"Welcome to Nikoi Island: your private island!”, with a big smile we are helped out of the speed boat and onto the jetty. While our luggage quickly disappears into an old-fashioned cargo bike, we take in the ‘picture postcard scenery’ that stretches out before our eyes. A luscious jungle with gigantic granite boulders, lying there as if thrown there personally by a giant’s hand and – as a golden rim – a beautiful white sandy beach to make the picture complete. All this, only 10 kilometres off the coast of the Indonesian island of Bintan.
“Mum and dad, are there any pirates here?”, without waiting for an answer, our daughters jump off the jetty and run on to the island that we can call our own for the entire week. Well, almost our own. Apart from the beach house where we will be staying, there are another 14 similar accommodations. All of them built from local drift wood and with the typical authentic so-called alang-alang roofs that are made from a sort of long blady grass. There are 30 guests at the most. Mainly expats from Singapore, who undertake the 2.5-hour journey to this paradise island. Although there are also guests who, like us, crossed half the world for a real Robinson Crusoe experience. Yet, he was a long way from the level of comfort which is lavished on us this day and age. As it is, Nikoi is all about ‘bare feet luxury’.
For the entire week, we dip our toes in the soft sand. Here, it’s all about getting back to nature and being at one with the environment. Precisely that was the vision of a group of expats who – not happy with the level of comfort of the average family accommodation – started building their own dream holiday destination. And they succeeded alright. Nikoi Island ticks all the right boxes. For a start, it has an intimate atmosphere. The 15 beach houses are set on 5 hectares of land; the remaining 10 hectares is jungle, so there is plenty of space to find a spot for some undisturbed relaxing.
Then again, action is never far away. At Nikoi Island, no one gets the chance to get bored – not even for a second. Guests can pick from a whole range of watersport activities: kayaking, windsurfing, snorkelling, diving, sailing, etc. There are also two tennis and croquet courts, guests can go rock climbing and, each evening, the staff plays a game of soccer and they like for guests to team up with them. There is no tight activities schedule. It’s more like: join in when you want to, it’s up to you what, when, where and how you want it.
The same can be said of the informal kids’ club. Every morning, we walk over to the hut; a simple covered construction with hammocks and bean bag chairs. Behind it, a tree house and a self-built climbing track. The best part of the day is, without a doubt, the evening when the kids can enjoy a children’s film on a large screen. In the morning, a paper on a pole near the hut announces the activities for the day. For example, woodworking, jumping off the jetty, fishing, capture the flag, often a treasure hunt at the end of the day and, after dinner, roasting marshmallows over an impressively large campfire. The activities are very easy-going; kids can hop-on and hop-off whenever and as much as they like.
As a matter of fact, easy-going and relaxed are the perfect terms to describe the atmosphere at Nikoi. From the moment we arrive, the staff addresses us by our names, their service is very relaxed and always with a broad smile.
And so the days go by in total bliss. We have so much fun with swimming, snorkelling and fishing, that it takes us two whole days before we ‘discover’ the swimming pool.
It takes quite a walk through the jungle; the 30-metre high native Banyan trees are a sight in themselves. The swimming pool, spectacularly situated on the north-eastern part of the island, is picture perfect. As if it were carved out of the rocks, the swimming pool rises high above the South China Sea. There is also a kiddy pool for the little ones and a bar where friendly bartenders mix fairly strong cocktails or, when it is still too early in the day for alcoholic refreshments, a Cappuccino.
The Spa is next to the swimming pool. In a rustic tent on the beach, guests can get the whole range of massages and treatments – in case you don’t already feel relaxed enough.
Amidst all this beauty is our personal retreat: a two-bedroom beach house. It measures no less than 140 m2 and comes out on the beach, just like all the other houses. The living room is open on all sides; this is quite refreshing as the average outside temperature is 30˚ Celsius. Ceiling fans also provide cooling and there is always a refreshing breeze from the sea that is literally a stone’s throw away. Upstairs, the master bedroom with a view straight from your bed of fishermen in their traditional boats passing early in the morning. The second bedroom can be reached by an elevated wooden walkway. Both bedrooms have an ensuite bathroom and our house even has a small room with a bunk bed. Apart from this two-bedroom accommodation, there are also one- and three-bedroom beach houses. Don’t expect any air conditioning and marble bathrooms; you’ll find everything you reasonably need and it is all very functional and nicely decorated indeed.
One of the highlights of our stay are the meals. It all starts with the location of both restaurants. One for couples and the other for families, the open-sided restaurants are right on the beach and offer stunning views of the sea. While the sand plays with our toes, ceiling fans offer a refreshing breeze.
The restaurants serve set meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu is put up on a blackboard – you can choose from meat, fish or a vegetarian dish and if something is not to your liking, they simply and gladly change it for you. As both restaurants are open-sided, they offer a spectacular view of the sea. The meals are either served at an impressively 9-metre long table made from driftwood for communal dining or at separate tables. Or, if you are in for something really special, it is possible to arrange a private dinner on one of the nearby deserted islands.
Nikoi Island feels like staying on the private island of a good friend – and that’s exactly what the founders had in mind. There are little to no rules, no fixed schedules or tight structure. It is precisely the other way round: everything revolves around the guests at Nikoi. That’s exactly what makes it such a unique experience.
One thing we know for sure: we will be back!
# the real feel of an island. Just the journey up to the island, makes you feel like leaving the daily grind completely behind you and as soon as you see the island looming up in the distance you realise: this is going to be great.
# the enormous range of activities makes sure even the most restless of guests have more than plenty to do.
# despite the secluded location of Nikoi, the kitchen staff succeeds in serving the most delicious dishes – day in day out.