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!
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!
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 ?.
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!
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.
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 🙂