Tioman Diving, Malaysia – The Ultimate Guide
Ask any diver who has dived in Malaysia, Tioman Island would definitely be on their list. WWB writer, Athirah, has created a guide for you to explore the diverse marine life, healthy coral and wide range of diving dive sites, which make Tioman diving something you don’t want to miss out on.
Photo by Manon Brousse on Unsplash
Let me start on the crystal-clear water. When the boat approaches the jetty to drop you off, you’ll be able to see shoals of fish and if you are lucky, the turtles might also surface for a while to say hi!
Just don’t jump in the water until you’re in your wetsuit.
Photo by Kishor on Unsplash
Before you pack your bags, read this guide on Tioman diving so you know everything you need to know before and during this epic adventure.
But first things first.
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- Tioman, Malaysia Diving – An Ultimate Guide
- Why You Need to Try Diving in Langkawi, Malaysia
- Best Scuba Diving Wetsuits
Why Dive in Tioman?
Because it keeps even the most experienced diver excited. It has:
An amazing fish density
The underwater haven in Tioman is best explored through boat dives, but if you are a shore dive enthusiast, Salang is the best option for you. Salang is a village and there’s a concrete jetty with amazing fish density underneath it.
It is affordable
Tioman diving is said to be among the most affordable. You can get PADI certified for around 1000MYR (USD240). A fun dive including equipment rental can also go as low as 90MYR (USD22) – with the promise of quality dive.
Photo by Arhnue Tan on Pixabay
Wide variety of dive sites and marine life
There are more than 25 dive sites that include dozens of wrecks, granite boulders, small caves and canyons for you to swim through. Tioman diving lets you enjoy extensive coral reefs – home to tropical fish both large and small.
Typically, you’ll see Nemos (clownfish), pufferfish, moray eels, parrotfish and nudibranchs. The friendly giant bump head parrotfish is also a frequent sighting. Easily spotted creatures include green and hawksbill turtles, cuttlefish, groupers, rays, snappers, lionfish, barracuda and the list go on.
If it’s really your lucky day, you might bump into barramundi, squid, octopus, hawkfish, or banded sea snakes with a golden forehead.
How to get there?
If you are from Kuala Lumpur, you can either drive or take the bus.
You can park at either Mersing Jetty or Tanjung Gemok Jetty. Either way, you still have to take a ferry to reach Tioman. But I recommend Tanjung Gemok as the ferries are much more likely to run on time.
There is a fenced car park at the terminal building with a minimum of 10MYR (USD2.40) per night.
A bus ride will take around 6 hours depending on the time you leave. I’d normally catch the midnight bus from Kuala Lumpur so that I arrive at the jetty very early in the morning to reach Tioman just in time for lunch.
You can book your bus ticket here.
Tips on Ferry Ticket Booking
Book your tickets as soon as they are released because they sell like hotcakes especially on weekends. Although you can be all spontaneous and buy a ticket once you get to Tanjung Gemok, you’ll run the BIG risk of going back home empty-handed.
Check ferry timetables a month before because they can change depending on weather and tidal conditions.
You can check ferry timetables and buy your ticket here.
The ferry ride takes about 1.5 to 2 hours depending on where you are getting off. You’ll also have to pay the Marine Park fee where:
- Adults are charged 30MYR (USD7.20).
- Senior citizens and children – 15MYR (USD3.60) for both.
- Adults are charged 5MYR (USD1.20).
- Children- 2MYR (USD0.50).
It’s fine if you opt to travel via the Mersing Jetty. The process is exactly the same but from my experience, travelling via Tanjung Gemok feels much easier and not confusing because there is only one building and everything is more streamlined.
Best time to dive in Tioman?
The best time for Tioman diving is during the dry season that typically lasts from February to November. But if you plan to take good photos underwater, try March to May or September to November where the visibility ranges from 15 to 30m. Bear in mind this can change and vary depending on the monsoon season.
The water temperature ranges from 27 to 29°C.
If you’re a fan of cuttlefish, you can dive in February or March. It’s the mating season of the Pharaoh Cuttlefish. I was lucky enough to witness a 10-minute drama of some males fighting over the female!
Best dive sites in Tioman Island
With more than 25 dive sites, it’s hard to point out the best ones but try not to miss:
Rich with shoals of fish such as yellow striped snappers, silversides, anchovies. Also great for night dives because the bottom is generally sandy, making navigation quite easy.
Underwater photographers love this site because when the shoals above are huge, photos would come out fantastic. The underwater concrete houses good and colourful marine growth and small critters that usually go unnoticed.
