Categories
Weekend Getaway

Tioman Island Weekend Getaway Experience

Escaping Singapore for an island Weekend Getaway

I am a big fan of impromptu…and when it comes for a weekend getaway, or an escape from city-life, Tioman Island is usually the perfect choice for an impromptu departure out of Singapore (or Kuala Lumpur for that matter). This time I am traveling solo.

It was so impromptu that I have decided to make the journey on my Vespa! That’s right, despite being a 150cc, I can assure you that it handled the journey very well with no hiccups!

Ready for the motorcycle ride
Ready for the motorcycle ride

Packing and getting ready

I have done this weekend getaway to Tioman more than a dozen times, but never on my Vespa. Obviously the Vespa stayed in Mersing whilst I took the ferry on foot ?. The decision of going was literally last minute and in fact I had not packed a single thing! When I woke up I had a lazy morning preparing what I needed to bring or leave behind. I was only going for a few days, hence clothing wise it was not a big deal. So, I grab two t-shirts, swimmers, pants and shorts, toothbrush, deodorant, shower gel and I was ready. 

The biggest problem was packing the scuba-diving equipment. As I own the whole lot and I absolutely wanted to dive, I had to take it with me. I could have opted to travel super light and rent the equipment. But if you are a diver too, you know that nothing beats your own stuff, even if it comes to comfort of travel.

I start packing and quickly realize that I had no suitable luggage to fit the Vespa! (reminder to self: buy a netted duffel bag for diving equipment!). I was not going to bring a suitcase with me. Even though a suitcase would easily fit all the stuff, how on earth I was going to bring that on a long Vespa’s journey? For that I need much more planning.

I started stuffing all into my usual backpack and the fins were quickly sticking out of it :-). A bit of fiddling here and there, opening up the bottom compartment of the Vespa and I somehow managed to put all in. I was ready.

There are many other ways to get to Tioman quickly from Singapore. I have summarized them all in our article here.

The actual weekend getaway Journey

I leave Singapore a bit later than I should have, around 2pm. In a comfortable 3.5 hours, including a cendol stop (learn what is cendol from this link) I am in Mersing. And what I find out? That there is no boat leaving in the afternoon! Obviously I did not research when the ferry was going to leave Mersing. And I should have known better to leave home early in the morning to maximize the chances to get on the island on the day. But I was in no rush. A stop in Mersing is always welcome. And I stayed at a hostel I have known for years, which is clean and charges RM20 per night. You can’t beat that!

Cendol stop on the way to Mersing
Cendol stop on the way to Mersing

The following morning I have breakfast, go to the market to pick up some fruits to bring with me on the island, find a good parking spot for the Vespa and sort out the ferry ticket. If you have been to Mersing before, you will know that there was a building in front of the jetty. It is now renovated and is called Mersing Harbour Center. They moved the blue water ferry ticket counter there, whilst it used to be by the jetty.

Get your Ferry ticket

The process to get your ticket is super straight forward as follows: 

  • You buy the ticket at one of the windows. I encourage you to choose an open date return, so that you can end your weekend getaway whenever you want from the island.
  • Then you move to the counter next door where you present your passport for registration.
  • Lastly, you pay for the marine park entrance fee at the shop in front of the ticketing counter. I recall it being a handful of RMs, but it now costs RM30 for foreign nationalities. For locals it is RM5 and children and senior citizen pay half of that price.

It looks like the monopoly of the ferry transfer for Tioman island is still managed by Blue Water ferries. But I have seen other large boats called Cataferry. If you know more about these, please leave a comment below ?.

Harbour Font Mersing
Harbour Font Mersing

In no time I was on the boat sailing to the island and two hours later we did the first stop. I decided to stay at the end of ABC beach, which gives easy access to Tekek and it is free from cars! 

(Rant coming…)

I did not remember the Tioman Island being a place that offered motorcycles for rental, but amazingly it is now full of that stuff. Seeing all these tourists motorized and the number of cars and pickup trucks is crazy! This island used to be so peaceful, little to no cars, plenty bicycles and the locals on their modified sidecar’scooters.

Pick-ups parked at Tekek
Pick-ups parked at Tekek

By the way, I am only talking about the Tekek area…the rest seems still peaceful. I also heard that there are plans to reclaim land not too far off the Berjaya hotel for a new airport runway and more roads! I really hope this project would be delayed or fail altogether in order to preserve the natural beauty of the island. At the same time I also know that this is somehow linked to the promotion of tourism here, which is the main source of income of the locals and I don’t blame them for wanting progress. I just hope that the disruption to the nature and beauty of the island will not be spoilt like it happened to too many other paradises around this part of the world!

