• Image One
  • Image One
  • Image One
  • Image One
  • Image One
EXPERT REVIEW Just 85 kilometres from the bright lights of Singapore, the private island of Nikoi beckons with barefoot luxury and unsurpassed solitude

Eco


Overall eco rating


When Nikoi Island was purchased in 2004 by a small group of expatriates residing in Singapore, it was completely uninhabited. Conservation and protection of the natural environment were of primary importance during development and they followed the recommendations of a highly-regarded naturalist to help preserve that secluded feel.  The results left the coastal foreshore around the island intact to maintain healthy and regenerating reefs and keep the eastern portion of the island virtually untouched with the exception of a limited trail system.

The pro-conservation and environmental awareness seen in the original development filters through the island's business model.  The resort's entire marketing budget is channelled into a charitable foundation set up by Nikoi.  The work of the Island Foundation provides some of the best socially responsible projects we’ve seen and blends holistically with the conservation work.  It supports the local Indonesian population by building libraries, teaching local farmers how to grow organically and educating about the benefits of marine conservation.

The operation of the island facility is already ecoconscious but is expected to become greener as a number of planned projects are implemented.

  • Created the Island Foundation – a registered charity which has a focus on education
  • The Island Foundation has created libraries, provides after school English and IT classes and teacher training
  • Established a small organic farm to teach local villagers how to farm organically
  • Working with local people to help persuade them of benefits of ecotourism and sustainable fishing – important for proposed no take zone and turtle conservation (poaching of turtle eggs is a problem)
  • Helping to develop alternative craft industry – have introduced a leading Singaporean batik artist with local villages and plan to sell crafts to guests as souvenirs
  • Staff development has seen a number of locals move up the career ladder, >95% of staff are local
  • Support staff through crises e.g. have funded significant medical costs for major operations to family members
  • The coastal foreshore around the island was left intact to maintain healthy and regenerating reefs
  • A number of rare and critically endangered species are found on the island and structured conservation programme is bringing benefits to numbers
  • Have successfully applied to have the area designated as marine conservation zone
  • Applying to designate expanded area around the island as a no take zone to help depleted fish numbers recover
  • Very focussed on reducing electricity use – no TVs, DVD players, minibar, AC, hairdryers or kettles – rooms have lighting, an iPod sound system and ceiling fans only
  • Hot water is provided by solar thermal system with electric back up disabled

  • Though they have researched alternative energy sources extensively, Nikoi management has yet to come up with a source for alternative power generation and currently use diesel generators to power fridges and pumps
  • The resort has had issues with trash washing up on the beach that is thrown overboard by vessels departing nearby Singapore in order to avoid the high fees for waste disposal

People

Nikoi Island’s ethical work is outstanding and really shines when it comes to its outreach projects to the extended local community. As well as this work, the resort was constructed entirely by local Indonesians, many of whom remain as employees today and after training in English have moved over to front of house positions.

  • Created the Island Foundation – a registered charity which has a focus on education
  • Entire construction team was Indonesian and all were left with new skills
  • Established five libraries for local school children with books and computers for the children to use
  • Working with local people to help persuade them of benefits of ecotourism and sustainable fishing – important for proposed no take zone and turtle conservation (poaching of turtle eggs is a problem)
  • Helping to develop alternative craft industry – have created a local brand and introduced a leading Singaporean batik artist with local villages and plan to sell crafts to guests as souvenirs
  • Staff development has seen a number of locals move up the career ladder, >95% of staff are local
  • Support staff through crises e.g. have funded significant medical costs for major operations to family members
  • More than 95% of goods and services bought locally with a preference for small suppliers
  • Lots of opportunity for visitors to enjoy low impact sports and nature based activities

Animals & nature

The owners of Nikoi were committed to developing the island along sustainable practices. Prior to construction, they engaged one of Asia’s foremost naturalists to survey the island and make recommendations for minimizing the impact on the island’s natural flora and fauna. He also held training sessions for the staff to familiarize them with the natural environment. Turtles nest on the beaches of Nikoi and staff monitor this activity regularly. When a nest is discovered they temporarily cover it with netting to protect it from fisherman and the island’s monitor lizards.

PETA assessment of cruelty free credentials of cleaning products and toiletries to come.

