After just 45 minutes, our ferry drops us at Batam where we’re greeted by smiling employees from Telunas. They lead us out of the port to the gritty local dock where a long boat pulls up to the elevated walkway. Our luggage is lowered over the high point, into the hands of the crew and down to the boat. Fishermen clean their boats, a woman sells homemade samosas, a few smokers linger about and we’re eyed with curiosity as we walk to the end of the dock where the boat picks us up. There’s nothing fancy about the start of our weekend getaway, and we like it this way. We’ve shrugged off the glitz of Singapore and we’re on our way into the Karimun region of Indonesia’s Riau Islands.
The long boat sits low in the water. The loud but hypnotic motor pushes us through the waterways at a determined pace. The boat ride is as much about seeing life on the water as it is about getting to Telunas. We pass several villages constructed above the sea on mazes of posts and beams sticking out of the water. Laundry hangs, women stand in their doorways and watch the world drift by, and minarets of the village mosques reach into an empty sky. After two hours we’re in the middle of nowhere — no services, no boats, no one around except our passengers and crew. The crew know these waterways by heart, finally steering us toward a wooden pier in the distance.
We pull up and disembark, greeted by the dense foliage of a tiny island somewhere southeast of the Malacca Strait. A warm welcome leads us up the pier and into the heart of Telunas where we find an open-air lodge with a panoramic view toward Pulau Sugi. We’re offered a tropical drink and then escorted to our bungalow — one of sixteen in a row perched above the eastern shore. We open the front door to a charming two-story abode that rivals just about anything you might find in Maldives. The spacious interior includes a sitting room, loft and wonderful master bedroom that opens to a large deck overlooking the water.
We’re free until dinner so we fill the afternoon with cocktails on the deck (we’ve brought our own bar) and a few games of Uno in the lodge. Every now and then we can get a signal, but the relief of unplugging outweighs the work of trying to plug in. And that’s the idea — be still, be present, be here… go for a walk, paddle out, read a book, enjoy the company of who you’re with. Some guests might be bored — the island is tiny — but succumb to the remoteness of Telunas and you might end up feeling more connected than ever.
Over the next two days, we walk all the way around the island — passing through jungle, wading around the rockier parts of the western shore, and ending back at the pier. We jump off the pier, whooping it up like children. We play Crazy Eights, drink gin and tonics and dive into the Indonesian set menu every chance we get. The food is delicious and I devour the Nasi Uduk at each breakfast. We get to know the employees — young local men and women who clearly enjoy working here. We watch a beautiful sunset at the pier and trade smiles with a boat captain who drops off a load of sand. A Telunas employee translates for us — the captain has owned the boat for 10 years and also runs a homestay just down the waterway.
And that’s it. Nothing fancy, nothing frivolous. Just a true island getaway where you have exactly what you need, and what you make of that is entirely up to you.
Visit the Telunas website for more information.