Friendly lizard keeping the beach clean
We have just been to Tioman Island, and for a few days away from Singapore I can definitely recommend it. As backpackers, my husband and I went there twenty years ago and the memories I have are of beach bars, huge spiders, snakes and amazing jungle. We stayed at ABC Bungalows back then, a basic backpacker hangout, with just a fan and a mosquito net for comfort.
Relaxing at the beach
This time we opted for a little more luxury and booked a room at the Berjaya Resort. We also flew with Berjaya Air, a much easier route than taking a coach and then the ferry across to the island (a seven hour journey from Singapore). The flight was a comfortable forty minutes in a small propeller plane, and the stewardess had just enough time to hand out a bottle of water before landing. Our flight went from Selatar Airport, the old RAF airport in Singapore, but from 1st November, all Tioman flights will go from the Budg
et Terminal at Changi airport.
The chalets at Berjaya Resort
are 2-up, 2-down
Berjaya Resort is a great option with kids. They loved the slide at the pool (there's also a smaller slide for young kids) and we did some amazing snorkeling right from the beach. No live coral but we did see lots of beautiful fish swarming around a rocky outcrop a few metres out. The tide goes right out in the afternoon, so get some beach swimming done in the morning and move to the pool in the afternoon.
The slide was a hit with the kids
We upgraded to a Deluxe room from a Superior as the Superior was small and shabby while the Deluxe had been upgraded and was much larger, with a bathtub and plenty of room for an extra bed. We were a few metres from the beach and a short walk from the pool. Perfect.
The aircraft at Tekak airport
We booked a 3D2N package through Take Me To Travel and added an extra 2 nights. This worked out to be pretty good value as the flights, transfers, 2 nights of dinners for the four of us, a snorkeling trip with all the gear and breakfast was all included. Take me to Travel also do packages to Bintan, Batam, Koh Samui and other popular destinations.
The snorkeling is best done in the morning before the wind picks and the visibility is not as good. For our snorkeling trip we were taken by speed boat to Regggis Island, which you can see from the resort, and is only a few minutes away. Here there is a floating platform which you can jump off and snorkel around.
We saw some beautiful coral (a little to the right of the platform was the best I found) and many fish. We spotted a blue-spotted sting ray and a small reef shark as well as grouper, parrot fish and clown fish. Apparently there are green turtles around, but unfortunately we didn't catch them. There are some beautiful photos of the sea life here.
Tioman Island is quite large and densely forested with small mountains right behind the resort. You don't really get a sense of the island tucked away in the resort, and there are no roads around the island. There are a few Kampongs, however, although most are reachable only by boat.
Stepping back in time
The airport is at the largest Kampong, Tekek, and the next beach northwards is ABC (Kampung Air Batang), where most of the small backpacker operations are, and where we stayed 20 years ago. We were keen to see if it had changed so we got a taxi (mini-bus) from the gates of the resort to the north of Tekek where there is a path through the jungle (only a 5 minute walk and paved) to ABC.
At first we were shocked at how run down the bungalows looked and some even looked like they had ceased operations. We were told that ABC had gone upmarket, but it all looked pretty shabby to us.
Watermelon juice at ABC
The more we walked the more we relaxed into the mood of the place and saw it's charm and character. It is very quiet and laid-back, the only activity being some local kids splashing in the water and riding their bikes along the path. Shop-keepers swayed in hammocks, monkeys played in the trees and everywhere there were sleeping cats. We had a watermelon juice at a cafe and were tempted to stay for happy hour at the beach-side bar--three tigers for MYR10.
Sleeping cats everywhere
We swam, or rather paddled as it was low-tide, at the far north of the beach, near Bamboo Hill Chalets (I had read good reviews of this place on tripadvisor but they were booked out). From the water we watched monkeys foraging in the overhanging trees and enjoyed the beauty of the place.
Unfortunately the restaurants at ABC didn't open until 7pm and our taxi driver was waiting for us at Tekek, so we had to skip the MYR6 nasi goreng. Never mind, the driver took us to an excellent restaurant in Tekek and we were thoroughly satisfied.
There are other activities to do from Berjaya, such as trekking in the forest, hiring bikes and diving. We didn't have enough time to do too much, and we were happy to relax at the beach or pool for most of the time.
So if you're looking for a weekend away, this is an easy, family-friendly option. The food was good and the staff friendly. One word of warning though, be careful of sand flies-we made the mistake of sitting on the sand on our last evening and all got eaten alive.