1. Layang Layang Island
Adventurous lovebirds, take your fantasies underwater at Layang Layang Island (aka Swallow Reef), where your affections for each other will grow as profound as the 2,000m-deep waters surrounding the coral atoll.
Brave the elements together: Rugged concrete boulders line the coast instead of soft, sandy beaches. But the reward lies beyond. It lies in the kaleidoscope undersea paradise of hammerhead sharks, pygmy seahorses, Jacks and Barracudas as well as rare manta rays in pristine waters with visibility of up to 60 metres. You can also go bird-watching, as sight the great crested tern, lesser frigatebird, Pacific golden plover, Plumed and Pacific-reef egrets and more.
The only resort on the island offers plush rooms with oversized Hollywood twin sized beds. Opt for a suite to get an extended private verandah and private Jacuzzi bathtub.
How to get there: Get in via the Kota Kinabalu airport (specially chartered flights at USD 470 nett per pax). It takes about an hour from here. This is probably the best way to get to the exotic island situated approximately 300km northwest of Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia in the South China Sea.
By boat, which can be elusive, it takes a tedious 16 hours just to reach Kota Kinabalu.
2. Pulau Tengah
Nature buffs, plan a visit to Pulau Tengah (literally “middle island” in Malay) between June and August to catch the turtle egg-laying season at its peak (there is a Turtle Watch Camp run by the resort on the island). The waters around this island, located just 16km from Mersing, is well-known for its crystal-clear quality and abundance of unique marine wildlife and coral reefs — for this, it was nominated as a Marine Park in 1985.
Even for couples with kids in tow, the experienced staff at the island’s Batu Batu Resort will take care of the little tots so you can relive those romantic moments. Stroll along the island’s eight white sandy beaches, go diving or snorkelling to experience the colourful underwater scenery or embark on a guided trek through the dense and unspoiled forest.
How to get there: From Mersing in Johor, Malaysia, hop on Batu Batu’s private speedboat — a 20-minute journey in good weather. Mersing is located about 130km from Singapore, or a two-hour drive depending on traffic at the Causeway. The resort will arrange for the boat transfer.
3. Cempedak Island
Another island close to Bintan is Cempedak Island. But don’t let its tame name fool you. Unlike its name (a cousin of jackfruit), this is no fruit paradise (although there are fruit trees here) but a shared utopia among human visitors and its myriad resident wildlife.
Its rainforest is home to local birds that include hornbills, tawny eagles, and kingfishers. You may also catch a glimpse of the critically endangered pangolin, a family of sea otters, rare Irrawaddy dolphins and other exciting creature features.
Plus, it is adults-only, so children below the age of 16 are not allowed on the island. What better way to enjoy quality time with your spouse (or an excuse to leave the young ones at home)?
How to get there: To get to the 17-hectare private island, take a one-hour ferry from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal in Singapore to Bintan Resorts (Bandar Bentan Telani), followed by a one-hour taxi to the jetty, and a half-hour launch ride to the resort. Total time: about 2.5 hours.
4. Pulau Pangkil
Kick back and relax at TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence 2018 award winner Pulau Pangkil, which boasts a rustic charm and a cheeky focus on “energy minimisation”.
That said, the exclusive tropical resort offers personalised service, delicious meals and a plethora of beach activities to choose from. The two of you will live like true island-dwellers, in your Driftwood Palace that includes options like a lofty tree house, and dine on grilled delights, fresh salads, and homemade breads and cakes.
In addition to the usual activities like sailing and kayaking, opt for an alternative romantic activity like Indonesian-style fishing or have a private picnic on one of the tiny and deserted neighbouring islands like Pulau Murbai. You can even book fireworks for a special event or get married on the island.
How to get there: It takes under three hours to reach Pulau Pangkil from Singapore’s Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal. Take a ferry to Bandar Bintan Telani in Northern Bintan (one hour), followed by a 1.5-hour drive to Pama jetty for a 30-minute boat ride to the private island.
5. Nikoi Island
Nikoi Island is a 15-hectare resort (about the size of 15 rugby fields) with a total of just 15 beach houses that are said to guarantee total privacy. In a move to be eco-conscious and sustainable, these homes away from home on stilts are handcrafted from driftwood with traditional grass roofs but modern furnishings like king-sized beds with luxurious sheets, ensuite bathrooms with hot water and the like.
It is sheer tranquillity with many undiscovered nooks and crannies to explore. Peer at the cerulean expanse of the beach from your abode, which is just steps away. Other than the resort’s facilities, the rest is primary rainforest that has been preserved as a sanctuary.
