Tioman (Malay: Pulau Tioman) is a small island, 39 km long and 12 km wide, located off the east coast of peninsular Malaysia.
Tioman's beaches were depicted in the 1958 movie South Pacific as "Bali Hai". In the 1970s, Time magazine selected Tioman as one of the world’s most beautiful islands. The densely forested island is still sparsely inhabited, but is surrounded by numerous white coral reefs, making it a haven for scuba divers from around the region.
Already the most commercially developed of Malaysia's eastern islands, a controversial RM 40 million marina project for Kampung Tekek, complete with 175-meter cargo jetty, now threatens to speed up the pace of development on Tioman considerably.
Most visitors arrive by ferry from Mersing on the mainland. There are a number of ferry operators and three types of ferry. The largest, (approx 1 hour 20mins) ferry is the most economical; the smaller and faster catamaran costs more; the smallest and fastest (approx 1 hour) outboard speedboats are the most expensive option. Blue water express has a monopoly here to get both to Tioman and from beach to beach while you are there. Bluewater Express charges RM 35 for an adult ticket, RM 20 for a child ticket (babes in arm free, as of last info), and departs from Salang at 08:30 and at noon, and picks up travellers all the way down the coast. It should be noted that apart from the first sailing of the day, ferry operators tend only to leave Mersing when they deem that there are sufficient passengers. This has the effect of making the timetables vague at best. Even if there are enough passengers, the operators are general chaotic and hence the timetables can be thrown off very easily. If you are planning onward journeys based on these timetables, then leave sufficient buffers (1-2 Hours).
In between there are speedboats (e.g. at 09:40), but one has to pay RM 45. If you already posses a return ticket for the Bluewater ferry, RM 10 surcharge applies.
In Mersing, the ferry terminal and main bus terminal are in the same building.
During the monsoon season (late October to mid/late February) the ferries run much less frequently and exceptionally bad conditions may shut them down completely for several days at a time.
Direct ferries to/from Singapore's Tanah Merah ferry terminal used to run daily (except for the November to February monsoon period), but were discontinued in 2003; this service is now only available for about 4 weeks during the peak school holiday period (~June).
The sole commercial operator to the island's small airstrip near Tekek is Berjaya Air, which flies 48 seat Dash-7 turboprops from Kuala Lumpur (60 min; RM214 one-way; daily) and Singapore (35 min; RM240 / S$111 one-way; daily peak season, several times a week during the monsoon season). Discounted fares may be available if booked in a package with accommodation. Maximum baggage weight is 10Kgs. Excess baggage charges seem to depend on how many passengers are on the flight.
These flights use the secondary airports of Subang (SZB) in Kuala Lumpur and Seletar (XSP) in Singapore, so factor in transfer time from KLIA/Changi when making your plans. As a general guide, allow for 2 hours on the road to travel between KLIA and Subang and about 1 hour on the road to travel between Changi and Seletar.
No matter which way you choose to arrive, a marine park fee (RM5) should be levied on all visitors to the island. In practise, ferry passengers are not charged. Transfers can be arranged directly with resorts.
Except for a short concrete path connecting the airport to the road to Tekek village and on to the nearby Berjaya Resort, about 2km from Tekek, there are almost no roads on Tioman and local transport is by boat and 4WD.
By far the best and cheapest way of hopping from one village to the other is to use the Mersing/Tioman ferry service. On its way to and from Mersing it goes between Salang in the north and Genting in the south. The ferry will take you to most villages between from RM10-15 per person and is much cheaper than the private speedboat services.
Speedboats charge about RM 50 for a single trip, which is extortionate by Malaysian standards, but while you can try to negotiate they know full well that they're the only game in town (unless you hike). A single trip by boat as far as from the west coast to the east coast is RM 150 and can be shared if there are more passengers. Expect to pay double at night.
