Dec 05 2011

December getaways: Tioman Island, Malaysia

Published by at 11:43 am under Kuala Lumpur excursions

I’m based in Singapore, a tiny place to call home, but with the saving grace of being just a short budget flight to nearly anywhere else in Southeast Asia. While Phuket or Bali are the obvious choices for a quick getaway, during the peak holiday season I prefer somewhere off the beaten track, like Tioman Island.

These chalets cost less than a Singapore Sling in Singapore!

These chalets cost less than a Singapore Sling!

Tioman is a lush, mountainous island off the southeast coast of Malaysia. Its beaches and jungles are so picture-perfect that it served as exotic Bali H’ai island in the 1958 film ‘South Pacific‘ and was later named one of ‘the world’s most beautiful islands’ by Time magazine. With press like that you’d expect every inch of beachfront to be developed by now, but the island remains refreshingly rustic. Tioman is free of chain restaurants, there are no vendors to pester you on the beach and, if you hike the jungle trails, you’re as likely to encounter a monitor lizard as another tourist.

Welcome to Pulau Paradise.

Welcome to Pulau Paradise.

While Tioman Island is home to a four-star resort and golf course plus a few pricey eco-retreats, most of the accommodation is simple chalets. At the backpacker-friendly beaches of Salang and Air Batang, a fan-cooled hut by the beach goes for as little as 40 ringgit (about S$18) per night. A few budget spots like Nazri’s Place and Babura Sea View have websites with online booking, but more options are available on arrival.

If enjoying the view from a hammock isn’t enough activity for you, Tioman Island is part of Mersing Marine Park and its waters are teeming with tropical fish. Most guesthouses can rent you a mask so you can go snorkelling right off the beach, or join an island-hopping tour to take you to the best coral reefs. Tioman is also home to more than a dozen dive shops offering introductory dives through to multi-day PADI certification courses.

One final treat – Tioman is a duty-free island. Whether you’re buying a can of beer or a bottle of vodka, alcohol prices are a fraction of what you pay in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, or indeed Bali.

Sound good? From Singapore, it takes four to five hours to get to Tioman Island. First, you need to get a bus to the town of Mersing, Malaysia, where you catch the ferry to the island. Ferries are operated by Blue Water Express and cost 70 ringgit return (about S$30). The schedule depends more on the number of passengers than the clock, but they generally run every two hours from 10:00 until 16:00. Expect to wait for a while or try calling the Mersing ferry terminal at (60) 7 799 4811. Do note that November through February is the monsoon season and ferries may be cancelled during hazardous weather.

Alternatively, Berjaya Air flies from Singapore to Tioman Island’s single-runway airport. Fares cost about S$220 for a round-trip flight and are a little higher on weekends and public holidays.

No matter how you get there, Tioman is a world away from Singapore!

No matter how you get there, Tioman is a world away from Singapore!


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4 Responses to “December getaways: Tioman Island, Malaysia” ...

  1. Bryanon 18 Jan 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Awesome pix! Somebody had a great time in Tioman.

    By the way, “Pulau Paradise”, I like it, I hope you don’t mind if I borrow that :)

    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 reasons are:

    1) The recent popularity boom Tioman has been enjoying.
    2) The recent rule prohibiting passengers from sitting on the ferry sun-deck.
    3) All other ferry types have discontinued, including the fast-ferries and the slow ferries, as well as the catamaran from Singapore

    All this resulted in a higher chance of passengers left stranded during the busy holiday spells and weekends.

    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.

  2. David Murrayon 01 Apr 2012 at 6:37 am


    Are you able to confirm if the ferry service from Singapore to Tioman Island is still cancelled?



  3. Bryanon 01 Apr 2012 at 5:35 pm

    Hi David,

    Yes, I can confirm the Singapore to Tioman ferry service is still cancelled. You can take a bus, coach, cab or a van to Mersing, however.

  4. Hendraon 19 Nov 2012 at 1:44 pm

    Hi there,

    Looking at the title of the article, December Getaways, did you really go to Tioman on December?
    I only have few days to spend in the third week of December and I am wondering how the island looks like in December in terms of Ferry, Resorts, and Snorkeling service. Are they still available (although not all) during this period?
    If they are, then I will go, otherwise I think there is no point to go there and sitting at the resort terrace doing nothing. The snorkeling service will be my main concern. Could you please give some sights?

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