Thursday, July 26, 2007

Gorgeous Tioman Island

(last visit July 2011)

Tioman has some spectacular scenery, nice beaches and neat bungalow/chalet resorts
(image Creative Commons -

With lofty cloud shrouded mountains, rainforested slopes and a multitude of bays and beaches, Tioman is a pretty attractive island. Add closeness to Singapore, a good range of accommodation from backpacker to high-end, frequent ferry and airplane services and duty free status and you get a pretty nice place to spend some time. Hey, and no dogs as far as I could see!! Lots of cats fer you Sylvester fans. Plus heaps of monkeys in the rainforests, some pretty big monitor lizards, some cute squirrel things and the usual tropical bird and marine life.

The most popular tourist beaches are ABC (most accommodation), Salang (liveliest), Juara (best beach and most laid back), and Tekek (best services ). Then we have the Berjaya high end resort, and smaller gems like Panuba, Paya, Genting and Mukut. Actually, Genting is not so small, seeming to have as much accommodation as Juara and a much bigger village. And Paya is a pretty popular location.

Stone the crows, trendsetters - I can't remember which site has this map. My apologies for not accrediting it. Panuba is just north of Air Batang (ABC)

Tioman and surrounds. Mersing is the main pier town. There are many other islands in the area with accommodation but Sibu is the only one I have stayed on.


ABC - (Air Batang)
This 3 km long bay is a bit north of central on the west coast. A good paved path just big enough for motorcycles and bicycles runs the full length, with the pier about midway. ABC has a good range of budget to flashpacker accommodation, lots of restaurants, a few bars, at least three dive operations and half a dozen small stores.
The beach here looks real nice at higher tide levels most places, but when the tide gets towards lowest most areas show a big expanse of stoney rock flats.

ABC at low tide. This is taken at the north end - ABC Bungalows is to the left and Bamboo Hill behind camera. Out of frame right of camera the rock has been cleared for good swimming low tide. This shot expands by clicking - as do all the pix taken in 2011 (may depend on your browser).

The best ABC low-tide area is right down the southern end where NAZRIS ONE is located - the beach is good all tides and had reasonable snorkelling for less discerning people not too far off the beach. Nazris One has a nice beachside restaurant and a pretty good beach bar where 3 beers for rm10 were selling during Happy Hour in July 2011. Seeing one beer coast rm10-15 on most other islands this is a good deal. Tioman is duty free.
There's a handful of other okay chalet joints down this end - on my latest trip I stayed at Moktar's Place in a reasonbable one-person chalet with bathroom for rm25, by far the least expensive/best value on my 5 island/8 accommotion places Malaysian trip.

Beach bar area on nice section of beach at Nazris One, south end of ABC. Crowded Happy Hour in this shot because of the next day's weddding (on the beach) of an Aussie bloke and his Malaysian sheila - a couple dozen Okkers mainly out of shot to left checking the approaching sunset. Stone the crows, for a minute I thought I was at Kuta Bali - Aussie overload! They had Nazris One booked out and the overflow was at Mkctar's.

Two other places that caught my eye are both at the far north end - BAMBOO HILL (a handful of chalets built on the rocks of the northern headland with great views down the bay) and ABC BUNGALOWS which have good looking bungalows starting at 60rm (asked in 2008 - may be dearer now) in a very nice garden setting (the better aircon bungalows were 150 without breakfast), plus a good beachside restaurant. The beach here is not too bad either although not as nice as at the other end.
Bamboo Hill chalets at the northern end of ABC. This is shot in front of ABC Bungalows' restaurant.

Back in 1999 (first trip of 4) I stayed in the adjacent NAZRIS 2 (Nazis Beach Cabanas) which has a great elevated restaurant with nice food, plus a wide range of bungalows. However a 2009 TT post talked of stuff missing from rooms showing all the indications of an inside job. They now have a path-side bar which seemed to be the in-hang for those kewwll longterm traveler and diver types late afternoon.

- is immediately south of ABC across a mid sized headland. The stepped path across the headland prevents the passage of motorcycles and makes it a real effort to carry a bicycle. Tekek is the location of the main village plus the airport and the path widens enough for 4 wheeled vehicles to move along, although it aint busy. Tekek has a fair bit of accommodation, but most places are not particularly appealing in appearance and the beach here is pretty inferior, suffering erosion in many areas. (UPDATE - my August 08 trip showed a sea wall built the entire length of Teket's beach. Along with some groyne construction around the main-pier airport, this has caused a build up of sand in the mid south of the beach).

Update of Update - by July 2011 the sand build-up was pretty complete. This is shot from the old pier in the middle of Tekek - if you click image to expand you can see the new pier in background down in the airport precinct. Sand build up is similar north of the pier - now all except the last 400m near the Marine Park fish pens and HQ has sand up against the manufactured retaining wall. Beach looks nice in this shot but is a bit scrappy - needs a general clean up. There are only a few accommodation places between the airport and the Marine Park but maybe we will see a rejuvenation of tourist joints in this place now they have plenty of sand. I couldn't tell if the sand had been pumped, dumped or was a natural buid-up.

In July 2011 there was a lot of building activity going in a small distance inland from this pier. Some of it seemed to be pretty snazzy apartments; not for tourists - when I took a closer look locals had already moved into some of the completed ones.

A more appealing part of Tekek beach at present may be the smaller area south of the new pier/marina. This is a pretty nice beach and has a few okay looking joints to stay at - google Babura Seaview Resort. And it is very close to the shops, duty free and restaurants of ABC village.

