Tioman is a small island, 39 km long and 12 km wide, located off the east coast of Peninsula Malaysia. 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. The densely forested island is still sparsely inhabited, but is surrounded by numerous white coral reefs, making it a haven for scuba divers from around the region.
Already the most developed of Malaysia's eastern islands, a controversial RM40 million marina project for Kampung Tekek, complete with 175-m cargo jetty, now threatens to speed up the pace of development on Tioman considerably. Note that Tioman is off Pahang but the primary gateway is Mersing, in Johor.
Most visitors arrive by ferry from Mersing on the mainland. Bluewater Express operates the ferry services and its boats are fast and comfortable taking approximately two hours to the first jetty. This ferry is now the only option, the smaller and faster services being cancelled because of safety concerns after a tragedy. The boat is sometimes boarded by the Malaysian coast guard but it appears that the operators' are aware of when this will take place and take pains to follow the rules only on those days.
There are three services per day in each direction (sometimes only two during week days), but tidal issues (or lack of passengers) may cause cancellation. Bluewater Express charges RM35 (RM55 before 7.30 am and after 7.30 pm) for an adult ticket, RM25 for a child ticket (babies in arm free, as of last info). The timetable is variable and depends on the tide. The ferry operator tends to leave Mersing when the tide is high enough for the ferry to be able to pass through the mouth of the river, there are sufficient passengers aboard, or perhaps they are waiting for a connecting bus.
The sole commercial operator to the island's small airstrip near Tekek is Berjaya Air, which flies a 48-seater Dash-7 turboprops from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Note that these flights use the secondary airports of Subang in Kuala Lumpur and Changi Budget Terminal in Singapore.
No matter which way you choose to arrive, a marine park fee of RM5 should be levied on all visitors to the island. In practice, ferry passengers are not charged. Transfers can be arranged directly with resorts.
Except for a short concrete path connecting the airport to the road to Tekek village and on to the nearby Berjaya Resort, about 2 km from Tekek, there are almost no roads on Tioman and local transport is by boat and 4WD. However, it is relatively easy to criss-cross the island on foot – there are several jungle treks, following the power lines, which connect the villages.
Tioman is a duty free zone and offers a good selection of alcohol and cigarettes at very cheap prices. The main outlet is "vision duty free" and at the airport. Other villages such as Paya and Salang have small outlets.
Scuba facilities are readily available, and the diving is reasonably good, especially in view of the proximity to Singapore. Most villages have a variety of dive shops. Perhaps the most popular activity for visitors is snorkelling. Most resorts can arrange for speedboats or seabuses to take you to the beaches and small uninhabited islands nearby (such as Pulau Tulai, aka "Coral Island") and Renggis Island where the snorkelling is at its best. The water is almost pristine save for the occasional litter. Just be careful of the small jellyfish, as they can pack a sting, and try not to lose your rental gear or you'll be subject to the renter's arbitrary fines. However, snorkelling is fantastic in front of most beaches and can rival that of any snorkelling trip at a fraction of the cost.
Juara, which is a very quiet beach at the east coast (especially in the off season, when almost nobody is there), has some special things to offer. There are three rivers coming from the mountains, delivering cold freshwater to the beach – a chilling alternative to swimming in the sea, and a path leads to waterfalls in the jungle, which again is nice to take a swim and climb over the large rocks. The place itself is divided into two beaches that are separated by a small hill, which is said to be the "origin" of Tioman.
For those who are surf junkies, Tioman receives swells up to 2 m. However, swells only come during the wet season which is from November to March and only hit the eastern side of the island.