Photo: The Villas are set against lush green forest.
My husband and I were looking for a quiet weekend getaway to celebrate our ninth anniversary earlier this year, and Cempedak Island (which I’d read about online) seemed like the place for a dream vacation.
Getting to the island, which opened in late 2018, is a charmingly quaint process. You don’t go by plane - water is the mode of transport. I remember the day was perfect, with cloudless blue skies and pristine waters. The leisurely pace also meant we could wave at the locals in a fishing village that was set on stilts. As we approached land, we could make out the roofs of the villas, surrounded by rich greenery. There to greet us at a rustic wooden pier was the resort’s residential team, who led us to the main restaurant for a welcome drink and guided us through a swift check-in.
Photo: Bamboo is used in many of the structures.
Cempedak Island extends across 17ha of rainforest, and it delivers both privacy and peace - this was one of the first things we noticed when we got there. We were one of 15 couples staying on the island, but it almost felt like we had the island to ourselves. Because the villas are 15m apart and surrounded by thick vegetation, we didn’t see or hear our fellow guests. Those looking for peace and quiet will be happy to know that kids under the age of 16 aren’t allowed on the island - so you won’t encounter them in the dining area or other shared spaces. Our villa was on a steep hill, just five minutes from the main building, but we had the option of calling for a buggy ride whenever we wanted to head out. We preferred to walk, though.
If you’re into sustainable travel, the resort’s eco-luxe philosophy will definitely appeal to you. The first thing you observe is how the island is incorporated into the resort - the villas have thatched roofs made from lalang leaves, and locally-sourced bamboo serves as pillars. Since the point of coming to Cempedak Island is to be immersed in nature, it has no air-conditioning. Instead, you get ceiling fans and mosquito nets over the beds to keep out unwanted guests. That didn’t bother us too much as the nights were cool, thanks to the high ceilings of the villas and the constant sea breeze (our villa faced the glistening South China Sea). Waking up every morning to the sound of birdsong and the bustle of fishing boats on the sea was idyllic.
But escaping city life doesn't have to mean just lying horizontal. The resort has a spa, a tennis court, kayaks and guides to show you around the island. We did an easy trek through the forest, where we kept an eye out for rare native species like hornbills, otters and pangolins. We weren’t so lucky, and they proved elusive. If hikes aren’t your thing, go for a stroll instead in the resort’s garden, which has fruits and vegetables grown and tended by the resort staff.
Photo: All daily meals - made using locally-sourced produce - are included in the package.
Some of the fresh produce we saw while exploring the place actually ended up on our dinner plates. The resort restaurant generally does things omakase-style, but you can request certain items. On our first night, we were served a delicious steak dinner, but once we told the chef that we wanted authentic local flavours, we were treated to an Indonesian feast of curries, beef rendang and soto ayam.
At Cempedak Island, we got quality time without distractions, and a brief respite - during which we traded our corporate attire for some barefoot luxury.
Photo: Eliza hangs out at her villa’s private pool, with amazing views of the South China Sea.
Rates at the resort begin at $450 a night. Book a ferry ride to Bintan from Singapore, and get the resort to arrange a private boat ride from there. Go to www.cempedak.com
This story was originally published in the July 2018 issue of Her World.