Tioman Island is a Malaysian island in the South China Sea, an hours flight from Kuala Lumpur and closer to Singapore. Our weather is warm and balmy, and as it is the end of the monsoon season, we have had a little heavy rain.
We were told it is named after the “Tio” bird.
A local legend reveals that there was once a beautiful dragon princess from China who, upon flying to Temasek for her wedding with prince Parameswara, settled over the South China Sea for a rest. So taken aback was she at the beauty of the surrounding area that the princess decided to stay forever and turned herself into Tioman Island, providing shelter to passers by.
Tioman Island is pretty mountainous with the airport on one side of the main road and a marina and a canal of small boats, across the road. Between the airstrip and the marina are about a dozen shops – this is the CBD Tekek.
We were amazed at how we banked to land on the tiny airstrip, so we waited until a flight came in to see how they do it. Watching the 4-prop Bombadier-7 plane (about 50 passengers) slide down the mountain and onto the airstrip was pretty amazing! And we have to fly out of here!
Wildlife here is interesting. Butterflies and birds as you would expect. Cats, but no dogs (they are banned). Friendly little monkeys. Whole families of them scampering through the forest – they are quite independent of the tourists/locals and live their own life. We see food left out for them, but they are not directly fed. They are not aggressive, and we have no anxiety about them stealing treasures like hairpins, glasses and cameras like the monkeys in Bali.
There are also lizards, from the shiny skink-like variety, up to 30cm long to the large colourful monitor lizards, up to 2m!! We are told there are two types of monitor lizards, the larger vriety that swim and feed from the water (and on offcuts provided by the local restaurants) and the smaller lizards that are land based and dig bugs out of the ground.
It is pretty awesome to see these huge lizards, lying in the sun, swimming in the creeks and digging for bugs in the ground. Once again they are not phased by us tourists, and are happy to continue on their way as we stop and stare at them.
We went for a long walk to see a Turtle Sanctuary. Alas, no turtles and no-one to tell us about them. Still the 6km walk in the tropical heat did us good.
We took a car ride to Juara, on the east side of the island. This was after we investigated walking there. After an hour of hot, humid, steep climbing our map showed us we had only crossed a quarter of the island, however in the car we found we had nearly reached the highest point. It would have been downhill after that!
Once again there was an unattended turtle sanctuary as well as a beautiful sandy beach with “sort of” surf. Not the place to come if you are passionate about surfing, but great for the tan and the look.
Juara is far less sophisticated than Tekek, a few bar/cafe/restaurants and a number of villas on the beach.