The village is adacent and to the south of the airport terminal and the pier. This precinct also has a bank with ATM (maybe 100m north of the terminal) and some duty free shops. The best one is about 5 minutes walk south of the airport, adjacent the big new school [which was still under construction in July 2011] - it had rm2 beers (strewth!) out of the refrigerator which went down nicely after my 5 hour return trek ABC-Paya, and similarly low prices for spirits - and WINE!!
The airport itself has a small duty free area but it seemed open to outgoing flights only. There were a couple of smaller duty frees further south including one not far from the gates of the big Berjaya Resort.

Another Teket attraction is the Marine National Park fish pens against the headland to ABC where you can snorkel at fish feeding time, which is a pretty mind-blowing experience - you are instantly surrounded by hundreds/maybe thousands of fish of various sizes when someone throws some bread in. Look for the small pier.

If you take one of the around-island snorkelling trips your boat will almost certainly call in here - as was the case for the locals in the shot. But anyone can jump into the pens - you have paid your rm5 Marine Park fee at the airport or Mersing pier. I have walked over from both Panuba (30 inutesm) and nearby Nazris One (10) to snorkel the pens. I find best viewing is by diving down and hanging on to the pontoon mooring ropes when bread is being thrown in. But it is pretty awesome from the surface too.

- is at the northern end of the west coast and is many travelers’ favourite. I can see why, having spent a few days there in 1999, revisiting for a day in 2 following Tioman visits and spending half my 2011 visit here.
The beach is very nice south of the pier, particularly up against the southern headland (lots of sand all tides here - not too shallow offshore low tide), and if you swim out a hundred meters or so to the floating pontoon you get some coral for interesting snorkeling right across to the headland. If you are keen on fish you will find plenty closer to shore in the sandy area - the fish know people like to offer food here. There is a small island further out with even better snorkelling, but it is a bit of an ask for many people swim-wise. A guy does snorkelling trips out of Salang which take in this island and nearby Monkey Bay - he reckons the chances of sighting turtles and harmless reef sharks is almost 100%
South Salang beach. Place up on headland is abandoned luxury hotel - 60% built without correct zoning approval. To its left is a budget/flashpacker place called Zaid's which has pretty nice beach views from higher chalets.
Note the pier is about 50m behind camera - north of this a lot of rock is exposed at low tide and there is little sand. The northern area looks pretty at high tide. Low tide problems do not exist in the area in shot. The water is very clear.

Salang has a surprising amount of accommodation for a relatively compact area. I had no trouble getting something walk-in at the height of the season during my first trip (July) and my hike up to Salang next trip coincided with Saturday on a holiday weekend with lots of locals hitting the island, yet there still seemed to be plenty of vacant bungalows in areas like the north end of town and the area inland across the small creek south of the pier. Look for really big monitors swimming around in this creek like alligators.

Popular travellers' place at the far northern end of Salang - Salang Hut. Only half a dozen places, nicely decorated, all bayfront with views towards pier and the opposite headland. Run by a friendly Euro guy - rm70 in July 2011. All taken.
Next door is the bigger not quite as decarative Ella's Place - but Ella and her daughters had gone walkabout when I called in (interesting business plan when the ferry had just arrived) so I ended up one place further south at the less attractive looking Salang Beach Resort.

Salang has a good selection of restaurants (the big Salang Indah is a good one with very reasonable prices and a nice sea view), some shops including a small duty free which I didn't notice in '08. Plus a few bars - one near the pier offers 3 beers for rm10 take-away which is ideal if you are dining in one of the nearby booze-free restaurants. Many don't mind if you bring in your own alky.

On my earlier visits some locals had set up a great bar on the rocks at the south end of the nice beach section. They also had a few chairs scattered about on the sand. Great place for a few late afternoon drinks. But when I returned in '08 it had closed down. Still closed in 2011!
Tommy from Japan checks beach scene in August 08 from abandoned headland bar.
View from abandoned bar

Tourist kids enjoy rock exploration south end of Salang Beach in 2011.

Something which struck me on my latest visit to Salang - the town was running at only around 40% capacity (mid-week; week-ends tend to be busier) yet I have never seen so many dive-students taking lessons. For a while I thought I was on Ko Tao.

- is the the only travelers’ spot on the east coast of the island. This lovely bay is about a 2 km long, and has a 2 great beaches . No problems at different tide levels in most areas. There is a nice range of budget to flashpacker places along here - on "Main Beach" I thought the places north of the pier looked slightly more attractive, but there are some appealing bungalows in the other direction too, particlarly budget ones.

South end of Juara Main Beach - those are the budget bungalows of "Rainbow" at left. People are always asking for a budget bungalow on a laid back white sand beach - this could be their place. There is a very good inexpensive restaurant belonging to Sunrise Divers just to the north.

Because Juara is not as easy to access as the west coast beaches (the ferries from Mersing don’t come around here) it has a very laid back atmosphere. Even in the July of my first visit, when things were busy on the other side, Juara seemed uncrowded.

There is a similar sized beach to the south of Juara "Main" with a few bungalow places, easily reached by a narrow roadway or by crossing a small headland and about 200m of rock.
Juara "South" beach - the perfect get-away-from-it-all place.

The road across the pass to Tekek has been open since before my 05 visit, not properly finished in 2008, finally done by 2011. It actually joins the old Tekek-Juara hiking track not too far from the start of the descent down the eastern side. A Juara is doomed!!!! post on TT about a few years back predicted this would lead to multinational hotels being built by the dozen - well hell, the place looked exactly the same April 2005 as it did back in 1999 and was even quieter in 2008. I did not notice any building activity. Mind you, the road aint busy - I probably spent about 2 hours walking down and up the section shared with the hiking path and about a dozen motorcycles and less than half a dozen 4 wheeled vehicles passed me. Update 2011 - Juara still seems unchanged. The road is completely finished now - I did notice more traffic particularly 4 wheeled using it. But Juara still has a sleepy/laid-back feel.

