You don’t have to travel halfway around the world to find peace and quiet. Just three hours from Singapore by ferry, Yusrina Yusoff discovers paradise on Sugi Island.
No internet, no spa, no air-conditioning and no television – does that sound like the worst holiday ever? Quite the contrary. Unlike Kate Mallord’s tech’cation to Bangkok (EL July 2012), my stay at Telunas Beach Resort was precisely to get away from it all.
For a peaceful getaway that’s not too far from Singapore, Sugi Island is the perfect alternative to the overhyped Batam and Bintan. One of Indonesia’s Riau Islands, Sugi Island is about 30km southwest of Batam. It’s so remote that the only way to get there is by a small traditional boat from Sekupang Ferry Terminal.
The journey to Sekupang from HabourFront Ferry Terminal was a breeze – only 40 minutes. When we arrived, one of Telunas Beach Resort’s friendly staff, a girl by the name of Ian, picked us up before we boarded another boat that took us to the resort. The ride took almost two hours, but along the way there were plenty of photo opportunities: beautiful scenery and rustic wooden houses.
At every turn, we craned our necks in anticipation, hoping to get our first glimpse of the resort. After an hour, we finally saw it from afar. Set in a private cove, Telunas is entirely built on stilts over blue-green water, with vast and unobstructed sea views.
The staff welcomed us with refreshing drinks and helped us off the boat. The first thing we heard was absolutely nothing. No traffic, no honking, no planes, no thumping construction noises; just the crashing of the waves and the whistling of the wind. The complete silence was rather foreign to a city girl like me, but it was so refreshing.
Famished after the long boat rides, we devoured the lunch buffet of deliciously simple and satisfying fare. After lunch, Ian showed us to our room – a private chalet built right over the water. We could actually see the green sea through the gaps in the wooden flooring.
There’s no air conditioning, but our room was equipped with three fans and it was pretty windy, anyway; just open up the doors to the balcony and you’ll see what I mean. It also comes with a hammock. All you need is a good read and a cup of tea while you let the sea breeze caress you. Don’t be surprised if you fall asleep!
Telunas offers true peace and calm. There’s no fixed itinerary, no rush to beat the breakfast queue and no waiting to use the resort facilities. It almost felt like our own private beach, as the only other guests were two expat families from Singapore. The staff probably outnumbered the guests.
What was there to do? We asked Ian. She looked at us, surprised, as though we should know the answer already. “Nothing!” she exclaimed, laughing, “Just eat, sleep and relax!”
They say you can take a girl out of the city but not the city out of the girl. I couldn’t just do “nothing”. Feeling adventurous, we took a trip to the mini-waterfall. Getting there takes about an hour and a half of trekking through jungle. Along the way we met creatures of all kinds – cows, chicken, a neon-green lizard, a Venus flytrap plant and many others.
I was eager to plunge off the cliff (again, mini), into the black pool below the waterfall. Although I felt like backing out at one stage, I knew I had to do it when a 10-year-old jumped fearlessly 10 times before me. Shivering – unsure whether it was from the cold or the terror – I pinched my nose, shut my eyes, gathered the last of my courage and jumped. Despite choking when I resurfaced, it felt good!
If you’re celebrating an anniversary or birthday or just want a bit of romance, make the trip even more special with a dinner by the beach or on the water. Hosts Ian and Aan did a wonderful job with the beautiful setup for our traditional Indonesian dinner. The meal consisted of a cone of yellow rice surrounded by beef rendang, fried shrimps, spicy-sour Indonesian salad, fried chicken and many other dishes. I recommend starting the dinner at 5.30pm, as it gets really dark from 6.30pm onwards. The only source of lighting was the fire torches surrounding us. During our dinner, the whole resort suddenly blacked out – a perfectly normal occurrence as the place runs on generators, so no reason to panic. Plus, it made the evening even more romantic.
Create more romantic memories by waking up early to catch the sunrise. As Sugi Island is one hour behind Singapore time, the sun rises just after 5am. Watch it from your balcony or on the beach before going for breakfast. It’s a breathtaking sight, and probably one you don’t often see in Singapore.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all included in the package, but those who snack frequently should bring along their favourite nibbles as there aren’t any shops nearby. Telunas sells a limited range of snacks like Pringles and Tim Tams, but if you want something more filling, let them know three hours in advance and they can prepare fried spring rolls and other finger food.
At breakfast, they can bring pots of coffee and tea to you in your chalet. I even brought home a box of the Indonesian tea infused with pandan leaves and aromatic rose, instead of the usual mug or T-shirt souvenir.
Make sure you take enough cash with you. There are no ATMs nearby and Telunas accepts only cash or cheques. Bring along some Indonesian rupiah if you plan to visit the local markets.
If you’ve left your copy of Fifty Shades of Grey at home, there’s a small collection of books in the resort’s common room, left behind by other guests. It’s a nice idea to leave your own book behind, too. Someone will be grateful. Thanks to whoever left that copy of Sex and The City; I enjoyed reading it while swinging in the hammock. There are board games and card games available there, too. At night, we played poker while the other guests enjoyed family time together.
On our last night, they organised a bonfire where we gathered to roast marshmallows, enjoying the night breeze. That was the moment when the voice inside my head screamed, “I don’t want to go home!” – never mind the fact that there isn’t any Wi-Fi connection, and I practically live on the internet 24/7.
Sugi Island is a great place to experience authentic island life, from exploring the jungle to visiting the local market to just lying on the beach while your kids hunt for hermit crabs. Doing absolutely nothing has become a luxury, and this is the place where, if you choose, you can do just that. Paradise, I hope to see you again.
Where to Stay
Telunas Beach Resort offers a range of accommodation, including standalone private chalets with a double bed and bunk beds, deluxe family rooms, multi-family suites with three master bedrooms, as well as bunkrooms that can accommodate up to 16 people. Dorm rooms are also available for bigger groups that visit for retreats and adventure camps.
Prices start from $155 per night for a deluxe family room. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Kayaks are for hire to explore the area, and island-hopping tours can be arranged too.
Book a ferry from Harbour Front Ferry Terminal to Sekupang on Batam through SINDO Ferries or Batam Fast Ferry.
A Telunas Beach Resort staff member will pick you up from Sekupang Ferry Terminal and accompany you to the traditional Malay fishing boat that takes you to Telunas Beach Resort.
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