Travel Report: Tioman Island, Malaysia.
May 2015. I fell in love with Tioman Island the moment it came into view from our boat as we whizzed across The South China Sea. In fifteen years of travel I’d never really done the tropical island thing. But actually Tioman would be my second secluded paradise in as many weeks. I’d just come from the amazing Sibu Island (Pulau Sibu), the sleepiest of sleepy beach getaways. There it had all been about snoozing, swimming, eating and snoozing a bit more. But I knew that Tioman would be a completely different prospect. After all, this is one of the largest islands on the southeast coast of The Malaysian Peninsula. As a result, I was expecting a much more action-packed stay. And so it proved…
I arrived on Tioman Island with my old friend Lisa. We were doing our first spell of travelling together since 2004 when we met backpacking around India. Much like that old trip, our visit to Tioman was very off-the-cuff. We hadn’t even arranged a place to stay. But in the end, the process of finding the right spot to lay our heads proved refreshingly simple. Indeed I had a good feeling as soon as I saw the sign for Mokhtar’s Place.
Mokhtar’s Place is a small, well-kept garden comprised of sixteen modest, wooden chalets. It was Mokhtar himself who greeted us and led Lisa and I on a brief tour. The chalets are small but cosy and well-equipped with running water, plug sockets and mosquito nets around the beds. “I’ve been here since 1970!” grinned Mokhtar. Lisa and I simply looked at each other, nodded and confirmed that we’d found our place.
“Look out for monkeys!” chuckled Mokhtar as we paid at reception. “Monkeys love Mokhtar’s place and they always hungry, keep distance”. He was right, we saw a fair few monkeys during our stay. But rest assured, not all of them can be bothered hassling you. Interested in staying at Mokhtar’s Place? Check out their Facebook page.
Tioman Island, Malaysia.
Mokhtar’s Place is located in a truly lovely corner of Tioman Island called ABC Village. The locals here really take care of the neighbourhood by keeping on top of litter, trimming hedges and sweeping the path daily.
They also have various recycling stations to take care of cans, paper and glass. In my experience with Asian beach resorts and islands this is a rarity! It couldn’t be further away from my experience cleaning the horribly polluted Bai Ong Beach in Vietnam.
There are some wonderful artistic flourishes throughout ABC Village. This old boat, no longer in use, has been painted and permanently moored on the edge of ABC Beach.
ABC Beach itself is just gorgeous! It’s not a large stretch of sand, but it is spotless and, moreover, you’re just steps away from the sea.
ABC Beach is served by the good people of Sunset Bar. Yes the beers are cold and their freshly cooked pizzas are great! These guys, also known as Sunset Corner, have a Facebook page too. ABC Beach is a ten-minute walk from Mokhtar’s Place.
Mokhtar’s Place also arranges boat cruises around Tioman Island. I’d never been snorkelling before, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to break my duck. Luckily, we met some fellow travellers who were up for joining us. John and Karen were a married couple from Liverpool on a world trip, while Amanda was a solo backpacker from Germany. As a party of five, suddenly we had enough people to rent a boat to ourselves for a competitive price.
Our cruise that day took us around Tioman Island’s coast. Some people say this is the best snorkelling spot in Malaysia! As a result, people travel from afar to come and see the sea life here. Some of the fish are just incredible, and there are so many weird and wonderful species. It sounds cheesy, but it really is like a whole other world down there. If you’re lucky/unlucky (delete as appropriate), it’s also possible to see a reef shark glide past you! However, there’s no need to worry, as they’re the right kind of sharks.
After the snorkelling, our captain took us to the tiny, uninhabited Coral Island. On arrival we were able to jump off for a quick walk across its narrow, deserted beach. The transparent turquoise water was a joy to behold! And then there was the horizon, a deep-blue sky set above a bulky cluster of giant sea rocks. I can remember just standing there thinking, this is why I travel.
Tioman Island is also famed for its jungle trekking. And so one morning our merry crew of travellers (now six with the addition of a German guy called Joe) set off on a seven-kilometre hike.
Our destination was Juara Village on Tioman’s eastern side. We’d heard that Juara was just as beautiful as ABC and that there was a sanctuary for endangered turtles.
The trek to Juara Village was another fantastic experience! Although the way was well signposted, it was still a challenge due to the heat and the unpredictable state of the trail. Along the way we had to negotiate dense woodland, slippery boulders, fallen logs and bubbling streams. And, if you’re even a little nervy about bugs and creepy crawlies, make sure your feet and arms are covered!
We were just a kilometre away from Juara Village when we came across Tioman Island’s curious Mouse Deer Farm. Actually I’d never heard of the Mouse Deer, a bizarre cross between… yes… a mouse and a deer.
The mouse deer’s scientific name is the Chevrotain, which I guess isn’t so sexy when you’re trying to draw in tourists. The farm is a lovingly-maintained forest garden, in which a dozen mouse deers are kept, fed and encouraged to mate. They are actually an endangered species, therefore the volunteers here really are doing great work! The mouse deer feeds exclusively on plants and hibiscus flowers and we’d arrived just in time to see them take lunch.
In addition to a nominal entry fee, The Mouse Deer Farm keeps itself going by producing its own natural rubber. They have half a dozen trees and the rubber they make gets bottled up and sold off to customers on the mainland.
In the end Juara Village was just the reward we were hoping for at the end of our long hike. Its country lanes were every bit as charming as those back in ABC and we couldn’t help but stop and admire the wooden chalets and their meticulous gardens filled with exotic flowers and plants.
As we made our way towards Juara Turtle Project there were banana bushes and jackfruit trees. We also saw around fifty bats sleeping upside down on a skeletal-looking fir tree. Tioman Island had delivered so much during our 3-night stay and there was still one last treat to come…
Like this? Have a read of my travel report from Tioman Island’s Juara Turtle Project.
You can also check out my other travel articles from around Malaysia.
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