Scuba-diving with sharks and sea turtles at bounty island Tioman [Malaysia]

in travel •  last year

Define paradise.


Most people will come up with some kind of bounty-destination full of stale stereotypes like waving palm trees, an emerald sea just like in the brochure and a legion of Victoria’s Secret bikini girls rubbing their back. Mine would be a place where nature and adventure form the ultimate blend.

The answer to both prayers can be found in Tioman Island...

... or less American: “Pulau Tioman”, encircled by the South China Sea and internationally recognized as one of the world’s most top-notch dive destinations. So that’s exactly what I was there for, against all advises of other backpackers who call themselves ‘travellers’ instead of ‘tourists’ and claims of glamorous travelblogs stating everything is closed in low season and floods and miserable rainfall would dominate my days. Reality-check: Bright blue teletubbie-skies marked my entrance and the idyllic beaches Tioman is famous for were entirely deserted.

Because I must admit, once I read the overload of online information on this journey’s end and noticed that even visitors of websites such as Trip Advisor voted it their #1 attraction I was slightly terrified... I hate crowds. And what masses describe as ‘the perfect holiday hang-out’ I usually end up running away from as fast as I humanly possible can. But Tioman somehow got me. 

I even ended up in a resort somehow. No idea how that happened.

I warmed up with a bit of snorkelling, slowly building up my excitement for the reefs. There are numerous place to do so, like ABC (local slang for ‘Air Batang’), Salang, Monkey Bay and Coral Island. I decided to focus my exploration on the marine life of Monkey Beach, combining it with another sport I passionately adore: hiking. Jungle-hiking in this case, which includes the full package of draining heat, organized mosquito-guerrilla-attacks and insects crawling up your legs while sweat pours down the same route. Let’s say it’s for the enthusiasts only.

Monkey Beach itself is exactly what is says it is: a beach with the occasional monkey. Was it the best beach I’ve ever saw (which I kind of expected based on the almost hysterical reviews I read beforehand)? No, it was not. But beaches are like sex, even if it’s not the best ever, it’s still pretty damn good. Add up the more-than-agreeable-snorkelling-bonus and we can sum it up as straightforward spectacular.

So you got all into the hiking-spirit and you want more MORE moooooooore. Probably the Tekek – Juara hike comes to mind, right? Good choice, I’d say, as a hiking enthusiast. It’s compact, the right amount of challenging and rather diverse. However, if that’s your way of introducing someone to the hiking sport in general (exactly what I did), I recommend to reconsider. It’s not for the faint-hearted. And I mean that literally: I actually had someone almost fainting next to me, screaming about heart-pains. A wasp-sting to top it off, so my main sight of Juara was the policlinic*. A tropical jungle is more than just blissful beaches and celestial waters, it comes with insects too. But besides that, I’d say definitely go for it, keeps things interesting.

* which means I missed the Turtle Project, which you shouldn’t.

Snorkelling is cool, hiking is great... but scuba-diving, that’s what you’re here for. 

I must admit I was a tad nervous as I didn’t sink under the surface for about two years and I didn’t feel much for decompression sickness. Luckily I dived with a bunch of dudes who knew what they were doing. Having a lifetime of experience, Shanto took all my preoccupations away the very moment he shook my hand and set up my gear. Yes, I feel kind of a princess confessing it, but this good man went as far as entirely preparing my oxygen tanks and BCD so I could mentally prepare to go down under without the stress of me staging my own death thanks to my own lack of knowledge. During my two plunges I even had my own private guide, pointing out everything amateur eyes like mine fail to discover.

However stunning Tioman is above the surface, under the sea level the magic magnifies to something almost impossible for the brain to process.

I swam with a sea turtle.

[in hysterical voice – freaking out] I SWAM WITH A SEA TURTLE!

And sharks, don’t even get me started about the sharks! Yes, I shared the waters with sharks and they are totally cool with that. And what about cattle fish, bumphead parrotfish and money eels (yes those fish from the memes)?