In July 2011 I had a brain-snap and decided to take a bicycle from ABC to Tekek and then over the pass to Juara. THIS IS NOT A GOOD IDEA.
The first uphill section out of Tekek averages about 1 in 10 and the steeper parts are around 1 in 6. I cycle every day in a very hilly town but this near killed me. If the bike had not been a no-gears single speed job (Moctar's 21rm for 7 hours) I would have killed myself - because I'd have been tempted to try riding all the way. Anyway I mainly pushed the thing up this leg - took at least 70 minutes vs about 5 on the way back down -
warp speed baby!!
The return up-hill section out of Juara has mainly less-steep slopes and a bike with gears would have climbed most easily - some with effort but still easier than walking the great heavy thing up the slopes.
For people who have done the trekking track - don't be tempted to walk the road, unless you are coming from Berjaya maybe. It is steeper on average, longer and goes at least half again as high as the trekking track. It leaves the ABC village-to-Berjaya main road at the top of the hill just before the drop into Berjaya, a long way south of where the hiking track starts near the mosque north of the village.

UPDATE AUGUST 08. For my third Tioman visit I had to stay for a few days at Juara. What surprised me was the lack of visitors. August, key European/US holiday period, and yet midweek the place seemed to be running at about 20% occupancy. Quite a few places were shut down, and other places like the popular Muriati and River View were not running their restaurants. Maybe it is the impact of expensive fuel on the price of international airline tickets - but more probably the cost of accessing Juara from the ferry/airplane.
In 2008 the "taxis" (4wd utes) will take you over the pass for rm100 to 140 per vehicle - and for just one or two budget travellers this is a real ask. Hell, lovely seaside budget bungalows at places like Rainbow at the south end of "Main Beach" and Mizanis on the even nicer "Second Beach" were going for rm40 per night - a fraction of the access cost to the beach.
I think high local transport costs are holding Tioman back. The sea taxis are also an ask. Prices from Tekek pier/airport in the most recent visit were per person - Panuba rm25, Salang 30, ABC 20, Paya 30. Put a family of 4 into a boat to Panuba and you have blown a century for a 10 minute trip. Sure fuel is expensive, but these prices are way out of whack with those in other parts of Malaysia. The sea taxis were regarded as a rip-off in the days of cheap fuel.
Note that if you are coming in by ferry, it will drop you at most west coast locations, no need for sea taxis - at least on arrival and departure. The ferries will also carry you between major piers for less than the sea taxis. Unfortunately, no ferries run around to Juara.

Update July 2011

Things are now a bit more reasonable - this was a cost board near the pier/airport at Tekek. You can see the cost for the 4wd is now 30rm per person - minimum 2 people, much more reasonable than the previous 100-140.
Even better, the sea taxis have not increased since '08 (Panuba is cheaper than we paid) - but note it is still per person, minimum 2 people - twice as high for a given distance as the Perhentians which had no minimum people rule.
Hard to see destinations on water taxi board are Genting - and Japamala, a boutique resort south of Genting I haven't visited (and at the prices on the website, will be unlikely to visit.

In August 2008 Lady Tezza and I stayed at Juara Beach Resort. There is a report towards the bottom of this page. Having checked Juara again in 2011 I am still impressed. On "Main Beach" the beach is probably nicest at both ends although it aint shabby anywhere - but the swimming at lower tides is better at the north end - there are some rocks in the water south end which makes wading more difficult at lowest tide.
I though the second "South Beach" was even nicer - there was more sand, less tree litter on the beach and only 3 budget accommodation places along this laid back 800m strip (Beach Shack and Mizanis are 2). You can access it by the beach road which goes behind the intervening headland or rock-hop for about 100m in front of the headland. Right at the southern end is a turtle conservation place which gives presentations to visitors - travellers welcome. This place has some nice bungalows but I gained the impression they are for visiting school groups etc and not open to tourists.
"Mizanis" and adjacent "Beach Shack", central on extra laid back Juara "South Beach"

Travel forums get a lot of questions about sandflies on Tioman. In the past I have had no problems, but in the August 08 trip Salang definitely had them. I didn't encounter any on the same trip at Panuba, Salang or Paya.
In July 2011 a guy at the nice south end of Salang told me his family had been bitten a bit in the shaded area under the trees in back of the beach - I spent a fair bit of time there but I was so badly chewed up by the little buggers in Cherating I dindn't notice any extra bites. I don't think it was a big issue. Quite a crowd of regulars taking advantage of the shade in this nice spot day after day.


Panuba Inn just on its own little bay just north of ABC (image Panuba Inn)

Panuba Bay is immediately to the north of ABC - reached via a ten-minute walk over the steep headland on the path starting at Bamboo Hill.
On a my 1999 trip I visited PANUBA INN click for a meal. On it’s own small bay with a nice beach and great views from the restaurant and accommodation, I marked it as the one for my next trip.
Panuba is really a midrange place, but in 05 I got myself one of their least expensive "A" chalets which is closer to backpacker standard. This cost 50 ringgit per night (about Sus15) which included breakfast for two (in August 08 - rm70). The chalet was spacious, solid, clean and came with towels, soap, shampoo, toilet paper, a nice verandah with good views (but not panoramic like the dearer chalets - virtually all of these not only overlooked Panuba Bay but also southward taking in the bays and mountains for a good 10 km or more, as does the restaurant which is lower down adjacent to the beach). One big demerit was the absence of a mosquito net or window screens in this basic bungalow - reception assured me they had no mosquitoes (hur hur hur**) - I applied liberal repellent each night and admit that I was not awoken by the noise of frustrated insects buzzing my ears.

