Tioman Island: jungles, beaches, and creepy crawlies

18 Sep
always in a rush

Tioman island was our stunning landfall after a slightly stressful passage across the South China Sea. I learned about the lures of Tioman Island beaches when backpacking in SE Asia in the early nineties. It has only grown in reputation, so we went with pretty low expectations. I just assumed that given the reputation and the proximity to population centers that it would have been the victim of overdevelopment: resorts stuck like scabs on a natural landscape, cars of driving too fast, tourons on scooters.

What a pleasant surprise to find instead that it’s still a sleepy place of quiet beauty. Yes, it got busy on the weekend with the flocks from Singapore and KL, but most of the time it was just heavenly peace. Sharing the bay between four cruising boats- kids even!- all of which had prior connections, from French Polynesia to Thailand, made it even better.

Claire and I hiked through the jungle, a four mile jaunt that climbs to the top of the ridge running north / south and down to the east side of the island. It  was so much fun we convinced Muscat, Tahina, and Utopia to join us and go again a few days later.

It was amazing to see the size of some of the trees in there.

massive trees

Nearer to town, there were a number of rubber trees being tapped. Trunks are abraded with a diagonal slash, and the sticky / stretchy sap is caught in a bucket that’s just nailed on the side. Low tech, effective.

tapping rubber trees
tapping rubber trees

Towards the ridge of the island, a gentle stream fed from a drinking water catchment area at the top. The perfect place to stop and rest, shaded by the massive trees. Orchids grew in the juncture of boughs, high overhead- their signal to us a scattering of blossoms on the trail below.


There were gorgeous fungi.


I was a little less excited about the various reptiles and insects we encountered along the way. There was this tiny red-headed snake- freaky because it was SO fast, winding past Claire’s toes in a flash. Happily, it was as interested in avoiding contact as we were. This red snake, on the other hand, just kind of sat there and watched. In the middle of the trail… of course.

why does it always have to be snakes?

It was amazing what the kids spotted. Siobhan has eagle eyes! We saw monkeys, but they were the naughty long tailed macaques, so no pictures- I kept the camera put away. I do not need to have a camera turned into a monkey toy.

lizard spotter

The millipedes, too, are not so much my favorites. This body on one is as thick as my index finger, and about 8″ long. Yikes.

freaky millipede (8" at least)

How about this crazy lookng lizard?

crazy looking lizard

This one made me think that a worm and a banana slug got together. They’re called planaria.

planaria / flatworm

Waiting at the bottom of the hike: a beautiful beach, with a low key village and an icy class of watermelon juice. Perfect.


This article was syndicated from S/V Totem - a family sailing the world


  1. Peter

    Very nice shots! I’m allways Happy to See pictures from my favorite Island. I visited this 4 times in the Past, mostly in may and june. I want to go there in the next yearscsgain, but mabye in an ither month. Because, in may and june it was very hot and dry. For I can Rain once a day, to See morecwildkife.

    btw: the snake a harmless Kukri Snake Oligodon booliati, endemic to Pulau Tioman

    i wish I will be the

  2. Kyle

    What a surprise to see “Tioman” on my SailFeed RSS! I lived on Tioman (Kampung Genting) back in 2006 for a while, teaching English and educating people in the village on the importance of conserving their marine ecosystems. I’m so glad to hear that development has not sped forward (they were planning on tearing up the coast from Tekek north to build a larger airport).
    Tioman is my favorite place in the world, I’m so glad you were able to experience it. Now… don’t tell another soul!

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