Six stand-out private islands in South-East Asia
1st April 2015 | by Nick
Space and time to yourself stand amongst life’s most precious luxuries, and they’re particularly desirable when you’re on a romantic holiday or honeymoon.
You might assume it isn’t easy, these days, to find somewhere warm and beautiful that's also genuinely secluded from the rest of us, but South-East Asia is vast enough to accommodate a lot of tropical castaways before any of them start spying each other through the undergrowth.
Our favourite private island escapes combine accessibility and international standards of hospitality with superlative natural beauty. It's a tall order, perhaps, but thoroughly achievable, providing you know whom to ask (hint: try asking us!).
Kura Kura Resort, Java, Indonesia
Kura Kura's private island castaway experience is exceptional - a tiny pristine desert island, 30 minutes from the main resort, with just one solitary but delightful wooden beach house where you can spend one or more nights.
You can choose to stay accompanied by a caretaker, or entirely alone with your loved one(s) - in the latter case, a mobile phone will be left, along with delicious picnic meals prepared by Kura Kura's excellent chefs. The resort is situated inside Karimunjawa National Park, a marine protection area known for its remarkable biodiversity and beautiful reefs.
Song Saa Private Island, near Sihanoukville, Cambodia
Exceptionally stylish, super-deluxe and eco-sensitive Song Saa is the first of its kind in Cambodia. It’s hard to exaggerate how lovely it is, and on so many levels. With its handful of extensive private villas, arrayed around a serene tropical island just twenty minutes by speedboat from Sihanoukville, Song Saa does everything brilliantly. Despite a Maldives-esque level of high-end luxury, the resort’s big picture includes excellent work with local fishing communities, and a strong sustainability policy.
Crucially, it’s also gorgeous - a low key, mellow aesthetic that uses beach-wood, recycled fishing boats, canvas and rushes, with amenities (including a much-feted spa and an infinity pool that left Nick enthusing for weeks) that you really won’t want to leave behind. That’s the only thing we can think of that’s wrong with the place - it's likely to make you deeply reluctant to go home.
La Folie, Don Daeng island, Mekong River, Laos
You might expect landlocked Laos to be missing from a list of island escapes, but its lack of ocean is balanced by the impressive Mekong River, which even boasts beaches along its slower reaches. At Si Phan Don, aka 4,000 Islands, the Mekong spreads out through sandy soils to create an ever-shifting archipelago.
On one of the larger (and permanent) islands sits La Folie, a charming wooden country house with a private residence that's perfect for romance or a family stay. The property is minutes from Wat Phou, a stunning Angkor era temple complex that predates Angkor Wat, and you'll be perfectly placed to explore lush southern Laos, with its endless opportunities for local-style living, light adventure and relaxation. An alternative, on nearby Done Khone, is the Sala Done Khone guesthouse, whose delightful 'French Residence' was built in 1921 and is suitable for a large family.
Pangkor Laut, Malaysia
A 300 acre tropical island off the west coast of peninsular Malaysia, Pangkor Laut is covered in rainforest and boasts just one resort, run by YTL Hotels, a Malaysian group known for award-winning properties and exemplary attention to detail.
Pangkor Laut Resort is all about rest and rejuvenation: learn to sail the resort's pretty yacht in the safe seas around the island; snorkel or fish off its scenic coastline; and enjoy superb facilities that include a gorgeous secluded spa village, various sports and world-class dining.
Easily reached by boat or helicopter, the privately owned island is just beyond the larger Pulau Pangkor, not far from the mainland town of Ipoh. A discreet little bus service runs around Pangkor Laut, letting you enjoy the island's serene nature without struggling to get back to your creature comforts.
Taprobane, Sri Lanka
Sitting about 200 metres off Sri Lanka's south coast, Taprobane doesn't require a boat trip - you can reach it by paddling through the warm surf, or perhaps atop an elephant, if you're feeling regal. Taprobane is privately owned, although you're not guaranteed total isolation, since anyone can use the adjacent mainland beach. But this tiny 2.5 acre island is capped by fragrant tropical gardens that hide a maze of paths and clearings, and a superb five bedroom private property, built in the 1920s and much beloved by royalty, presidents, aristocrats and the literary elite throughout the twentieth century.
Your needs taken care of by a discreet staff of five, you can relax amongst the frangipani, swim in the delightful infinity pool or Weligama Bay, and simply contemplate the vast ocean that stretches, uninterrupted, all the way to the south pole from Taprobane's southern shore.
Cocoa Island by COMO, Maldives
Many Maldives island resorts are 'private' inasmuch as there's typically only room for one resort per island anyway, but Cocoa Island stands out from the crowd thanks to its novel accommodation. Designed to resemble traditional Maldivian dhonis (fishing boats), these stilt-mounted bungalows appear to float on the ocean, but are in fact securely fixed to the sea floor, and accessed via wooden walkways that meander out from the island's pristine white shore.
With gliding manta rays and superb snorkelling just beneath your balcony and uninterrupted ocean views beyond, you might as well be at sea - just without the swell, or having to worry about technicalities like navigation, or catching your own fish. A host of COMO's reliably luxurious amenities sit on land, including a renowned COMO Shambhala spa, and the 20 minute speedboat transfer really helps set the scene for remote island glamour.