**Actually the place does spray for mozzies and I have to admit we were not bothered on our later 08 trip in the restaurant area and saw only a few on the balcony of our beachfront room. Because this room had a very good aircon system, keeping windows shut was no problem. The backpacker chalets are up the back closer to dense jungle vegetation which would be harder to spray.

Food in the restaurant was good, prices very reasonable (around the same as the cheaper bungalow restaurants in Thailand, which is pretty cheap) and the service fast and cheerful.
The restaurant shuts from 1630 to 1900, but the small store stays open.
Panuba’s more expensive accommodation' location is very appealing. As far as I could tell, just about every room has panoramic elevated views not only over Panuba’s bay, but northward following the sweep of the bay past ABC, Tekek and the luxury resort, with their backdrop of dramatic peaks. Sigh. See my review on the August 08 room at the foot of this page for a report on one of these rooms and an update on the restaurant.
Some of the more expensive chalets south of the pier at Panuba

Panuba’s beach is fairly small but clean. It shelves fairly steeply and so has no problems with wading close to shore except in the lowest quarter of the tide when you have to pick your way between rocks. The water is pretty clear except after a storm and there are some nice underwater rocks and clumps of coral for reasonable snorkeling by Asian standards. I saw quite a lot of fish and one smallish very colorful ray. Snorkel gear is available at the restaurant and there are also kayaks to hire. The beach has some lie lows and beach chairs and some good shade.
Panuba's small main beach. The beachfront restaurant is hidden in the shaded area between the 2 palms. About 50m directly out from the nearest palm is a rather nice coral bommy with a fair bit of fish life. The coral is more ordinary close to the headland behind the camera but picks up along the adjacent Monkey Beach. Good fish in all areas including around the pier.

Snorkellers checking the coral/fish south of Panuba's pier.

About three minutes walk to the north is another section of beach Panuba Inn calls Monkey Beach (there are some monkeys in the rainforest directly behind) which appealed to guests wanting seclusion. Don't confuse Monkey Beach with Monkey Bay, which is a bigger beach about 45 minutes north via the rainforest track and 25 minutes south of Salang.

Panuba Inn has its own in-house dive operation - Bali Hai Divers, which is maybe stretching the South Pacific thing a bit.***
The Bali Hai dive-boat at Panuba's pier.
***That old 50s movie classic South Pacific was filmed at Tioman - in the South China Sea . Don’t ask me why except the scenery fits. Bali Hai was one of the major hit songs from the movie, sung by Fifty Cent’s granddaddy, Half a Dime. Small change went a lot further in those days. Okay, some of you PhDs in Entertainment know I made that last bit up. The singer was really Snoop Dog’s great-uncle, Pluto PI.

UPDATE JANUARY 2012 - I just got a message from Dan on the FORUM section that part of Panuba burnt down recently. Looks to be the dive centre plus the bungalows behind. So it may be a good idea to check operational status for a while. Pictures are available on TRIP ADVISOR.

Part of several km of beach at Berjara Resort. The road over the headland to ABC can be seen in the left background.

Berjaya is just a bit over a km south of the airport and pier at Tekek. It actually stretches down the coast for what seems several km. From Panuba I walked over the headland to ABC, down along the beach path to Tekek, hired a bicycle near the Marine NP fish pens and then rode the three km to the southern headland of Tekek. The resort starts immediately over the other side. Tell the guy on the gate you are trekking to Paya - this is a right of way on account the track was used by locals/visitors well before Berjaya went in.
Bejaya looked pretty good to me, impressive looking buildings, a golf course and a nice beach area with great sand and no rocks at lowest tide. There is a small island close offshore, easily reached by a fair swimmer, which I remember had pretty good coral, fish and some turtles on its beachward side back in 1999. If you are in the market for a nice package place you could do a lot worse than this joint.
Swim or golf at Berjaya?

Note locals have set up 3 restaurants just outside the resort gates for more variety and cheaper prices in dining, and it’s a pleasant walk into the airport area of Tekek for maybe half a dozen more choices. The resort runs a shuttle into Tekek too.

Berjaya Resort has a big variety of accommodation - normal hotel blocks, bungalows/chalets in various classes, the Berjaya Suites at the far end of the golf course - high on a headand with views over a deserted bay to the south - and the exclusive Shahzan Villas up on this central promitory, with access via a cable railway. We could see this place from our balcony at Panuba, about 10km north. That's the dive club on the beach.

When checking prices for this updated report I noticed Berjaya offers online prices competitive with 2 0f the midrange places I stayed in this latest trip - if you book more than a week or so ahead. I also saw a poster at Sabang airport in KL showing a very attractive 3 day package including flights.

The ferries from the mainland put in at some of the beaches south of ABC and Berjaya, and they have always looked appealing to me. So in the latest August 08 trip I decided to spend some time on one of them. Paya seemed to be most attractive in reviews as far as meeting the requirements of Lady Tezza who likes comfort and short access transfers.
There are about 4 resorts here, the flashest being Paya Beach Resort which takes up about one third of the beachfront. Tioman Paya Resort, situated slightly inland and accessed by taking a walkway just as you are about to enter Paya Beach resort, also has some very nice looking bungalows in spacious grounds and a big airy restaurant with pretty good food around the same price as Paya Beach Resort. The other 2 resorts looked more budget in range. Note all these places seemed to attract a good crowd of Malaysian tourists and Singaporeans on weekends.

Paya beach north of the pier. That's the Paya Beach resort's sundeck and beach-bar area on the right. The bunch of rocks close left have quite good coral and fish, as does the island in the background.

