I found paradise on Tioman island

By Hanne Poulsen, a Travel Enthusiast

Read more on Pulau Tioman.

Overall rating:4.2 out of 5 (based on 5 votes)
Recommended for:
Beach, Romance, Short Break, Budget, Expensive, Mid-range

Tioman is paradise on earth. The small Malaysian island offers unparalleled tranquillity with sandy beaches, undisturbed nature, welcoming locals, and activities enough to thrill you for a good while

Paradise Found

I have a short video sequence on my desktop computer named Paradise.AVI. It is a 360 degree view of a beach on Tioman Island, Malaysia. It shows greens hills with tropical vegetation and a completely deserted sandy beach. The only sign of civilised life is a bundle of clothes on the water’s edge where I left it before entering the unbelievably clear water. Tioman was different from any other tropical island I have visited. It did not just numb the stress from my big city life, it completely removed it.

A coach from Singapore brought a friend and me to the ferry terminal in Mersing, a small town on the west coast of peninsular Malaysia, after a 3 hour drive. We treated ourselves with the direct coach that costs SGD 25 (about £ 10) per head, but a seat in a coach from the bus terminal in Johor Bahru, named Larkin, could have been ours for only MYR 16 (just under £ 3).

The one-hour crossing in the aggressively air-conditioned ferry took us to our resort, the Panuba Inn, on a beautifully sunny day. The cabins at the inn were simple and clean and came with comfortable beds, hot showers, a fan and a private balcony overhanging the rocky coast. The best part was undoubtedly the stunning view of the endless azure sea and the lush tropical vegetation on the island coast.

Chilling Out

Panuba is, like many other places on Tioman, only accessible via boat or by one of the small jungle trails, which criss-cross the island. Without any previous experience of such adventures we put on good footwear and set out to the neighbouring village of Ayer Batang (occasionally called Air Batang). The hotel staff told us it would take us about an hour to get there but we reached our destination in half that time. Trekking through the humid wilderness was a rather sweaty experience despite the fact that the temperature was bearable due to the airy island location. Walking, and occasionally climbing, along these little paths was both exiting and beginner-friendly. Families with little children chose to go around the island by the taxi boat, which was available upon request through the hotel staff.

The island’s capital is called Tekek. This is where the island’s only cash machine and a small pharmacy are located. The island’s airport, a dirt strip with a wobbly fence around it, offers an excellent chance to see small propeller-driven planes take off and land. Nearby, a hand painted sign indicates the start of the trail that runs across the island from Tekek to Juara. This neat jungle path lead us to spectacular views and brought us up close with colourful beetles and butterflies, giant squirrels, wild monkeys and a variety of exotic birds.

All to ourselves

I quickly noticed how remarkably few tourists we met on the island and how well they behaved. We were greeted with smiles from the friendly and English-speaking locals as we walked through the villages. Playful kids surprised us with homemade wooden guns before wheeling off on their tiny tricycles. We patiently waited when a gigantic lizard lazily crossed the street in front of us. We almost felt at home.

We spent many hours walking in soft sand and swimming in calm, temperate water. A quest to find a place called Monkey Bay led us to the previously mentioned paradise beach. We had about 200 meter (650 feet) of sandy beach all to ourselves. The place seemed untouched and the only footprints we saw were our own. We snorkelled for hours on a coral reef with an abundance of sea cucumbers, out-of-this-world looking sea urchins, various kinds of colourful fish, transparent eel-like creatures and even squid.

Lie back and don't think of home

In Ayer Batang we both received fantastic massages for an unusually low price. Being long-time fans of Malaysian gastronomy, it was no surprise to us that the restaurants on the island offered heavenly food and fresh juices. We spent a few nights enjoying a Tiger beer or two in Salang, the northernmost village, and realised that both locals and tourists had dreamy eyes and permanent Lisa Mona smiles. We heard their stories of other activities available at the island, including rock climbing, scuba diving, guided tours and even golfing. Characteristic for them all was this excessive calmness that encompassed everybody and everything on Tioman Island.

I am confident that my heart rate was slower when I left Tioman than it was when I arrived. Visiting the island was a truly extraordinary experience and I sense the intense tranquillity every time I watch the short video. It makes me smile over the fact that I am so fortunate to have this precious memory.

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Hanne Poulsen
Traveller type:
Travel Enthusiast
Guide rating:
Average: 4.2 (5 votes)
Total views:
First uploaded:
9 October 2009
Last updated:
5 years 25 weeks 2 days 23 hours 26 min 3 sec ago
Destinations featured:
Trip types:
Beach, Romance, Short Break
Budget level:
Budget, Mid-range, Expensive
Free tags / Keywords:
beach, jungle, tranquillity

Hanne recommends


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(out of 5)
1. Panuba Inn

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Community comments (5)

1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

Good stuff, Hanne - very enjoyable. I'm researching my honeymoon at the moment, and Tioman looks favourite so far. One thing though - I can't click through to your recommended hotel. Ask the editors to fix this, as you might be missing out on the chance to earn money.

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1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

My wife and I spent four days at Berjaya Tioman Beach Golf & Spa Resort. We spoke to a couple who had just come from Thailand, and they commented that Tioman was more like the Thialand they were hoping to find, but is less over-run with tourists - probably because it's not so well known. Think 'Lost' without the polar bears - land at the airport and you'll know exactly what I mean.

Interesting fact: Tioman's beaches were depicted in the 1958 movie, South Pacific as Bali Hai. In the 1970s, TIME Magazine selected Tioman as one of the world's most beautiful islands.

I can recommend taking a snorkelling boat trip, which may give you the chance to swim with turtles and black-tipped reef sharks. Not to worry too much about the sharks though - the ones we saw were only a couple of feet long. A trek up the hills in to the rainforest is also recommended, but make sure you go with a guide, as some of the plants are poisonous and a guide will make your trek a safe one. We were relieved to find an icy-cool waterfall at the summit of our trek and it took little persuasion for us to jump in!

Perfect moment for me? Sitting on a deserted beach one evening with my wife, a bottle of red, a good book and the sun going down over one of the smaller islands a few hundred yards off shore. This is a memory that will stay with me for a long time; at least, until I get the opportunity to go back and repeat the experience...

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1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

I definitely want to go there. You've made it sound amazing. An excellent guide.

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1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

Thanks Hanne. Having been to Tioman (and, in fact, stayed at the Panuba Inn) you evoked some fabulous memories.
The islands of the south east are generally overlooked in favour of the more luxurious islands, like Langkawi, in the north west. As basic as some of the accommodation can be in Tioman, it is a real slice of paradise if what you are after are clean beaches, warm waters, generous cocktails, curious wildlife and a purse that isn't assaulted on departure.

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1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

Hi Hanne. Thanks for sending this in. I think this is a lovely piece - I want to go! It is a good mix of fact and "travel story" - you actually paint a picture ("agressively air-conditioned....) which a lot of people don't do. The best articles should leave you thinking "hmmmm, I'd never thought about going there but I will now" and this does that for me. It also has a good beginning, middle and end - I especially like the start. I bet so many people have a picture of some paradise island as their screen-saver and can't wait to go back! Thanks.

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