The sun bounces off glass smooth water as we lounge on a ferry in Singapore speeding towards Bintan, an island in the Riau Archipelago of Indonesia. The ride is 55 minutes and quite comfortable. We paid a bit more for the Emerald Class to afford us the luxury of buying our Visas onboard and eliminating the need to stand in the long line at immigration. (I have a 5 second patience limitation so when I can I choose the easy way out!)
We couldn’t have chosen a better time of year to visit this 330 hector resort island as the monsoon season ended in March and the temperature parks itself around 28° C (82° F).
Bintan is situated between China and India and flourished as a trading post during the 12th century. It was nicknamed “Pirate Island” as the Malay pirates regularly looted the trading ships that sailed the Strait of Malacca. Today, however, it caters to vacationers and boasts some of the best resorts in South East Asia.
This trip was different for me as it was my first without Joey. He graciously gave up his spot to allow our 22-year-old daughter the chance, as this is her first trip to South East Asia and one of many (I hope!) great experiences on this side of the world.
We chose Nirwana Garden Resort. It boasts five different holiday experiences, which consist of a Family Hotel, Luxury Hilltop Villas, Tropical Family Villas, Rustic Beach Chalets, and Ultimate Beachfront Hideaways, quite literally something for everyone. For this visit we stayed at the Family Hotel.
The rooms are in the middle of being upgraded and we scored one of those. The rooms are modern, beautifully decorated, and comfortable, they have all the amenities expected in a family resort.
The staff is extremely pleasant and helpful, going out of their way to assist visitors in any way they can. Ms. Meliana Saragi is the guest service specialist and is a joy to work with. She is prompt and efficient and I highly recommend her when planning a stay at Nirwana.
Nirwana offers a variety of dining choices. Breakfast comes complimentary with your reservation and is served buffet style. There is an abundant amount of both Asian and Western choices.
Out of all the dinning choices throughout the resorts, my favorite is The Kelong Seafood Restaurant. It sits on stilts at the end of a wooden boardwalk over the ocean and has some of the best, fresh seafood I’ve had. I would definitely recommend making reservations for sunset as the breathtaking views are worth the early meal. DON’T forget your camera!
After dinner drinks at the Calypso Bar at the end of the pier connected to the Kelong is a must.
Nirwana is best known for it’s relaxed atmosphere and we came for the beach and pool, which are exquisite! There are, however, a variety of activities for everyone in the family from bowling, archery, and biking to horseback riding, exercising in the fitness center or elephant rides. Nirwana even has a small zoo so there’s something for every taste.
The powdery sand on the wide beach is kept clean and seaweed free although during monsoon season oil blobs that find their way to the shore (Remember, Singapore is one of the busiest seaports in the world and is a mere 30 miles from Bintan). The resort staff for all of Bintan does a remarkable job in keeping the beaches pristine and Nirwana is no different.
Nirwana Gardens Resort is tucked behind a natural reef that affords it long beaches and shallow shorelines. The water is warm, calm and perfect for swimming and water sports. If the beach is not your thing, the pool is exquisite incorporating a swim up pool bar so a leisurely cocktail is only a swim away. Nirwana Gardens is a perfect place to escape to for rest, relaxation, or a family vacation.