There is a small village with a few shops and restaurants at Paya, offering what I considered very good value prices. The Chinese woman running the store nearest the pier is a mini tour guide, giving excellent info about treks to nearby rock-pools and beaches.
Paya’s beach is more attractive than Panuba’s and didn’t have the sandfly problem of Juara. Like Panuba it shelves steeply so wading close to shore is no problem above about quarter tide, but you have to pick your way between rocks at lowest tide. No problems in this respect in the little bays which form each side of the sand-spit which becomes exposed as the tide drops to tie the small island north of the resort to the beach. Nice sandy bottom, heaps of little fish - a good place to spend time.
Snorkelling is pretty good at Paya. There is a section of rocks about 70m out from Paya Beach Resort with pretty good coral and fish. Lady Tezza got as much value snorkelling between the beach and these rocks in regards to fish, although the patches of coral are not so hot. I noticed a new sunning platform out in this snorkelling area when I walked across to Paya this latest 2011 visit - this would be a good base for snorkellling.
The above mentioned island also has some reasonable patches of coral away from the sandy bays. One of the low tide bays shot from the land-tied island at the north end of the beach. This deepens slowly and is good for kids. Some nice patches of coral start in deeper water about 40m left of camera. Good patches of dry white sand for sunbathing are right of camera. At high tide our sea taxi from ABC cut straight thru this gap.

We stayed at Paya Beach Resort which was a pretty good place - there is a review at the foot of this page.

Situated midway between Paya and Genting, this seems to be the perfect get-away-from it all place with a lovely little beach and a neat resort. Most rooms seemed to be in a nice garden setting behind the beachfront restaurant, but they do have a Penthouse, a Tree House and one aircon room right on the beach. Check ‘em out here The pictures on the website suggest the coral and wildlife are not too bad here too.

Sweet beach ar Melina

Prices seem to range from flash-packer upwards.
The downside for some could be a pretty good 25 minute walk to Paya or Genting if they want some variety in dining etc - but for people who are content to laze their whole holiday in one spot, this might be just the place. I’m the type who gets restless in long stays but I’m definitely going to do 2 or 3 days here next trip.
There is no pier, so less agile people might baulk at landing on the beach after the resort’s speed-boat transfer from Genting.
Nice rig at Melina. The platform is pretty neat too.

South of Paya is Genting, a much bigger village and bay with what seemed to be a dozen or so accommodation places spread along the 3km or so of beach.

Genting village area from the pier. The beaches stretch for a km or more each side of the pier.

These places appeared mainly budget/flash-packer in style with maybe a few bungalows more lower-midrange. I particularly liked the look of Bayu Chalet a fair distance north of the village, although it doesn’t range up the hillside with panoramic views which apparently some of the other places have. The Tioman website says the beach is not rocky close to shore at low tide south of the pier.

Bayu Chalets' beachside bar/cafe. There is a bigger restaurant on the camera's side of the path.


I did 4 pretty decent walks on Tioman as seen above (modified Google Earth image).

TEKEK TO JUARA is a good walk. The turnoff is well signposted on the beach roadette north of Tekek's pier. I only takes 5 minutes to reach the start of the climb over the divide, 45 minutes uphill, another 10 minutes across the saddle, 40 minutes downhill and 10 minutes along the flat into Juara. The uphill section is a good walking track thru great rainforest, steps cut in places, steep in parts but not a killer. There is a small waterfall on the way up. Not far past the start of the downhill the track becomes paved and is shared by vehicles, but as I said before, not many. Actually this section is a good workout on the return, because it is pretty steep in parts and more open to the hot sun. I met some girls carrying big packs up here in 1999, changing beaches. Jeez, better them than me.

ABC TO SALANG is more difficult, but has a couple of nice bays along the way, and is a good way of seeing the other end without paying the rip-off sea taxi fares. The trip took me about 90 minutes of actual walking time each way. From ABC past Panuba to the afore-mentioned Monkey Beach takes less than 12 minutes. From here it’s a matter of following the power lines as the locals told me. The newly laid lines more or less follow the track rather than vice versa. They are never far apart for any great distance. So in most places finding the way is fairly easy, the track is pretty clear and where it parts compay with the power lines is often marked with plastic bottles upended on sticks or colored ribbons.
When you come to both fairly big bays (which are great for a cooling swim and some sun - btw the bay closer to Salang is called Monkey Bay not to confuse with Panuba’s Monkey Beach), head for the far end of the beach to pick up the track again. At Monkey Beach it is just past the small concrete bridge(look for the power lines). Slopes along here are pretty easy except for the 20 minutes on each side of Salang’s southern headland where the uphill is a real good workout.
I met quite a few people walking between Salang and Monkey Bay , but no-one on the Panuba side of this.
When leaving Salang, the track starts just on the western side of the water tanks for the western most operating chalet place on the headland slopes (not the 60% finished but abandoned super luxury resort to its west. I actually walked up and checked this joint in my latest trip - it is looking pretty sad up close - wooden joints usually deteriorate very quickly in the tropics).
Actually, on the way back in 05 I lost the track in two places - but if this happens you will soon know as the way becomes super difficult real quick. I back-tracked and found the right way easily both times.
UPDATE - the track seemed much more defined in August 08. National Park had tape up to block several false leads, quite a lot of signs identifying tree species, and it looked like more people were using the path. It only took my 70 minutes from Panuba walking at a fair clip. The climb into and out of Salang hasn't got any easier though.
There are lots of monkeys along this track. There didn’t seem to be any aggressive dominant males like one I once met in Sumatra , but I always carry a really big bush stick anyway.
This is where the track leaves Salang. Look for the signs just past Zaid bungalows' water tanks (front right).

