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Nikoi Island

The Private Island With Sustainability Woven Into Its DNA

Next time you’re in need of some r&r, this tiny island two hours boat ride from Singapore is the perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of city living. Forget greenwashing; Nikoi is a stunning eco-luxe island resort with sustainability at the top of its agenda. In fact, it’s the stuff that conscious traveller’s dreams are made of. Here’s what we discovered when team GITNB visited this beachy paradise.

As the ocean turned from a murky brown into a brilliant turquoise, Nikoi Island came into view.  Just two short boat rides from Singapore lies a 15-hectare private tropical island. And yes, it’s as perfect as it sounds. White sandy shores lapped gently by clear waters, a jungly backdrop of palms, nature humming in the background. And the melodic tune of Bon Jovi tinkling through the frangipani scented air. Wait. What? (More on that later!) As soon as you set foot on this little paradise isle, it’s clear a vacation like no other awaits. Welcome to Nikoi; the island with sustainability intrinsically woven into its DNA.

Arrival in paradise

Rewind to November and, in a post-Conscious Festival comedown, the GITNB descended upon Nikoi for fours days of island living during our annual team offsite. And we couldn’t have chosen a more idyllic, or more sustainable, setting. Greeted warmly upon arrival by the resident staff, we were ushered along a sandy path to the island bar and handed a cooling island-made drink. Instantly the world slowed, our stress dissolved, and all that mattered was sun, sea, and sandy toes. Conscious Festival? What Conscious Festival.

The accommodation situation

Nikoi Island Sustainable Resort
Our island home: we’re still plotting how to move back here permanently…

The island is small, in a non-claustrophobic way, and within a few minutes walk from the central hub (comprising the island restaurants, bars, social areas, and main beach) our accommodation emerged from the verdant jungle. 

Nikoi describes its villas as an example of “simple barefoot luxury”. And we fell in love with our three-bedroom beachy mansion the minute we clapped eyes on it. A stone’s throw from the shoreline, nothing but blue views and sea breeze are guaranteed.

The villas are spacious, chic, and blend beautifully into the natural landscape. Step inside, and the initial panic of realising there’s no air-con quickly subsides when you feel that breeze. The design of each villa is smart; natural horizontal and vertical ventilation keep things fresh, negating the need for artificial air conditioning (fans are available for human furnaces). Don’t expect ‘luxuries’ like TVs, fridges, and coffee machines either; reducing electricity consumption comes first here, and rightly so. A lack of these so-called ‘essentials’ was the first of many small steps towards sustainability we noticed throughout our stay. Even the hot water showers are powered by solar, and LED lights are used throughout (which makes walking home at night a jungly adventure if you forget your torch!).

But it’s not just the villas that are remarkable examples of sustainable construction. Everything on Nikoi, from the bars and dining areas to tables and chairs, have been created using driftwood found on Nikoi and other neighbouring islands. Throughout, the lack of man-made materials like cement, plastic, paint, and glass keeps things natural. 

Nikoi Island villa
Barefoot luxury villas

Food glorious food

Before arriving on Nikoi, we made a quick detour to the island farm on the mainland of Bintan. If you get the chance, it’s worth popping by to say hello (not least to have a quick play with the farm’s adorable rescue puppy, Badak). Here you’ll find an incredibly knowledgable band of local farmers championing permaculture. It’s an inspiring set-up that has transformed several acres of infertile land into a thriving farm that produces fruit, vegetables, herbs, and eggs in abundance for Nikoi. You’ll even find the papaya and jackfruit juice in the seasonal cocktails at the bar. 

And the self-sufficiency doesn’t end there. On Nikoi itself, you’ll find a brood of chickens (and the older birds whose egg-laying days over and are happily ‘retired’). Plus plenty more farm beds growing local fruit, veg, and herbs free of pesticides and other chemical nasties. Vegans and vegetarians rejoice; when it comes to delicious food, the island pantry and innovative chefs have got you covered. 

Nikoi also adopts a zero-waste approach. It composts all island food waste and uses it to fertilise the crops. Sign up for the daily sustainability tour, and you’ll see the composting (and the gazillion soldier fly larvae) in action. The team is also smart when it comes to using gluts of fruit. Prop up the bar and you’ll spot the housemade syrups used to flavour cocktails and spritzers. They’re delicious (and excellent mixers for vodka, just sayin’).

We made friends with the chickens

A walk on the wild side

The wildlife conservation driven by the Nikoi team has made its mark. By creating a Marine Protection Area surrounding the island’s coral reef, the resident turtle population has found the space to thrive. In 2019 alone, Nikoi saw 970 turtle hatchlings successfully make it into the ocean. And the onsite Marine Conservation Officer ensures the reef continues to get healthier every year. Dive in for a snorkel, and you’ll spot everything from sea urchins, seahorses, and starfish, to stingrays, octopus, and, of course, turtles. During our visit, we even spotted a family of elusive sea otters playing under our villa!

The Island Foundation

Engagement with the local community goes beyond the shores of Nikoi. The Island Foundation (set up by the Nikoi team) engages with communities on neighbouring Bintan and other surrounding islands to help them help themselves. Now a charitable organisation registered in Singapore, it delivers educational programmes that are transforming the lives of children with the Riau community. It’s grown significantly over the years, and there are now eight learning centres across the region, with over 2,500 students benefitting from the initiative. Read more about the incredible work it’s doing here.

That water though #NoFilter

The fun stuff

Aside from ticking a ton of eco-friendly boxes, Nikoi island is one helluva lot of fun. Mainly due to the incredibly warm, welcoming, and entertaining (!) team of staff (most of whom, by the way, are locals from Bintan). It’s impossible to not get sucked into the nightly singalong at the bar (you’ll know all the words to Bon Jovi, The Eagles, and The Beatles back catalogue by the end of your stay – if you don’t already, that is). By day hit the beach for a swim, a snorkel, some kayaking, windsurfing, stand-up paddleboarding or sailing. Or hit the spa (which only uses natural products, including virgin coconut oil), laze by the beautiful pool, or participate in a beachside yoga sesh. Nikoi really is the stuff that sustainable vacation dreams are made of. Take. Us. Back. Now. Please.

We had a blast at Nikoi and thing you would too, find out more here.