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Tioman island in Malaysia, Murli Menon shares his Snorkeling experience

Tioman island in Malaysia, Murli Menon shares his Snorkeling experience. Pulau Tioman or Tioman Island is about 56 km. away from the mainland

Murli Menon in conversation with Prittle Prattle News

Tioman island in Malaysia, Murli Menon shares his Snorkeling experience – The anticipation of travel is almost like falling in love! You choose a destination and an adventure that makes your heart leap and your pulse race. When you arrive, you do not know how it will turn out to be, a casual flirtation, a torrid affair, a long term relationship or if after all the planning and expectation, there is just no chemistry!  One is writing this from the cool confines of one’s beach-side chalet at Berjaya Tioman Beach Resort at Tioman Island, in the state of Pahang in peninsular Malaysia. There is an interesting legend about the origins of this island. Once upon a time, a dragon princess from China, set out to visit her prince in Singapore. On her way to Singapore from China, she stopped when she saw the crystal clear waters of the South China Sea. She was so enchanted with the charms of the sea, that she decided to discontinue her journey and took the form of an island to offer comfort to passing travelers. That is how the magical and mythical island of Tioman came into being. Even today, the map of Tioman Island has a striking resemblance with the head of a sleeping dragon!

Pulau Tioman or Tioman Island is about 56 km. away from the mainland and is spread over 800 sq. km. off the coast of West Malaysia. Tioman Island is one of the volcanic islands that form part of the Tioman Marine Park. To reach Tioman, one takes the night train from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore and alights at Johor Bahru in the wee hours of the morning. One gets a connecting bus to Mercing which leaves Larkin Bus Station at Johor at 8:30 a.m. and arrives at Mercing around 11:00 a.m. The boat jetty is a short walk away from Mercing Bus Station and one can conveniently board the ferry to Tioman, which departs at 11:30 a.m. It is worthwhile to note that boats, buses, trains and flights maintain their schedules unless due to weather conditions beyond their control. Hence, it is advisable for Indian tourists to adjust their watches 15 minutes faster than the exact time, to smoothen one’s journey! 

One meets tourists from countries as diverse as Singapore, Australia and Kuwait, as one plonks oneself on the many empty chairs scattered on the upper-deck which offers a bird’s eye view of the horizon. The first ninety minutes are over choppy waters. One sees the faint outline of two huge volcanic rocks at a distance. As one gets closer, one sees a splash of green emerging out of the cobalt blue waters. The bottom of the ocean floor can be seen as the water is crystal clear. Soon a speck of green appears between the dark blue waters. It resembles a green sapphire nestling in the palm of Nature’s hand. The closer we get to the island, the more beautiful it looks. When one finally arrives at the shores of this island it is one’s moment of enlightenment at the end of a pilgrimage!

However, to one’s bewilderment, one discovers that Rava is only the first stop enroute to Tioman. But seeing the unspoilt beauty of Rava, one begins to shiver in anticipation of glimpsing the sleeping dragon princess! The boat ride from Rava to Tioman is eventful. Scores of small islands emerge out of the waters as one picks up speed. Lush green tropical forests cover all these islands giving them a wild look. A few bobbing boats are the only sign indicating of these islands being inhabited. The waters become clearer at the next stop. Finally, one arrives at one’s destination which is Tekek village. The ocean resembles a blue looking-glass as one alights at Tekek. Here, one can see brightly coloured fishes swimming beneath the surface of the sea. Colourful coral and undersea gardens come into view as the visibility gradient improves with very passing second. The journey is certainly as exciting as the destination. One alights here, to find a piece of India, awaiting one’s arrival. The escort bus is a Tata vehicle! It ambles along the gentle slopes and drops you at the plush lobby of Tioman Berjaya Beach Resort. The chalets have a French design and are exclusively made of wood. These polished wood cabins transport you into an ambience of a bygone era, except for the remote controlled air-conditioning and modern bathrooms! Each chalet has a small outdoor sit-out, lawn, study table and sofas. 