Still, there is plenty to do — partake in rock climbing, trekking, mountain biking, tennis and croquet on a natural grass court, educational inter-tidal walks, beach volleyball, plan a day trip to a nearby deserted island, and even a chance to see turtles nesting on the island.
How to get there: Nikoi Island is 85km southeast from Singapore. From Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, it is an estimated 2.5-hour journey to Nikoi Island. The ferry ride from Singapore to Bintan Resorts takes one hour. From there, hop onto a taxi to the Kawal jetty, another hour. Then hop on a launch (an open motorboat), which will take you to Nikoi Island in approximately 20 minutes.
6. Bawah Reserve
As its name suggests, the luxurious Bawah Reserve is a previously uninhabited marine conservation area that will give pampering new meaning. Comprising six islands, three lagoons and 13 beaches in the Anambas Archipelago of Indonesia, you and your significant other will love the gorgeous surrounds of the crystal-clear cerulean waters, coral reefs, and pristine beaches.
Opened in mid-2017, Bawah took a painstaking five years to build. Traditional Indonesian methods of construction were used, such as using the natural physics of rapid expansion and contraction to break rocks — first heating them and then dropping them into the chilly ocean.
And you can really enjoy pure couple time as every detail is taken care of. In fact, the Bawah Package lists the following inclusions: “From your journey to kayaking and snorkelling adventures, treks through the forest and hands-on cooking classes; from gourmet suppers, picnics on the beach and unlimited wellness treatments, everything is taken care of.”
Other romantic activities include sailing in a Nacra 5.0 catamaran, stand-up paddleboarding around the lagoon, a visit to a bat cave, unlimited massages, yoga sessions, stargazing at the Milky Way through a telescope, movies on the beach or a six-island cruise with drinks and canapes in hand.
How to get there: Getting to Bawah should be the least of your concerns. You and your significant other will enjoy a limousine pick-up in from your preferred location in Singapore, an escorted trip via ferry and car to Batam Airport, and an 80-minute flight onboard a private Sea Plane direct to your suite. What a breeze!
7. Telunas Private Island
Just 50km south of Singapore may lie your perfect spot for a romantic getaway, especially if you’re looking for privacy – Telunas Private Island. Built to lure couples and families, this private island offers accommodation in the form of villas built over the sea and on stilts.
This means that unpacking your bags might just be distracting when you look down and beyond the floorboards to topaz-coloured waters just under your feet!
But you will have plenty of time and space to enjoy the world of clear azure waters and golden sunsets with your private balcony. Private verandas in each sea villa ensure you won’t have to encounter any prying eyes from neighbouring tourists while having an amorous moment with your beloved. Your neighbours will, however, probably be relishing the scenic vista from their own balconies anyway.
How to get there: Once you have secured your booking at Telunas, take a ferry from HarbourFront Ferry Terminal to Sekupang in Batam, that should cost one person only $50 and 45 minutes of your time. A staff from the resort will guide you at Sekupang and onto a traditional fishing longboat that will take you on a two-hour journey to your destination.
8. Pulau Dayang
If you and your partner are an active and sporty pair, Pulau Dayang in Johor should come tops on your list of romantic vacations. While Dayang has space and amenities for just lying on the beach and eating way too much, it’s got more repute among scuba divers.
Make for a memorable vacation by submerging yourself in the azure blue waters and encountering the creatures that make their home there, such as whale sharks, eagle rays and manta rays. For non-divers, Dayang also offers shallower areas for snorkelling activities.
How to get there: One catch is the eight hours it takes to get to Pulau Dayang, which entails taking a three-hour bus from Singapore to Mersing jetty and then a five-hour boat ride to Dayang.
9. Besar Island
For some sun, seashells, and sand, hit up Besar Island or Big Island on the east coast of Johor. Previously known as Pulau Babi Besar due to the roaming wild boar population that has since vanished, Big Island is nowadays more known as a designated and protected marine park and a tropical haven for holiday-goers. While your time away here swimming or snorkelling in the pretty turquoise blue waters. You could also simply enjoy the slow pace of life and company with your partner on this island lined with palm trees and balmy shores.
How to get there: Besar Island is accessible via a 30-minute boat ride from Mersing jetty. This costs around RM100 for an adult passenger, including the return fare. To get to Mersing jetty, take a three-hour bus from Singapore, where a seat on the bus will cost you $35.
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