"Arctracer" Letters

Tioman Island, September-October 2008

"Arctracer" was at Tioman Island on the eastern side of the Malay Peninsula from 4 September to 11 October 2008. We spent most of that time on a public mooring in Tekek Bay, but also anchored in Juara Bay, stayed in the Tekek Marina, and used a mooring in Salang Bay. The winds were generally light except for occasional short blows which usually came from SW and seldom were over 20 knots. We had remarkably little rain, although we could see clouds building up over the mainland almost every day. It was a pleasant visit. Here are more details:


Tekek Bay is on the northwestern side of the island. The bay is large and does not offer protection from westerly winds, but is the best available anchorage on this island. We used a public mooring just north of the jetty [2 degrees 49.3 minutes N, 104 degrees 09.5 minutes E]. Tekek Village is the largest town and business center. There is a small airport just behind the beach, with regular service to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. There is ferry service to Mersing several times per day, and ferries also to other docks around Tioman, other islands and other mainland ports. Immigration, Customs and Port Captain have offices at the ferry dock, and much larger new facilities in the town. The government has been upgrading the port and those improvements are nearing completion. The new marina opened last year but still unfinished are the offices, shops and shower/toilet facilities in the marina building. Water at the slips is available only from fire hoses. A separate "inner harbor" has been created behind the ferry dock for small boats. This is somewhat like a canal parallel to the beach where outboard-powered boats can tie up without any wave action, enabling snorkelers and other tourist parties to board in comfort and safety. The whole port complex is being finished with nice breakwaters and stone walls to present a fine appearance.

The main street of the town parallels the beach, and small shops and restaurants are strung out along it. There is a bank with an ATM opposite the airport. There is an Internet Cafe with broadband access to the Internet at "Casa Rock." They charged 10RM (about $3) per hour whether using their computers or our own plugged into their broadband modem, and were so meticulous in their calculations that they charged us an extra 3RM once when we used the computer for 61 minutes. Tioman is a "duty free" island, so many shops sell cheap alcohol and cigarettes. Almost all fresh fruits and vegetables are brought in from the mainland, and their appearance in shops is irregular. Our approach was to buy "extras" of the items we normally consume whenever we saw them for sale. We were able to buy most of the food we needed. We even bought yeast at the small bakery so Nina could make pizza. Frozen chickens and other meats were available. Tofu and yogurt were found too. We got around by walking, but most locals use motor bikes and there are larger vehicles to shuttle tourists between ferries, planes, restaurants and resorts.


Juara Bay is on the eastern side of the island, opposite Tekek. This bay looks on the chart as if it would provide better shelter than Tekek from the prevailing southwest winds. We anchored in the southern end of Juara Bay [2 degrees 47 minutes N, 104 degrees 12.5 minutes E] for a couple weeks and were plagued by rolling. The waves all seemed to curl around and hit us on the side. On our catamaran it was uncomfortable, and on a monohull the rolling would be intolerable. We saw photographs of surfers enjoying the waves which are apparently generated during the northeast monsoon season, and vowed never to anchor here then.

The small village is at the northern end of the bay. There is a large dock for occasional ferries, fishing boats and some tourist excursion boats. Getting to Juara requires first getting to Tekek, and then taking either a ferry around the north end of the island or a bus/taxi on the just-completed road over some high hills. Juara is a good place to get away from all hustle and bustle. There is one road along the lovely beach, with a few small shops, restaurants and small (mostly unoccupied) resorts strung out along its length. The only Internet access available is dial-up, and that does not always work. Lack of broadband connection to this side of the island is frustrating for the locals. The "Lagoon" resort at the southern end of the beach has a small Turtle Hatchery where two young Americans (NY and Mass) are gathering Green Turtle eggs from several beaches and guarding them until they hatch. This program, badly in need of funding, is continuing only because the workers are dedicated.


There are some large, first-class resorts and many smaller resorts on Tioman Island. We visited the Berjaya Resort just south of Tekek which had many guests and beautiful facilities including a golf course, a swimming pool, "spa" offerings such as massage, normal resort offerings such as bars, restaurants and snorkeling/diving trips, and constant shuttles running between resort and port. Some of the guests were involved in a big international wedding there. The Cypriot bride and groom are now residents of Melbourne, Australia and guests came from several countries. We met two of those guests, Liz and Janene from Napier, NZ, on the ferry from Mersing, and they came aboard "Arctracer" for a very pleasant afternoon visit. There are other large resorts both north and south of Tekek, some of which can only be reached by ferry. Those in Salang Bay seemed to concentrate on diving, while at the south end of the island are resorts catering to both divers and climbers, with Tioman's "Twin Peaks" offering serious challenges.


There is a Marine Park on Tioman, and fishing within 2 kilometers is supposed to be prohibited. However, the locals seem to fish with lines both from shore and from small boats, and in Juara Bay there are traps too. Often there were squid around "Arctracer" in Juara Bay and every night there we saw large schools of small fish on the surface. There is a large colony of Flying Fox bats in Tekek near (appropriately) the airport. We saw a Sea Eagle attack the hanging bats a few times, something we had never seen before. Water Monitors and other lizards are often seen, even in the Berjaya Resort. The interior of the island is hilly and mostly forested. There are some large rainforest trees, and we saw no logging operations but did see old rubber tree plantations. There must be many animals in the forest, but all we saw were Long-tailed Macaques and lizards. We watched a Racquet-tailed Drongo catching insects, and saw White-breasted Waterhens here for the first time.


We had excellent snorkeling near tiny Renggis Island about one and one-half miles south of the Tekek jetty where there were beautiful corals and many fish. In Juara Bay we tried several places and found fair coral but very few fish, probably because of local consumption. In Satang Bay we saw a blue-spotted brown ray with a long tail; watched a turtle foraging in staghorn coral near the small island in the bay's southwest corner; and found many small fish near that island as well as under the dock and in the coral just north of the dock. Many people snorkel in "Monkey Bay" between Satang and Juara but we did not. Boats take tourists snorkeling and diving at many other places around the island too. Water clarity was variable, with the water sometimes clear and sometimes so cloudy that snorkeling was not much fun. Most of the time snorkeling at Tioman was better than anywhere on the western coast of Malaysia.


We took one long walk from Juara Bay over to Tekek and back. The road up from Juara Village is like a double-width cement sidewalk, with some fairly steep stretches. Near the height of land this narrow road splits, with all vehicle traffic taking the new wider cement road which swings slightly to the south and goes over an even higher elevation before dropping steeply down to the south end of Tekek Bay. A footpath is the other leg of the split, following the electricity lines through the jungle and coming down to the northern side of Tekek Village near the public water supply and the mosque. This footpath goes through beautiful rainforest with large trees, following a stream which is Tekek's water supply. On the steeper sections there are concrete steps, which provide good footing and prevent erosion but reduce the feeling of primitive jungle adventure. We saw monitors and smaller lizards, macaques and several Racquet-tailed Drongos on this beautiful walk. We made the mistake of returning to Juara by walking the road. It was very steep and there was little shade, so we got hot and tired.

We took a lovely walk up through the rainforest from Juara Bay to a little waterfall. The trail starts near the south end of the beach, about 100 yards north of the "Lagoon" resort where three markers are stuck in a palm tree.(see photo) The trail is fairly well-marked, but does involve some scrambling over rocks. In one section it passes through rubber trees which are still tapped. We swam in the waterfall pool and enjoyed watching the fish. We saw one macaque and several birds.

(view Tioman Island photos)