  • Predevelopment advice from naturalist has been followed to minimise disruption to the inter-tidal zone and two thirds of island is left undeveloped as a sanctuary
  • Naturalist surveys continue bi-annually
  • A number of rare and critically endangered species are found on the island and structured conservation programme is bringing benefits to numbers
  • Have successfully applied to have the area designated as marine conservation zone
  • Applying to designate expanded area around the island as a no take zone to help depleted fish numbers recover
  • Staff trained to educate guests about flora and fauna but to learn, watch and not disturb

  • Vegetarian and vegan meals are not a standard part of the daily menu but can be accommodated on request

Environment & buildings

Nikoi’s energy and water systems are very efficient and there is some use of renewable energy for solar hot water.  Management at Nikoi are always striving to lead by example with their eco-initiatives in the hopes that guests will be inspired to live more responsibly, too. In-room guides provide detailed information on how the resort tries to minimize its footprint and a naturalist visits the island regularly to train staff and provide guided nature tours to guests.

  • Very focussed on reducing electricity use – no TVs, DVD players, minibar, AC, hairdryers or kettles – rooms have lighting (low voltage LED and CFL), an iPod sound system and ceiling fans only
  • Hot water is provided by solar thermal system with electric back up disabled
  • Water treatment is one of the major remaining energy consumers – seeking to address this by implementing a grey water recycling system for flushing toilets
  • Recycle plastic, metals and paper/cardboard - gifted to local community who earn a small income by selling to recyclers
  • Purchasing policies bans drinks in single use plastic bottles
  • Toiletries in refillable containers
  • Almost all food is purchased in local markets and the daily menu is dictated by what is fresh and in season
  • All seafood is locally caught and nothing is purchased unless it meets the WWF Indonesia requirements for sustainability
  • Most fruit and vegetables are grown locally on small-scale farms (including some from Nikoi itself)
  • Coffee is from Gayo Mountain in Aceh and is grown using natural and shade grown farming practices and is certified Fairtrade and environmentally sustainable
  • No painted surfaces
  • Sand floors in the dining rooms
  • Beach houses were constructed with driftwood and grass roofs and designed to have a minimal visual impact
  • Beach houses are designed to maximize natural air flow from sea breezes and are not air conditioned
  • Operates a biological sewerage system
  • Recently installed new technology in mosquito prevention. It’s an eco-friendly solution that utilizes just water and electricity. The system has reduced mosquitos by 85% on the island
  • Laundry air dried
  • Construction is low impact making use of driftwood and alang alang (dried local grass) thatching.  Glass, concrete, metal and plastic use is minimal in the construction
  • Saline swimming pools reduce chemical use

  • High reliance on groundwater
  • Renewable energy systems can be expensive and batteries would probably be required but renewable electricity would reduce need for diesel generators currently used for majority of energy needs on the island
  • The resort has had issues with trash washing up on the beach that is thrown overboard by vessels departing nearby Singapore in order to avoid the high fees for waste disposal. They have petitioned the authorities to do something about this but with little success
  • Though they recycle as much as possible, due to a lack of recycling centers nearby, the resort endeavours to be plastic-free and requests that guest take any plastic they bring to the island back with them to Singapore for disposal

Reviewed by

Tim Starley-Grainger and Jenny McIver


Luxury


Overall luxury rating*


In 2004, a small group of expatriates residing in Singapore were disenchanted with the resort options within close proximity and sought an alternative. After stumbling across Nikoi Island while in nearby Bintan, they purchased the island with the intent to create a culturally-sensitive resort specializing in space, privacy and simple luxury. The result is a boutique resort with a laid back feel that is far more private island getaway than resort. There are no rules, no signs and no room keys. In fact, there are hardly any doors.

With just 15 open-air beach houses dotting a spacious 5 hectare private island, Nikoi boasts simplicity in its most decadent form. The resort exudes an effortless elegance of barefoot luxury in a secluded, natural setting. While a relatively easy commute, it feels light years away from the roar of Singapore.

The scene

Nikoi’s motto is “Relaxed by Nature” and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more apt description. The clientele is an easy mix of couples in search of privacy and parents looking to disconnect their children from the modern world and return them to the outdoor adventures of their own youth.

It’s rare to find a resort that successfully caters to both couples and families but Nikoi straddles these two distinct markets exceptionally. Separate dining rooms for each and the limited number of guests at any one time make this blending of demographics a virtual non-issue. Children are catered to at the Kid’s Club run by popular Nikoi staffer, Yogi, while adults have full run of this tropical island that somehow always manages to seem deserted.

