Intertidal Walk at Changi Beach Park

Children need freedom outside of the four walls they are forced to spend most of their waking hours of childhood and adolescence in. My husband feels that I bring the kids out too much – if not now, then when?

To prepare for this intertidal walk, we bought aqua shoes (as low as $2/pair from @decathlonsg on sale) to protect our feet from sharp surfaces and maintain grip on the slippery sand.

There was a thunderstorm when we boarded the cab to Changi Beach, and I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to start the walk.

Thankfully, the skies cleared up to a drizzle as we approached. Shannon from Onhand Agarian led our group and we benefitted from his vast knowledge of the marine creatures.

Sea snail laying eggs
Sea cucumber
Sea star
Entangled in a discarded fishing net

Did you know that sea anemones launch their harpoons into your skin when you touch them? Their sting isn’t painful to humans so it feels sticky instead.

In Korea, my husband would dig for clams while on holiday with his family and he picked up some crabs for the kids to watch.

Sticky sea anemone
Hermit crab

It wasn’t easy to walk around certain parts of the beach as the soft sand squelched and sucked in our shoes with each step. Emmett even scratched his knees when he fell on some rocks but it’s all part and parcel of exploration. As with all beaches here, all sorts of trash could be found on the shore. Most of it came from either the boats or neighbouring countries as the product wrappers are not those commonly seen here. Not all our trash, but it’s our beach. You may not make a big difference when you help to clear some trash, but every little bit counts! We didn’t bring home anything – take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints!

We received a huge box of seafood from Shannon in place of our beach side BBQ that could not happen. They offer locally farmed seafood and vegetables in zero waste packaging as monthly subscription boxes!

Little Cookhouse – Kids Baking Studio

About

Little Cookhouse is a baking studio for children that’s not just a baking studio. It’s a Montessori-based bake-and-cook enrichment program designed for children between 3 to 12 years old to learn values and life skills. Children are grouped according to age groups, with age-appropriate tools that they can handle. Each 1.5 to 2 hour lesson has a maximum class size of 8. 

Started by parents Yock Song and Jean, Little Cookhouse aims to provide an exciting and fun learning environment while letting the child develop essential life skills. Prior to opening the studio, they conducted cooking classes for children from home. 

The studio is bright, with full length windows that allow natural sunlight to illuminate the area. Right in front of the door is a stand that resembles a popcorn booth. There are long stools for the younger children to reach the sink area themselves to wash their hands. 

Baking session

Before the start of the session, the children will gather at the table, where instructor Jean will introduce the country related to the creation of the day. As we were making sushi cakes, Jean taught them some simple Japanese greeting phrases, the main regions of Japan and some Japanese food.  

The kids for our session were aged 3 to 6 years old and the ingredients were already measured and laid out in IKEA children’s cups. Emmett tagged along and Jean allowed him to use her demonstration set to practise pouring and mixing! Look at their serious faces. Each step was clearly demonstrated and explained before the kids got to work. Both Yock Song and Jean went around to facilitate children who required help but it was mostly all done by the children themselves. 

Emmett loved being part of the process and he took his tasks seriously! Elise has somewhat of a competitive streak and powered through most of the tasks herself. 

“Break” time

After pouring the batter into moulds and popping them into the oven, it was time to wait. Instead of whiling away, the children were taught how to create simple origami crowns which they could wear on their heads. By the way, edible pencils were used to label each child’s cakes! This shows how much importance they place on safety.  

Back to work!

Cutting out shapes from the cakes without them breaking into bits proved to be a bit challenging for Elise and she required assistance, which Yock Song promptly provided. The next few steps were to spread buttercream, arrange the chocolate pieces on top of the cakes, wrap cocoa crepes around the edges, pipe gel onto the “sushi” and put jelly bits on top of the gunkan maki sushi. 

Anddddd we’re done!

Not too shabby for a first timer, right? I was expecting it to be overwhelmingly sweet, but the sushi cakes were surprisingly palatable! Only two pieces of sushi made it out of the baking studio intact.

Little Cookhouse

Private Classes held through appointment basis only.

Trip.com X Nirwana Gardens Hotel Bintan *GIVEAWAY + PROMO CODE*

Trip.com

Trip.com is a one-stop travel solutions provider offering hotel, flight, train and car bookings. Part of the CTrip Group (which acquired Skyscanner), a NASDAQ-listed company since 2003, Trip.com has over 30,000 employees and over 300 million members with worldwide coverage of over 1.2 million hotels in more than 200 countries and flights to over 5,000 cities. 

One of the largest online travel agencies in the world, it ranked in the Top 30 of Forbes World’s Most Innovative Companies. It has 9 global offices with one in Singapore.