Scuba diving just gets my blood pumping, it’s one of the most spectacular sports out there complementing my travels with sightings commonly invisible to the naked (on-shore) eye. If not having a PADI Certificate is your excuse to skip on Tioman, you in fact have an even stronger reason to go here: it’s hard to find a cheaper diving course than in this place, introducing you with all its splendour in one of the finest underwater sports our Earth has to offer.

In unexpected moments I can hear Shanto’s voice echoing in my memory:

“In Tioman every day is like Sunday.”

Until we meet.

www.budgetbucketlist.com

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What a treat to be transported in the warmth of this place while, here, spring is fighting to poke its head up from under winter's chills!

You have the power to make us dream of such a life and of being in such a place. The information you share with us, all the time, has a touching soul-felt open mindedness and full-heartedness that make one want to be travelling with you. Thank you, again, for another great article!

Namaste :)

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I have a friend from Canada and saw the snowstorm-videos tormenting my Facebook timeline indeed haha ;) Honestly, I reached the point of wanting to have some cold in exchange of this intense humid heat. Luckily I will travel to more moderate temperatures soon in New Zealand :) I hope all is well with your Eric!

It looks amazing! We were actually quite close to Tioman last year; on Perhentian islands, and we also did some diving there. We were also thinking to go to Tioman but ended up not going unfortunately. Hopefully next time!
I know what you mean about travellers and tourists...we also like to be considered travellers, going where the day takes us, not having everything planned ahead by a travel agency and getting to know the local way of life. We love travelling. I'll check out your blog now!

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Thanks so much for your reply! I heard the Perhentian islands are a real treat too, was thinking about those as well. Hope you took away great memories.

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Yes we have, thank you! Maybe we'll get to compare Perhentians to Tioman :)

Hey nichtje,

Terwijl ik hier in Nederland, in de regen (en warempel een keer sneeuw) in mijn studio mix en blog. Ga jij de hele tropische wereld over. Gelukkig kan ik meereizen met de blogs die je schrijft. In de toekomst zal ik zeker eens zo'n reisje wagen.

Altijd leuk je blogs te lezen en veel plezier aan de andere kant van de wereld,

John

(Ps. Maybe I should have done this message in English so others could read it)
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Hey John, jij ook hier? Wat een verrassing. Kan ik nu ook gitaarfilmpjes via Steemit bekijken :) Leuk wat van je te horen en ik volg jou ook!

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Yep, al krijg ik recentelijk steeds een IPFS error bij het uploaden naar Dtube. Maar het idee is dat ik mijn video's via Dtube doe, deze vervolgens via Steemit vergezel van een extra informatieve blog. Vervolgens via Dsound mijn audio van de betreffende les plaats en via Dlive verschillende gitaarcursussen ga geven. Dus grote plannen!

Looks like an amazing destination !

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It really was, highly recommended :)

Looks like a beautiful place! Thanks for sharing your experiences. I'd love to photograph it one day

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I'm sure you'll have the chance, next holiday plans?

I would freak out as well if I saw a turtle! Went scuba diving several times but so far never saw one. Maybe I should go to Malaysia!

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I think that's a great idea

Wow! I see you got awesome dive shots over there! You swam with a sea turtle!!!! <3

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Yeah really amazing. I do have to buy a better underwater camera I found out there, the GoPro 2 has had better days haha

This is definitely Paradise!!! Starting with turquoise water and ending with a rich underwater world. I'm sure it was very exciting) I'll add it to the piggy bank of the places, what I want to visit)

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Bucket list worthy!

dont forget to dive in kota kinabalu too.
too bad i missed out the meet up with you all in kota kinabalu

hope can meet you all next time

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Does snorkeling count? ;)

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Snorkeling for sure fine enough if time is limited

Wow I just love traveling and this place looks like an amazing destination and you have excellent photography skills.
All of the pictures are stunning.......
Your website "budget bucket list " is also amazing and I have got good stuff from it.