Pulau Tioman, as Tioman Island is referred to locally (pulau means island), shot into fame after the movie ‘South Pacific’ was shot in the island in 1958. Tourists come flocking here to see the natural beauty that was captured by the camera, and to indulge in various activities like scuba diving, snorkelling, jungle trekking, rock climbing, and glass bottom tours among other things. There are enough of rain forests, mountains, corals, beaches, and outcrops to let tourists do all these.
Location of Tioman Island
Tioman is in West Malaysia (also known as peninsular Malaysia), which is a part of Malay Peninsula. It is the biggest in a set of volcanic islands off West Malaysia’s eastern coast. It is part of the Malaysian state of Pahang, and is located at a distance of 32 km from the coast. The island is 20 km in length and 12 km in width.
What You Can Do in Tioman Island
Tioman Island is one of the best diving destinations in Malaysia with about 20 excellent dive sites. It has an interesting 30 metre wreck dive called Sawadee wreck, purposely sunk to create a reef, adjacent to an original wreck of 1995.
However, Pulau Tioman is not just for divers. There are quite a lot of things you can do there besides diving.
- The island is ideal for snorkelling. There are many uninhabited islands nearby like Renggis Island and Coral Island (aka PulauTulai) which are places where you can find world class snorkelling. Most resorts organize snorkelling trips and island hopping trips in seabuses and speedboats.
- Free-diving is another pleasure activity that visitors can indulge in. Tekek, the capital of Tioman Island, has a free-diving centre which offers many certified courses as well as fun dives.
- Located at a distance of 6 km from the fishing village of Mukut is the magnificent, 28-metre-high Asah Waterfall (also called Mukut Waterfall). You can trek up to its top or go there by boat.
- In Tioman there are no restrictions on fishing. You can do deep-sea fishing or any other type you prefer.
- The place is good for windsurfing. From November till March, which is the wet season, you can surf up to 2 m on powerful waves. The swell comes only to the island’s eastern edge.
- There is a turtle care centre named Juara Turtle Hatchery where you can see many species of turtles and also volunteer your services.
- Gunung Kajang, which at 1,038 metres is the highest mountain peak in Tioman, has been explored only by a few and is open to exploration.
- There is an 18-hole golf course in Berjaya Tioman Resort that will keep golf lovers happy.
- There are two huge monolithic granite projections of 400 metres rising skyward, known as ‘Dragon Horns’. This geological marvel is a sight to behold.
- Finally, it is a wonderful place to just relax or sunbathe or watch sunsets. Paya Beach is especially good for all these. And there are plenty of spas offering aroma massage, sports massage etc. on the seashore.
- Tioman is a good place for shopping also, since it is a duty-free place.
Though there is a good beach bar, there is limited nightlife in Tioman Island. So you cannot expect lively music, cabarets, and the like.
Best Time to Visit Tioman Island
Tioman has a tropical climate and high humidity, with temperature ranging only from 21ºC to 32ºC throughout the year. The best time to visit is from March till October when rains are sporadic. Of this, the peak season is from May till August. There is a lot of rain from October till January when big waves suitable for surfing can be found. Visitors are sparse from the end of October to the beginning of March so that the hotels that function during this period offer huge discounts. From November beginning to the middle of February, most resorts and hotels remain closed.
Best Dive Season
Tioman is good for diving from the end of February to the beginning of November. February is attractive for divers because it is the mating time of reef cuttlefish. Visibility is good (15 to 30 metres) from March to May and also from September to November. From June to August, visibility is less (8 to12 metres) but the sites are still suitable for diving.
Where to Stay in Tioman Island
Tioman Island has no dearth of accommodation.While most of the resorts are huts and cottages, there are hotels too for those who prefer that.
Japamala Resort (5 star)
Japamala is perched on the edge of a cliff, and consists of seven villas and six chalets. Each unit is different, constructed to match the character of the land on which it is built, to celebrate the deep-rooted relationship between man and nature. Some of the rooms have to be accessed via walkways or winding bridges. The resort is affiliated with Tioman Dive Centre which offers a range of PADI-certified courses, and has provision for all types of dives like night dive, beach dive, boat dive, and adventure dive. Other activities that the resort organizes are village hopping, jungle trekking, sunset watching, fishing etc.
Paya Beach Spa & Dive Resort (3 star)
Paya Beach Resort is near the magnificent mangrove swamps and rain forests of Tioman, and overlooks the South China Sea. There are a total of 112 rooms, some of which are four-occupancy and others two-occupancy. The resort has a PADI dive centre, and has all other facilities like a spa, grill, bar, outdoor pool, restaurant, conference room, and provision for non-motorized water sports. There is an activity centre that organizes snorkelling, fishing, and trekking trips according to visitors’ needs.
Coral Reef Holiday Beach Resort
Located on the southern side of the jetty in Tekek, Coral Reef Holiday Resort is a row of chalets along the shore. There are different types of chalets for accommodating two, four, six, or eight people, and the resort offers three days and two nights packages that include all meals, ferry transfer, and snorkelling trips. Visitors can go scuba diving, sailing, snorkelling, jungle trekking, waterskiing, or play beach soccer and beach volleyball. The resort bar ‘Tioman Cabana’ offers good drinks and good music that keep the guests entertained.
