Earth : Asia : Southeast Asia : Malaysia : East Coast (Malaysia) : Tioman
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. Also it 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 m cargo jetty, now threatens to speed up the pace of development on Tioman considerably. The marina is finished and the jetty is under construction. However, visitors with an aversion to such progress can avoid this part of the island and stay elsewhere without any impact.
You will find enormous monitor lizards across the island and in the kampongs you will often see them sifting through the rubbish piles looking for food. There is also an abundance of domestic cats.
Rubbish control on the island is still in a development stage, apart from in some of the resorts. So expect some less than pristine circumstances, but there is no doubt that at June 2011 places such as Air Batong are making progress on this front, encouragement required.
There is a RM5 conservation fee to enter the island, which can be paid at a little kiosk just before departing from the Mersing ferry terminal). In june 2013 the admission fee was not present,
Most visitors arrive by ferry from Mersing on the mainland. Bluewater Express operates the ferry services and its boats are fast and comfortable taking approx 2 hours to the first jetty. This ferry is now the only option, the smaller and faster services being cancelled because of safety concerns after a tragedy. The boat is sometimes boarded by the Malaysian coast guard but it appears that the operators' are aware of when this will take place and take pains to follow the rules only on those days.
There are three services per day in each direction (sometimes only 2 during week days), but tidal issues (or lack of passengers) may cause cancellation. Bluewater Express charges RM 35 (RM 55 before 7.30am and after 7.30pm) for an adult ticket, RM 25 for a child ticket (babies in arm free, as of last info).
The timetable is variable and depends on the tide. Contact Bluewater for info. The ferry operator tends to leave Mersing when the tide is high enough for the ferry to be able to pass through the mouth of the river, there are sufficient passengers aboard, or perhaps they are waiting for a connecting bus. The ferry ticket sellers advise arriving an hour early at busy times. This does not guarantee a seat, but will put you near the front of the queue. The ferry may still leave much later than scheduled time. So, if you are planning to use the ferry then leave sufficient buffers (1-2 Hours) at both ends of your ferry trip. The terminal at Genting is a nightmare during busy periods with poor administration and no communication with travellers.
Note: every passenger additional to ferry ticket must pay National Park preservation fee 20RM and Tioman island fee 5RM (February, 2014)
In Mersing, the main bus terminal is about 1000 metres up river from the ferry terminal. From the terminal face the river and go right. Follow through the commercial centre of Mersing, past the stadium to the ferry terminal. The bus may also drop you off at the corner where a conveniently located travel agent will attempt to sell you accommodation on the island. It may suit some to make a booking in the town before going to the island, others may prefer to take their chances and check out the offering on the island. In the instance where the afternoon ferry (4.30pm) is not running, one may have to stay in Mersing, which can be a fairly low expectation affair, depending on demand. Suggestion is to head straight to the ferry terminal, buy a ticket and worry about other matters later. Alternatively, you simply buy your ferry tickets in advance at Tioman Ferry Tickets , so your ferry seats are 'guaranteed' - providing you arrive early and queue. Do no attempt to arrive 'on time' as you may end up waiting for the next ferry. If you are not heading for the island, boats are available for private boat charter, scuba dive, fishing & Islands Tour along Jalan Dato Onn, Mersing.
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.
Please note, if you are coming from Johor Bahru with the bus of 2.30pm or later, there is a big chance to have no more ferry when you arrive and you will be force to take a night at Mersing. Enjoy it and take time for shopping as it will be more expensive on islands. Please note, most shops will be close in early morning (before 10am). There are fairly comfortable coaches leaving from the Singapore Flyer (run by WTS Travel) bus terminal at 6.30am which are perfectly timed for the 11.30am ferry. Tickets can booked easily online. These also drop you directly at the ferry and carry a courier to explain matters.
In Mersing you can find on the way to the jetty a 24h food court serving Malay food. You can spend a few hours there if you are going to take the first ferry in the morning and you are arriving from Johor Baru at night.
Bus ticket from Johor Bahru to Mersing csot around 11 MYR one way and there are only 3-4 connections a day. Bus ticket can be bought on line.
