Pulau Tioman – located off the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia – is one of Malaysia’s most popular small islands. Hailed as one of the world’s most beautiful islands in the 1970s by TIME Magazine, Tioman Island lays claim to miles of golden sandy beaches, dense jungles and quaint villages.
Tioman Island Attractions
Tioman is the biggest island on Malaysia’s east coast. Said to be the home of Malaysian diving, if truth be told, the diving visibility here can sometimes be disappointing due to currents that bring plankton and river run-off here. However, most of the time, Tioman’s diving opportunities do not fail to impress as most of the time the waters are clear resulting in diverse diving choices. Deep-diving enthusiasts will love Pulau Chebeh, the site of several giant manta sightings and huge gorgonian sea fans. Wreck divers will enjoy the Soyak Wreck – a sunken hull with soft and hard corals, Moorish idols, trevally and angelfish. Meanwhile, Labas – also known as Pirate Island – has a fascinating topography of submerged and semi-submerged boulders, making it perfect for muck diving.
There are plenty of dive resorts in Tioman so you’re sure to get a good package deal especially if you look around beforehand. Officially the diving season stretches from March to October but monsoon season has been appearing later than usual; hence hardy divers who stay longer only have to share the island with a trickle of visitors.
Lying about 56 kilometres off the coast of Pahang, Tioman boasts a wide range of things to do involving water sport activities; landlubbers looking for things to see on the island are out of luck unless you count exploring and watching Tioman’s various species of mammals and birds.
Tioman Island Dining
While Tioman’s list of sightseeing attractions may be limited, its range of dining opportunities is extensive. There are quite a few eateries scattered across the island that warrant a visit; located at Syed Bay at the end of Tekek Beach, take advantage of Babura Sea View Restaurant’s proximity to the sea and dine on locally caught seafood. Meanwhile Nazri’s Place I & II Hijau Restaurant serves up authentic Malaysian fare and barbecues. Noted for its green surroundings and situated between swaying palm and coconut trees, it’s somewhat of an institution and has two branches on the island. Alternatively try the fresher-than-fresh seafood at the Salang Sayang Restaurant. Meanwhile, diving enthusiasts will love the Sunrise Dive Centre Breakfast Café – famous for its fresh bread and cheese, you can start your day by diving into a hearty breakfast while plan your diving itinerary.
Tioman Island Nightlife
Lodging options on Tioman Island are spread across the easier-to-reach west coast; in point of fact, most Western tourists flock to the ever popular Berjaya Tioman Golf & Spa Resort. Tekek is Tioman’s commercial and transport hub; the town has two unsightly jetties and some duty-free shops but its Tioman’s only zone that has embraced the 21st century. Ari’s Café, located in Tekek, is a reggae-style bar folded into the mountainside not far from the trailhead to ABC.
Meanwhile, Air Batang is Tioman’s backpacker mainstay – it features a not so flashy beach and a decidedly down-to-earth kampong feel. Sunset Corner is located nearby Nazri’s Place on the southern edge of this beach – it’s a great place to watch the sunset, share a pizza and sip a cold pint; Happy Hour is from 17:00 – 19:00. Alternatively you can visit Hallo Café on the north end of the jetty in front of Nazri’s II; this seafront watering hole features live music.
The small bay at Salang is chock-full of accommodation establishments, eateries, tourists and peddlers trying to vend taxi boat tickets and tours; the Four S café is the only drinking hole in the area – beers are cheap at only RM5.
Last but not least, Juara is located on the east coast of the island; the Santai Bistro is smack next to the jetty here and this bar/restaurant spins classic rock music.
Tioman Island Shopping
Featuring beaches awash in the waters of the South China Sea, Tioman is one of Malaysia’s biggest and most beautiful islands. It’s got a very small permanent population with a handful of kampongs dotting its landscape; the island’s main source of economy is tourism but holidaymakers are treated like locals. Its mountainous jungle is home to a diverse array of flora and wildlife including flying foxes, monkeys and fruit bats.
Tioman offers some of the best and most easily accessible dive sites in the world plus it’s also one of the cheapest places in the world to get a PADI certification. Tekek, the island’s main hub, is where you see Tioman – a designated duty-free zone – embracing the 21st century; there are unsightly duty-free stores selling alcohol, chocolate and cigarettes. The island’s airstrip is located here along with the only bank on the island and a marina.
Meanwhile, the rest of the island stays off the technology radar and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a decent internet connection – yet it’s this sense of disconnection that makes it supremely popular with visitors escaping busy city life. Tioman’s shopping options are pretty thin on the ground with the larger stores in Tekek selling tobacco, chocolates and alcohol as well as a limited variety of T-shirts, bathing suits and souvenirs. Other villages, namely Kampung Paya, have small shops that sell duty-free merchandise but that’s about it. It has to be said that since Tioman ships most merchandise over from the mainland, these items come with decidedly exorbitant price tags, so be smart and stock up on supplies – especially mosquito repellent – before you head to the island.
Tioman Island Activities
With a wildlife-rich rainforest and waters that are liberally sprinkled with white coral reefs, Tioman is a much sought-after destination by both naturalists and divers across Asia. Easily accessible via speedboat, ferry or flight from Mersing and Singapore, there are many things to do in Tioman, but snorkelling and scuba diving activities take precedence in most visitors’ itineraries.
The largest and most developed of the volcanic islands that form the Tioman Marine Park, Tioman’s waters are ideal for water sports such as kayaking as well as windsurfing plus its clear underwater visibility makes undersea explorations pleasurable. For a touch of adventure divers can take a boat ride out to Monkey Beach, or the uninhibited islands of Tulai and Renggis for a swim and picnic. If you’re not a strong swimmer then slip on your life jacket and head out over the seas on a glass bottomed boat to see the diverse ocean wildlife without even getting wet. Meanwhile, Tioman’s landscape is so interesting that visitors should explore it – try scaling up the 690 metre-high twin peaks of Gunung Nenek Semukut – Malaysia’s highest freestanding spire and Tioman’s highest peak. On the other hand visitors can visit the Asah waterfall or rent a bike to explore Tioman’s five main villages – Salang, Tekek, Genting, Paya and Juara.
However if you’re in the mood for a more routine yet calming activity, swing into action at the 18-hole Berjaya Tioman Beach, Golf & Spa Resort. Last, but not least, rejuvenate at the Ayura Spa in Berjaya Tioman Golf & Spa Resort or at the Paya Holistic Spa in Paya Beach Resort.