Mokhtar’s Place, 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 travelling 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 (read more here), the sleepiest of sleepy beach getaways. But gazing 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, Pahang; the island boasts cascading waterfalls, pristine beaches, dense jungle, soaring mountain peaks, bat-inhabited trees and a farm dedicated to the rare mouse deer. Stepping onto the boardwalk jetty, our initial wanderings took us to the laid-back ABC neighbourhood (Air Batang) and this charming little collection of chalets. Having finally tracked down the elusive Mokhtar (he was asleep), my travel buddy Lisa and I checked out the lodgings, paid him for a few nights and eagerly headed out to explore the island.
En Route To Coral Island, May 2015. Within minutes we’d bumped into a wisecracking Liverpudlian couple called John and Karen and an attractive German girl, Amanda. “We’re not together!” Lisa informed her within seconds, “He’s totally available!” Amanda seemed unmoved by this revelation. Immediately chatting away like old friends, 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 that admittedly had my heart pumping. True to its name, there were rock formations everywhere, magnificently colorful fish darting between the jagged cracks. A brief pit stop on Coral Island’s deserted sands was another wow moment as we stood gazing out at the panorama of beach, sea and sky; three stunning shades of blue with just a touch of light yellow.
ABC Beach, May 2015. Having recharged with a Mokhtar shower and nap combo, we all reconvened later on at our local ABC beach for dinner and drinks. Our party became six that night when we met a German guy called Joe, quite possibly the whitest human being I’ve ever seen. It was a perfect evening, with the banter rolling late into the night, long after an idyllic pink-orange sunset.
Trekking to Juara Village, May 2015. The next morning we were all 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 town of Tekek where the jungle trail started. We walked that too, pausing for breakfast and supplies.
Mouse Deer Farm, May 2015. The trek was fantastic, a challenging but hugely satisfying slog through thick jungle, babbling streams and steep, rocky inclines. There were all manner 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, with the farm’s dedicated team of volunteers also responsible for extracting rubber from a pair of bountiful trees. A unique experience!