By dive operator
Many dive operators in Singapore operate their own trips to Tioman, and this would usually include taking a bus from Singapore to Mersing, then boarding the ferry for Tioman in Mersing. While it might be more expensive, this would probably be one of the most hassle-free ways to visit Tioman.
The sole commercial operator to the island's small airstrip near Tekek was (see note below) Berjaya Air , which flew 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 are available if booked online more than 3 days in advance, and may be available if booked in a package with accommodation.
Maximum baggage weight is 10 kg. Excess baggage charges seem to depend on how many passengers are on the flight.
The landing at Tekek involves a tight banking to avoid one mountain, a right-hand tight turn, then a relatively quick drop onto the airstrip which is at the base of Gunung Kajan, another mountain. Since the airstrip has been extended this is no longer the hairy procedure it once used to be. The flight from KL takes around 1 hr.
These flights use the secondary airports of Subang (IATA: SZB) in Kuala Lumpur and Changi Budget Terminal in Singapore (IATA: SIN), so factor in transfer time from KLIA/Changi when making your plans. As a general guide, allow 1 hr on the road to travel between KLIA and Subang.
Please note: Berjaya Air has suspend its services between Subang-Tioman-Subang and Singapore-Tioman-Singapore with effect from 01st March 2014 until further notice due to operational reason! Check their website for more details. As of August 2014 there are still no flights inward and this is causing most travellers to have to use the ferry which is compounding problems with terminal crowding and cancellations there as well. The island resort businesses are now suffering and the operators are tentatively discussing taking matters into their own hands.
No matter which way you choose to arrive, a marine park fee of RM5 should be levied on all visitors to the island. In practice, ferry passengers are not charged. Transfers can be arranged directly with resorts.
Tekek now boasts a recently built harbour with substantial wave break walls. The Tekek anchorage does not look like the nicest part of Tioman to hang about in, especially given the carefully chosen high intensity sky polluting orange lights installed in abundance. With any luck for all residents and visitors to the island the usual non-existant standards of maintenance will apply and these lights will fail over time.
NB: The map shown on this page has an incorrect scale shown; as an estimate, the distance between Kg Paya and Kg Bunut on the west coast is 1 kilometre.
Local transport is by bike, cars at Tekek, and by boat. A concrete road runs through Tekek, extending from the Berjaya resort in the south, past the airport, and to the northern end of Tekek village. There is a concrete path running the length of Air Batang area. Elsewhere there are almost no roads on Tioman. Cars may charge around RM20 for the short distance from the end of Tekek jetty/parks info office to the airport and up to RM120 for the biggest distance with a minimum of 2 or 4 passengers.
The rough concrete track was started by the Japanese in WWII and was re-opened several years ago. It follows the main electricty cable across to Juara. A 4 wheel drive vehicle is required. When you arrive you may be asked for up to RM175 to charter a whole vehicle to take you across. In May 2012 chartering a whole vehicle from Juara to Tekek cost RM60, though individual passengers in shared vehicles were quoted as RM35/head. It takes 45 min and is an interesting, steep and hairy ride. One alternative to paying a vehicle to take you down this road is to walk through the spectacular forest trail instead. The entrance to this trail is part-way up the mountains when coming from Juara (turn right at the sign), or when coming from Tekek (or ABC) simply turn east at the northern end of the airport.
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 RM20 per person (for the Bluewater ferry) and is much cheaper than the private speedboat services. As of July 2011, the ferry operators do not appear to be charging for the island-hopping.
Speedboats charge from about RM20-60 for a single trip, depending on the destination. For example, a speedboat from Salang to Tekek will cost about RM 30, but a trip from Salang to Juara will cost about RM60-100. Although 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 RM150 and can be shared if there are more passengers. Expect to pay double at night. Mukut (south) to Air Batang village (north) will cost RM150 per head.