Sorry for the above rant…back to the weekend getaway to Tioman Island.

Around Tioman Island

The island is quite big! It somehow reminds me of the island of LOST, the TV show. It may be worth spending more time than a simple weekend getaway.

There are quite a few peaks (rock climbing is possible!) and the populated areas are only scattered by the coast, mainly on the west side. Something that has always fascinated me is how the jungle and the steep incline of the hills get up to 30 or 50 meters from the coast.

The only developed bit is a row of chalets, bars, restaurants and diving operators between the forest and the beach. All connected by a a simple long “tongue” of concrete going from village to village and sometimes interrupted by steep steps allowing to leap from beach to beach. You can easily spend the whole day walking from Genting (in the south) to Salang in the north. I also cannot remember if it is fully connected and if at some point you may need to grab a water taxi to cover some distance. Be sure it would be a long long walk anyways!

Tekek is the larger village on the island and occupies more land. Make sure you visit the bird statue when there…

West side vs East side

In my weekend getaway to the Tioman Island so far, I have always stayed on the west side of the island. There is a very steep road that connects the west to the east, but it is so steep that most motorcycles can’t make it all the way up. I would do the hike rather than using a vehicle, but it’s something I am yet to try out! You would need more than 1.5 hours walk to get there so, if you are a family with young children and want to visit the east, perhaps you can use a pick up service from Tekek.

The west side however has been the most popular due to its access to the main diving spots around the island. Most facilities, snorkeling spots and beaches are on this side.

There are new and upcoming accommodation facilities on the east and 3 new diving operators. All opening up near the Juara beach side of the island. Thanks to the new diving operators there are new diving spots being discovered on the east side. Hopefully the collaborations between west and east side diving operators would mean divers could easily enjoy more underwater spots. 

What I am really excited about is that the east side has not been frequented much by divers and it faces the open ocean. This means: 1) currents 2) big fish coming to visit and 3) better, healthier dive sites! I am excited about the opening up of the east side of Tioman and I am looking forward to organize another trip to explore this side too!

Enjoy a short video of the broadwalk connecting Tekek with ACB beach 🙂

Categories
Weekend Getaway

How to get from Singapore to Tioman Island

The many ways to get from Singapore to Tioman Island (Malaysia)

All the various options of how to get from Singapore to Tioman Island are quite easy! It all depends how adventurous you are and how much time and money you want to spend.

Below I listed options such as buses from Singapore, buses from Johor Bahru, taxi from Singapore and then from Johor Bahru, self drive, car hire, cycle and hitchhike!

To reach Tioman Island you must pass by or stop by Mersing. This is the main ferry point, hence most of the below will refer to the journey from Singapore to Mersing.

BUS – Easy and relaxed

Right now quite a number of the buses that leave Singapore for Mersing depart near the Golden Mile Complex on Beach Road. With the recent news that the complex will be demolished it is unclear where the new launch point will be. We will update this page once known.

You can sit back and relax from the beginning in the comfy bus seats. It will set you back some SGD40. This option has a good combination of relax and cost, but it can be time consuming depending at what time you leave Singapore.

Quite often I have taken a this bus or other mini buses on a Friday night after work. Customs can get very busy on a Friday night, which could add at least one to two hours to your journey’s time. I have experienced arriving at Tioman Island at 2am in the morning!

Taking the bus also has the disadvantage of having to get off the bus to clear customs twice, firstly in Singapore and then once in Malaysia.

BUS – Adventurous but cheaper

Another option for your weekend getaway is to catch the bus in Johor Bahru (JB for short) directly, but it can be a bit complicated. Below I will explain what you need to do.

Get to Woodlands by MRT (probably the most convenient if you do not have your own vehicle) or catch the famous SBS 170, which will also take you around JB. You will need to clear immigration on foot and once cleared Singapore immigration you will have few buses’s options to cross the strait unless you decide to walk (weather allowing; it is almost one kilometer walk).

Each of the various buses available will have a different price tag. If you take bus SBS 170 you will be able to hold to your ticket and use it all the way to JB’s bus terminal (Larkin). One good option would also be to catch the SBS 170 bus from the Kranji MRT station.

Once the Malaysia immigration is also cleared, the easiest option would be to catch the famous public bus SBS 170 as above. This bus will lead you all the way to the JB bus terminal.

