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Although only a few hours by boat from Singapore, 12km off the south-east coast of Bintan, Cempedak feels a world away. This carefully protected pocket of the South China Sea is home to pristine coral reefs where angelfish, clownfish and stingray thrive. The endangered Irrawaddy dolphin is frequently sighted in the surrounding waters, and green sea and hawksbill turtles nest onshore. The 42-acre island, covered by virgin coastal forest, supports 112 animal species and 50 bird species, including the globally near-threatened Nicobar pigeon and locally-scarce oriental pied hornbill. The island’s shallow tidal lagoon has become a favoured feeding site for the smooth otter, and the Sunda pangolin (one of the world’s most poached animals) has been spotted in the forest.
Drawing on the conservation-led philosophy of sister island, Nikoi, Cempedak adheres to strict sustainable principles. The aim is not only to protect the environment but to restore it. Since acquiring the island, turtle egg poaching has ceased, and Cempedak team members are trained to safeguard nests — a program that will soon extend to neighbouring islands. To reverse the degradation of local waters, Cempedak is working towards establishing a no-fishing zone around the island and employing local fishers to protect it. The replanting of native trees and shrubs (including the indigenous Cempedak tree) has helped renew the virgin forest and beaches and mangroves are cleaned daily.
Guests can’t help but get on board with Cempedak’s environmentally-sensitive ethos. Locally-crafted bamboo, alang alang and reclaimed rubberwood structures blend into the island’s native foliage. Natural airflow removes the need for air-conditioning, rainwater is harvested, and a filtration plant at Cempedak’s mainland base provides drinking water (in refillable glass bottles). Where possible, produce is home-made or grown to reduce the island’s carbon footprint and packaging needs. Alongside supporting local businesses, providing exceptional employment opportunities and helping to set up eco-minded micro-businesses, a proportion of Cempedak’s profits go to The Island Foundation — a partner charity with a focus on education for local, remote communities.
Cempedak joined The Long Run in 2018 and committed to a holistic balance of the 4Cs – Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce – as a means to contribute meaningfully to the biodiversity and the people of their local region.
Cempedak’s commitment to conservation is to ensure that not only is the environment protected, but also to ensure that where it has been damaged, efforts are made to restore it. To protect the environment, Cempedak has been working with one of Singapore’s leading Naturalists to safeguard wildlife and biodiversity on the island and assist recovery of endangered turtle population. They have also used zero or low-waste materials and processes from the property’s very beginning. Tree-clearing for the resort has been kept to a minimum and indigenous trees have been planted to ensure the surrounding natural flora is maintained. The property has been built with natural and recycled materials such as bamboo, alang alang and rubber wood and there is no need for air conditioning thanks to overhead bamboo fans and the strategic placement of each villa to maximise ventilation from the cool, ocean breezes.
When banker-turned-hotelier Andrew Dixon and his business partners started constructing their first island, Nikoi, back in 2007, they knew that they wanted to work alongside the local community. In 2009, they established the Island Foundation, a charity set up to help support the local communities around Nikoi and Cempedak. Based on discussions with local community leaders, education was identified as the primary need and learning centres in five fishing villages along the east coast of Bintan were established. To provide the communities with alternative income sources The Island Foundation leads and supports a wide range of projects; from weaving baskets and bags from old newspapers to developing wooden spinning tops. Cempedak’s genuine commitment to giving back to the local community goes beyond The Island Foundation. The property built with local materials and labour – many of the same staff that built Cempdeak were taught new skills after construction and have since advanced to operational roles. Hotel supplies and food are purchased almost entirely from local markets and all of Cemepdak’s staff, except one, are Indonesian.
Bintan and its surrounding islands are sparsely populated and therefore lacking in strong cultural identity. Regardless, The Island Foundation works with local communities and villagers to salvage what remains. The Foundation was instrumental in setting up an annual local jong race (model sailing boats) in the local community. Cempedak sponsors this annual event which has helped revive the racing of jongs on this coastline and helped create greater interest for the younger generation in this fascinating cultural tradition. Cempedak offers all guests the option to take a cultural trip to local villages. These trips give guests the opportunity to see and experience traditional Bintan culture. A fee is paid to the local village for each visit and this goes towards helping them make improvements to the village.
Cempedak believes in a strong commitment to the highest standards in sustainable management practices. By reinvesting Cempedak’s profits in The Island Foundation and the conservation of the island, Cempedak is able to not only ensure the long-term sustainability of its own operations but also that of its surrounding environment and nearby communities. The Island Foundation has established a retail brand (Kura Kura) to help sell arts and crafts as well as the first organised sports program on Bintan for children, the Foundation providing coaching staff, equipment on buy back scheme and ground maintenance.