Tioman Island Travel Guide
In a nutshell
The biggest island off the south-eastern coast of Malaysia, Tioman Island lures nature loving visitors with its underwater delights, sparkling crystal-clear water, jungle treks and its wealth of frothy waterfalls.
Why go to Tioman Island
Definitely a must-visit destination for those travellers who enjoy being submerged in the great outdoors. Tioman Island is home to massive monitor lizards that roam the flourishing jungles, giving a wondrous prehistoric air to the island and delighting hikers on their adventures. Don a pair of hiking boots, bring along a keen spirit of adventure and prepare to marvel at the lush vegetation, local fauna and flora and cool down in one of the many waterfalls after a day of exploring.
Although Tioman is getting increasing popular it is still largely uninhabited and unharmed by the effects of tourism. This allows visitors the rare opportunity to thoroughly enjoy the immaculate wilderness and the welcoming locals, as well as the rustic village life rich in culture and tradition.
Saving the best for last, and arguably the most significant reason to visit this unspoiled resort destination, is the beautiful expanse of emerald sea that ocean enthusiasts will find impossible to ignore. The exquisite, swirling sea surrounding Tioman Island offers visitors an array of water-based activities from scuba diving, free diving, snorkeling, island-hopping, sailing and lying on your back allowing the gentle currents to soothe your soul. For those who prefer sand to salt, beach bums will have an excellent time sunbathing on the soft, pristine beaches, sipping icy drinks and relaxing with a good book or three.
When to go to Tioman
Fortunately, Tioman is a year round destination but due to it being a tropical paradise means that it is susceptible to monsoon rains from mid-November to around the middle of February. The ideal time for beach frolicking is from May to August and fortunately this time also offers snorkelers and divers the best marine visibility with plenty of ocean life filling the waters. Although September is heading into the monsoon season, this month on Tioman is quieter with slightly stronger tides, making it an excellent month for surfers or travellers who prefer less crowds.
Where to stay on Tioman Island
No matter what your bank balance or holiday budget, Tioman Island has yet to be assaulted with mass tourism, and is therefore able to offer accommodation options that range from opulent luxury to basic backpacker affordability.
Honeymooners and those with generous budgets will have no problem at all in selecting one of the exclusive and lavish resorts on the island, while backpackers can also afford to be choosy with the abundance of inexpensive beds on offer.
Plenty of budget-friendly beach hut options are scattered along Salang, Air Batang as well as a few options on Tekek and Juara. Mid-range and high-end options can be found all over Tioman with the west coast having ample air-con chalets and luxurious resorts. It is also important to take note that although there are resorts that are open year round, many of them close their doors during the monsoon season. Finding accommodation during this time will be potentially more challenging, but substantially more affordable than high-season.
Where to eat on Tioman Island
Food on Tioman is considerably more expensive than on the mainland as a result of needing to import the majority of ingredients and for this reason it is advisable for those who are minding their pennies to bring along tasty snacks. Needing satisfying food and meals loaded with sustenance is essential for all the outdoor activities that you’ll most likely be indulging in while visiting the island; and there’s no need for even those on a budget to go hungry.
The classic rule of eating out in foreign countries still stands: local is better. Eating local dishes in local establishments will not only allow you to sample the native treats and culture but will also allow you to hang onto a little more of your Ringgit for a little longer. Be sure to visit the mamak eateries and stalls that sell delicious and affordable nasi goreng or roti canai. For those looking for more high-end eating options, you’ll have no difficulty at all in trying scrumptious local and international cuisine at one of the many up-scale resorts or restaurants on the island.
How to get around Tioman Island
Getting around and exploring the hidden gems of Tioman can be done with a variety of transportation options. Scooters, bicycles, boats, Jeeps, cars and on foot are all alternatives to traveling around the island depending on where you are and where you’d like to head to.
The island has virtually zero concrete roads, with cars only really being are on offer at Tekek. Tekek has a road running through the town and traveling from the south, past the airport all the way to the north side of Tekek Village. The most economical and easiest means of traveling around the island would be via boat, with the ferry service offering cheaper rates than the speedboat services. 4-wheel drive Jeeps are also an option for those wanting to travel to more remote spots with jungle trekking also being a fun, nature alternative for those who want to explore the island at a more leisurely pace.
How to get to and from Tioman Island
Getting onto the beautiful Tioman Island can be done by plane as well as a variety of water-based modes of transportation, such as ferry, speedboat and even a yacht.
Flying to Pulau Tioman Airport is possible from Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru and both destinations offer flight durations of around one hour. Easy-peasy but not quite as affordable as travelling via water.
Getting to Tioman from Kuala Lumpur is cheapest done by taking a bus from KL to Mersing as Mersing is the gateway to getting to the Tioman Islands. The morning bus departs at 9am while the night bus departs for Mersing at 11:30pm with tickets costing around MYR 45 with both Transnasional bus services as well as S&S International (M) Express. The duration of the journey is roughly 5 and a half hours and the departure point for passengers in Kuala Lumpur is Terminal Bersepadu Selatan.
Upon arrival at Mersing you will need to get to Mersing Jetty or Tanjung Gemok Jetty and catch a ferry to Tioman Island. The boat trip takes around 2 hours but with the stunning scenery and beautiful surrounding waters, this is a largely enjoyable trip. Tickets cost around MYR 40 f or a one-way trip with Blue Water Express and it is advisable to book online ahead of time as the ferry schedule is largely dependent on the number of passengers as well as the water level.
Getting to and from Mersing (gateway to Tioman) from Singapore is also possible via bus. Upon arrival in Mersing one will follow the same steps as above to get a ferry to the stunning island destination of Tioman. The One Travel and WTS are two reputable and reliable bus companies that ply this 4 hour journey to Mersing and leave at an early 6:30am, making sure travelers can catch the 11am ferry to Tioman. One-way bus fare is a somewhat pricy SGD 35 from Singapore or converted into Ringgit it’ll be roughly MYR 110. It is also possible to get a Singapore-licensed taxi to get you to Mersing although this will be significantly more expensive.
Is Tioman Island a safe place to visit?
While this destination is largely a safe spot for travellers, it is advisable to remain vigilant and solo-female travellers should be extra cautious of wandering around after dark. While the majority of Tioman’s inhabitants are extremely friendly and hospitable, it is not advisable to go drinking with the locals alone as there is sadly a negative history of frightening accounts of harassment reported by female tourists. It is also advisable to bring along antiseptic ointment for those who plan on diving and swimming as coral cuts can be nasty and infection can set in.