There are really only two reasons to go to Tioman – to lie in the sun and to dive. Apart from exploring the rainforest, there isn’t an awful lot else to do!
The island has three main beaches – Tekek (where the main village and the airport are), ABC and Salang. The first is trashed (unfairly) by Lonely Planet, the other two are where all the travellers head. Salang is becoming a little tatty. Other beaches are opening up.
You can get there by plane from KL (RM292 return, 2 flights per day) or the long way – bus to Mersing on the west coast, followed by a three-hour ferry trip (RM50 return). From Singapore, a ferry runs daily from March-November once a day. Takes about four hours. Cost about RM400 return.
(Current exchange rate (January 2014): £1 = RM5.40)
The island only has 2 km of paved road (at Tekek), and each beach is more or less independent of the others. Most people arriving go to one beach and stay there. The ferry stops at each beach. For those arriving by air at Tekek, boats can be easily arranged to other locations.
Very few places accept credit cards and there are no cash machines, so bring cash. Fortunately the place is not too expensive. There is a good phone system on the island, and each beach has one or more internet cafés for those that can’t last more than a few days without telling everyone where they are. Don’t ask about the postal service.
Electricity is about equivalent with the UK – depends on how well the generator is running. You will find both British-style three, and European-style two, pin plug sockets. Bring an adapter.
Please remember that the local population is largely Muslim. They are fairly tolerant of foreigners, but have some respect. Sorry ladies, but if you walk around in a bikini away from the beach (and sometimes even on it) you will get stared at.
There is plenty of cheap accommodation on all of the beaches. Typically simple beach huts go for anything from RM10 upwards, but many are very basic and not kept particularly clean. For something a little more comfortable expect to pay RM50-100. You don’t really need air con if you are on the beach, as a constant breeze keeps things cool at night.
If you want to splash out, there is a 4/5 star resort at Tekek, the Berjaya Tioman Beach Resort. It is expensive and not too quiet, but it is the only place that has a cocktail bar! Best for families and those wanting a bit of comfort. Cost is around RM250-300 per night, but packages are available, particularly out of season.
All the beaches have a variety of restaurants. On Salang and ABC, dishes are a mixture of local and “Western”. Tekek has mainly local food and good Chinese. Expect to pay anything from RM5 for a plate of fried rice to RM40-50 if you want to splash out and have lobster. The resort is horribly expensive.
There isn’t any (apart from some simple souvenirs).
As noted at the beginning, there are only two reasons to come to Tioman. There is not a whole lot of variety to the night life. Sure, you can get a beer in a bar or restaurant, but don’t go looking for Irish or Spanish theme pubs, or a local wine bar! Tioman is a simple, relaxing place – don’t expect too much.
Diving is the main activity here. There are about 15 dive sites around Tioman. The diving is generally very simple, ideal for new divers or those with little experience. There is plenty of coral and a wide variety of tropical reef fish, plus some bigger stuff like turtles, shark and, occasionally, manta rays. Visibility is good throughout the year, and the water is always warm. Expect to pay around RM80-100 for a single dive (with rented equipment), with some discount for multiple dives. The PADI open water course costs around RM800.
The rainforest is beautiful, and you can walk across the island from Tekek to Juara on the other coast. Takes about 3-4 hours, depending on how fit you are. Most people take a ferry (fishing boat!) back. Other access to the rainforest is difficult, because it is quite thick, but ask locally.
For those that want it, the resort has an 18-hole golf course, which is open to non-residents. Beware, though – it is narrow. If you aren’t straight, you are in the sea or the jungle. Consider it lost!