) is the largest
island in the Seribuat Archipelago
, 56 kilometers off the southeastern
coast of Peninsular Malaysia
. Clocking in at 20 by 12 kilometers
and, according to legend, shaped like a dragon
with its feet stuck in
, the island's profile is quite steep and distinctive, with
reaching 1049 meters and the southern twin peaks
of Nenek Semukut
and Bau Sirau
not much lower.
While perhaps a bit too large to cause an immediate "Oh my Lord I'm in paradise" reaction (try
for that), it still has
picture-perfect white coral sand beaches, palm trees and azure seas,
and is well deserving
of its Time
magazine accolade of as one of the top 10 island escapes in the
Claims to Fame
For a long time just a navigational aid and cluster of fishing
s, Tioman has little in the way of recorded history; the only
clue that people have been there for a while comes from a recent find of
12-century Sung Dynasty
porcelain. A more recent claim to fame
was the island's appearance in the 1950s hit musical South Pacific
where it played the role of the mythical island Bali Hai
not being in the South Pacific or even particularly near to the
). With the advent of scuba diving
the realization that there was some pretty spiffy coral
waters too in the 1970s, the tourist boom started in earnest.
After 30 years of development, Tioman is the best equipped (or,
to put it another way, most commercialized) island on the Malaysian
East Coast. The 'capital' (of sorts) at Tekek
now features a paved airport
and the island's only road, a 1-meter
concrete path a few kilometers down to the Berjaya Tioman Beach Resort
the island's luxury resort complete with 18-hole golf course
a time-share condotel
for those who want to stay longer.
Tekek is also, alas, the ugliest place on the island, full of run-down
accommodation and rusting oil drums.
But the island is a big place, and it's still far from the excesses of
Langkawi and Penang. North of Tekek stretch the backpacker-friendly
of Ayer Batang ("ABC"), Penuba and Salang; south, past the
Berjaya Resort, are Paya, Genting, Nipah and Mukut, all
tiny hamlets with a few low-key resorts or bungalows on the beach.
And on the other side of the island is kampung Juara, accessible only
by trekking 3-4 hours through the jungle from Tekek, or taking the
once-daily slow boat around the island.
Things to Do
Laze on the beach. Snorkel. Dive. Eat. Repeat. This is not the place
for an action-packed holiday, although terminal fitness nuts can
hire a guide and go for some hot, sweaty tropical mountain-climbing.
Tioman's coral reefs have taken a big hit from the double whammy of
heavy tourism and the crown-of-thorns starfish infestation
plagueing much of South-East Asia; most of the reefs around the
island itself are dead or dying, although there remain some good
patches (eg. the north side of tiny Pulau Renggis at the northern
end of Paya beach). Nearly all kampungs have a dive shop or three,
and they arrange trips to various outlying islets and reefs.
When to Go
Much of the island is closed during the northeast monsoon
between November and February; the seas are rough, meaning transport links
are also trimmed down, and for divers visibility is poor.
The best time for diving is thus April-May, although the diving is
still good well into October.
The cheapest and most popular method is to go to Mersing
mainland (there are many buses from Singapore
and Kuala Lumpur
and then take a boat to Tioman. Boats take 1.5 to 3 hours,
depending on your choice of speedboat
or slow ferry
and cost around 30 ringgit
one way. The boats will take you to any village
on the west coast, but reaching Juara will require special arrangements.
Another viable option is to take the daily direct high-speed ferry from
Tanah Merah in Singapore to Tekek. The trip takes around 4.5
hours and costs 60-100 Sing dollars return depending on the season and
day of week. The ferry does not run during the monsoon season.
Last but not least, if you have more money than time on your hands,
you can fly Berjaya Air daily from Kuala Lumpur (Subang) or
Singapore (Seletar) straight to Tekek. The short hops (35 min from Singapore, 60 from KL) are on
48-seater turboprop Dash 7s and afford you some beautiful views of the
archipelago on a good day, but expect to fork out over 150
Sing dollars (return) for the privilege.
Footprints Malaysia Handbook