There are 4WD "taxis" from Tekek to Juara. In May 2012 only RM60 was requested. In fact a new road has been built between Juara and Tekek and now also normal car can run between the 2 villages. The ride is around 35 ringitt a persons. (depends on the number of persons9 Don't be forced into using those who tout directly outside the airstrip. Slow down to local pace and take your time over everything.
There are several jungle treks , following the power lines, which connect the Kampungs. Depending on your condition and preferences, it could be better to have walking/trekking shoes and long pant.
Air Batang (ABC)
Air Batang is a village which is spreaded a couple of kms along the coast. It is full of basic accommodation charging around 50 MYR a night for a fan room (in June 2013). There are also more upscale accommodation with air conditioning. Mini markets are available. Restaurants in this area have low quality. Drinks are available at a few place where you can also enjoy the beautiful sunset sipping a cheap beer (5 MYR in June 2013).Regarding snorkeling, the quality of the reef is poor on the north of ABC. Also a trip for snorkeling at Coral bay and Monkey beach (costing 85 MYR a person - negotiable but price high due to the fact you hire a boat) does not offer much to see underwater. A 40minute walk to Tekek airport allows to go to the duty-free shop where you can buy a beer as low as 2.5 MYR for a can. It is a minimarket where you can buy also other products.
The local village is spread back from the little track which follows the line of the sea. People live all over the place normally in simple huts. The tourist huts and accommodation is within 20 m of high water mark.
Juara is a very quiet beach at the east coast especially in the off season, when almost nobody is there. There are three rivers coming from the mountains, delivering cold freshwater to the beach, a chilling alternative to swimming in the sea. A path leads to waterfalls in the jungle, which is nice for a swim and climb over the large rocks. To reach the waterfalls, just follow a marked path for about 30 min. The path starts at the south beach, next to the turtle breeding farm. Opposite of the great rocks, which lie on the beach. The path is marked by the bottoms of cans, nailed to the trees and painted yellow and red. At the beginning of the path there are three such signs at a tree. If you walk along the only concrete road towards south to the turtle breeding farm, you can not miss it.
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".
Genting Village lies on a narrow strip of golden sand, fringed by dark grey granite boulders, at the foot of steep hills covered in lush rainforest. The village is stretched out along a footpath that follows the coastline and the buildings reach hardly a hundred metres from the shore into the jungle behind.
A few shops, restaurants, cafes, chalets, a clinic and a mosque complete the core of the village around the jetty. Villagers’ wooden homes are a few metres further down the footpath in either direction, surrounded by the tall emerald trees of the forest.
You can easily walk from the one end of the village to the other in thirty minutes, or rent a bicycle to get around. The same concrete footpath that is the main throughway of Genting continues north to the village of Paya and there are footbridges over the many mountain streams that find their way into the ocean here. It does not take long before you start encountering monkeys and monitor lizards and all you can hear is the calls of birds and the din of cicadas.
Kampung Genting Jetty GPS: N: 2.785787, E: 104.118907
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). You plan to dive and are travelling with small budget? Go to Air Batang (ABC) or Salang since accomodation is about RM50 and you have bigger choice in dive operators. Most of the good diving is situated in the north of the island, close to Salang. (dive sites: Chebeh,, Sea Fan Canyon, Labas, Tiger Reef, Golden Reef,...)
Perhaps the most popular activity for visitors is snorkelling. 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 snorkelling 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, snorkelling is fantastic in front of most beaches and can rival that of any snorkelling 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. Snorkellers who are squeamish about brushing against thick clouds of jellyfish in the water (as can happen in the May-September period) can try wearing a long-sleeved shirt or a rash guard when snorkelling. Alternately, you can rent a wetsuit from one of the dive shops if you're not comfortable with the jellies. You can rent snorkelling equipment for about 15RM/day (mask, scuba, fins). Some of the best locations are as follows.
For those who are surf junkies, Tioman receives swells up to 2 m from the South China Sea. However, they only come during the wet season which is from November to March and only hit the eastern side of the island.
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, always declare tobacco and alcohol to Singapore customs officials and be prepared to pay high duty or dispose of the items.
