What’s not to like about gorgeous sun, sand and sea goodness without burning a hole in your pocket? Pulau Tioman is an island off Malaysia’s East Coast and attracts divers, backpackers and those looking for the island getaway for cheap. Its proximity to Singapore also makes it popular with the country’s holiday makers.
What’s the draw? Well, Pulau Tioman’s beaches are clean and unspoilt, with accommodation options to fit every budget. Food is tasty and cheap, like much of mainland Malaysia. Just minus the fancy cuisines and add a generous helping of the islanders’ warmth in the local dishes. There isn’t a plethora of activities or sights on offer in Pulau Tioman but that’s the reason why people visit. Snorkeling, diving and trekking are the main activities you can partake in if you’re not on the beach zoning out.
Pulau Tioman is divided into several villages, or kampungs.
Tekek is considered the main village; something like the city of the island. The hubbub is clear when you see Tekek and other kampungs during your stay. Nevertheless, it’s not overcrowded and patches of empty beach space can still be yours to claim.
Genting is the first stop for the ferry from Mersing jetty and Paya follows after. Somehow, Paya has become something like the Bintan Resorts of Pulau Tioman; a centre for Singaporeans on a package. Of course this isn’t to say that Paya’s beaches are any less sparkling.
Kampung Juara, on the other side of the island, is a secluded paradise set in a C-shaped coast. Standing on the beach gives you an incredible view of the forests curving in on both sides as the sea laps at your feet. For serious relaxation only; although snorkelling is available and so is rock-climbing if you know where to look. The island’s turtle sanctuary is also located here.
Long considered the base camp of backpackers, Air Batang doesn’t have the best beach (most of it is covered in dead coral and rocks) but does house (pun intended) the cheapest accommodation options available. The cheapest room we found here was 25RM a night. If you intend to get your PADI certificate and don’t care for much else, Air Batang is a great option for saving on your expenses.
Panuba is a tiny village and has only one resort. The beach in front of the accommodation is rather small but there are alternative spaces to get a tan and cool off without other people around. This village is also nearest to secluded beach, Monkey Bay, which can be accessed by sea taxis or a forest trek. We recommend taking the sea taxi.
Salang is the last stop for the ferry from Mersing jetty and first when heading back. It is quite popular given its soft sandy beaches and clear waters coupled with decent places to eat and sleep. Juara’s beaches are better than Salang’s, but if it’s too much of a hassle for you to cross the island, then Salang is the best village to stay in on Pulau Tioman’s west coast.
The island is accessible from Mersing jetty and ferry departures are dependent on tide timings with the last one leaving around 430pm. Journeys outside of stated timings can be arranged but at an extra cost. The commute to Pulau Tioman takes about 1.5 hours.
Most locals will speak good english. If you attempt some Bahasa Melayu, it might put a smile on their face. Some locals can also speak Mandarin. There are dive shops with staff who will speak other languages such as German and French.