It’s been a little while since we visited the little secluded private island of Nikoi just off the coast of Bintan and only a couple of hours from Singapore. This 15 hectare private island has been under my skin ever since, I just can’t shake how much I enjoyed this trip to Nikoi Island Resort. I’ve been itching to find an afternoon to write this blog and share one of the best private islands near Singapore with you. It’s like a piece of wild Asia.
My obsession started a while ago when my lovely friend Hili first introduced me to this private Indonesian island, it was when we first arrived in Singapore and there it had sat on my list for two years. I can’t believe that it took me that long to persuade the husband to finally press the button and book the trip. But it appears having a big birthday is good motivation. We tried other islands in the meantime like Rawa and Sibu, whilst they were fun, they just aren’t a patch on Nikoi Island Resort.
The Journey from Singapore to Nikoi Island
As I want to share my full Nikoi Island review I’ll start with the journey… I was a little hesitant about the journey there, the idea of a 1-hour land transfer in the middle wasn’t filling my heart with joy. But that ended up being my favourite part.
We’re lucky to already be based in Singapore, so we just hopped on a ferry from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, Singapore to Bandar Bentan Telani, Bintan which took just over an hour. We also treated the kids to 1st class (Emerald), which means you get to sit upstairs and get on and off the ferry first. I did brief them not to get too used to this service, as this won’t be happening anytime soon on a flight unless we get a mysterious upgrade.
As we got off the boat we were ushered left where a smiley lady took our luggage stubs. We then sat in a separate waiting room with refreshments whilst our luggage was collected for us, always a winner in my book. Our driver then met us right outside the door (with a brolly as it was raining cats and dogs) ready to take us to the Nikoi boat.
I loved the journey across Bintan, especially seeing all the local villages. My favourite part without a doubt was driving past the coast and seeing the 100s of fishing houses out at sea. The Nikoi team welcomed us with warm smiles at their boat ready to cross to the island. The crossing was a short and smooth 15 min journey, we were safely tucked into the bow of the boat. And I’m pleased to report that there was not a splash of water on us (or our luggage).
The arrival to Nikoi was the best, we were lucky to have the lovely Lucy as the guest liaison for our trip and she met us at the pier with a huge smile.
Pre-arrival I did find the accommodation options a bit confusing, I wasn’t really sure what we’d booked ourselves in for. As it turns out we had booked was a beach house… what I would call a bright and airy, two story, one-bed villa with a bunk room downstairs.
Downstairs was open plan with a kitchenette, a lounge area and a swinging day bed (when I say open plan, I mean it, there are no walls). Plus there was a bunk room with two beds. Up the lofty stairs was a huge bedroom with the most amazing views out to sea through the full-width bifold doors. Taking centre stage was a big four-poster bed with mosquito nets, two day beds, plus seats to sit and watch the view. Also a spacious bathroom, a delightful rain shower, with the loo perfectly positioned to see out to sea whilst you sit on the throne. (The only thing missing was a bath tub). There was a big fan over the bed and downstairs so no need for air conditioning. The sea breeze was lovely and cooling too.
Tip: Our kids still like to sleep close-by so the team kindly converted the two day couches upstairs as beds for the kids, complete with mosquito nets and portable fans.
Tip: There are no fridges, but you can ask the team to fill up the cool box with ice to keep your wine cool.
I love Indonesian food, it’s one of my absolute favourites and I wasn’t disappointed on Nikoi. Breakfasts involved multiple courses of fruits, pastries and rice, with freshly squeezed juices and endless cups of green tea and coffee. I love how they have a menu for the day and everyone eats the same lunch and dinner. But their twist is great, you get asked at breakfast if lunch works for you and if you’d like any tweaks or anything different. Thus giving them time to prepare and you have to wait less time when you come to sit and eat.
I’m a gluten-free veggie but I eat the odd bit of fish and I dined like a queen during our trip. We did however discover that dinner was possibly too late for our kids after the first night (when the youngest fell asleep on his plate). So we then opted to feed the kids earlier, then let them play jenga in the bar, go watch a movie in the kids club, or fall asleep whilst we ate at our own pace. The best part about meal times here is getting to be barefoot, as the dining room is one giant sandpit.
What to Do on Nikoi Island, Indonesia
I’m not one to sit still on holiday, I can’t go to a resort and not see the local life. But I came away from Nikoi saying that I could easily spend two uninterrupted weeks here. You can walk around the island in about 20 mins, so it’s not huge. But that is what makes it a safe space for the kiddos to play and explore. It’s wasn’t unusual to spot a monitor lizard whilst you’re on your walk, but they’re pretty docile and keep themselves to themselves.
The pool was at the other end of the island to our villa but it made a nice change from the beach so we’d switch it up a bit. The pool was fresh though (and gets shady in the afternoon), so our kids preferred to hang at the beach. Whilst we were there they were lowering the roof of the pool bar and building some more accommodation next door, so it was mildly noisy. It was really well-handled by the staff, I mean who doesn’t like a free beer.
The beaches here have the softest sand and I was amazed to hear that for half of the year the beach moves to the other side of the island with the direction of the tide. The sea wasn’t the clearest when we were there but I still got to see lots of clown fish (including the black and white kind). Plus more sea urchins than I thought possible, they were like little black bombs across the sea bed. We took water shoes with us, but they have plenty for guests to borrow.
The guys at the beach hut were amazing and often took the kids off exploring, or got out the big boy tools to build sandcastles. They even showed us how to eat sea urchins which they apparently had learnt from some Japanese guests who had stayed at Nikoi previously. In addition to the snorkelling they also have kayaks, SUPs and hobi cats for guests to play on.
Tip: Apparently the water in April is the clearest, just like glass.
If you’re after some ‘me time’, you’ll be pleased to hear that they have a spa. Set over on a quiet part of the island in safari tents, you lie down on the beds with the sounds of the waves lapping on the shore whilst all your knots are massaged away.
Nikoi was set up for families and our kids will say that kids club was their favourite part of the holiday, without a shadow of a doubt. They also had it to themselves for two days, so they basically spent all-day making woodwork spears, arrows, shields, catapults, and even a pirate ship. But also they climbed up coconut trees, went rock climbing, jumped off the jetty and went on treasure hunts every day before dinner to find the marshmallows to roast on the fire set up on the beach.
What you can see from pictures is how beautiful Nikoi is but what they can’t convey is how friendly the team here is. I got a sense that it’s really well managed and the staff and local community are really well cared for, many have been there for years. From the kids club to the bar staff (who serve up sky juice for the kids with songs on the guitar), to the beach team and the restaurant staff, they all wear effortless big smiles all day long and are genuinely nice people.
As this was a trip for a ‘big’ birthday, the team went all out one evening, baking me a delicious gluten free cake and even made me a flower crown and necklace.
I find myself often analysing holidays and quite often I’ll say; it was really good but…. well Nikoi had no ‘buts’ for me. They had thought of everything and delivered it seamlessly. If you’re looking for a complete break from Singapore or a longer haul holiday to relax and unwind, then Nikoi Island hits the mark. I hope you enjoyed my Nikoi Island Review, I’m already planning our next trip, see you soon Nikoi 🙂
Details: Nikoi Island Resort, Teluk Bakau, Gunung Kijang, Bintan Regency, Riau Islands, Indonesia.
Check-in and Check-out time: Check-in is at 1 pm and Check out is at 11 am