Chebeh, Rengis, Labas and Tiger Reef
Photo by author
These sites share more or less similar topography – reefy, with granite boulders, volcanic rocks and tunnels for more adventurous swim-throughs. There’s a cave at 21m deep full of fishes in Chebeh.
The waters are deeper, the current is sometimes stronger. Watch out for Manta rays, reef sharks, blacktip sharks and even the big friendly giant – whale shark!
You can reach Soyak Wreck by shore. But only advanced open water divers are allowed here. It is built of two Thai fishing boats lying between 22 m and 30 meters down the sea. These wrecks are also perfect for underwater photography and night dives.
Tioman Island diving packages
There are many complete Tioman diving packages that work out cheaper, offered by the resorts:
- Tioman Dive Resort – from 420MYR (USD101) with 3 dives (dorm of 4pax, 2D1N)
- Aman Tioman Resort – from 728MYR (USD175) with meals and 5 dives (room for 2 pax, 2D1N)
- The Barat Tioman – from 757MYR (USD182) with meals and 3 dives (room for 2 pax, 3D2N)
- Paya Beach Resort – from 1219MYR (USD293) with meals and 5 dives (room for 2 pax, 3D2N)
Where to stay in Tioman Island?
Tioman Island has four main beaches depending on your ‘appetite’ – Air Batang (ABC), Juara, Salang and Genting. It’s important to identify this because the ferry staff needs to know where to drop you off.
- ABC: Johan’s Chalet, Tioman Dive Resort, ABC Chalet Beach
- Juara: Juara Beach Resort, Juara Mutiara Resort, 1511 Coconut Grove
- Salang: Puteri Salang Inn, Ella’s Place (walk-in, call 09-419 5004)
- Genting: X Rector Minsu, Damai Tioman Resort, Aguna Resort
Useful Tips for Diving in Tioman
- Bring enough cash. There’s only one ATM in Tekek which sometimes doesn’t work. But most diving centres accept credit cards.
- Wi-Fi connection is a hit and miss. The high-end resorts might be the only place with stable Wi-Fi. Try to find a local SIM card if you need to work or share your underwater photos.
- Don’t drink tap water.
- Some budget resorts/chalets don’t have a water heater. Best to check with the place before you book.
- Duty-free shop. Tioman is a duty-free island. Alcohol and tobacco are much cheaper compared to anywhere else in Malaysia.
Things to watch out for diving in Tioman
- Dead coral. Approach the water in places where it has been cleared. Wear flip flops or booties to avoid nicks and cuts on your feet.
- Wasps, mosquitoes and especially sand flies are a big issue, so bring mosquito repellent and bug spray.
- Monitor lizards and monkeys. Don’t leave your food around and don’t approach them because they will attack if they feel threatened.
Things to bring for diving in Tioman
If you don’t have a complete set of diving gears, you can rent them from the diving centres.
- Sunglasses and hat
- A small waterproof pouch for your money and phone
- A good antiseptic cream
- Natural or reef-safe sunscreen because some contain ingredients that destroy coral reefs.
Best places to grab food after diving in Tioman
Although where to eat pretty much depends on where you stay, here are some suggestions for you:
- Riverside Café – burgers, fries, local and Thai food such as tom yum
- ABCD Restaurant – local food such as nasi lemak, fried rice, fried noodle, barbecue
- Golden Dish Café – vegan food
- Tioman Cabana Bar – cocktails, homemade burgers, seafood barbecue
- Tamarind – Thai and Vietnamese food
- Il Tempio – Italian food
- Mandi-mandi – western and Italian food
Now that you’re equipped with the ultimate guide to Tioman diving, you can explore other activities too such as jungle trekking and mountain hiking.
Asah/Mukut Waterfall is one of the main attractions on Tioman Island. To get there, you can trek through the jungle from Kampung Mukut or Kampung Asah while enjoying the stunning flora and fauna!
If you want to take a break from diving, hike Gunung Kajang – the highest mountain on Tioman Island. Hire a guide because the route is challenging and to avoid getting lost. You’ll need around 10 hours to hike and back, so it’d be nice to camp overnight and enjoy the experience.
Photo by author
Bear in mind Tioman Island is not for wild parties or nightclubs. If you are not diving, you can either finish up your novel, enjoy the sunset, catch up with the rest of the world (if there’s Wi-Fi) or hang out with the fishermen.
So, have you packed your bags yet?
Tioman Diving – The Ultimate Guide
Written by WWB writer,Athirah