Want in on the private island life, mama? We suss out Cempedak Island and share what we liked (and didn’t) about the kid-free resort!
If you’ve heard of Nikoi Island, then it’s about time you heard about Cempedak Island too! From the same owners, Cempedak Island offers the same feeling of “barefoot luxury” but sans kids! That’s right, if you want that same chill-out feeling, but without the delightful squeals of the little ones (…you know what I mean), you’ll find it at Cempedak.
While travelling to Cempedak Island doesn’t require a flight, you do have to set aside about half a day to get there. Hop on a ferry from the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal towards Bintan. It’s a one-hour ride, but when you get off, you can chill at the VIP Lounge till they call for Nikoi and Cempedak Island-goers. You’ll be whisked into a comfortable car, but it’s another one-hour ride to the other side of the island to get to another jetty.
Once you arrive at the jetty though, you might feel as though you’re already at the resort. You can tell they’ve put great attention to detail and design there already. We sat down and were offered refreshing drinks while waiting for our final transportation: a speedboat to the island! Another 30-minute boat ride – we were craning our necks, looking out for the island. Which one is it? Will we know it when we see it?
And there it was! I thought I would see impressive villa structures oozing with luxury, but all we could see were obscure domed roofs amongst the 42 acres of rainforest that made up the island. It looked like a peaceful, quiet native village rather than a private island resort. We couldn’t wait to explore!
THE FIRST IMPRESSION
We were greeted so warmly by their staff who were all smiles. We were then escorted to the dining area, where we were offered another warm drink. Right there and then, the staff already started to ease into a friendly conversation with us. And this went on throughout our stay, whether we were catching the sunset at the Dodo Bar, or having a meal. Someone would always casually stop by to have a sincere and warm chat – it was as though they weren’t just employees working there but occupants, and we were guests in their home for the next three days.
As we sat in the dining area, I noticed the intricacy of the architecture. The entire building was made out of bamboo. Some of them formed entire pillars – I didn’t even know bamboo could get that large!
Even in our villa – a two-storey open beachfront structure with a living room downstairs and the bedroom upstairs – I couldn’t find a single piece of building structure, or even furniture that was not made out of natural materials like bamboo, stone, glass or metal. The villa had it’s own infinity pool, filled with sea water, set right in front of the beach. Gorgeous! The villas are not equipped with phones but instead, we would use a messaging system to make requests on the iPad provided.
When you enter the villa, the pool area opens directly to the beach. But when we went upstairs, we noticed that the entire upstairs area was also open to the beach area. Even more surprising, so was the bathroom! The latticework in the bathroom was closer together but I wouldn’t call it ‘privacy’. I love the fact that the sea breeze could just enter the room in abundance, though. There was a screen door you could close if you didn’t want the breeze, but it, too, was made of see-through glass. It would have been great to also maybe add curtains for when we were getting in and out of swimsuits because when we passed our villa on a snorkelling boat, or walked past other villas, we had full view of everything, including their rooms!
In line with Cempedak Island’s eco-friendly values, rooms aren’t equipped with refrigerators either, so if you’ve got anything you need to keep chilled, make sure you ask for lots of ice to fill the cooler box they provide. We brought some biltong to snack on and these were kept perfectly fresh in this manner. The eco-friendly resort also does not provide some other amenities you might think to expect from a luxury resort – don’t expect any hair-dryers on site, for example. So those of you who can’t live without one, be warned! I’m one of those, but guess what? I didn’t care at all after a while. I mean, I was in paradise. Who cares about how my hair looks?
To save energy on the island, this also meant that at night, there’s minimal lighting, so be prepared to use your cellphones as torches (although they do provide those). On the other hand, since you’re there without kids anyway, the dim lights do make for quite a romantic evening! *wink* The other thing you might miss that takes up a lot of energy and electricity, would be air-conditioning. So be prepared to do without this. You might think that the 2 fans (one downstairs and one upstairs) or the sea breeze would be enough to keep you cool, but it does get quite hot despite these. However, with a pool right there in your villa, what excuse have you got, really? We literally just jumped in our pool at all hours of the day, or just whenever we felt like we needed to cool off.
THINGS TO DO
The first thing we wanted to explore was the nature. We couldn’t wait to do a nature walk with one of the guides. We were dying to see a monkey, a pangolin or maybe a sea otter, but no luck there.
This little fellow (above) did make an appearance though, but he scurried off as soon as he noticed us.
What impressed me the most during the walk was the discovery of this garden that supplied most (if not all) of the produce used in the kitchen at the resort! Lemongrass, tomatoes, roselles, and many other fruits and vegetables are grown on the island itself, to be used by the resort.
If you’d rather be doing something in the sea, there are free daily excursions you can join. We joined a snorkelling excursion – a first time for me and we actually caught sight of a group of irrawaddy dolphins splashing around! We also had to test out their spa services of course, and these were done right in the comfort of our own villa – nothing like a good full-body scrub followed by a massage!
One evening after a relaxing spa treatment, Valentina, the guest relations officer, came knocking at our door. She asked if we’d like to join the rest for cocktails while watching the sunset. We said that it would be nice, and that we’d be along in a few minutes. She told us we would miss the boat if we took too long. Boat? What boat? We had assumed the cocktails would be at the Dodo Bar.
But it wasn’t! It would be on a floating platform locally known as a ‘kelong’. That was one lovely evening, loaded with cocktails and great conversation with the other guests who came along.
As part of your stay, you will be served three meals a day at Cempedak Island. Plus, lunch and dinner comprise of three courses each! Make sure you’re not on any kind of diet when you come here because you’re not going to want to miss a single course, mama.
I’d describe the food as an elevated version of Indonesian food. We had steaks, grilled shrimp, spring rolls, coconut cream puddings, you name it! After every meal, the restaurant staff would let us know what we could expect for the next meal. For me, this was a great way to get me looking forward to it. But for those with allergies or specific preferences, this was good way to anticipate if anything needed to be changed, which the restaurant was always happy to accommodate. Not an issue for picky eaters at all as they will accommodate if you tell them what you won’t eat. Super flexible. Oh and did I mention that if you liked something you got served a little bit more than usual, you could ask for seconds? Heavenly!
For breakfast, they tell you what they have planned. But you can totally ask for something else instead (standard breakfast stuff like eggs, bacon, sausages, pancakes, toast, etc of course – within some reasonable limits). One thing to note though is that they don’t allow in-room dining – they want to encourage people to be around the resort and not be confined to their rooms.
OTHER THINGS TO NOTE
Cempedak Island villas start at $450 per night, and it’s an additional $90 per person for full-board service (three meals per day). However, you’ll be happy to know that the hotel supports a charity called The Island Foundation which funds an education program across the islands of Indonesia.
Cempedak Island only opened about two months ago, so do note that some of their villas are yet to be completed. Do expect a little bit of construction to be going on while you’re there. At the time we were there however, there was very little noise or distraction caused by this, so I doubt this would interrupt your vacation in any way!