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4 day itinerary to Tioman Island: The perfect escape from Singapore

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Getaway Category: Adventure & Nature and Island LifeGetaway Tags: getaway, malaysia, and Tioman

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  • Malaysia is a great destination for residents of Singapore. It’s close by and has so much to do from trekking and scenic views to food and cultural activities. But Tioman island is an escape like no other.

    Known for its dazzling corals and white sand beaches, Tioman Island is the perfect destination for a weekend getaway (or longer). This island off the east coast of Malaysia is smaller than its more well-known counterpart, Langkawi, but there is still a lot to do and many places to explore or get lost in. In fact it is still one of the few beautiful islands that has yet to be flooded with tourists, making it one of the world’s best kept secrets according to The Daily Mail. There is more to Tioman Island than learning to dive on a weekend liveaboard from Singapore. Stay on and enjoy a relaxed island getaway with sand between your toes. We spent a few weeks in Tioman Island to gather all the best recommendations for you.

    Tioman Island lies roughly 32kms off the East Coast of Malaysia in Pahang territory and is part of the Mersing Marine Park. Although it only measures 21kms in length and 13kms in width (roughly 137sq kms), it is the largest of the 64 islands in the region. It shot to fame in the 70s when Time magazine named it one of the world’s most beautiful islands. Tioman Island consists of four kampungs (villages), namely Salang, Tekek, Juara and Air Batang (or ABC).

    Ancient lore states that Tioman Island is the body of a dragon princess, Sri Gumom. After disobeying the gods by visiting her sister, Gunung Linga, she was cursed and she fell from the sky to become the island. In actuality, Tioman Island is a volcanic island. The highest point of the island is on top of Mount Kajang standing at 1,038 metres.

    Used as a navigation point and source of fresh water for weary fisherman, Tioman Island has been used as a beacon for nautical exploration. Trading ships once used it as a port and it was even host to Japanese and British navies in WWII. In fact, you can even dive of the coast to see the remains of the HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales.

    These days, Tioman Island has moved from a fishing economy to one of tourism and is a very popular place for divers, snorkelers and those who are looking to obtain their PADI certification. While you could just lay around at the resorts, it’s beautiful, untouched jungle is also a place for the more adventurous traveler to get lost in an isolated landscape filled with bustling wildlife and tropical flora. Channel your inner Jacques Cousteau and find your way to this island paradise using this guide as a roadmap.




    Day 1: Travel from Singapore to Tioman Island

    1pm: Arrive at Tekek, Tioman Island and lunch

    No matter what form of transportation you take, you’re going to wake up early. If you’re traveling by bus, your feet should touch the white sands of Tioman Island by about 1-1:30pm. Check in at your hotel, drop your bags and pick up your bikini or board shorts because you’re going to want to head straight to the beach.

    Now that you’re wearing your island uniform it’s time for a bite to eat. There are many local eateries serving up fresh satay across the island, but we have a feeling you’re going to want a view of the crystalline blue waters with your food. Head to Babura Seaview Restaurant in Tekek village (which also doubles as a hotel with diving lessons). You can choose from both local Malay dishes that include mostly BBQ style fish or satay, but there are Western dishes available if you feel like a burger. The homely restaurant is right on the beach, so you can dive into the ocean at any time. As the owner is Muslim, there is no alcohol sold, but they do allow you to purchase alcohol from outside and bring it in, provided that you throw away your cans or bottles afterwards. There is a tax-free shop right across the road, so no worries there.

    3pm: Cocktails on the beach and snorkeling

    After lunch, and possibly sipping on a fresh young coconut, head over to the Berjaya Hotel pool area, which is joined to Sri Nelayan Restaurant, to rent a snorkel and mask. Jump in directly in front of the hotel and you are welcomed to a world of tropical corals and hundreds of species of fish. You will be amazed at what you see, especially when you find Nemo among the anemone, but this is just a taste of things to come. You can also order cocktails or ice cold beers from the beach bar or Sri Nelayan Restaurant.

    Spend the rest of your day and sunset on the main beach and enjoy that much needed dose of vitamin sea. As you’re on the west coast of the island you’re going to experience a magical sunset, perfect for Instagram to make your friends at home envious.