About 100 m south of Paya Beach Resort, there is a side-track from the beach heading inland across a bridge. This veers to the left within sight of Tioman Paya Resort and soon begins a reasonably steep (but not heartbreaking) rainforest climb over the southern headland. After about 300m this dumps you onto a really nice deserted beach south of Berjaya resort. The track improves here to one wide enough for small 4wheeled vehicles and climbs over the less steep headland on which the exotic looking Berjaya Suites are located. Berjaya is a spacious place and it takes about 20m to walk thru to the front gates. I’ve only cycled the rest of the way into Tekek, but I reckon the walk to the airport/pier area would be another 30 minutes - so in total you would be looking at about 90 minutes+ from Paya - less for fit types.
If coming from the ABC end, tell the security guards on the entry gate to Berjaya you are trekking to Paya - the track is a right of way and existed well before Berjaya was built. The guys waved me through in June 2011 when I did south end of ABC to Paya - note 2.5 hours one way.
Nice deserted beach about 20 minutes out of Paya - the Berjaya Suites, with lovely views back south (this way) along the island, are partly hidden from this angle, on top of the far headland.

Something new on the deserted beach since my '08 visit - the TAT Turtle Sanctuary at the south end of the beach. No-one around when I passed by on my ABC to Paya hike.

The first 3 minutes of this is a reasonably steep rugged rainforest track up the southern headland of Paya, but a short distance later it turns into a reasonable concrete track with no daunting sections, about 30% thru very nice rainforest.
After 25 minutes or so there is a T junction within sight of a local’s chalet - turning left uphill gets you to Genting in another 25-30 minutes, right downhill to the lovely Melina Beach after about 200m.
If unfit people took a few rests on the initial short climb out of Paya, they would find few problems on this nice walk.
My map showed the coastal track continued south of Genting to Nipah, but I didn’t have time for this. Next trip.

90% of Paya-Genting is paved - with bridges over creeks.

- Berjaya Air seems to have half a dozen flights per day, shared between KL and Singapore, although I seem to remember reading at one time you could fly in from Kuantan. Check the webiste. We used Berjaya Air out of KL on our 2008 trip and it sure is painless - one hour in total.

The fast ferry service from Mersing on the mainland is not bad - there always seemed to be one passing Panuba and Paya. The fare is 70rm return and in the past you could use your return on either of the two ferry companies. I assume this is still the case. Trip takes about 2 to 2.5 hours and was surprisingly rough on my 1630 tip outwards in 2011 - the later in the day the bigger the sea chop from the seabreeze. This late ferry seems to be crowded too - I think people coming up from Singapore/JB and down from Cherating/Kunatan get into Mersing around then. Maybe KL early morning departures too. The ferries stop at Tekek, ABC and Salang, and will stop at most other west coast piers if informed beforehand.

Ferry approaches ABC pier.

There is a faster speedboat service at slightly higher cost.

There is also a less frequent ferry service from Tanjung Gemok about 30km north of Mersing.

The fast ferry from Singapore had not run for some time when I originally compile this page. There were rumours it had restarted in '09 but people on the island in '11 told me no way, and Google can find no recent news to the opposite. It's a pity - I used this service on my first trip to Tioman way back in '99 - and it is a relaxed way to access the island. It passes some nice islands to the south of Tioman. Emigration/immigration were done at the piers. The Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal is close to Changi Airport - maybe 5km to the south.

Look for the heading HIGH TRANSFER COSTS about 25% from the top of the page (in the Juara section) for relatively expensive transport once on the island.

- the Around Island Trip is great, but at 150rm, expensive (update 2011 - saw it for 100 at Salang and 120 at ABC). It calls in at Juara for some beach time, a compact bay on the southern tip of the island for a trek up to a small waterfall in the rainforest, some good snorkeling at that small island near the luxury resort and a visit to the MNP fish pens for a snorkel at feeding time. Any bungalow, restaurant etc can book you in.
The Coral Island snorkeling trip is pretty good. Coral Isand is a few km off the nw corner of Tioman and has good coral and marine life by Asian standards in a big bay on the Tioman side. My trip also took in some beach time on a gorgeous deserted beach on the other side - sand so white it hurt the eyes. We also spent some time at Salang. Cost 84rm 2008 but seemed around 70 in 2011.
Note that most resorts offer a package deal - 2 or 3 nights with some exta meals, ferry transfers and one or more of these trips, often for little more than the normal 2 or 3 x daily tariff - an excellent way of affording these rather over the top priced excursions fer we fiscally disadvantaged types.

- the wet season usually ends some time in Feb or early March and kicks in again in October, although I once saw a post by a regular visitor saying Oct was great because rain is in short bursts and you still get lots of really nice days. Nov Dec and Jan tend to be real wet, sometimes with days where budget travellers can’t access or get off the island because the ferries don’t run. BTW, I reckon this is the real reason for the new harbour at Tekek. TT’s anti-development lobby was carrying on about cruise liners and the US 6th Fleet! Fact is Tioman locals deserve an all weather anchorage so that they can exit or return without sometimes having to wait several days. The ferries mostly stop running not because of big seas when crossing, but because of potential damage when docking at the unsheltered piers on rough days.

SOME LINKS - has lots of info on the island and accommodation and a very good section on how to access the ferry departure point, Mersing, from KL, Singapore etc.