  • Perfect for honeymooners and couples looking for a secluded paradise
  • Despite the lack of TVs or video games, kids will find plenty to do on Nikoi
  • Just a two-hour commute by ferry, car and private launch from Singapore
  • The island’s easy terrain is suitable for both young and old

  • The lack of phones and computers may deter business travellers who need to stay connected (though cell phone reception is good and wifi is available)

The style

Just fifteen, two-storey beach houses are handcrafted with driftwood and generously spread along Nikoi’s western shoreline allowing for perfect sunset views. Each beach house features an open-air living room downstairs complete with wooden-decked lounge area, outdoor shower, daybed, sun lounges and a thatched gazebo for beachside massages. In addition to oceanfront views from the balcony, upstairs you’ll find a king-sized bed romantically-draped with flowing mosquito netting and built in daybeds for reading or relaxing. The colour scheme is light and airy and incorporates blues and greens that melt imperceptibly into the natural environment.

Some beach houses offer two and three bedrooms or separate bunkhouses for families but all are designed with vaulted ceilings and fans to keep them cool without the need for air conditioning. The open-door policy on Nikoi means you could go for days without closing one and shoes are rendered practically irrelevant anywhere but on the nature trails. Limited lighting around the island (so as not to affect wildlife) makes for a nightly blanket of stars in the sky that will keep you up til the wee hours in wonder.

  • Beach houses are the ultimate in simple elegance
  • Beach front access from every beach house
  • Though the beach houses have no walls downstairs, privacy is well-maintained by surrounding native trees and plants
  • Uninterrupted views of the South China Sea are a priority whether from the beach houses, the pool or the bars
  • Bedroom and bathroom upstairs, and open-air lounge downstairs in every house
  • King-sized beds, handmade ceiling fans and furniture, daybeds, sun loungers on the beach, steps from your door
  • Indoor ensuite open-air bathroom, but also an outdoor shower
  • No TVs, computers, faxes or Wifi in the rooms

  • Those very accustomed to air conditioning may find the beach houses uncomfortable on the warmest of days
  • Some beach houses benefit from stronger breezes than others due to location

The facilities

What started as a private island has turned into an in-the-know mini-resort, and just like when you visit friends, you’re not here for the gym or the waterpark. You’re here for the beach and island, but the resort does have an excellent restaurant, three bars and two swimming pools for those who don’t fancy dipping their toes in the sea. Babysitting is on offer, too, and at the main house, there’s TV if you really need to get your fix of nightly news.

During the day the boat house offers the usual variety of water sports like fishing, diving, kayaking, windsurfing, paddleboarding and snorkelling and around the island you’ll find rock climbing and abundant hiking trails. Kids will enjoy movie nights and treasure hunts while adults can savour empty beaches, tennis courts and a pool set on the island’s captivating, rocky northern coast.

Dining is a local culinary treat combining organic and locally-sourced fresh ingredients on a blackboard menu that changes daily with what’s in season. Two dining rooms keep couples and families separate though guests may opt to dine in their beach houses or under a palm tree at their whims. Four bars round out the island’s offerings and Nikoi’s no rules mentality means that the bars close when the last guest goes to bed.

  • The restaurant, where you’ll take all your meals, is excellent, although you can order room service
  • Several bars, with a sociable scene
  • Watersports – sailing, kayaking, snorkelling, diving, etc, - plus island treks, mountain biking and beach volleyball
  • Kids aged five and up are well looked after, with babysitting services, treasure hunts, movie nights, a kids pool and specially prepared meals
  • Pool and sundecks on the north side of the island surrounded by spectacular giant granite boulders
  • Two-thirds of the island is undeveloped with the exception of nature trails
  • Tennis courts

  • No spa, although you can have treatments at your beach house
  • No air-conditioning

We love

  • The private-island experience at affordable prices
  • The “no rules” attitude that permeates the island
  • Nightly bonfires on the beach with blanket of stars in the sky
  • A creative menu of local flavours that changes daily according to what’s fresh and in season
  • The simple luxury of open-air beach houses all with direct beachfront access
  • The laid-back crowd

You might not love

  • Getting there – nearly three hours from Singapore
  • The lack of air-conditioning

Reviewed by

Jenny McIver


Nikoi Island

Nikoi Island, Kawal, Bintan

Indonesia
+65 9635 1950

Standard room rates from €190

Eco

Luxury*

"It has been conceived by its owners as their ideal holiday retreat, a place of natural beauty for people who like the idea of going back to nature and spending all day barefoot on the beach, but who appreciate good food and fine wine, who care about details such as the threadcount of the bedlinen" Conde Nast Traveller

"The two-story beachfront villas, fashioned of glossy local timber and twisted driftwood, offer the basics, but it’s all you need: king-size beds draped with mosquito netting, sand-colored couches and lounge chairs, and sleek stone bathrooms. The restaurant serves up simple but delicious meals, like freshly caught fish with vegetables" New York Times