I’ve been staying at a resort on Tioman Island, the lovely Aguna Resort in Kampung Genting. A three minute walk from the beach, with badminton and beach volleyball courts nearby. The chef serves up good food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and there’s tea, coffee and water freely available all day long. Also, Tioman is a duty free island, so most products, especially alcohol, are ridiculously cheap.
The island itself is covered by jungle, the only clear parts are the areas carved out by the resorts and the beaches. Daily snorkelling trips and regular exercise, be it from hiking, kayaking or sport, make for a fit, brown body, and, for the most part, a contented mind.
There are also cons to living on the island. There’s the blood thirsty insect life that had terrorised me from day one, and which seems to enjoy tasting every part of my body. There’s the haze that constantly covers the island, smoke from the jungle fires of Indonesia that show almost no signs of abating soon.
There’s also the boredom that comes from hours of nothing to do between activities. Of course, I could go walk along the beach or whatever… But it doesn’t seem as fun once you factor in the aforementioned bugs and smoke.
This being Malaysia, a great side benefit is the delicious, cheap food available, although now that monsoon season is almost upon us, the flow of tourists has really slowed down. Now most of the shops and restaurants are closed during the week, opening only from Friday to Sunday for the weekend crowd. Malaysian tourism operators are lucky in that regard, that many Muslims have Friday instead of Sunday off. It gives them a longer money earning period.
During the downtime though, many of the family run places shut down for 4 days and head to the mainland to see family they probably haven’t seen for months during the busy high season. My friend Ying and I were sad to hear that our local roti chanai place was closed for the last week… Instead we had to go to the stall next door and have some Tom Yum soup instead. The sacrifices we make.
The snorkelling here is hit and miss, although I have to say, when it’s good, it’s really good. When the haze lightens, the clouds part and the sun shines down, the visibility is amazing, and the light brings out the bright colours of the thousands of fish that swirl around you. Many people here feed the fish, so they’ll come swarming up to you as soon as you enter the water. It’s a lot of fun, but not for those who are scared of fish. I enjoy the mix of depths and terrain underwater here, as well as the sheer number of snorkelling sites on the island. However, snorkelling from the beaches is usually not so great, and bad weather really cuts visibility. Also, the island, and as a result the ocean, can sometimes resemble a rubbish dump as people just throw rubbish and cigarette butts on the ground and into the water. It’s rare that we go snorkelling without retrieving several pieces of rubbish.
I went diving a few times as well. The overall experience was ok. They have a very relaxed version of diving here which involves almost no briefing or safety checks. If you’ve dived here a few times before, that might be nice, but for someone who dives about once a year, it’s not great. The soft coral here is pretty nice, and they have some interesting sea life. I would probably rate it above Bali, but below Koh Tao. The dive instructors seemed to be very interested in nudibranches, so that might be a draw for some people. I’m more of a big, interesting and colourful kind of person. The crew were all really nice, and the instructor Larry seemed to have quite the following among young ladies from Singapore, so he must be doing something right.
All in all, I’ve had a great time on Tioman. If you come in the high season, between March and September, make sure to book in advance. If coming in the off season, you can take your pick. The only downside is that no one will be there to pick you up from the jetty, but most of the resorts are a short walking distance away, so not a huge deal. Many resorts also have special offers in December and January, although it’s called monsoon season for a reason.
Enough of that though, it’s time for my midday nap.