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Crusoe Luxury Hideaway with Loving Service and Sustainable Design
We have the feeling that we visited an almost undiscovered gem! Barefoot luxury with lots of privacy in natural surroundings on a private island in the middle of the South China Sea – Pure luxury and romance – far away from everyday stress!
At Cempedak you can enjoy life – stay in a gorgeous bamboo villa, relax at your plunge pool, stroll through the rainforest, snorkel in the sea, do yoga on your private deck, and enjoy freshly caught fish and tropical cocktails by candlelight in the evenings.
It takes about two and a half hours by catamaran ferry, car and private boat from Singapore to Bintan Island, a tropical paradise on the East Coast of Indonesia. With its crystal clear warm waters, coral reefs, white sandy beaches, granite cliffs and a jungle of chirping cicadas, you feel like you are on a small Robinson Crusoe Island.
Pulau Bintan belongs to the Riau Islands group, which is part of Sumatra and lies south of Singapore – a province populated mainly by farmers and fishermen. Australian banker hotelier Andrew Dixon bought his first private island resort, Nikoi in 2007 with a few friends. In 2009 he founded The Island Foundation, to help the communities of the Riau Islands with Nikoi’s income by improving their income, health and education.
Andrew Dixon then bought the nearby Cempedak Island in 2011 and began with the construction of this affiliated hotel in 2014. A great deal of emphasis was placed on cultural sensitivity, local design, excellent service and pure luxury. It was designed by the renowned Balinese architect Miles Humphreys from New Zealand.
Cempedak, named after a tree, has 20 spectacular Balinese bamboo designed pool villas and is intended for adults or children over 16. It is the perfect hideaway for couples and honeymooners! If you travel with children, we recommend the family-friendly Nikoi Island!
The journey starts at the ferry terminal near the Singapore airport. Arriving on Bintan, you are picked up by the Cempedak team directly from the ferry and taken to the VIP lounge. While waiting with a cold drink in hand, the staff takes care of your luggage. Then by car, you travel across the island to Cempedak and Nikoi.
Life on the island seems simple, quaint and untouched, but you can see many new homes are being built and the island is changing. Undoubtedly thanks to tourism and The Island Foundation.
Once we arrived at Cempedak, we were greeted by the beaming staff. It rained on our arrival, and the staff formed a roof with umbrellas to keep us dry. Such a special gesture!
Luxury in Harmony with Nature – the Future of Sustainable Tourism
The villas with their crescent shaped roofs made of local alang-alang grass, look almost like large coconuts or shells and blend gracefully into the natural surroundings while at the same time offer protection from the elements. The resort was built by local workers using driftwood and bamboo from Bali and lava rock from Java. It only employs Indonesian staff.
Bamboo is sustainable, and there is no need for air conditioners due to the open construction combined with the high ceilings. On this 17 hectare eco-friendly resort, there is no air conditioning, hair dryers, mini bar fridges, televisions and no room keys.
To check-in, we did not go to the reception desk, but straight to lunch. A feast of fantastic, delicious and typical Indonesian dishes awaited us. So, if possible, take the 11:10 ferry.
The staff is charming, hard-working and always have a smile on their faces. You can feel that they enjoy their work and also have time to chat. The service is excellent and, above all, caring.
Apart from the bar in the restaurant and a bar next to the pool, there also is the exceptional four-story thatched roof Dodo bar made of Ijuk (black arenga palm fibers) build on a giant rock.
The Dodo Bar is the perfect spot to enjoy the beautiful sunsets, cocktail in hand.
Impressive bamboo villas with pool and ocean views
There are only two kinds of villas – the slightly higher ones with ocean views and the villas with direct beach access. Each comprises more than 100 square meters and a total of 1,600 square meters of indoor and outdoor living space.
Our Villa 15 was right on the sunset side of the beach.
Thanks to the intelligent design and the open construction, there is always a gentle ocean breeze keeping the spectacular bamboo villa cool. We did not miss air conditioning at all, on the contrary, we always turn the air conditioning off when we arrive somewhere.
In the open basement, there is a large lounge area with a spacious terrace, bar, sun loungers and a yin and yang pool overlooking the sea.
In the mornings, you can watch some Komodo dragons on the beach. Sometimes they even come to the front of the villa and take a bath in the overflow of the pool.
The furniture is made of recycled teak, very tasteful and has a chic rustic charm.
A sweeping staircase leads to the open bedroom and the bathroom with sea views.
The wall of hinged glass, bamboo doors can be completely pushed aside.
There is Wi-Fi if you would like to check e-mails and an iPad to contact your host and order in-room cocktails. Very handy indeed!
Villa 18 is probably the most popular. It has a great sea view, is located next to the spa and near the mangrove beach. With a little luck, you can observe an otter family here in the mornings.
The awe-inspiring spa on the rocks has three open treatment pavilions with magnificent sea views.
We did not treat ourselves to massages here, but the ones we received at the sister hotel, Nikoi were great! And the atmosphere itself is impressive.
