Visiting Tioman Island just off the coast of Eastern Malaysia takes a little bit of effort to get there, but is certainly worth the effort. Here are five ‘musts’ to help with your holiday planning:
Ensure that you choose the best time to visit Tioman Island
Being limited to school holidays, we often find it difficult to find places to visit in August, particularly in Asia. Tioman Island (Pulau Tioman) is best visited between March and October, which makes it an absolutely perfect destination for the summer holidays. The weather was understandably hot and humid, however, there was no rainfall and lots of clear skies when we visited in late August. Plus you are never more than a few hundred metres from the sea, wherever you stay.
Arrive early for the ferry to Tioman from Mersing
The sole ferry company operator between Mersing and Tioman is Blue Water Express. Despite it being relatively reliable for us, it is imperative that you arrive at the dock least one hour early, to ensure that you get a seat; particularly on your return journey. Whilst we got on without too much stress, there was a family who were not so lucky, and without chartering a private speed boat, were faced with being stuck on the island until the next day at least…
I would also ensure that luggage is minimal, clearly labelled with your accommodation name and that any expensive items are kept on your person. All bags get piled up in the middle of the boat; I still find it miraculous that we got them onto the motorbike side car of the hotel’s porter and that all four bags successfully met us at the hotel reception, which was a 6 minute walk from the jetty.
Eat outside of the main resorts
If you can survive a lunch or dinner without alcohol, eat at one of the cafes outside of the hotel resort-it cost us the equivalent of £9 for four burger and chips with soft drinks for lunch at Paya Beach Cafe Corner (please don’t judge us for our food choice: we wanted an alternative to chicken and rice!) compared with £25+ at the resort. The hotel restaurants are not unreasonably priced, and there are very basic convenience foods available on the island, but if you have any special food requirements or are travelling on a tight budget, then I would suggest that you some supplies with you.
Embrace Tioman’s snorkling and diving
Apart from the pristine beaches, under the sea is the island’s best asset, so be prepared to do some snorkelling or diving in order to appreciate this. The absolute best way is to go on a boat trip in order to get to the best snorkelling and diving spots. There are a wide choice of boat companies available, although to be honest, they don’t vary much in terms of price and itinerary, so we went with our hotel’s ‘in house’ activity centre who offered a wide range of things to do, both in and out of the water for a reasonable price (you are looking at about £10 per person for a half day snorkel trip).
Research your Tioman hotel resort thoroughly
Although it is only a small island, Tioman does have several varying resort areas, some more suited to backpackers and others such as Paya Beach Resort (where we stayed) that are more family orientated. What you do need to bear in mind however, is that the star ratings are perhaps not to the same standard as the ones in your own country, so you may need to adjust your expectations. There are not even any vehicles on the island and construction must be extremely challenging, so a Western toilet for example is considered highly luxurious and a source of pride!