Tioman Island

A large monkey stepped out on the trail in front of me and showed me some nasty teeth.  I could hear the rest of his clan making their moves around me getting into position.

Not again. I reached down to grab a nearby stick and he made his move to grab my water bottle. They usually just use their grubby brown fingers to open the lid and harmlessly pour it out in front of you, but this was a matter of principle….it was my water damn it and it was nearly full.

I gave him a good thump on the face with my bottle then brandished my stick like a sword and went on the offensive before he could collect himself. It worked – he ran off screeching what had to be profanity in their language and I threw the stick at him just to rub it in and yelled “get some!”

A group of travelers behind me burst out laughing.  So much for my reputation on the island, but hey…at least the monkeys here know who’s in charge. 🙂

I have only been on Tioman Island for a few hours and this place is Perhentian’s mirror opposite.  I easily found cheap accommodation which was cleaner, had a mirror and towels, and for less than half the price!  At first glance the island seems to be shady, quiet, and a concrete path traverses the length of ABC beach from end to end. I would be walking that path a LOT in the next few days….everything is very spread out (my only complaint) so you spend more time walking on concrete than in sand. A majority of the waterfront is my feet’s worst nightmare, nothing but sharp rocks and dead coral – but there are two very nice patches of sand at opposite ends of the beach.

I have made a few friends here, but it is definitely harder to meet people. There are just as many suitcases as rucksacks on the island and quite a few families and couples.  The only two pubs shut around midnight and usually only consist of people sitting around in groups at tables in the sand.

Just like Gili Trawangan in Indonesia, there isn’t a dog to be found on the island so the cats run wild.  I’ve adopted many of them and they love the attention, even coming to lay on my sarong on the beach. Elin in all of her cat mania would have probably adored this place – there still isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t see or think about something that reminds me of her.

Interestingly, I ran into 2 Spanish speaking girls from Basque that I knew from KL and also Marc Anthony a nice guy I met on Gili Air in Indonesia 3 months ago – once again, small world!  It is a great feeling to see people that you know no matter where you go.

The highlight on this island for me is less the beach and more the impressive jungle which rises up on a huge hill in the center of the island. You can smell the green and feel its presence, the life, the mysterious engulfing canopy hiding exotic animals and secrets….it is wonderful.  The island is alive with life, there are monitor lizards here as well, and he left before I got a chance to see him, but a giant python was draped one of the trees right on the main walking trail! (hopefully he will eat a few of the monkeys for me)

Tired of sitting around waiting for the nightly social sunset gathering at one end of the beach, Marc Anthony and I took to the jungle and tried vainly to find some interior trails off of the main trail. There are rumors of good rock climbing here and I’m dying to give it a try.  We did manage to make our way off the trail to a nice boulder field which we scrambled up a short way to some shady, mossy, pools of water devoid of any signs of man.  A beautiful secret little place (maybe where the python lived) and we actually used the thick, woody vines dangling from the very top of the canopy to rappel back down the rocks to the bottom. Granted, it was only a few hops, but how many people can say they swung from a vine in the jungle today?

Prices here are considerably cheaper than Perhentian, but still expensive by island standards. Even though this is the high season, half the eateries and carts on ABC beach seem to be closed up.  The food is a major letdown, every menu has the exact same selection of boring fried rice, noodles, and curries….but unlike Perhentian you can get a meal here for a little over US $1.50.  All this bad eating is making me really miss KL!

Nights start at the Sunset Bar which offers 3 beers for 10RM (1/3 the price of Perhentian, too bad I don’t drink beer!) and then end at the Hallo Bar on the opposite end of the beach. As usual, I took up with the resident expats there, they are always easy to differentiate from the tourists, and made a few friends.

One that I met was a dive instructor living in Thailand. She talked me into hiring some snorkeling gear and swimming a couple of kilometers around the rocks at the far end of the beach to the boat jetty.  It was more exercise than I’ve had in weeks and I usually avoid places where boats are because that’s where all the sewage and petrol are too. It turned out to be spectacular as hundreds of large fish were gathered around a sunken artificial reef there.  We spotted a giant 5ft crocodile Long Tom which looks a lot like a barracuda with war wounds and teeth sticking out of its jaws. There were also 3 sting rays sitting half buried on the sandy bottom and a moray eel.

We then swam under the jetty itself and in the poor visibility it was like entering another world….the concrete support pillars disappeared on both sides into the murky depth forming a hallway and angry little black urchins clung to the sides, making it a squeeze.  Sunlight barely filtered in on the edges and swimming down the corridor with nothing but concrete above made it look a lot like crossing from one world to the next.  Below us was a carpet of large fish not moving, very eerie. It was the Twilight Zone and very few people know its down there.

Take my advice, if you are going to go snorkeling, go with a dive instructor (named Fiona, of course)!

Aside from the snorkeling, Tioman turned out overall to be pretty bland for me.  Too many hand swinging couples and lots of solitude made it quite lonely after all the energy of Perhentian. As the moon gets fuller, I feel my chi drop – the complete opposite of what it usually does on a full moon. Maybe its the fever from my infections, maybe its me, but I can feel my connection to this island turning negative and when that happens I know that its time to leave before something happens.

Listening to your gut is the only thing you can rely on when traveling alone and it has kept me alive this long. Tomorrow I will walk 40 minutes to Tekek the village on this side of the island where there is rumor of 1 ATM machine, and probably buy a ticket out of here.  Despite having so many trusted and respected travel friends that loved this island, to be honest it just isn’t the right time for me.

Fifty people can come to a place and leave with 50 different opinions….it isn’t really about the destination.  I believe that the place is merely a catalyst to unlocking something you already bring with you, and the key just doesn’t fit for this place.  Why hang around trying to make it work when your destiny could be in the next place?

No problem….another week, another island….there are still lots to choose from. 🙂

Find all related to:
Greg Rodgers

About Greg Rodgers

Enjoyed this post? Consider throwing a dollar into my Paypal account: https://paypal.me/VagabondingLife (I can eat for $2 on the road!) Check out my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/vagabonding.travel.

6 Responses to “Tioman Island”



  1. why don’t you drink beer?

  2. “Fifty people…” etc. Loved that. Great observation for making choices. I’ve copied it (with credit to you) for that future Wandrin blog entry when it fits.

    Continuing to enjoy your journeys.

  3. At least the cats are feeling social if the monkeys were being nasty. There’s something about that simple relationship with animals that doesn’t make it so bad. I hope that the couple come out of their shells a bit over the next few days.

  4. love the 1 atm comment! hope it is rumored to take mastercard & visa too, and work!

  5. I think if you are looking for a nightlife to rival that of Perhentian whilst on Tioman Island then take a boat from ABC to Salang…there you will meet many back packers, lots of food venders and restaurants and also lots of places to drink the night away…hope this helps !!!

  6. I thought you were going to name the Diving Instructor who took you snorkeling! My 15 seconds of fame was snatched from me.

Leave a Reply