All-inclusive sun, sea and sand make for the perfect getaway at Club Med Bintan Island
Returning from a holiday feeling exhausted and in need of a break is possibly the most First World problem there is – but it’s a reality. In your haste to see, do, taste, touch and experience everything at the destination you spent months doing research on and hours travelling to, it’s easy to forget to take some time to relax and recharge.
South Africans are no strangers to Indonesia (Bali, in particular) and Thailand, but few seem to visit Singapore and its surrounds. Considering that there are daily direct flights to this sovereign city-state on Singapore Airlines’ slick Airbus A350s and that South Africans don’t need a visa to visit here, it’s odd that we rarely consider the region as a holiday destination.
Put your wallet away
At Club Med Bintan Island, the best news is that once you board the 11-odd hour flight from Johannesburg to Singapore’s Changi Airport (regularly voted as the best in the world), you can put your wallet away. Club Med does ‘all-inclusive’ like no other, with literally everything but premium experiences included in the price of your stay – including flights and transfers, too, if you like.
Unless you feel the need to make it rain French champagne, make some purchases at the boutique or go on an out-of-resort excursion, the number at the bottom of your invoice is all you’ll spend on your trip. Meals, drinks, activities and experiences are all part of the package, across all the resort facilities, which makes for a stress-free holiday, without the need to keep an eye on the exchange rate.
Get the party started
The resort itself is a comfortable 55-minute ferry ride from Singapore to Bintan Island, off the coast of Indonesia. Your introduction to the Club Med lifestyle starts with an enthusiastic, all-singing, all-dancing welcome from the GOs – the Gentil Organisateurs – who look after you during your stay. By day, they’re the tennis coaches, bar staff, yoga instructors and personnel who run the water sports facilities. They’re available at meals to check in with you to see if you need anything and, by night, they showcase their other talents by providing entertainment in themed shows that can include displays of everything from acrobatics to dancing and juggling. Then, once dinner is over, they help get the party started – and keep it going until the sun threatens to peek above the horizon once more. Not that partying is mandatory – it’s just that if you decide to hit the dance floor, the GOs will make sure that your glass is never empty and help you navigate the surprisingly vast array of choreographed dances that everyone but you seems to know all the steps to.
Room to breathe
Once you’ve been received, have clipped on your Club Med wrist-band and sunk your first welcome cocktail, the first thing that strikes you about Club Med Bintan Island is the abundance of space around you. Even with every one of the resort’s 311 rooms booked out, you will rarely queue for a drink or have to set a pre-sunrise alarm just to claim a lounger on the beach. Such is the sprawl of the property and the sheer number of facilities, that all guests can be accommodated without ever rubbing elbows.
The Bintan Island property underwent a refurbishment at the start of 2017, which saw the facilities sharpened up. The main bar and central pool area were modernized, the fitness centre expanded, the buffet stations at the main Waterfall restaurant were bulked up, the Zen Area (for yoga and relaxation) was upgraded and the rooms were given a makeover.
There really are an astonishing number of facilities at the resort, including two restaurants, three bars, a children’s club, a spa, a yoga palapa, tennis and squash courts, an archery range, a golf practice net and putting greens, and a water sports centre that offers everything (inclusive) from stand-up paddle boarding, windsurfing and sailing to snorkelling and even a full-size flying trapeze facility where you and the kids can test your nerve.
Another element of the Club Med Bintan Island offering that merits special mention is the food. Many a resort experience has been spoiled by a low-quality buffet. But at Bintan, the food on offer is eye-catching in its presentation and there are definitely no short-cuts when it comes to quality and freshness. With different sections serving cuisines from Indian to Japanese and Chinese to Italian, to cater for different tastes, many of the dishes are plated in front of you by the chefs, on demand. Outside of the obvious minimising of wasted food by often overenthusiastic guests, this practice adds a unique element of sophistication to the buffet dining experience. Even the snacks at the bar – available outside of mealtimes, when the restaurants are closed – are of a particularly high standard and the themed cocktail offering in the evenings is first class too.
Just a five-minute transfer away – and playable for an additional fee – is the world-class Ria Bintan Golf Club. Designed by our own Gary Player, the 27-hole course is divided between an 18-hole ‘Ocean Course’ and a nine-hole ‘Forest Course’ and takes in some of the most spectacular scenery in the golfing world. It’s home to flying lemurs, owls, bats, civets, monkeys and deer – as if the layout of the course wasn’t challenging enough. From the signature ninth hole, you’ll be able to gaze out over the South China Sea and take in the distant coastlines of Malaysia and Singapore.
A round of golf at Ria Bintan is one of the resort’s five ‘must-try experiences’, along with a guided GO run, which takes in the island’s spectacular sights at a relaxed jogging pace, the slow-pressed fresh juice offering at the Matahari Beach Bar, the spectacular twilight trapeze and serene sunrise yoga on the beach.
Club Med has almost 70 resorts dotted around the world and offers everything from island getaways like Bintan to world-class skiing in the Alps and Japan. They’re constantly adding new resorts, with a stunning 145-hectare ski resort opening in Tomamu Hokkaido, Japan, this month, and their first venture into Sri Lanka, on a prime coastal property at Beruwela, coming later in 2018.
Check out the global Club Med offering by visiting clubmed.co.za.
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This article first appeared in the December/January 2018 issue of Club Magazine.
Prices correct at time of publishing