There are 4WD "taxis" from Tekek to Juara. They charge RM 75 (single person), RM 120 total (two persons) or RM 35 each (min. 4 persons). But be careful if it is (or was) rainy: the jeeps are likely to get stuck along the way, which involves the calling of some friends of the driver and lots of wasted time spent on a slippery jungle-road. Also note that these jeeps are not always available; they are available at the drivers' discretion.
Tioman Cabana Sport,Cafe & Adventure one of the registered company running the transportation (Sea & Land)service and backpackers and travellers can get better rates please check it out at the place at Tg Saik Beach
There are several jungle treks , following the power lines, which connect the Kampungs.
It is relatively easy to cross the island on foot from Tekek to Juara. The path up from Tekek is a well established but unpaved, 7 km long track with occasional stone steps to assist and a few fallen tree trunks to keep things interesting. You cannot lose the trail because it follws the powerline to Juara. It's feasible with a small backpack, but fairly strenuous, so allow plenty of time. In Tekek, the trail starts north of the airport (sign to Juara). Close to the waterworks, one leaves the road and continues on the trail. On the east side, it's an easy broad concrete footpath with no steps all the way from the summit down to Juara. Allow a minimum of at least two hours for the whole thing, significantly more if you want to stop along the way or if you're carrying anything, and take plenty of water and bug repellent; also bear in mind that the path is unlit and that it gets dark early in the jungle (especially on the Tekek side). In Tekek, the trail starts north of the airport (sign to Juara). Close to the waterworks, one leaves the road and continues on the trail.
It's also possible to walk from Tekek to Air Batang (ABC) (40 minutes) and from there to Salang (just follow the power cable); this is a less strenuous hike overall as it's relatively level, however in places the path itself is more difficult to negotiate.
Nevertheless, this path can exhibit some beauty, because it comes along the Monkey Beach and Monkey Bay, which lie next to each other (in fact, one can swim out of the bay of Monkey Beach and reach Monkey Bay on the right without problems). It takes about 70 minutes to get from ABC to Monkey Beach. Both beaches offer very good snorkeling. The only way to reach them (except for the path) are water taxis. The exhausted hiker may wait for one of them to pass by and get a ride - but be prepared to pay RM 50.
Empty until recently, Monkey Beach is developing fast and there are now many chalets, a couple of bars/restaurants and a small supermarket.
Nikki Lim, 17 April 2009- Obviously the current entry of Monkey Beach and Bay is outdated and/or misleading. We trekked from Panuba to Monkey Beach and Monkey Bay for an hour and a half and i might add, was totally disappointing as we had believed the entry. Both beaches were empty. Monkey beach really had very yellow sand- the ONLY thing worth seeing. It was a beautiful beach though. Monkey Bay had an empty dilapated shack and a not-so-well-maintained beach in front of it. No snorkeling gear to rent from either beaches. No taxis going past their way. No markets or stalls to buy anything. Both were isolated.
At the north end of Monkey Bay, the path continues to Salang. Remember to follow the power lines, since the path may be hard to see sometimes. Furthermore it is quite punishing, because it goes uphill for a long time. Until Salang is reached, there is nothing but jungle. Allow at least 90 minutes for this part of the hike.
Juara, which is a very quiet beach at the east coast (especially in the off season, when almost nobody is there), has some special things to offer. There are three rivers coming from the mountains, delivering cold freshwater to the beach - a chilling alternative to swimming in the sea, and a path leads to waterfalls in the jungle, which again is nice to take a swim and climb over the large rocks.
The place itself is divided into two beaches that are separated by a small hill, which is said to be the "origin" of Tioman. Some locals say: "you have not been on Tioman, if you did not stand on these rocks". (Perhaps this is just the opinion of the peaople of Juara - I can not tell). The beaches are definitely more beautiful than Air Batang and probably even lovelier than Salang.
Scuba facilities are readily available, and the diving is reasonably good, especially in view of the proximity to Singapore. Most villages have a variety of dive shops. Padi Open water courses average at about RM990 (4 day course), and for licensed divers each dive is roughly RM90).