The view from one’s chalet is breathtaking. The wide expanse of the rusty beach and azure sea, a stark contrast to the snow white clouds suspended above them complete the picturesque scene as seen from one’s cozy abode. The warm waters and high visibility beckons one to slip into one’s swimming attire and take a dip in these pristine waters. Watching the sun set, while sipping cool coconut water, while sunbathing under the gently setting sun is the balm one needs to rejuvenate one’s aching bones. The water is extremely shallow and one can walk into the sea for about a mile. One can watch one’s feet throughout one’s adventure into the sea. Tioman is nothing but a combination of the sun drenched beach, the rust coloured sandy shore, crystal clear waters teeming with marine life and corals of myriad colours streching under the sea as far as one can see. The jewel in the crown are the rainforests and hills which surround this secluded cove, that time forgot. Island hopping, boating, snorkeling, scuba diving and bird-watching are some of the other activities one can indulge in, once the novelty of the sea wears off. 

One can swim alongside a symphony of colourful fishes while enjoying the beauty of the coral reefs that adorn the ocean floor. Mushroom shaped corals, fan shaped corals and rainbow corals can be clearly seen exploding in a riot of colours. The marine life is no less enchanting. Fishes of all colours swim in endless turns, making their way delicately through the corals. One discovers the miracles of nature unfolding on a giant three dimensional screen on the ocean floor covered by waters resembling a looking-glass. Some of the fishes one encounters while snorkeling include parrotfish, rainbow runners and cuttlefish. Exploring the underwater flora and fauna at Tioman, is like exploring Mars. Unexpected colours, shapes and forms are uncovered at every step. One feels as if one is peeling one layer of an onion to discover another. Shoals of tiny fishes dart in between the crevices, moving as one seamless whole. Starfishes sway gently in the waves. Sea cucumbers are scattered in disarray all over. A few sea anemones and sea urchins rest peacefully on the corals.

Snorkeling is open to all, though for diving, permits are needed. One has to attend a diving course and get oneself certified before being permitted to dive. Berjaya offers beginner’s courses in diving, for all those novices wanting to take the first step towards certification. Snorkelers and scuba divers can observe a diversity of marine life which includes freshwater fish, sea-bass, red snapper, stingray, tuna, moray eel, grouper, blue marlin, squid, prawn, lobster, coral trout, reef fish, turtles and sometimes one can also see a giant clam. Some of the other activities which are available at Tioman include cycling, sea kayaking, wind-surfing or simply island hopping. Guided boat tours are available to the villages that are scattered around Tioman. Explorers who prefer solitude can meditate at several smaller, uninhabited islands which are a short boat ride away from Tioman. One can see the outlines of these volcanic islands on the ferry ride from Mercing to Tioman. Golden beaches, crimson sunsets, tropical rainforests, coral reefs, wooden chalets and azure waters, nature has generously blessed the tiny island of Tioman which generations after generations must enjoy. The duty free status of Tioman makes it is an added attraction for shopping freaks! Several kiosks sell souvenirs ranging from T-shirts to handicrafts.   

Thus Tioman offers a unique combination of activities for tourists and is an attractive option for enjoying the bounties of nature. One can sunbathe on the beach, soaking in the gentle sunlight throughout the day, or curl up with a book in the cool confines of your chalet or play around in nature’s own Jacuzzi, which is a short walk from one’s residence. Those seeking tranquility can climb up the hill and rest under the numerous trees that crave to reach the skies, in the dense rainforests that cover the hills. So fire, water and earth, one can watch the changing phases of these primordial elements at dawn and dusk, One also has the option of spending the night at the beach huts, soaking in the moonlight and watching the twinkling stars all over the horizon. The cool ocean breeze, the moist sand and the gurgling lullaby of the gently rolling waves ensure a refreshing nights rest under the starlit sky.    

Underwater exploring by traveling on a glass bottomed boat is another fascinating experience, if one wants to explore these coral gardens without getting oneself wet. One can observe the colonies of corals and the marine life which shelter under these corals. At times one sees lots of colourful fishes swimming in synchronicity across the transparent deep blue waters. The symmetry, harmony and telepathic communication between these tiny fishes, which move as one seamless whole needs to be seen to be believed.