Bookings can be made via Trip.com or on its mobile app (Apple and Android versions available). The app is fuss-free and straightforward. Plan your trip in-app using My Trips to monitor your flight status and hotel confirmations. There’s a Rewards Program called PointsPLUS where you can accumulate points to redeem airline miles and other services. 


Nirwana Gardens

Nirwana Gardens is a resort located at the northern part of Bintan with various accommodation types to suit all sorts of travellers – from families with children to honeymooners, employees on corporate retreats and solo backpackers. Spanning across 330 hectares, there is a wide range of facilities such as the infinity pool, fitness studio, dive centre, jumbo elephant park, recreational activities, water sports and kids club. Food and beverages are available in the resort’s 14 restaurants, bars and pubs.

There are a total of 5 unique properties in Nirwana Gardens:

  • Nirwana Resort Hotel, where we stayed at, is the largest accommodation with 242 rooms, all facing either the pool, garden or sea. All the standard facilities of a hotel room are included. 
  • Indra Maya Pool Villa, 8 exclusive and beautiful pool villas with individual courtyards and private pools facing the South China Sea. Indra Maya Pool Villas come with Personalised Villa Host Services. 
  • Banyu Biru Villa, newly refurbished double-storey 2 or 3 bedroom villas fully equipped with all the comforts of home that are perfect for group gatherings or large families. 
  • Mayang Sari Beach Resort includes 51 air-conditioned chalets with attached bathrooms and private verandahs. Choose between the Sea View chalet, Garden View chalet or Family Loft. 
  • Nirwana Beach Club is for water sports lovers. 42 decorated cabanas situated near the dive centre provides easy access to the sea. Sundecks are available for those who suntan.

The latest addition to the group is Grand Lagoi Hotel by Nirwana Gardens. It is approximately 10 minutes away by car from its sister resort.

You might not be aware, but Nirwana Gardens has a Newborn Turtle Release project as part of its corporate social responsibility efforts. They operate a turtle conservatory and hatchery to protect turtles and hatchlings from predators and poachers. Established since 2005 to increase awareness of marine conservation and increase the declining number of turtles in the region, the successful programme has seen 431 green turtles and 916 hawksbill turtles released into the ocean in 2017 alone. Resort guests are welcome to view the release of turtle hatchlings into the ocean which occurs between June to September each year.



The resort is well paved with roads but of a distance to travel via foot. With the convenient travel options like the complimentary shuttle bus, buggy or car, we didn’t see anyone walking from point to point!

Nirwana Resort Hotel

From Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, it takes a comfortable 55-min ferry ride via Bintan Resort Ferries and a 10-min land transfer to reach the hotel lobby. Upon arrival, we were treated to a traditional Indonesian dance with live percussion music. Only Indonesian Rupiah is accepted in Bintan, and there is a money changer located at the hotel lobby for convenience. Indonesian timing is GMT+7, an hour behind Singapore.

We checked in on a Monday and the process was smooth. The resort is rather full on weekends. Singaporeans make up the bulk of visitors, followed by tourists from China.

The resort provided an extra bed for the kids, but look at those monkeys on the big bed. Standard amenities were provided – a TV, study desk, armchair, bar fridge, closet, rain shower and hair dryer. Our room overlooked a water fountain and there were lots of greenery. The room was clean with no visible traces of the previous occupant. 

Facilities/Activities

I was surprised to find out that there was a dive centre in Nirwana Gardens! It’s been more than five years since I last dived but I couldn’t due to time and kid constraints. For those who live for water sports, there’s a whole host of activities ranging from diving, snorkeling, banana boating, jet skiing, parasailing, kayaking, windsurfing and more. Here’s the full list of activities and corresponding prices.

We were brought on a tour around the resort and stopped by the D’Ranch Oasis, a herb garden and mini-zoo. There were rabbits, a resident parrot, monitor lizards and guinea fowl waddling to the small stream beside for water. How cute!

Traditional fishing can be done here at this small lake with the most basic type of rod with no reel. My husband gave it a go and hauled in a bountiful catch of zero fishes. The fishes were too smart for him that day. 

For a fee, you can ride around the compound in a horse carriage or on horseback. 

The Jumbo Elephant Park houses seven Sumatran elephants. The elephant in this photo is a grand dame of 28 years old. I’d never been up close to an elephant in my life, and we got to touch its trunk and watch them drink water from their trunks. The park provides an opportunity for visitors to get up close and personal with the gentle giants and watch a show where they can observe the elephants’ individual characteristics, living habits and group behaviours. 

 

The camping ground at the resort has many outdoor adventure equipment and is suitable for school groups and company team bonding activities. There’s a four-storey Flying Fox zipline, paintball park, Air Rifle, archery corner and indoor AirSoft gun shooting.   