Another option however is to walk to City Square Mall right next to the Malaysia checkpoint. Here the options are to either catch a taxi to the bus terminal or board a local bus. This option may be more suitable for those that are not in super rush. One can make use of the mall’s aircon and do some shopping or eat prior to continue with the journey Tioman Island. Larkin is not really centrally located and the food options there may be a limited.

The cost of this option is much cheaper than the above. The same level of comfy bus (depending on the bus company) leaving from JB to Mersing would cost around RM30 to RM40. The money saved here can allow you to catch the taxi from City Square Mall to Larkin.

TAXI services or private cars

If you have a larger budget for your weekend getaway to Tioman Island, you can catch a taxi. From Singapore all the way till you clear both immigration points you can do it with a Singapore Taxi. But be warned that only specific and licensed taxis can do this route. They operate on a fixed fee of SGD12 per person or SGD48 if you want the car all for yourself. This service can take you all the way to Larkin only. More detailed info can be found here.

Once in Larkin you would then be able to catch another taxi which could set you back between RM80 to RM180. The price would change depending from the time of the day and your negotiation skills. I caught once a taxi from Larkin in the middle of the night with a friend and it costed RM180. This was not too bad considering it is a 160Km ride and we shared the cost!

Another option is obviously the rental of a private car and driver, which would be the most expensive option. This option is more suited for families with children or elderly. This is because you will hardly have to leave the car, also during immigration. And once off the border, sit back and enjoy the ride all the way to Mersing. If you want to travel in style and as a group of friends too, this could be a viable option.

Self drive and car hire

I have done both…self drive is the most convenient as it would be just you and your friends (or other half), no external party drivers. You play your own music on the radio, be silly and no-one is there to judge. Obviously you will need to own a car or know someone who does and is willing to go to Tioman. Island. There would be the inconvenience of finding a safe and guarded car park in Mersing to leave the car whilst you are gone for your weekend getaway island retreat.

The other option is to rent a car in Johor Bahru. There are plenty of options and it would be easy enough to navigate in the Johor State. Once away from JB the amount of traffic decreases immensely and you would have the road all for yourself on motorway no. 3.

I have done the journey once on my Vespa. Read my article here.

Self Drive Vespa to Tioman Island
Self Drive Vespa to Tioman Island

Other useful info

Did you know that you were able to fly to the Tioman Island? This service is not operating anymore but it used to be served by Berjaya Air. I was told that there is a new airport being planned near the Berjaya resort, hence watch this space for direct flights from Singapore. Flying costed around SGD250 per person (return), and it was by far the most convenient way for a true time-limited weekend getaway.

Another thing that not many know is that there is still a train system operating between Singapore and Malaysia! Yes, the old train station is not operating any more and the tracks removed. But the checkpoint train station is still there and very well operative. Forget about changing buses, walking up and down the stairs at immigration. You can take the train and clear customs at the offices located near the railroad. Obviously you would need to board on and off the train, but there will be less queues to join. Plenty of seats on the train and the possibility to have a very different experience. Once in JB you would need to go back to the bus or car options above to get to Mersing and Tioman Island. Train fare should be around SGD6.

Hitchhiking

Actually I have personally not explored this option yet 🙂

I am sure there is a way to hitch a ride in Malaysia. The major problem I foresee is that you must be lucky and persistent enough to look for a ride that will go all the way to Mersing. The road leading there at some point is cutting through palm oil forests and you do not want to get stranded there hoping that someone else will pick you up. Even though sometimes, the more isolated you are the more likely locals will give you a ride.

Cycle

This too is something I have done before! Not may people know, but there is a Singapore immigration point at Changi village. Yes, you read correctly. At the same spot where you catch the bum boats taking you to Pulau Ubin, you can clear immigration and catch a bum boat all the way to Malaysia. You would arrive at the port of Pengerang. From here to Mersing it is around 160Km joining motorway no. 3 at some point in the middle. When I cycled from Singapore to Mersing I took the coastal road all the way, which was amazing and super quiet. Motorway no. 3 is not the best option for a cyclist, but is obviously a direct route.

Finally the ferry

Once in Mersing, go to the new Harbor building, register yourself and buy the ferry ticket which is only operated by Blue Water Express. This should set you back some RM70 and on top of that you would have the Marine Park fees to pay, which for non Malaysian is RM30.

The Ferry journey will vary on sea conditions and departure times from Mersing will also be dependent on tide levels. The Mersing harbor is very shallow, hence on low tide the ferry would not operate. The Journey then can take between 2 to 3 hours depending where on the island you will alight.