Tunamaya Beach and Spa
Tunamaya, which is situated near Asah Waterfall, has packages for honeymooners, couples, and families. Its ‘Ombak Bar’ remains open till 1:00 AM at night, offering drinks and live music, and its ‘Sarang Spa’ has many rejuvenation treatments. The restaurant ‘Pawana’ has a range of international and local delicacies for the visitors. The resort has of a total of 54 beachfront villas with balconies facing the sea. Twin Peaks Dive Centre, the PADI dive centre located in Tunamaya, offers diving courses and organizes diving and snorkelling trips.
Bagus Place Retreat
This is a collection of innovative chalets, some of them rising on stilts and others hugging the earth, called Big Chief, Boat House, Eagle View, Rock House, Flying Fox, Tree House, Rumah Laut etc. Each chalet is creatively named according to its design. For example, Boat House has the appearance of a boat that is about to be launched into the sea and Tree House sits around a tree trunk. The resort’s ‘Twin Peaks Restaurant’ serves mainly Asian food, and ‘Dragon Bar’ always remains well-stocked with drinks and provides karaoke, movies, games, and live music. Activities for guests are diving, snorkelling, jungle trekking, kayaking, rock-pooling, paddling, and even building castles of sand.
Tioman Dive Resort
Tioman Dive Resort has 11 rooms, located on two floors, in two separate building. The rooms are Twin Deluxe Rooms, Twin Executive Rooms, Triple Deluxe Rooms, Triple Executive Rooms, and Quad Deluxe Room. The dive centre attached to the resort is Ayer Batang Bay, usually referred to as ABC.
How to Reach Tioman Island
The airstrip in Tioman is in the village of Tekek. Samadhi Air runs a Cessna Grand Caravan flight from Subang Airport in Malaysia to Tioman Island. It is a ten-seater operated by System Aviation Services and the flight duration is one and a quarter hour. Though there are daily flights during good season, there may be less when the weather is not good. The same Airlines operates flights to Tioman from Senai Airport in the town of Johor Bahru. Plans are afoot to start flights from Singapore also.
There used to be daily flights from Kuala Lumpur to Tioman and five-days-a-week flights from Singapore (Changi Airport) to Tioman. Both flights were run by Berjaya Air. But these have been suspended for the time being.
Tourists can travel by road (take a bus or taxi, or hire a car) from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru, Melaka etc. to the ferry stations in Mersing or Tanjung Gemuk. From Singapore there are direct transnational services to Mersing. There are buses departing from Kallang Bahru, Lavender Street junction, Ban San Street etc. in Singapore, and Puduraya Station in Kuala Lumpur to Mersing and to the Larkin Bus Terminal in Johor Bahru, which is the capital of the state of Johor in Malaysia.
There are two ferry terminals, one in Mersing, a small town near Tioman, and the other in Tanjung Gemuk, a little further away, from where there are regular ferry services to Tioman. You should take a ferry to Tekek village in Tioman. From November to January, which is the rainy season, ferries operate only once a day.
Getting Around in Tioman Island
In Tekek there is a concrete road where you can drive a car but barring that there is hardly any proper road in Tioman. You can also hire a bike or cycle to explore the different places. Ferry services, or speedboats known as ‘water taxis’ are also suitable for going from one island to another. There are forest trails from Tekek to Juara, Tekek to Air Batang, Air Batang to Monkey Beach, Monkey Beach to Monkey Bay etc. Hikers can effectively explore the island by trekking through these trails.
Things to Remember While Travelling in Tioman
Light, cotton clothes are the best wear. While you will feel comfortable in shorts and T-shirts, remember that sand flies are abundant in the island. Clothes covering up to wrists and ankles will provide some protection from them. Flip-flops are ideal for beach-wear and boat-wear. There is nothing against wearing a bikini at the beach but you are advised to cover up better while visiting traditional villages. Likewise, you should try to follow the custom of removing footwear at the entrance of homes or other places where it is the convention.
If you are travelling from a place where there is yellow fever, you should get vaccinated against it. Other than that no vaccination is required. Since Tioman is a sun-kissed island, remember to carry sun-block lotion and also calamine lotion for sand-fly bites. You should ideally carry a first aid kit with medicines for fever, headache, diarrhoea etc. Divers are advised not to take Lariam because of its possible side effects. Dive centres provide first aid, but a real clinic is only in the village of Tekek. Anti-drug regulations are very strict in Malaysia, and those who break the rules may get even death penalty.
It is safer to bring enough cash to Tioman because the island has no bank and just one ATM in Tekek. Since the place is duty-free, cigarettes and alcohol are cheap but these cannot be taken out from the country across the border. Another thing is that the maximum local currency a traveller can take while returning is RM 1000. And he should not take back more foreign currency than he had brought in.
To drive in Tioman Island, you must possess an international driving licence. Speed limit is generally 50 km in residential areas and 80 km on highways.
Passport and Visa Requirements
Visitors to Tioman must have a passport valid for six months after the time of visiting. If you are visiting on some official business, visa will be given on arrival and there is no need for anything more if the visit is for a month or less. While this is so for visitors from most countries, people from Vietnam, Cuba, North Korea, and the People’s Republic of China require a visa. It is better to make visa enquiries at the nearest Malaysian Embassy or consulate as these regulations are sometimes likely to change.
Scuba Diving in Tioman?
Check out our Tioman dive guide and start planning your next dive trip!