May 2015. I fell in love with Tioman the moment it came into view from the boat as we whizzed across The South China Sea. In fifteen years of travel I’d never really done the tropical island thing and now Tioman would be my second secluded paradise in as many weeks. I’d just come from Pilau Sibu , the sleepiest of sleepy beach getaways. But as I gazed up at Tioman’s towering canopy of lush vegetation, I knew this place would be a whole other deal. Located thirty-two kilometres off the Malaysian coastline of Rompin, the island boasts cascading waterfalls, pristine beaches, dense jungle, soaring mountain peaks, bat-inhabited trees and a farm dedicated to the rare mouse deer.
May 2015. Within minutes of checking into our chalet, my travel buddy and I bumped into a wisecracking Liverpudlian couple (John & Karen) and an attractive German girl, Amanda. We all hit it off instantly and before I knew what was going on the five of us were zooming off to nearby Coral Island for an afternoon of swimming and snorkelling. It was a phenomenal experience, a window into a whole new world as we negotiated the warm turquoise waters alongside barracudas, squids, schools of fish and a lone reef shark. True to its name, there were rock formations everywhere and magnificent, colourful fish darting between the jagged cracks.
May 2015. Our Tioman base was the peaceful ABC neighbourhood, with its leafy lanes and this gorgeous little beach. Every evening our merry band of travelers would hit the local bar for pizza and beers. And our party became six one night with the addition of a German guy called Joe, quite possibly the whitest human being I’ve ever seen. It was a fantastic evening with an idyllic pink-orange sunset and the drunken banter rolling late into the night.
May 2015. The next morning we all woke up at the crack of dawn to embark on a seven-kilometer jungle trek across the island. Our destination was the eastern Village of Juara, a peaceful corner of Tioman with a stunning stretch of beach and secluded bay. It was an additional two kilometres just to get to the settlement of Tekek where the jungle trail started. We walked that too, pausing only for breakfast and supplies.
May 2015. The trek was fantastic, a challenging but hugely satisfying slog through thick jungle with bubbling streams and steep, rocky inclines. There were all manners of amazing creatures to be seen, from multi-colored birds and unspeakable creepy crawlies, to a turtle sanctuary and this kooky mouse deer farm. Quite literally a cross between a mouse and a deer, these painfully shy creatures feed on hibiscus flowers, something we were able to witness during our visit. A nominal entry fee keeps the place ticking along, while the farm’s dedicated team of volunteers are also responsible for extracting rubber from a pair of bountiful trees. A unique experience!
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