Where can one go camping in a tent, wake up to a crystal blue lagoon and indulge in water sport activites - everything within reach from an hour's worth of ferry ride from Singapore?
Say hello to the world of glamping, or glamorous camping, at The Canopi on Bintan Island.
Just a one-hour ferry ride from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal and 5 minutes away from the Bintan jetty lies a cluster of uniquely designed safari tent-suites which offer camping at its glamorous best! We spent the December School Holidays ( I know, the review has taken a while) with some of the monkies' buddies - TEN kids in total! - at The Canopi and even though it was a short 2-night stay, trust me when I say everyone had plenty of fun!
In fact looking from the number of likes, comments and shares (4,300 & counting!) when I shared snippets of our time at The Canopi on Facebook, it seems that the resort certainly has got a number of people excited.
First things first, The Canopi occupies a 2-hectare site which in turn lies next to a massive 338-hectare adventure ground that includes a private mangrove river, the sea and a saltwater Crystal Lagoon.
Ah yes, the spectacular Crystal Lagoon. This will most probably be the first sight you will see as you arrive at the check-in lobby and also the first thing that will make your heart skip a beat.
Or at least it had that effect on ALL the kiddos, who could not wait to dip themselves in the lagoon... while I was still in the process of settling the check-in stuff!
There are a total of 41 safari tent suites in all at The Canopi, ranging from the normal tent suites (from S$190 per night), Lagoon tent suites (from S$220 per night) and Jacuzzi tent suites (from S$250 per night).
The Lagoon tent suites overlooks the Crystal Lagoon, which allows guests a direct access to the pool while the Jacuzzi tent suites offer the best of both worlds - a private outdoor Jacuzzi AND a Lagoon view.
I have to say I was totally sold at the idea of staying in a literal tent. But this was not just any normal tent, mind you. The tent suite combines the best of both camping and the luxury of a hotel room!
At more than 400 square feet and decorated with stylish copper fittings, and safari-themed furniture (a huge trunk case is used as a cupboard!), each tent suite comes with the modern-day spoils of air-conditioning and other comforts and conveniences such as a 4-poster bed, LCD television and BBQ pit.
Each Tent can sleep 3 people comfortably and an extra bed (additional charge) may be requested to accommodate a fourth person. The sofa in the room can be converted to a bed, and we added an extra bed to accommodate our family of five. Additional charge per child is $20 (or S$40 per additional adult) per night, inclusive of breakfast.
For the wifey, I think the most gorgeous bit of our tent suite was the private bathroom which was an outdoor one... because what else would you expect from camping? But yes, it comes with hot showers in case you are wondering.
For me, I love how the tent suites come in clusters of tents in fours or sixes which share a big common area with a pavilion and BBQ area. Perfect for big families or groups of friends to enjoy together!
Oh, did I mention that each tent also comes en-suite with your own private garden where you can lie in a hammock and stargaze away come night time? Or if you prefer, you can always plonk yourselves on the lounge chairs at the Crystal Lagoon.
Surrounded by a perimeter of sand, the Lagoon is largest crystal lagoon in South East Asia, and is filled with filtered salt water, with NO waves at all. Which is simply ideal for kids... and made even more so by the awesome floats in the Lagoon.
As you can clearly tell, they pretty much hogged the entire float during their time there. Lol.
The Lagoon starts off shallow at the edges and since it is also used for other water activities like Cable Ski, Stand-up Paddling and Kayaking, the swimming area is clearly demarcated with boundaries, making it safe and perfectly swimmer-friendly. Especially for young kiddos who are not fans of the sea with strong currents.
Famished after all the swimming? Unfortunately, The Canopi fares a tad weak when it comes to dining options. There is only one restaurant in the resort: The Patio Bar and Restaurant which offers a mixture of local cuisine and Western favourites.
That, or you can opt for the resort to arrange your own private BBQ outside your tent at S$25 per adult and S$15 per child. We did not try that so I am unable to comment of the range and type of food provided.
We did however, had our breakfast at The Patio Bar and Restaurant and if there was one bugbear about our stay at The Canopi, this was it. There was a shortage of staff at the restaurant which resulted in the slow preparation of the food and in turn caused long queues at the buffet breakfast table. We stayed there in December 2015 so hopefully, the problem has been rectified.
Other than that, the breakfast served at The Canopi was not overly spectacular but decent enough for the kids to give the thumbs up!
There are mini-marts too, so it is a good place to stock up on drinks and snacks. Oh, and there is a shop selling kueh lapis as well.
The other dinner option we tried was seafood at a kelong where getting to it was an experience in itself.
Just let the resort know of your intention to dine at the kelong and they will arrange for the pick-up to the jetty. The kelong is a short 5-minute ride speedboat ride away, which delighted the kids.
To be honest, the food was okay - think Singapore tze char standard with the same equivalent prices. But it is a good alternative compared to dining within the resort. At least The Canopi's guests get a 15% discount, and the kelong accepts credit cards too.
There is also the newly-opened Lagoi Mall which is a 15-minute car ride from The Canopi but at the time of writing, I understand there are not many shops opened yet.
So after all the food, it was time to get active once again. And at The Canopi, where do I even begin?
If the kids get bored with jumping into the crystal clear lagoon, they can relish in the resort's offerings of numerous water activities including cable ski, stand-up paddle, water tricycles and kayak rentals.
If you prefer to stay dry, you can always rent an electric scooter (S$25 for half day & S$35 for full day) and go on an exploration of the resort and its surrounding areas. But if you have kids, it also means they will clamour to take turns on the scooter as well. Heh.
Other land activities include zipping around on a two-wheeler Segway, rough-roading around the forest area in the UTV and ATV or for the kids, there are always the oh-so-cute mini ATVs to ride around the resort - at S$6 per pax for one round of the Lagoon.
But if there is one activity with the kids that you cannot afford to miss, this will be it.
A Floating Watersport Park! Think a simple version of the gameshow Wipeout which comes complete with floating obstacles AND a climbing wall float, and I think the kids will totally love it. Come to think of it, even the adults too and yes, even I made it to the summit of that floating mountain.
And the reward after reaching the top? Sliding (really fast) down into the blue water below!
The Floating Watersport Park is located in the middle of the Crystal Lagoon which is more than 2-metre deep so life jackets are compulsory for all, whether you are a swimmer or not. Entrance fee to the Watersport Park is S$9 per hour per person.
There are actually plenty of other land and water activities that The Canopi offer but we simply did not have the time to try them all. You can check the full range of activites HERE. But one thing's for sure, the kids sure had a blast!
One thing to note, the resort only accepts Rupiah and credit cards. Also, I have heard that there are plans to add over a hundred more safari tents in the near future. Wait, what? I'm not sure if the facilities will be able to handle the increase in guest count adequately.
The charm of the place lies in its laid-back nature, and the promise of a serene getaway from the busy-ness of Singapore's hectic life, albeit for only a few days. So my piece of advice? Plan a getaway down soon before the place becomes overcrowded!
30/03/2016 NOTE: Groupon currently has a deal, starting from S$119 per person inclusive of return ferry from Singapore to Bintan! Check it out here: http://getaways.groupon.sg/en/deals/721360752
The Canopi Resort
Treasure Bay Bintan, Jln Raya Haji, (Right Beside Bintan Resorts Ferry Terminal
Lagoi, Riau, Indonesia 29152
Phone: (62) 77-069-2252
*Booking of ferry through Bintan Resort Ferries.
Disclaimer: Our family was provided with a 2-night stay in a Lagoon Tent Suite. Our friends paid for their accommodation. Meals and activities within the resort were at our own expense.