The Quarantine Order
As dusk approached I was scanning through articles related to immunity. Next to me sat four pots of supplements that I’d been knocking back throughout the day. Vitamin C, French Pine Bark, Multi Vit and Lysine… Corona wasn’t going to catch me unprepared. I glanced at my watch and realised it was time to meet with guests at the dodo bar to watch the sunset and discuss the strangeness going on in the outside world. Here guests existed in a bubble of calm and cocktails, a much-needed escape from the corona and chaos in their home countries. That was all about to come to an abrupt end… My phone flickered silently as a message came through. I considered pocketing it till after the sunset, but seeing the sender caused me to change my mind. “Andrew Dixon – COVID-19: Stay-home notices for all travellers entering Singapore from ASEAN countries…” I bolted upright, grabbing my phone from the desk. One ring and Andrew answered: “Singapore have just issued a statement saying anyone coming from ASEAN countries has to be self quarantined for two weeks if they enter after 23:59 Monday 16th…” Christ, that’s tomorrow. The disruptive tentacles of COVID-19 had finally wrapped themselves around our island, around Cempedak. Indonesia is an ASEAN country, and all of our guests would be affected by this order. I sprinted to the restaurant, wincing as the fracture in my fibula gave me a gentle reminder that I should probably walk. This was no time for doctor’s orders though. I burst through the kitchen door to see island manager Jimmy with a furrowed brow, staring at his phone. “Have you seen the news? We need a plan” Luckily half the island was leaving on Monday anyway as the weekend revellers had to return to work. The other half needed to be informed though, and fast. We quickly identified the 9 couples that were due to stay past Monday and began to track them down. As the situation was explained to them drinks glasses were placed down and smiles began to drop. They would exchange glances of acceptance and ask what the plan going forward was. There was no drama, just people getting on with it. Cempedak guests are great - I thought to myself The plan was for them to quickly book tickets on the last ferries leaving from Bintan to Singapore on Monday, and we would get them to the terminal. As I checked the ferry-booking site I was alarmed at the rate seats were being snapped up. In every resort in Bintan, guests were probably doing the same thing. We hastily ticked guests off our list till we were left with 3 villas. Daniel and Lucie, on their babymoon, didn’t mind the quarantine. In fact we told them about the situation and they extended their stay for an extra week. They shrugged and said: “If we’re gonna stay we may as well go all in” Two to go. Patrick and Carmen from Switzerland: “We’ll just change our flight home from Singapore to Jakarta. We’re staying.” Well at least Cempedak wasn’t going to be a complete ghost town. It was going to take more than a measly global pandemic to force these guests to go home. Lastly we came to Annet and Camila, trying to get back to Munich. “Guys there’s a bit of an issue. Singapore has outright travel banned people who have been to Germany in the past 14 days. So we can’t even get you in tomorrow” “We’ll call our embassy in Jakarta and see what we can do” “You could fly from Bintan to Jakarta then back to Munich from there?” With great efficiency, Annet and Camila had got themselves onto a 13:00 flight on Monday to Jakarta and were confident of getting home. Although there was a collective sense of disappointment amongst our guests there was also a real feeling of togetherness. We’d all found ourselves on a tiny island in this bizarre situation and somehow had gotten everything straightened out in a matter of hours. The Cempedak staff were typically exemplary. Dutifully accepting the situation and their responsibility towards their guests. I could not have been more proud. The final task of the evening rested on Rudi, our receptionist saviour. Rudi coordinated all boat/airport transfers, car pickups and bill alterations. What a guy to have on our side. The next day the best news I could give guests was “Unsurprisingly, all our check-ins are cancelled so you all have late check-out”, this was met with good-natured smiles and thanks for the work we had done the night before. Every guest that shook my hand as they walked off the jetty onto Mana 4 was in good spirits. Most of them even casually remarked: “We’ll be back when this all blows over” Amidst the largest crisis to hit the hospitality industry in the 21st Century, Cempedak had been lucky enough to host a group of couples that had worked with us seamlessly to achieve the goal of getting them home safely. As Mana 4 sped off towards base I stood on the jetty surrounded by the Cempedak team. I looked at Gayus, smiling and said, “There goes the last chopper out of Saigon”. This was going to be a strange couple of months for Cempedak, but there’s no team I would rather be part of. Josh Porter Guest Relations Manager
The Last Couple On Cempedak
On Cempedak we pride ourselves on providing our guests with the complete private island experience. The getaway from city life that everybody deserves. For Daniel and Lucie though this was taken to an extreme.
Due to the Singaporean government’s quarantine lockdown and other countries calling for travellers to return home, Daniel and Lucie have been the only guests on the island for the past 5 days. On their final evening, I asked them to join me in the dodo bar to recount their unique experience.
Daniel, the Aussie and Lucie from Wales met in Singapore whilst watching the rugby at a bar. The rest, as they say, is history and a couple years later they had to put their heads together to decide on a place to get married. How were they going to please the Australian and Welsh contingents?
“We wanted all of our friends and family in one place, so we thought we would try out Nikoi for a night and see what we thought”
After meeting with Bar Manager Jimmy, Guest Relations Manager Tom and Chef Dika; Lucie and Dan came to the conclusion that Nikoi was what they were looking for.
“The Nikoi team made it so easy. Flowers? We can make them for you. Wedding Carrot Cake? Not a problem. After meeting a few more times in Singapore we were good to go”
Lucie described the wedding as four days in paradise that were meticulously organised.
“Everyone hates organised fun, but if people have had a drink, it goes down much better”
After a day of sandcastles large enough for eight people to stand in, tug of war and canoe races the Aussie and Welsh participants were well acquainted and dinner that night was on one table for 45 people on the beach.