A two storey complex houses the 14-lane bowling centre, cafe, meeting rooms, fitness centre and NABLEZ Kids Club. 

The NABLEZ Kids Club is suitable for children aged four years and up and you can choose to pay per session or per day. Parents can sign their children for the day course if they want to sneak off for some golf or a spa session.

The indoor playground has full length glass windows to let in natural light and is decorated with familiar cartoon characters. A messy creative corner for painting lets your child unleash their inner artistic talent. The cosy beanbag and TV area is perfect for lounging and relaxing. Younger babies are not left out, as the fully padded play area stocked with toys protects against injuries.

Our time was tight and we chose to forego the indoor kids’ playground for THIS.

The four ‘S’s of any perfect outdoor holiday – Sun. Sand. Sea. Sky. The weather happened to be perfect throughout our stay and we were blessed with this view. As it was a weekday, the beach was practically empty! We actually couldn’t resist it when we were taken there in our day clothes and ended up with sandy and wet kids. We made sure to go again after lunch in proper swimwear, and again the next day.  

I let the kids play in the sand. Didi put some sand into his mouth, but that boy eats just about anything. The kids touched seaweed, flung sand around and dug holes. There was sand everywhere. 

The outdoor pool was where we spent most of our time. Overlooking the sea, the pool is a nice place to read a book, suntan or sip a drink at the pool bar. The infinity pool is not suitable for small children because it’s where the deep end is, demarcated with floats, but the rest of the pool is huge. 

The 0.5M wading pool where Elise fulfilled her sisterly duties of pushing her little brother in his inflatable whale throne around the pool. 

My Prince of W(h)ales.

What we loved about the pool was that the temperature of the water was perfect for swimming. Not bone-chillingly cold where you have to say a prayer before dipping yourself in, but toasty warm. 

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Food

Spice Restaurant

Located at the main lobby of Mayang Sari Beach Resort, this restaurant with a view of the beach and sea serves authentic traditional Indonesian and Indian cuisine. We had the Nasi Goreng that my husband couldn’t stop raving about, butter chicken with naan and fish masala. The kids had chicken noodle soup and Mac’N’Cheese.    

The Kelong Seafood Restaurant

The Kelong Seafood Restaurant is a Chinese restaurant situated on top of the sea. The restaurant is naturally ventilated with a balmy sea breeze from the South China Sea and has a laid-back atmosphere. We were pleasantly surprised with a small cake before dinner as part of Elise’s belated birthday celebration. 

The walls were adorned with messages scrawled on crab shells, typical of seafood places serving crabs. There’s a small kelong below the bridge where the fishes are reared.

Dinner was a scrumptious spread of cereal prawns, seafood soup, kailan in oyster sauce and their signature dishes, black pepper crab and sea snails (gong gong). Part of a set menu, it was sufficient for two adults. The crab meat was piquant, sweet and easily separated from its shell, a sign of freshness.

The fresh seafood, service and sea breeze made for a pleasant evening. 

The Coffee Shop

The Coffee Shop is where daily breakfast buffet is served at. Check out the view. 

The food stations are modelled after traditional food push carts, giving it a rustic feel. 

The generous buffet spread included the standard egg station, salad and fruits bar, bread counter, cereal station and cooked food from International (ham, baked beans, potato wedges), Chinese (stir-fried noodles, fried rice, congee) and Indonesian (nasi lemak, soto ayam) cuisine. 

Poolside Restaurant

Our last meal in Nirwana Resort Hotel before checking out was at Poolside Restaurant. As the name implies, the restaurant mainly serves visitors who want a quick meal near the pool. 

We had two set meals with seafood pizza and grilled chicken leg as mains. The kimchi beef soup as a starter was a winner and gone so fast, we didn’t manage to take a photo. There was a good variety of kids’ meals and we ordered the mini pizza with french fries and steamed fish with mashed potatoes and boiled vegetables.  

Conclusion

Our 2D1N stay at Nirwana Gardens was on a packed schedule and we only wish we had more time to explore the more thrilling ATV, water sports and dive spots. With children, there’s still plenty to do at the beach, pool, bowling centre, elephant park and planned activities like the mangrove swamp tour and elephant experience. 

It was a brief respite from our daily routine and we enjoyed the large pool and the beach view. It’s an option worth considering if you only have a few days to spare, due to its easy accessibility from mainland Singapore.

Promo Code

Use code JAMIEK18 for S$18 OFF hotel bookings through the Trip.com App!
Valid till 31st Jan 2019!

Giveaway

Hop on over to Facebook for giveaway details! 

*** This is a sponsored review. We were invited to review Nirwana Resort Hotel by Trip.com.