Boathouse & Pool
The Boathouse offers all sorts of water sports and excursions, for example, cultural tours, snorkel trips, and island hopping. There is also a bar, a small shop and a large infinity pool. It is also the best place to swim in the sea at high tide.
Every evening you get a message on your villa’s iPad with a list of the excursions that you can join the next day.
Lunch and dinner are served as three-course meals. The menu is planned in advance, and the kitchen team happily accommodates any dietary requirements.
The fresh cuisine is an exciting mix of local Indonesian dishes with international finesse and Western cuisine. The ingredients are almost entirely either from the hotel’s garden or from local markets and small traders. Grilled fish, seafood, vegetables and lots of fresh fruit are available.
For the sake of the environment, the menus are only available on iPad and not printed.
The food is delicious and shows that there are great chefs at work here!
Breakfast by the ocean
Such a view at breakfast is stunning and with the attentive service, the morning is perfect!
In addition to fresh fruit, smoothies and Indonesian cake specialties, you also have the choice of two hot dishes. The black sticky rice with coconut milk and mango was excellent!
Every morning you can participate in a Nature Walk. An interesting experience.
You can find 50 bird species, including hornbills, eagles and kingfishers, 150 butterfly species, a family of sea otters and even the endangered pangolin on Cempedak.
In addition to bamboo, there are recycled teak furniture, solar-powered hot water, efficient DC motors to power ceiling fans and pool pumps, homegrown food minimizing packaging waste, organic composting and the replanting of indigenous trees.
The flowers at the bottom of this picture indicate the quality of the wastewater, which is naturally cleaned here.
The Island Foundation
Founded by Andrew Dixon, the charity is responsible for training teachers, running learning centers, developing a bilingual curriculum, and organizing community activities. In cooperation with locals, an education and literacy program was launched to help sustain the communities in the Riau Archipelago. By educating the next generation, permanent change is created.
Training teachers. Inspiring young minds. Building the next generation.
Relaxation, swimming, sailing, snorkeling, diving, spa, climbing, mountain biking, cultural tours, nature experience and island hopping, windsurfing, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, tennis, croquet and boules
Honeymoon & Wedding
The island is a honeymooner’s paradise. It not only has a very romantic atmosphere, but the gorgeous villas offer loads of privacy.
- 7 nights full board accommodation
- 50-minute massage per couple
- Romantic dinner on the beach
- A bottle of sparkling wine
S$ 4800 (about 3000 EUR) für 2 Personen
The team, including general manager Marjan, who has been running Nikoi for ten years, is fantastic! The service is much more unique and attentive than at a regular hotel. The staff is well taken care of and happy, and as a guest, you can feel that. We had so much fun with them, and they made us feel very welcome during our entire stay.
All 200 employees, at Nikoi and Cempedak, except for one, are Indonesian. Many of them have been here from the beginning. With a maximum of 40 guests at any given time on Cempedak Island, there is plenty of staff.
For those who dream of a tropical holiday in harmony with nature, falling asleep with the sound of the ocean and Cicadas – this is heaven on earth. We loved it! The natural scenery and the bamboo villas are breathtaking. The open design is phenomenal. The loving and very attentive service of the staff is truly unique. It was even better than our experience in the Seychelles 6 years ago. Unfortunately, a lot has changed there due to the increasing mass tourism. Here everything still exists in perfect harmony! Add to this, the environmental protection program and the fact that the local population is supported, and you have a winning combination. A holiday with so much added value!
Room: 20 spectacular open bamboo villas (adults only)
Flight duration: about 12 hours and 15 minutes from Germany to Singapore
Transfer: 85 km from Singapore: an approximately 60-minute ferry ride (Bintan Ferries – 6x daily) to Bintan; followed by a roughly 60-minute drive across Bintan Island to the Cempedak and Nikoi Island base and then a 25-minute boat trip to Cempedak Island.
Visa: On arrival for a stay of 30 days free of charge
Vaccinations: Not mandatory
Air Temperature: 23 – 31 degrees Celsius
Water Temperature: 28 – 30 degrees Celsius
Time difference: CET +6 hours
Best Travel Time: All year-round. It is tropically warm throughout the year near the equator, and there is no distinct rainy season. Daily showers are normal, and from December to April, it is mostly sunny.
Price: From 485 EUR per night including full board and transfer. A minimum stay of at least 2 nights applies.
Honeymoon Special: S$ 4800 (about 3000 EUR) per couple including 7 nights full board, transfer, a 50- minute couple massage, a romantic dinner on the beach and a bottle of sparkling wine.
Activities: swimming, snorkeling, diving, water sports, shopping in Singapore
Particularities: Adults only, no room key, no TV, no air conditioning, but beautiful nature on a tropical island with exceptional bamboo villas, excellent food, and attentive staff.
Perfect for: Couples, nature lovers, romantics, honeymooners, adventurers
Conde Nast “Hot List” – 2017, 2018
Travel + Leisure “Best New Hotels in the World” – 2018
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Note: Cempedak sponsored our stay. Thank you so much! Nonetheless, the opinions expressed in the article are 100% our own!