The next day the wedding went off without a hitch… apart from Lucie not realising her wedding song was playing, so staying behind a boulder on the beach. Leaving Dan at the altar with sweaty palms:
“Mate I thought she wasn’t coming… a small sea plane flew overhead after 20 minutes of the song repeating and all my mates were like “she’s gone”
Luckily Lucie appeared from behind the boulder following the bands fifth rendition of “you’re the one that I want” from Greece (a slightly slower remix Lucie’s a fan of), and they tied the knot.
Following a fancy dress party the next day, with Dan dressed as a pharaoh and Lucie dressed as a unicorn, that classic combination, they left as a married couple with some great memories.
Also stored in their memories was the mention of another island… An island that was under construction, but was adults only and being built by the same company that owned Nikoi. Lucie knew where she wanted to go for her birthday in 2018. Cempedak.
“We got there in the evening and were put in villa 20. We could hear the sea but couldn’t really see anything. We wake up the next day and are like “wow that is amazing”. It’s a bit more private than Nikoi on Cempedak”
“Which I like because I don’t have tan lines any more”
It’s fair to say Daniel and Lucie feel at home here.
“The staff too. Every department. Housekeeping can’t do enough, gardeners know your name, the chef’s know your dietary preferences… it’s amazing”
“So now we come to your latest stay with us. This has been a bit of a unique one. You came here for your babymoon?”
“We wanted to go away before the baby’s born, Europe was shutting down due to the virus so we thought “Where doesn’t have corona? Cempedak”
“We arrive in the evening only for Jimmy to tell us that people returning to Singapore after Monday the 16th (the next day) were being told to self quarantine for 2 weeks”
“Everyone was leaving, but we were in a safe place and this was going to be our last chance to get out of Singapore before the baby arrives”
Daniel’s office was closing down and Lucie, being a physio, was going to have less appointments due to the virus affecting her work. So they decided to not just stay, but to extend their stay for an extra four nights.
“At the time we were a bit nervous. What are we missing? Everyone’s leaving. But then after a while we’d look at each other and say “definitely made the right decision”.
They were practicing an extreme level of social distancing.
“So how was your week of being Robinson Crusoe?”
“Very relaxing, everyone knows our name… but it always feels like that, even when the island’s full. So apart from meals and at the bar, it’s not actually been that different”
“I feel like I’m letting the side down if I walk past the bar… because you know it’s just us… and the spa is obviously just open for us”
“You want to tell everyone your plans. “We’re going to villa now so chill out for a bit, don’t wait for us.”
At the spa it’s like: “We definitely won’t come on friday so do what you want then, but we’ll be in on Saturday for sure”
“We’ve had six treatments… It’s been incredible”
“I feel like you need to radio each other where we are…”
“I mean… we kind of do”
“We’ve felt a bit bad, because it feels like the world is coming to an end… but these guys are here just for us”
“You guys being here has meant this week has been weird but there’s been some normality. It’s been great having you and we will be sad to see you go”
The next morning Lucie and Dan said their fond farewells to the Cempedak family that they are well and truly part of. It was sad to see them go, but when the time’s right we look forward to welcoming them back to Nikoi, with their baby, or to Cempedak (if they can get the grandparents to babysit).
Guest Relations Manager
Our Determined Swiss Couple
With the Singaporean government’s announcement of travel restrictions, due to
COVID-19, almost all of our guests had to go home. Two couples though reacted
Carmen and Patrick, who flew from Switzerland and Daniel and Lucie, who lived
In 2017 the Swiss couple read about Cempedak in a travel magazine. They
arrived later that year as their interest was piqued. Only 11 villas were finished
and the spa was yet to be completed but they knew they’d be back. In 2018 they
came back for a longer stay and in January 2020 they received a special offer,
tempting them back for a third time in March.
Carmen and Patrick had clearly taken Cempedak into their hearts and despite
the growing unpredictability of COVID-19, decided to go for it. They intended to
fly via Oslo then Jakarta to Tanjung Pinang, the airport on Bintan. Then after
their stay, fly home from Singapore.
In Zurich, at the departure gate, their bags were unloaded as the Norwegian
government denied all foreigners the ability to transit through Oslo. Qatar
airways put them on a flight the next morning, transiting through Doha and
despite the initial doubts they would make it, they finally stepped out onto the
Cempedak jetty. Seemingly escaping the madness.
That evening though their meal was interrupted by myself, as I had to break the
news to them that Singapore was imposing a quarantine notice and they would
not be able to transit through on Saturday as they intended. Everyone else I’d
talked to at this point had immediately booked a ferry but Patrick and Carmen
looked at each other briefly and said:
“We’ll stay and fly back home via Jakarta instead”
Later that evening, as I walked past the seemingly deserted Dodo bar, I heard the
unmistakable James Bond theme tune rumbling from our outdoor cinema. I
popped my head over the handrail to see it completely deserted, as expected, but
for our resident Swiss couple, enjoying a bit of Sean Connery in these strange
For the next two days, the island was theirs. The sunsets were spectacular and
the cocktails flowed freely as Patrick and Carmen embraced the peace whilst it
lasted. They were in the eye of the storm though and on the third day received a
message that they must return to Switzerland or risk being stranded. In their
“This ends our holiday here in paradise earlier than expected, but later than many
others who had to leave the island 2 days ago.
Truly, a private island experience.
One thing is for sure; we will be back as soon as possible!
Till then – all the very best to the staff. You really made our stay as perfect as it
could be and most memorable. Thank you and see you soon.”
We look forward to welcoming back Carmen and Patrick for a hopefully less
eventful, but just as memorable experience.
Best wishes from everyone here on Cempedak.
Guest Relations Manager