Berjaya Air -
Phone 603-7847 6828

Lady Tezza isn’t too whelmed by backpacker-standard rooms, so in 2008, her first tripto Malaysia, I found myself in a sample of Panuba’s most expensive room, the Superior Deluxe - elevated over the beachfront thank you very much, and pretty nice too. Not to mention pretty good value at rm140 per night (160 at weekends) including breakfast - discounted 10% because we stayed 5 nights which makes the non-weekend daily rate rm126, by far the best value of our 3 Tioman places that trip.
What we had was a spacious tiled-floored cement-walled room with two double beds, heaps of room for 2 people and their gear (but would be a bit squeezy with 4 adults). The beds/pillows were very comfy, the aircon and hot water efficient and this was the only place we got with a refrigerator (small). There was a small TV and tea and coffee making facilities . Towels, soap, toilet paper provided.
The bathroom was reasonably spacious, the veranda a great place to sit with a glass of wine and watch the sun set or earlier activity on the beach. There were lines to hang drying beachwear etc.
The place was showing a small amount of wear and tear - the door light, one reading light and the bathroom exhaust fan were not working and there was no plug for the bathroom sink. The room was serviced once during out 5 day stay and the tea and coffee were not replaced.
Beach view from Chez Tezza at Panuba Inn. In the other direction is about 10km of coastline and mountains down to the Berjaya Suites perched high on a headland north of Paya.

Panuba’s beachside restaurant continues to be great value, with prices matching the budget restaurants over on adjacent ABC. The food seemed pretty tasty to me, although I‘m no gourmet. However the free buffet breakfast was a bit basic - usually a choice of a couple of sliced fruits, a noodle or pasta dish or baked-beans, toast/butter/ jam and tea/coffee/juice all in unlimited quantities fer you guys worrying about weight loss. Bad luck for egg lovers, but these are available at very low prices from the menu.
Service in the restaurant was usually good, excellent if you happened to be looked after by the young guy who seemed to be head waiter/organiser.
Beer and wine are available at an adjacent beachside bar - the owners pretend this is a separate operation run by some heathen. Beers were not quite as cheap as at our 2 other resorts, but at rm5 a can, not bad value. They also had one (Argentinian) brand of red and white wine at rm50 - Lady Tezza who knows about these things said the red was pretty nice. I drink Chateau Cardboard-Box cheap Aussie red normally, so it’s ALL good to me.
Note the restaurant closes from 4.30pm to 7pm, but the small shop stays open for snacks etc. The covers on the beer bar are down at these times, but I could usually find one of the guys to open the side door and sell me a beer or six.
Panuba will send their sea taxi to Tekek to pick you up for rm20 per person, and return you for the same price. This resort had the best wild life to delight children, the small monkeys (one with a baby) come around for crusts each breakfast time(though they stay on the roof and don’t annoy the guests), a big monitor lizard wanders the beach late afternoon, sea eagles patrol the sky and the kittens and tiny bats are very cheeky.

This place is situated on the section of "Main Beach", north of its pier. The big restaurant is beachfront with a nice terrace for checking the passing bikini babes or hunks but most of the bungalows are in a little landscaped compound across the other side of the narrow and little trafficked beach road.
Once again we went for the top choice - the Deluxe at rm160 weekdays with breakfast. This is a very spacious room abt 6mx6m - polished wooden floors, two double beds (comfy firm mattresses, very firm pillows - too firm for The Lady). Quiet aircon, good lighting, big TV, tea and coffee making facilities, towels, soap, toilet paper, no refrigerator. The place was clean and in good condition, although approaching the time for an interior repaint. The room wasn’t serviced in our 3 day stay.
The bathroom was big and in good condition, with a good supply of hot water and a big mirror. No plug for the sink.
Out front was a nice veranda and a wooden picnic-type table/seat combo. There were lines for beachwear etc and a tap for sandy feet. A couple of hammocks were strung between trees at front near the road.
We also got a chance to check the rm120 standard chalets, but these were considerably smaller with one double and one single bed, a tiny bathroom and seemed a bit claustrophobic to The Lady.
Food in the restaurant was about 50% more expensive than Panuba** (no problems - there are some nice budget restaurants along the beach), although beers and wine were a bit cheaper (and friendly host Mr Stiven Cheng had a selection of wines). Taste seemed pretty good to me, but service was a bit chaotic at times. The free breakfast was pretty basic, not a buffet - eggs/toast-butter-jam/pancakes/tea coffee.
** Which still makes it very good value by western standards.
Slow internet available in 2008. Stiven picks up and drops his guests back at Tekek for a cheaper rate than the taxis, giving a commentary on the jungle, rubber trees, road building and politics along the way.
Garden setting for most bungalows at Juara Beach resort. These are the Duluxe versions.

This place is a step up from Panuba and Juara beach resort - we are definitely talking mid-midrange here.
But then, the tariff is a step or two up too - at rm260 for a Superior Chalet + rm40 weekend loading.
This wasn't for the top room they had, but the room was very, very nice - ours a biggish upstairs place in a block of 4 - tile and slate floor, one comfy queen sized bed and a convertible sofa which was very comfy for one but would be super squeezy for 2 above small-child size. Storage space was good for two occupants. Our room had a connecting door with the next room, great for families, but not so good for sound-proofing. Towels and toiletries were provided and beach towels were available from reception. We had a TV, tea and coffee facilities, though no refrigerator (available for hire rm 20/day.) The room was serviced daily, though the tea and coffee were not replaced.
The place was in good condition except for the toilet cistern which managed to leak on the floor. The aircon was quiet but the downstairs compressor had to be changed when residents there complained it was noisy for them.
The balcony had nice views of the landscaped garden (the most expensive Deluxe Chalets and 2 of the cheaper Standards are sea-front) and a handy drying rack - although the wooden floor allowed drips to go down onto the balcony below. Hint - try to book an upstairs room.
Nice garden outlook from Chateau-Tezza at Paya Beach Resort. Beach is behind far trees.