    6:30pm: Dinner at Matahari Restaurant

    You’ve traveled a lot today, so take it easy. After sunset, make use of the outdoor showers at Berjaya and then take a slow stroll over to Matahari Restaurant for some very tasty Thai fusion. The setting is very romantic as it is also directly adjacent to the beach, and there are even seats available directly on the sand. Be warned that things on Tioman Island run on island time, so you may have to wait a while for your food. While Berjaya’s other restaurant, Sri Nelayan, is nothing to write home about, Matahari is delicious.

    Day 2: Snorkeling at the many islands

    Today you will be waking up early to go on an island tour that promises to be one of the greatest diving or snorkeling experiences you’ll have in Southeast Asia. So eat breakfast at your hotel or one of the local eateries and head out by 9:30am.

    9:30am: Half or Full day snorkel tour

    You can book a trip at your hotel or from any of the major resorts either when you arrive or before your trip. Swiss Cottage Tioman and Berjaya provide half and full day snorkeling tours.

    The half day snorkel tour will take you to areas that may include the Marine Park, Coral Island, Malang Rocks and Renggis Island. The tour will begin at around 9:30am and finish by 1:30pm. Cost is RM75 per person, with a minimum of 4 persons, and includes mask, snorkel and fins.

    The round trip full day tour goes to some or all of the following places: the Marine Park, Coral Island, Malang Rocks and Renggis Island, Monkey Bay, Mukut waterfall, Juara, Soyak and Salang beach. While you will stop for lunch, it is not included so bring cash with you. The tour also starts at around 9:30am but will finish around 4:00pm. It will cost you between RM120-160 per person and also has a 4 person minimum. So depending on your preference, you will either arrive back at 1:30pm or 4pm.

    Coral Island (Pulau Tulai) and surrounding Malang Rocks are north-west of Tioman Island. While the beach is beautiful at Coral Island (albeit slightly polluted with plastic bottles from unfriendly tour groups), Malang Rocks is where you’ll experience beautiful coral formations and see a variety of fish species. One thing that you should note, and that we experienced, is that due to many tour groups feeding the fish in this area, they may nibble at your legs, especially the Parrot Fish that have slightly sharper mouths (reminiscent of a parrot’s beak). While we were not hurt physically, it was a bit frightening at first. We just kicked our legs and they swam away.

    Definitely the highlight of the tour, Renggis Island is a short boat ride from Tekek village. It is so close to the beach that you could probably swim there, but we recommend that you do not as there are speedboats constantly passing by. The island is sprinkled with some of the best coral in the area. If you’re lucky you will see enormous greenback turtles, blacktip reef sharks, blue spotted manta rays and a whole lot more like barracuda and cuttlefish. You can spend hours in the water and even swim around the entire island if the currents aren’t too strong. Don’t worry, the sharks are not aggressive and are more interested in fish than humans.

    You can also choose to only visit one or both of the above and skip the entire island tour. This will cost between RM60-110 per person with a minimum of 4 people.

    If you are a diver, you can visit this link for equipment pricing at Berjaya Dive Centre.

    1:30: Lunch and walking around the island

    If you take the half day tour, you’ll get back at lunch-time and you’re sure to be very hungry. Similar to Babura, Tioman Cabana acts as a budget hotel and restaurant, yet it has a livelier vibe with live bands playing at sporadic periods. Enjoy your lunch on the beach with a much deserved ice cold drink.

    Take a walk around the island after lunch while enjoying the friendly local culture. You’re sure to see monkeys, so be aware and try not to carry food out in the open. You can also choose to explore other beaches if you want a more isolated experience to watch the sun go down. There are several places reachable by sea taxi services. The prices range from RM20-100 per person one way. You can arrange a pick up time with the driver when you are dropped off.

    6:30: Dinner at Japamala Resort

    Treat yourself to some of the best food on the island at the best resort on the island. Tamarind is one of luxe hotel Japamala Resort’s restaurants serving Indochinese and Thai fare. Yes, it is sister restaurant to our very own Tamarind (with another one in Kuala Lumpur). Not only is the food top-notch, but the setting is perfect for a dreamy evening with your better half. If Thai is not your thing, you can also choose to dine at with a Western selection at Mandi-Mandi or the Italian Il Tiempo that serves gastronomic delights.

    Day 3: Trekking and exploring Tioman island

    Get your hiking boots because today you’ll be stepping away from the ocean and into the jungle.

