Heroes: Pulau Tioman
Heroes: Pulau Tioman
WRITER: Angela Chew PHOTOS BY: Ernest Goh
Heroes: Pulau Tioman 27. March 2024, by Angela Chew, Photos by Ernest Goh
Pulau Tioman, a picturesque island off the east coast of Malaysia, is not just known for its stunning landscapes and crystal-clear waters. It is also home to a community of everyday heroes, individuals who quietly make a difference in their own unique ways. Through their perseverance, passion and dedication, these unsung heroes contribute to the beauty and sustainability of the island.

“On Pulau Tioman, if you pontang (skip) school, the kampung people will know about it before your teacher does.”

Muhammad Ammar Syukran Bin Mohd Kamaludin, 29
Member, Tioman Marine Conservation Group

Having grown up on Tioman, Ammar Syukran is appreciative of its community. Here, everyone knows everyone and looks out for each other. Many are even related by blood. As a child, if he did something naughty or dangerous, he would be scolded by any villager who caught him in the act, not just his parents.

“I like kampung life. If the locals like you, they will invite you to have a drink with them. That’s the culture here.”

Goh Chong Aik, 59
GM, Aguna Resort

Originally from Johor, Chong Aik moved to Pulau Tioman eight years ago to manage the resort. Most mornings, the affable resort manager can be found sweeping the grounds and doing maintenance work around the property. The rest of the day is often spent chatting with friends and checking in his guests who hail from around the globe.

“We saw two sea turtles. There was also a school of fish so big and dense that it looked like a wall!” 

Sun Yingjie, 53 and Lu Fengsheng, 59

Despite having just learnt how to snorkel a few days ago, Fengsheng and his wife, Yingjie, love it. Drawn by Tioman’s clear waters and abundance of marine life, the couple have gone snorkelling three days in a row and are still not tired of it. Having only seen marine animals on TV previously, they are now making the most of their time on the island.

“My father and uncle are boat captains. My grandfather was one too. It’s like my family tradition.”

Rayyadh Haiqal Bin Hairul Jamali, 25
Boat Captain

Born in Singapore but raised on Pulau Tioman, Haiqal enjoys nature—just like his Singaporean mother who moved to the island after getting married. Despite growing up in the city, she grew to love its culture and the warmth of its people. Haiqal, now a Malaysian citizen, finds joy in ferrying visitors around his beloved island.

“The people here are very friendly and welcoming. To me, Tioman is my home now.”

Siti Fatihah Binti Abdul Aziz, 31
Food Stall Assistant, DJT Corner

Growing up in a city in Kelantan, Fatihah hardly knew any of her neighbours. So, when she moved to Pulau Tioman to get married, she was surprised at how fast she made friends. All her new neighbours came to the wedding and were eager to befriend her and help her settle in. Now, she knows everyone in Kampung Genting.

“Diving in Tioman, you can explore corals, rocks and wrecks. In future, I will teach my students here.”

Dollar Lu, 29
Data Analyst

After spending two months in Kampung Paya in intense training, Dollar passed her dive instructor course on her first try. Despite having been to famous dive sites around Southeast Asia, the Chinese national who works in Singapore still says Pulau Tioman is her favourite place, thanks to its wide diversity of marine life and dive sites.