Sidetrack Pulau Tioman: Exploring Beyond the Sea
Sidetrack Pulau Tioman: Exploring Beyond the Sea
WRITER: Angela Chew PHOTOS BY: Ernest Goh & Ryan Loh
Sidetrack Pulau Tioman: Exploring Beyond the Sea 27. March 2024, by Angela Chew, Photos by Ernest Goh & Ryan Loh
While its waters host popular spots for snorkelling and diving, Tioman itself has much to offer all who arrive at its shores.

Dragon’s Horns

Towering over the surrounding jungle at a height of around 700 metres, Tioman’s Dragon’s Horns are two prominent spires that have become the island’s best-known landmark. Viewed from Kampung Mukut, it is clear how the granite monoliths got their name.

Among the tallest walls in Southeast Asia, they are well-known within the rock-climbing fraternity and continue to entice its more advanced members. Those eager to conquer the legendary Dragon will need to battle the unpredictable weather while lugging climbing gear, food and water. The slightly less adventurous, however, can opt for a three-hour gruelling hike to Base Camp through the dense rainforest.

Climbers and hikers commonly use a trail that begins from Kampung Mukut. Nestled in the shadows of the twin peaks that are individually known as Gunung Nenek Semukut and Gunung Batu Simau, the village is also near the Asah Waterfalls, with just a 90-minute trek on concrete paths and wooden stairs separating them.

Pulau Tulai

A secluded stretch of paradise not far from Tioman, Pulau Tulai is a haven for snorkellers and divers, with a myriad of options for enthusiasts to explore and observe marine life in pristine waters. Just a little way from the shoreline, corals teeming with fish reside in shallow depths, allowing its guests to get up close to the world below.

Bereft of resorts and with camping prohibited, the uninhabited island, which also goes by the name of Coral Island, boasts alabaster sands unspoiled by modern life. Visitors might also chance upon a colony of seagulls on the rocks just offshore.

Pulau Tulai is about 30 minutes by boat from Kampung Genting. Along the way, you will pass several popular snorkelling and diving spots including Renggis Island, Monkey Bay and Malang Rock—all of which house plenty of fish and maybe even the occasional sea turtle and reef shark.

Kampung Genting

The first stop on the ferry route from Mersing, Kampung Genting is a picturesque village with a laid-back vibe, tucked away on the narrow strip of land between a lush, green hill and golden sands. Near the jetty are a convenience store and a small cluster of food stalls serving local Malaysian fare.

Only a single concrete path runs through the village, connecting its charming collection of resorts and homes. Visitors can easily explore the village on foot in just 30 minutes, where they might encounter monitor lizards and macaque monkeys, given its proximity to the rainforest.

While its blue waters are perfect for snorkelling and diving, its hilly terrain make for an interesting hiking experience. One such trail leads to Kampung Paya. The hour-long hike is one that the locals sometimes have to take during the monsoon season, should the boats be unable to operate.

Asah Waterfall

Of all the waterfalls in Tioman, Asah Waterfall is its most famous and highest, and arguably its most beautiful too. Located 30 minutes from the jetty at Kampung Asah, the multi-tiered falls lies at the end of a comfortable trek uphill into the rainforest on a firm wooden stairway with a rest stop along the way, where visitors can sit and enjoy the sounds of the jungle.

Best viewed during the rainy season, Asah greets its guests with gushing waters that cascade down granite boulders and pool at their base before making their way downstream. Its pool offers a refreshing dip and is a welcome respite from the heat and humidity.

About an hour’s walk from the jetty is Kampung Mukut, which has managed to retain its rural island charm. Wandering around, visitors can get a glimpse of life on Tioman before it became a popular tourist spot.

Kampung Paya

Just a little away from Kampung Genting lies Kampung Paya. The village is a small one with a beach that extends slightly over half a kilometre. Despite its size, it is popular with holidaymakers and divers, and boasts several restaurants and cafes offering a diverse spread of Asian, Western and local cuisine.

Kampung Paya also packs a punch in the activity department. Apart from snorkelling, it is near popular dive sites including Renggis Island and Labas Island. Visitors also have the option of staying dry and exploring the surrounding waters on a kayak.

On land, thrill seekers can hop on ATVs and get their adrenaline pumping as they go off road on jungle trails. The village is also the start of various trails that will excite novice and hardcore hikers alike, who have the choice of trekking to Kampung Genting, Kampung Tekek and even further afield to Kampung Juara.

Mother Willow Tree

Deep within the dense jungle around Kampung Paya stands the 300-year-old Mother Willow. Rising 10 metres into the canopy, the impressive strangler fig tree is supported by a massive tangle of roots that overwhelm the giant boulder beneath it, hiding it almost completely from view while creating a stunning root wall.

Mother Willow is a 30-minute hike from the outskirts of Kampung Paya. Visitors will pass one of the village’s ATV rental kiosks on the way there and back, offering a fun, alternative way to explore the rainforest after paying Mother Willow a visit.

Those who journey to her side can also make a detour to the Rock Falls nearby. The clear water streaming off the rocks exude tranquillity and a zen-like calm, while the rock pool below is an ideal spot to dip your feet and cool off in the tropical heat.