Relax in tranquillity on Telunas
Enthusiastic, well-trained staff one of the attractions of Telunas Private Island near Batam
This is as close as we city dwellers can get to a perfect island getaway.
Telunas Private Island, in the Riau Islands of Indonesia, is a resort started in 2015 by three college friends who envisioned an island retreat with a difference, close to Singapore. It is the more luxurious extension of the company's flagship Telunas Beach Resort.
While the older Beach Resort offers rustic accommodation with a community vibe, the private island - a mere two-minute boat ride away - boasts the same authentic appeal but with more comfort, grandeur and exclusivity.
I have been to many island resorts, from basic budget types to the more lavish ones.
But the one thing that stood out here was the enthusiastic, well-trained staff members.
As soon as I arrived at Sekupang International Ferry Terminal in Batam after a 45-minute ride, I was greeted by Yoga, who wasted no time in making me feel welcome and immediately at ease.
We waited for a few more guests before she led us on a five-minute walk to the ferry transfer.
I was dreading the 90-minute ride on the resort's traditional wooden speed boat, the Pancung. But as we headed out to sea, cutting through the glass-like surface of exceptionally calm waters and contrasting green clusters of mangroves, I was sold.
As the boat approached the island, friendly faces were waiting at the jetty, waving energetically.
The island itself was a vision of bliss - the powdery white sand, the immense blue infinity pool and the elegant over-water villas that dotted the coastline beckoned me.
At the Grand Lodge, bartender-cum-breakfast waiter Suriadi (below) greeted me with a welcome drink that looked as good as it tasted.
As I walked towards the row of 15 wooden villas that lined the coast, Yoga continued to chat with me, and by then, I knew more about her than my neighbour back home.
The limited number of villas means the island is never crowded and that is an attraction in itself.
Don't let the simple, rustic exterior of the villas fool you. They are nothing short of spectacular.
The layout of the master room and the loft was planned for maximum privacy for parents and safety for children.
Each villa is identical and the glass-panelled master room opens up to a huge balcony with a wide view of the sea.
The island is devoid of technological distractions, so there is no TV or Wi-Fi, which initially made both my husband and me doubtful we would survive.
But not seeing people with their heads buried in smartphones was refreshing.
The icing on the cake was the massage at the newly-built seaside spa. Getting your sore, aching back kneaded in the wind while the water rolled gently beneath you is tranquility at its best.
When you book your stay at Telunas Private Island, all meals are prepared by the local chefs.
I am a foodie and I can honestly say everything that was served up was of high quality.
I left the island still thinking of the wonderful cuisine I had, especially head chef Surya's signature sambal.
Surya would come around to mingle with the guests, another small yet much appreciated gesture that many establishments overlook.
At mealtimes, the wait staff were ever ready to see to our needs with big smiles and boundless positive energy.
One of them, Dwi, instantly bonded with the children and it was amazing to see how he reached out to even the shy ones, with ease.
I observed the staff closely throughout my stay and was struck by the passion they exhibited and how genuinely happy they were.
According to them, the company sets aside one day every year to close the beach resort specially for the staff and their families to stay over.
I was even more impressed when told almost 70 per cent of the staff comprise locals from the surrounding villages - true to the owners' vision of making the local community central to its ethos.
It costs around S$500 per person for a 3 days-2 nights package, inclusive of meals and the transfer from Sekupang International Ferry Terminal to the island.