    8:30am: Hike from Tekek to Juara

    After breakfast at your hotel, set out early as you start your journey from Tekek on the west to Juara on the east. Intrepid travelers will love this trek as it passes directly over the island ridge from tourist-heavy Tekek to isolated Juara. Expect to will find is small bungalows at the very most. The coral is not as great on the east side, so you will mostly be going for the adventure and to experience total seclusion.

    The trail is about 7km and is not the most strenuous of hikes although it does get quite steep in certain places. The path starts near the mosque in Tekek and joins up with the recently paved road to Juara. If you get lost, follow the power cables as they all end up at the main villages. You will be going through pure jungle, so expect to see snakes, monitor lizards, Long Tail Macaques swinging overhead, Fruit Bats, Black Giant Squirrels, Red Giant Flying Squirrels, Brush Tailed Porcupines, and an array of insects. The walk will take about four hours depending on speed. You can either walk back or arrange a sea taxi pickup, we suggest taking a sea taxi as the jungle after about 4:30pm can get a little dangerous, especially if you get lost in the dark.

    You can also trek to other parts of the island, like to Monkey Bay in the north or the beautiful Asah Waterfall by Mukut village in the South. All hikes are moderate so wear proper trekking shoes.

    1pm: Lunch and visit Juara Turtle Project

    We suggest packing a picnic on the beach for your trip to Juara as you don’t want to arrive only to find the cafés closed. If you don’t want to carry your meal try Mia Café for a perfectly authentic Malay style lunch.

    After lunch, head over to the Juara Turtle Project and support local conservation. Entrance is only RM10 and they are open from 9-5 every day. They act as a research database, offer teaching and awareness about the turtles, and a hatchery for the cute little turtles.

    4pm: Back to Tekek for some more snorkeling

    Take your sea taxi back to the west for some more snorkeling. A day without snorkeling in Tioman is a day wasted.

    7pm: Dinner at Sunset Corner at ABC or BBQ at Tekek

    Take a sea taxi or hire a motorbike and ride to to Air Batang or ABC. You will find a wonderful little restaurant called Sunset Corner that serve great pizza. You can also stay at Tekek if you’re tired of travel and prefer to just take a walk. Try Restoran Delima or Citra Anugerah Wah Leng right across the road from each other and both serving Malay BBQ with fresh catches of the day. The only difference is that Anugerah is closer to the ocean and offers more Chinese-inspired cuisine.

    Day 4: Back home to Singapore

    9am: Breakfast and golf or snorkeling

    If you’re up for it, you can play a round of golf among playful macaques at Berjaya or, as we so obviously prefer, go snorkeling one more time before hitting the road.

    11:30: Early lunch and back to Singapore

    Have an early lunch at Riverside Café or any one of the restaurants that are located right by the ferry terminal before heading back to either Mersing or Tanjung Gemok. Remember to arrive about an hour early at the terminal and to make sure with your hotel that you are catching the correct ferry back.

    "tea, workshop, Singapore, activities"




  • Where to stay on Tioman Island

    Affordable

    Once a part of Berjaya but now on its own management, SELESA is a great option for couples or families. It is nice and secluded from main the Berjaya complex, yet close enough if you want to take a visit. In fact there is a shuttle bus to and from Berjaya every hour. Rooms have ocean views and balconies, although you should watch out for monkeys if you are planning to eat there. While the rooms are slightly dated, they are spacious enough and the pool is wonderful.

    Rooms from $70-200

    Mid-range

    Not super luxe by all means as the rooms are in need of an update, but definitely on the more high-end spectrum for Tioman Island is Berjaya Resort. Here you will find all the relevant amenities like gym, swimming pool, Taaras spa, tennis courts, two restaurants, or gear for snorkeling. The Berjaya complex is large and also has one of the most beautiful stretches of beach on the island. You can relax in their loungers or sip a cocktail at their beach bar. You can also reserve any tour you’d like to participate in at Berjaya for good rates. It is the best option for a traveling family.

    Rooms from $110-225.

    Another option for great, yet more secluded stay on Tioman Island is Tunamaya Beach & Spa Resort. The rooms have a modern, villa-esque quality and feel and come with balconies. Tunamaya Spa is said to be very good. It is also the perfect option for a honeymoon as it has a more secluded ambience than the touristy Tekek beach area.

    Rooms from $200-380.