Perhaps the most popular activity for visitors is snorkeling. Most resorts can arrange for speedboats or seabuses to take you to the beaches and small uninhabited islands nearby (such as Pulau Tulai, aka "Coral Island") and Renggis island where the snorkeling is at its best. The water is almost pristine save for the occasional litter. Just be careful of the small jellyfish, as they can pack a sting, and try not to lose your rental gear or you'll be subject to the renter's arbitrary fines. However, snorkeling is fantastic in front of most beaches and can rival that of any snorkeling trip at a fraction of the cost. However, do note that the beaches are home to several Portugese Man of War. These prickly creatures tend to rest on rocks and if snorkelling in shallow waters, one should be especially careful of not coming in contact with these. They pack quite a sting and might require medical attention. Some of the best locations are as follows.
Tioman is a duty free zone and offers a good selection of alcohol and cigarettes at very cheap prices. The main outlet is "vision duty free" (past the hospital and school) and at the airport. Other villages such as Paya and Salang have small outlets.
However, do note that in case you intend to purchase alcohol or cigarettes and carry them into neighbouring Singapore, then you would need to pay duty on these goods and hence the cost advantage vanishes. Refer to Singapore customs website on duty free allowances; the Singapore authorities can be pretty strict, so smuggle at your own risk.
Depending on where you eat, food can be quite expensive on Tioman, compared to other places in Malaysia. Western food can be up to RM15 per plate, whilst local food is cheap (between RM3-6 normally). Especially if you eat at the restaurants attached to the resorts and chalets, you should plan around RM 30+ per day (good breakfast, lunch and dinner).
The 1.5 l bottle of water costs between RM 3-4 (as of August 2007), some places offer refill with locally purified water for RM 1-2. Canned softdrinks are about the same, beer starts at RM 2 (Tiger beer at local shop).
Village restaurant at Coral Reef Holidays the most Malay and western food also good view (by the beach)
There are several places to eat in Kampung Genting.
If you want nightlife and atmosphere, they have alots of choice from Tekek Village till ABC. Its 4 bars serve everything from cheap beer to cocktails and most do bonfire nights on the beach on occasion.
While the most commercialized of Malaysia's east coast islands, Tioman has yet to be invaded by mass tourism on the scale of Penang or Langkawi and there are plenty of cheap beds to be found. However, if heading for anywhere other than the backpackers villages, reservations are advisable as getting to some of the more remote kampungs can be a hassle. Note that some places stay open year round, but many close for the monsoon season (typically end of October to mid/late February).
Most of Tioman's backpacker accommodation is to the north of the island, with numerous budget chalet operations clustered around Salang and Air Batang (sometimes also referred to as ABC - although this is the name of the resort at the northern end of the beach, not the beach itself), and to a lesser extent Tekek. Dorm beds start about RM 20, single rooms around RM 40 and up.
Amongst the most popular are:
Refurbished older resort under new management
Juara, a quieter beach on the east coast, also has a selection of budget rooms at similar prices.
Practically every kampung on the west coast of the island has a self-styled resort or two. A typical air-conditioned chalet will set you back in the vicinity of RM 100, although significant discounts can be negotiated in the off-season, in package deals or just by showing up and smiling. In off-season it is advisable to just show up and pick the best and cheapest spots. Genting resorts are largely owned and operated by friendly local fisherman families. For the support of the local community, you are likely to have a chance to pick the best fish at the beach in the evening and have it prepared by the women.
Most, but not all, of Tioman has cellphone coverage. This is improving although only Celcom has coverage, Maxis is under construction.
Tioman advertises that it has a number of payphones that can be used upon purchasing a phonecard, and a lot of travellers buy the cards before realising that none of these phones work.If you want to call home, a lot of chalet complexes offer international call services at a price, otherwise consider using skype via the internet (call credit can be purchased online in order to call regular telephones thru skype).