Island, a resort off the east coast of Bintan, the team there decided to make an adult-only version about 20 or so kilometres further south – and Cempedak is a grownup island in many ways. From the design to the self-sustainability practices, they’ve used the years of experience at Nikoi to make this one even better, in my opinion. I took my sales team for a couple of nights away and it was wonderful; they’ve added their views to this review too.
It always surprises me how – especially when it’s not the rainy season – the sea off Bintan can be so clear and blue. And how in under three hours from leaving home you can be feeling completely relaxed, sipping your cocktail on a tropical island and looking out at that clear, blue sea. There are no flights, and if you book Emerald Class on the ferry across from Singapore for an extra $20 like we did (I will never again go “normal” class!), there are no queues at either end – plus, you get to sit upstairs and watch Tom & Jerry.
But back to the resort: everywhere you look there are beautiful textures, shapes and materials, as well as views of jungle, beach or sea. The bar at the dining area has a cool wall of blue battered copper, while the majority of the structures – including the attap – are bamboo in different forms and shades.
The villas, if you can call them that, are extraordinary – they’re more like entire homes, even though they’re only one-bedders. Each one, be it a Beach Villa or a Seaview Villa, has 150 square metres of floor space, plus a plunge pool. There are upstairs and downstairs bathrooms – the water’s hot and plentiful in the showers – and a massive living area. The beds are divine. There are mosquito nets for when sleeping, and you’re grateful for this in the morning when you see the activity around! (This is a jungle environment, so there is plenty of wildlife.) In any case, there’s a very clever environmental solution for controlling mosquitos, and we didn’t have any issues with them.
We were in the Seaview Villas that are higher up, and I think they’re better than the ones at sea level because of the added breeze and privacy. Obviously, it’s nice to be right on the beach too, though.
The sustainability aspect of Cempedak is brilliant and the team has definitely learnt a lot from their years of operating Nikoi, from reusing old food to produce maggots to feed the chicken and fish, to capturing water for irrigation for the vegetables and herbs, or for purifying it for use in the resort. It’s worth asking to look around the gardens, and to hear about the different plants and animal life. (The island has hornbills, pangolins and otters, among others.) For underwater views, videos and updates on turtles and other wildlife, there’s quite a bit on the Cempedak Facebook page and website.
Our meals in general were excellent, including my vegetarian ones, and the wine was also good. From an activity point of view, you can walk, run or mountain bike around the island, or kayak, paddleboard or snorkel off the shore; they even have their own grass tennis court, which is beautifully kept – plus croquet and boules!
I just thought it was all done really well and so commendable that they are trying to do things as chemical-free and sustainable as possible. I will let “the girls” give you their feedback now!
“I thought this was a wonderful gem of an island, and a stunning place to be – so private and secluded; it couldn’t be more idyllic. The villas, almost entirely constructed in bamboo, are beautiful: incredibly spacious, airy, with huge decks and private infinity pools overlooking lush foliage and the sea. I loved to sleep with the French doors wide open, under the mosquito net and built-in wooden fan. The indoor outdoor experience wouldn’t be complete without an open-air but private shower – pure bliss! I was particularly impressed with the sustainability and eco-friendly efforts at the resort, which show that the owners care about protecting the environment; for instance, they grow produce locally and use green pest-control methods.” – Karin Galley
“I absolutely loved Cempedak, the most idyllic resort I’ve ever been to. The boat ride is extremely organised and the resort has its own personal jetty on Bintan where you catch the boat to this wonderful spot. The food is similar to a Michelin star restaurant with the various dishes carefully planned to give you a perfect range of meals during your stay. An extensive wine and cocktail list complements this. The villas are all eco-friendly – open-sided so the breeze blows through, and constructed from bamboo to match the overall look of the resort – and they have their own pools. The rooms have fans but no air-con, and also no telephones, though there is an iPad for ordering drinks and communicating if needed. I instantly felt relaxed on arrival, and I didn’t want to leave. I can’t wait to return.” – Jacqui Young
“I loved the design and architecture of Cempedak. This is not a rustic retreat; it’s an impressive display of innovative eco-friendly design with high-end natural finish, where every secluded corner is inviting – from scalloped wooden chairs to breakfast nooks with sea views. I enjoyed the undulating raised walkways, and the villas with their twisting spiral staircase and open-air showers, plus the different-coloured polished stones for poolside paving. The creative use of local materials was felt throughout, from the curved bamboo bridge walkway to the slices of natural rock used to line the resort pathways. The sun-bleached wooden loungers and day beds were all in pristine condition, thanks to the resident carpentry team. This island resort will keep you marvelling at its many design wonders; even the Bose speaker was artfully hidden within a chopped tube of large bamboo!” – Lara Sage
Helping local communities
The group behind Nikoi and Cempedak recently launched a loyalty programme, The Island Club, with plenty of perks for guests of both resorts (for example, waitlist priority, access to exclusive events, a round of cocktails, a free third night during a birthday month, and so on). To join, you just provide a donation to The Island Foundation (theislandfoundation.com) to help them with their continued work with the coastal communities of the Riau Archipelago. For example, the minimum donation of $345 pays for classes for five children for a month, while $980 pays for teachers’ aids, books, paper and pencils for one learning centre for a whole year. (You can also just donate any amount to The Island Foundation should you not wish to join the Club.)
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