The very spacious restaurant was a pretty classy looking place with very good service and nice food at prices similar to Juara Beach Resort’s (you can eat at budget prices in nearby restaurants along the beach track in the small village). Booze was the cheapest of the 3 places we stayed despite the added 10% service fee and 5% tax and the Duty Free Store had a really good selection of general stuff and a fairly wide selection of wine. The included buffet breakfast was the best of the resorts, lots of hot dishes, a chef to make your omelette or fried eggs to order, fresh fruit, coffee/tea/juice, cereal and toast. Internetting was reasonably priced and there was a small pool, day beauty spa, karaoke bar and plans for a gym.
There was also an activities desk and dive shop, and safe deposit boxes.
We arrived early, shortly after 10am, and were given the key to ours room by 10.30, even though check in is officially 2 pm.

Best value - Panuba, both rooms and restaurant.
Best views from our bungalow - Panuba.
Most class - Paya Beach Resort.
Best Food - probably Paya Beach Resort, although the other 2 weren’t shabby and I’d rank Panuba a close #2.
Beast Beach - Juara, although Paya is not too far behind and had no sandfly problem as far as we could see. Lady Tezza reckons Paya was best.
Best coral/fish/snorkelling - Paya.
Most laid back - Juara, although you could easily find seclusion at Panuba, particularly if you beached at Monkey Beach. Paya was more lively - even on a weekday the place seemed to be running at 50% and on weekends the whole area seems super popular with Asian visitors and expats. This is kinda good - I like to see Asians in holiday mode. They know how to enjoy themselves.


Salang Beach Resort
I was pretty keen on finding a place at the north end of Salang this latest visit. No luck at Salang Hut or Ella's Place so I called into the much bigger Salang Beach Resort a bit closer to the pier.
This joint has dozens of chalets ranging from aircon quad rooms at rm145, aircon twins/doubles rm110 and twin/double fan rm40. I went for one of the cheapies. Basically it was a plywood box with beds and bathroom, in need of some TLC - I'd say it should get refurbished next low season, but you may say the same next high season. Just big enough for 2 plus gear. Nice bed, bulky-firm pillow, okay screens instead of the net I prefer, no basin or freckle-spritzer in the bathroom but a big drum for washing clothes. About 3 rows back, very quiet at night.

Chez Tezza at Salang Beach Resort. Nothing flash but at rm40 lowest price on trip so far by a considerable margin - although I had not yet stayed at Moktar's at nearby ABC beach.
SBR has maybe 20 of these cheapies - seemed only 10% occupancy. However their rather nice aircon jobs were running say 70% full; half Malaysian half western guests.

The bayfront restaurant was an enigma - I think this place fancies itself as Salang's authentic Chinese restaurant because those dishes were twice the price I paid for similar elsewhere. But other prices were similar to the very reasonable Salang Indah restaurant 5 minutes closer the pier.
I didn't think the Chinese food was any better than others on the trip (but the fine points of Chinese cuisine are lost on me) however other food was no worse ie pretty good. Beers rm4, not bad. The daughter of the joint was one of the rudest/surliest restaurant staff members I've seen anywhere. But daddy aint gonna sack her, is he?
Between the restaurant and the bay are seats and hammocks - a pretty nice place for sunset. Note rocky shoreline low tide.
The place has wireless and access to their laptops at rm10/hour.

Moktar's Place - southern ABC
Having stayed at the north end of ABC on a previous trip I decided to try and get something down the south end. That nicest section of beach near Nazris One plus being 15 minutes closer to Tekek village and areas south are bonuses.
When I found Nazris One booked out for an upcoming wedding I backtracked to the first of several pretty nice looking budget chalet places I'd noticed on my stroll down from the pier - Moktar's Place. Moktar offered me a one person fan chalet with bathroom for rm25. Inspection showed it was similar in style but in better condition than Salang Beach Resort's rm40 place.

I thought Moktar was offering me a special deal but the rm25 is his rack price. Other tariffs are pretty reasonable for a neat joint in a nice location.

For some reason I didn't get a shot of my chalet - it was very similar in appearance to the Salang Beach Resort pix immediately up-page, but about 80% the size because of the single bed - the latter a big king-single, very comfortable. Screens not net. No towel, no toilet paper, no freckle-spritzer or basin in bathroom. Had to ask for a big bucket for washing.
This place was running at 80%+ occupancy, but as explained was housing overflow guests for an upcoming weekend wedding on the beach at Nazris One. Remove them and I'd say 40%.
The place does not have a restaurant but the budget priced/good food Mawar Beach and Nazris One restaurants are 3 minutes north/south respectively. I decided on the Friday night to give Nazris One a miss on account all the Aussie wedding guests down there would have the joint tied up - when I walked up to Mawar's they'd all decided to have dinner there! Strewth, Aussie overload! Mawar's coped admirably, asked if I minded if two hot Swiss backpacker-babes sit at my table. I didn't mind.
Moktar has a comprehensive tour desk, bicycles, a popular aircon internet room at rm10 per hour.
The place is not noisy but not as quiet as Salang Beach Resort. A fair few motorcycles move up and down the narrow paved beach path - although not late late at night.

I always try for the big artistic closing shot. Above sunset from the beach at Nazris One ABC - those 3 for rm10 Happy Hour beers go pretty well with this scene. Better yet, Happy Hour is TWO hours.


If you are travelling the east coast of peninsula Malaysia you may also be interested in nearby Pulau Sibu plus the Perhentians, Pulau Redang and Pulau Kapas which is the best island I have visited in years.
Perhaps you are interested in LANGKAWI too - although one side of the peninsula is usually in wet season when the other is in dry. However Langkawi's wet seasons are usually more benign - it is more an all year resort.


If you have any questions, please ask them in THE FORUM rather than below. I don't get a chance to check all threads daily, but unless I'm travelling I'll try to monitor THE FORUM regularly.
If you visit Tioman and want to keep us up to date with a few words and pix in aTRIP REPORT, check the advertisement-free READERS' TRIP REPORTS section to see how. Your report will be mentioned on and linked from this page.