    High-end

    Your perfectly luxury hotel choice for Tioman Island would definitely be Japamala Resort By Samadhi. While not a 5-star hotel, you would definitely mistake it for one. Rooms are not opulent, but spacious enough with a rustic yet modern design. And the service is stated as constantly being astonishingly good. Expect out-of-the-ordinary experiences like hot stone massages in caves, leafy villas surrounded by nature, and exceptional cuisine at either Indochinese/Thai Tamarind Tioman Restaurant or the more Western Mandi-Mandi.

    Rooms from $380-585

    Getting to Tioman Island

    Travel to Tioman Island involves two modes of transportation, a bus ride (or private taxi) and a ferry ride.

    Coach from Singapore to Malaysia

    The drive from Singapore to Mersing/Tangung Gemok by bus will take about 2.5 to 3 hours depending on where you leave from in Singapore and traffic. We left from the Singapore Flyer and it took 2.5 hours to Tanjung Gemok in total including a short breakfast stop and going through 2 customs check points. Remember that you will be alighting the bus twice and going through customs which lengthens the process. After Johor, the drive is very quick, albeit quite winding in the narrow Malaysian roads.

    Note that on the day you will either embark from Mersing or Tioman depending on capacity and various other circumstances that are beyond our knowledge. Both points of departure are very close to each other, so there is not much inconvenience. Your bus guide will inform you exactly where to go and where to return to. He will come to each passenger individually to confirm. Just remember exactly which port you are returning to as there may be different ferries at different times leaving from the island.

    For coach services contact WTS for a professional ride.

    On the way back there was much more traffic and took 3 hours. You have a choice to either be dropped off at Woodlands, right outside the border, or at Newton where you can have a bite to eat at the Hawker Centre.

    There are also other, more luxurious and convenient, modes of transportation such as private car. With this option you have extra legroom, comfort and convenience as you are picked up from your door in Singapore. And you don’t have to get out of the car at the Woodlands and Johor checkpoints, but will have to change driver in Malaysia which the company service will organise for you.mContact SGMYTAXI for rates and further information.

    If you don’t have much luggage and time is not a concern, you can also take public transportation. Take the subway to Woodlands MRT and then catch Bus 911 to Woodlands Checkpoint. Go through immigration clearance at Woodlands and then take bus 170/160 to the Johor checkpoint. From there you will need to hop on another bus to Johor Bahru Larkin Bus Station. You can take the Causeway Link, a popular bus operator to Larkin Bus Station. Your next bus will be to to Mersing Terminal Bus Station, which should take about 3-3.5 hours. When you reach Mersing, just take a taxi to the Jetty, which is a quick 5 minute drive.

    Going through customs

    If you are taking the bus you will have to go through 2 checkpoints at the Singapore/Malaysia border. Once at the Woodlands checkpoint in Singapore and once at the Johor checkpoint in Malaysia. When taking the bus you will only need to remove your luggage at the second (Johor) checkpoint.

    Ferry from Mersing/Gemok to Tioman Island

    There is one ferry company, Bluewater Ferry, operating between Mersing or Tanjung Gemok to Tioman. While there is only one ferry, there are several agencies to purchase your tickets from. Choose between tiomanferryticket.com (previously tiomanisland.com.my), tiomanferry.com and easybook.com. The first option seems to be the most updated and streamlined.

    The ferry ride is about 1.5-2 hours including a possible wait at the terminal port while other ferries offload. When leaving Tioman, it is advisable to be at the ferry terminal about 1 hour before departure. The route when arriving in Tioman is usually Genting, Paya, Tekek, ABC and then Salang. Listen to the captain to find out which port you are at as the order may change or one or two stops may be left out of the route.

    Other important notes about Tioman Island

    Although Tioman is a tax free island and booze is really cheap, anything that you bring back to Singapore will be charged with the standard tax rates after declaration.

    You will have to pay a MYR30 Marine Park Conservation Fee before getting on your ferry. It is a once off fee and is necessary as Tioman is part of a conservation area. The payment is cash only, so have it available. Your bus guide on WTS will have MYR available for exchange using the day’s exchange rates.

    There is an air strip on Tioman that is located in Tekek, but flights were suspended as from 2014. Berjaya Air was the only operator, but apparently System Aviation Services (SAS) provide daily trips to Tioman. Please contact them for further details.

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