Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tioman Island

In Singapore, you will sooner or later hear about Tioman IslandTioman Island (Pulau Tioman) is a small tropical island located 32 km off the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia in the state of Pahang. It is 39 km long and 12 km wide.It is densely forested and sparsely inhabited, and is surrounded by numerous coral reefs, making it a popular scuba diving spot. This island is not for you if you are looking a beach holiday with night life. It is for you if you would like the idea of a tropical island escape with minimum connection possible to the outside world.

Tioman Island is a very popular destinations for Singaporeans and Singapore expats. It is relatively near Singapore. Even if you do not live in Singapore but you will have a relatively longer vacation in Singapore or a long business trip, pay a visit to Tioman.

Although it is relatively closed to Singapore, going to Tioman Island from Singapore by bus plus ferry takes a lot of time. By MRT go to the Woodlands MRT station and take a bus from Woodlands to JB (Johor Bahru). When you take this bus you need to leave it twice once in Singapore customs and then in Malaysian customs. Same bus takes you to Johor bus station. People shouting "KL (Kuala Lumpur), KL", "Mersing, Mersing" will surround you there. You will head to Mersing and take a ferry to Tioman from this city. Do not forget to ask does the bus drops you in the jetty going to Tioman.

Bus ticket is highly negotiable. It costs around 20-30 ringit with negotiation and a bus can take you to Mersing in around 3 hours. You can also take a taxi to there. Do not forget to negotiate in advance. They start from 180 ringit for 3 pax and can go down to 110 ringit. For a single person the asking prices is around 130, try to negotiate down to 80 ringit.

Tioman island map, Malaysia

Map of Tioman Island - Photo from

My wife and I chose to buy a Tioman tour package last month and went to Tioman from Singapore by bus and ferry. The tour has an advantage that they arrange your bus to Mersing and book everything in advance. But it does not necessarily mean that you travel with a group.

Going to Tioman Island by bus plus ferry is not a very good idea. You expect a short travel from Singapore to Tioman but it is long and tiring. As I have mentioned Tioman is known to be near Singapore but actually it took a long and tiring 7 hours to arrive to our Tioman resort from Singapore. Taking a flight from Singapore to Tioman is a better alternative to go from Singapore to Tioman. Berjaya-air operates 48 seat Dash-7 turboprop flights to Tioman from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore daily peak season and several times a week during the monsoon season. It is a 35 minutes and costs around 160 SGD per person for a round trip. Next time we will choose to fly.

We were warned that it is difficult to exhange money on the island so we have exchanged Singapore Dollars to Malaysian Ringgits in JB. I am sure if you really need it they would except SGD but we prefered to use a market currency exchange rate so bought our ringgits on our way to Tioman.

We have stayed in a resort named Panuba Inn which is located at a very small kampong about 200 metres north of Air Batang village. This resort is the second last ferry stop so it takes some time to reach it. For about 50 USD per night we have got a room with en-suite, air con, kettle (but no tea or coffee) breakfast, and a spectacular view from a balcony that just hangs over the ocean (see the photos below)!

Panuba Inn Resort Tioman Island, Malaysia
Panuba Inn at Tioman Island - © Asia Singapore blog

Panuba Inn has a 100 meter beach which is great for swimming at the top half of the tide, and a huge home reef for snorkling. The restaurant food is ok and service is good. There is a large dive shop named Bali Hai on the jetty and a variety of diving craft moored in the vicinity. They offer the usual programs including night dives on the home reef from the jetty.

Panuba Inn Resort jetty from Super Durian room, Tioman - Malaysia
View from Panuba Inn Resort - Tioman Island Super Durian room - © Asia Singapore blog

Snorkeling is fantastic in front of the hotel and the cheapest alternative to any activity in Tioman. There are several activities you can do in Tioman and most of the hotels have access to these activities. We have joined a speed boat trip to Tulai Island for snorkeling. Reefs there are fantastic! The trip ended in Salang Village where we had a chance to lunch and then go back to Panuba Village.

Enough for advertisement. There were two problem we had with this resort and thay are important problems. The first room reserved for us was very dirty and smelly. Our request to change the room is immediately honored. The second room was clean except the pillows. Although pillow covers were clean, the pillows inside were very dirty and smelly. We have requested to change the pillows but they did it 2 days later which made us to sleep without them. Although I honestly think our experience was an exception and the hotel staff were very helpful, this was a really annoying problem.

Second problem is that they do not have proper lockers. We had to put our passports and money into a steel box which is locked by the receptionist into her locker! It is always a bad idea to leave any important belonging in a Malaysian hotel room but this also did not feel safe. Anyway, later we have seen that it was still better than taking our money to diving. 2 Malaysian couples who went to diving with us later told us that some but not all of their money were missing from their bags while we were diving. The bags stayed in the boat with boat driver and he begged them to not report to the hotel otherwise he would loose his job (he told them he did not get any money). But the bags were left to him, even if he did not get the money, he was responsible to look after them. One couple lost 100 USD, another 50 SGD! Next time I will check what kind of lockers the hotel provides.

Tioman Island is a relatively undeveloped island so trekking and sea taxi as well as ferry are the only means to get around. Many resorts in Tioman have their own boat which can be rented on an hourly or per day basis.

Next time in Tioman we will try Berjaya Tioman Beach Golf & Spa Resort about which we have heard good things. A friend of mine went to stay there for a weekend escape from Singapore. He paid more money then we did to our Tioman tour package from Singapore. This was even he provided his own transport to Tioman.

Below is a photo from the first beach on Pulau Tulai ,we have visited by speed boat. You can see the main island of Tioman in the background. The reef was OK, the white sand on the beach and crystal clear water were just great. This place is just an overheated paradise.     

Tioman from Tulai island, Malaysia
 Tioman Island from Tulai Island (Pulau Tulai) - © Asia Singapore blog

Below is another photo from the Tulai Island. The reef and fish population here is the best around Tioman. Do not forget to bring a large bag of bread because the fish around the reef can be hand fed while snorkeling.
Tulai island tour photo, Tioman - Malaysia
Pulau Tulai - © Asia Singapore blog.

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1 comment:

  1. Just a quick point of interest to regular Tioman visitors, or those wishing to go there in the future.

    Since we go to Tioman quite regularly, we're seeing more and more travellers, especially from overseas, arriving at the Mersing jetty too late to catch their ferry, because it's full.

    I think the reason is twofold:

    1) The recent popularity boom Tioman has been enjoying.

    2) The recent rule prohibiting passengers from sitting on the ferry sun-deck.

    That second reason effectively cut the ferries' capacity in half, resulting in less revenue for them and more passengers left stranded during busy spells.

    In light of above, my advice to those who've booked a Tioman resort, or want to go to Tioman during the weekend or a public holiday: book your ferry tickets as far in advance as possible, so you won't be stranded at the departure jetty due to the ferry for that day being already full.

    You can get tickets from the ferry operators direct, Blue Water, or from