ATM is available at Tekek. From the wharf go left, the bank with the attached ATM is on the left of the road about 250 metres on. The ATM is a 10-second walk from the airport.
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 RM3-10 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 RM4 (Dec 2010), some places offer refill with locally filtered water for RM1-2. Canned soft drinks are about RM 2.50, beer starts at RM2 (Tiger beer at local shop), but note that you cannot take/consume alcohol in some restaurants.
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, particularly around the jetty where you can find Roti Canai, Nasi Goreng and Ramli burger stalls.
Food options in Juara are not particularly exiting. Be prepared for mediocre quality, small portions and prices which are on the high side.
The three local food places next to the jetty (turn right when stepping off the jetty) are an exception offering decent Malay food at reasonable prices. On a recent visit (April 2014) we've tried a number of the restaurants attached to the small hotels dotting Juara beach, and the local place next to the jetty with the seats closest to the beach won hands down in terms of tastiness. Ambiance, however, is not their strong point, so seek out other options if you are after a romantic dinner location.
If you are staying at Juara Mutiara, avoid the buffet-style breakfast they try to sell you, one look at it will tell you why - and yes it is possible to just book a room, at a discount, without any food included. While they don't sell alcohol, they are ok with BYO.
Food at Bushman's is ok, but if you are hungry order at least two mains per adult, or a lot of sides, otherwise you'll stay hungry. Bushman's servers beer, but it's lukewarm and the selection is limited, with only Tiger and Changs on offer (RM5/can). They also sell wine at RM35/bottle, we didn't have it so can't comment on quality.
There is also a Chinese restaurant on the beach which has a great view from its veranda overlooking the beach, so even if you don't feel like you want to eat there its a great place to have a drink before dinner. The food is decent, but relatively pricey for what it is. The beer selection is good, from RM3-7 per can/bottle, and drinks arrive ice-chilled which is nice.
The food in Salang is similarly priced and there is a variety of western and local fare. For those who enjoy seafood there are numerous barbeque restaurants offering freshly caught fish, shrimp, squid and crabs, these begin opening around 7pm.
If you want nightlife and atmosphere, there are some bars between Tekek Village till ABC which serve everything from cheap beer to cocktails and most do bonfire nights on the beach on occasions.
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 (huts) around RM 40 and up.
A quieter beach on the east coast, also has a selection of budget rooms at similar prices. Surf season from November through February (monsoon).
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. Celcom, DIGI and Maxis coverages are available but may be limited due geographical conditions. You can buy prepaid SIM cards from the shops at Tioman or at the airport. Malaysia Communication and Multimedia Commission's new regulation (MCMC/G/06/06 dated 5 June 2006) , prepaid registration is mandatory, expect a day or two for line activation.
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).
Now, in Tioman, does not have television available without satellite except TV3, the only way is setting up a satellite. On Salang, the 4 S Cafe (which is in fact a bar) and the Salang Dreams Cafe both have cable TV. Ask nicely, and you might get the staff to change the channel - though watching TV is usually low on the list of things to do in Tioman.
There have been outbreaks of Sarcocystosis, a rare and not well known parasitic tropical disease, amongst travelers to Tioman, particularly in 2012 and as recently as May 2014. Sarcocystosis is not well known amongst physicians and is often mis-diagnosed. If you have flu-like symptoms and severe muscle aches after traveling to Tioman immediately consult a tropical disease specialist. Experimental treatment options with Cotrimoxazole and steroids are available.
Theft is not generally an issue in private rooms. One thing to watch out for is coral cuts, which are bacteria-laden and turn septic very quickly if not treated in good time. Bring sterile wound wash and antiseptic cream for coral cuts; wash and treat them immediately to avoid a nasty infection.
Watch out for the triggerfish as well; these little pointy-nosed fish are very cute but they do get territorial and attack swimmers during their mating season. The monkeys can be quite feral, and have been known to attempt to force open windows and doors to look for food, thanks to irresponsible tourists who insist on feeding the monkeys.
Some young men (in their 20s) may invite female tourists to have drinks. If you're not interested, politely but firmly decline their offer.