Unexpected showers are a constant feature of these tropical rainforests and to see millions of thick water droplets plunge into the dark blue sea as one sits under the canopy of one’s boat, is an encounter with nature which is welcome. The bobbing boat, the turbulent sea and the incessant splatter of rain on the roof of the boat, under the overcast sky makes this experience seep into every pore of one’s being. The attractive monsoon promotional offers at Berjaya Tioman during September to November, is all the more reason to visit Tioman during the monsoon.

How to get there?

Tioman Island is connected by direct flights from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore by Berjaya Air. Berjaya’s Beach Resort is 5 km. away from the airport.  Free airport transfers (to and fro) are offered by almost all the resorts. The return flight fare in a 50 seater aircraft is approximately 400 RM. Berjaya Resort offers a two-night three day free stay at their beach resort in a package offer for all couples booking return tickets, ex-Kuala Lumpur, by Berjaya Air, which is the sole airline to fly into Tioman. It is important to mention here that the flights do not originate from KLIA but at Subang Airport, which is Kuala Lumpur’s second airport after KLIA.

The cheaper option for Indian tourists to get to Tioman, is to travel by train to Chennai and take the Indian Airlines flight to Singapore from Chennai Airport. From Singapore, one has to take the train to Kuala Lumpur and alight at Kluang station. From Kluang, one has to take the bus to Mercing. This journey takes almost two hours and costs about 10 RM. From Mercing, one has two options. One can either take the ferry to Tioman Island which costs 30 RM. Bluewater Ferry Services, provides air-conditioned ferry service, though it is more pleasurable to climb up and watch the sea, from the upper deck of the ferry! The ferry ride can take upwards of two hours depending on the weather and condition of the sea. Tioman does get a few isolated showers from September to November!  The other option is to take a speedboat, which costs 45 RM, but reaches Tioman in about 75 minutes. One has to alight at Tekek jetty for boarding the courtesy coach of the resort. Tekek is the third stop after Rava and Mukut.

The ferry schedule is as follows: ( Transit time: 120 minutes) (Cost:30 R.M.)

Mercing to Tioman: 8 a.m., 11:30a.m. and 12:00 noon

Tioman to Mercing: 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

 The Speed boat schedule is as follows: ( Transit time: 75 minutes) (Cost: 45 R. M.)

Mercing to Tioman: 7:30 a.m., 10:30a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. 

Tioman to Mercing: 7:30 a.m., 9:30a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.

*The last bus for Klang leaves Mercing at 7:00 p.m.

Where to stay?

Berjaya Tioman Island Beach Resort is a comfortable place to stay. Located off a rust coloured private beach, it offers shallow, clear beaches with gentle waves, which is a short walk away from the chalets. Lots of budget resorts also abound at Tioman island ranging from 100 RM to 200RM. The accommodation is equivalent to three star hotels in India minus the frills. Every visitor to Tioman Island has to pay a conservation fee of 5RM to the Tioman Island Marine Park. This fee is usually collected at the ferry terminal by the Park authorities and is mandatory. Berjaya Tioman Beach Resort in combination with their sister airline Berjaya Air, offers a good deal inclusive of to and fro airfare from Kuala Lumpur, with a two night/three day stay at their chalet at an invitational price of 800 RM. (for two adults on twin sharing basis)

Where to eat?

Lots of small restaurants serving Malay and Chinese cuisine dot the village of Tekek. You get freshly steamed mushrooms with bamboo shoots and boiled rice at Fortune Chinese Court Restaurant. Fresh fruits including sliced musk melon, water-melon, papaya, fruit juices, baked beans, mashed potatoes, salads, and black tea are the only choices for pure vegetarians who do not consume any products of animal origin. However, complimentary fruit baskets are placed in the chalets periodically. Tea/Coffee making machines are also provided, along with tea bags and sugar for making one’s own cuppa of black tea. The buffet breakfast at Berjaya, offers limited choices for vegans except for the sliced tropical fruits, fruit juices, black tea, boiled mashed potatoes, and coconut milk rice.

About the Author :

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Murli Menon

Murli Menon is a travel writer, stress management consultant, and author based in Ahmedabad, India. He is the author of “ZeNLP-Learning through stories” published by The Written Word Publications, “ZeNLP-the power to succeed” published by Sage publications, and “ZeNLP-the power to relax” by New Dawn Press. He can be reached at

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