I have to admit, Tioman came as quite a surprise to me. Not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't crystal clear waters and beaches lined with coconut trees and a few huts, which is pretty much what Tioman is. Granted, many of the little resorts are a bit fancier than huts, but not by much in many cases. And then there's the diving. I had set my sights low, hoping that it would be at least a little better than Pattaya. Well, it's a lot better than Pattaya. In fact, in many ways I think I would rate it better than Koh Tao. You're very unlikely to see large pelagics around Tioman, but in all other respects the diving is fantastic.
Almost all of the main dive sites are within a 30 minute boat ride of the resorts along the west coast. Many of the dive shops offer two dive trips in the morning and two in the afternoon. Weather permitting, your surface interval may be spent on a beach somewhere. The most popular dive site seems to be the reef around the island of Renggis. Soyak and the Sawasdee Wrecks are also quite popular.
You can fly to Tioman. Berjaya Air flies once or twice daily (depending on the season) to Tioman from both Kuala Lumpur's Subang Airport and Singapore's Seletar. Flights arrive at Tioman Airport in Tekek.
The alternative to flying is to travel overland from elsewhere in peninsular Malaysia or Singapore to Mersing on the coast, and from there take a ferry to Tioman. The "fast" ferry takes about one hour and 30 minutes. Fares run from 50 to 70 Ringgit, depending on the speed of the boat.
Tioman has dozens of small resorts. Most of them are rather 'rustic' it seems. The Japamala Resort appears to be the only top end accommodation. The Berjaya resorts (there are essentially two on the same grounds) are probably the next best thing.
- Panuba Inn
- The Panuba consists of several 'chalets' perched on the side of a hill surrounding a small bay just over the headland from ABC Beach. The rooms come in several different types, from basic non-air conditioned to 'super deluxe'. Bali Hai Divers is located right on the pier at Panuba, and getting to all the dive sites from here is very easy.
- Paya Beach Resort
- Paya Beach resort gets recommended a lot, so I've included it here. The Paya is located in the Genting beach area, south of the Berjaya Resorts.
In addition to the above, here's a list of resorts available from Agoda:
There are generally several dive operators in each of the major beach areas, and the larger resorts tend to have their own dive centers, or host branches of the bigger operators. I've listed those below that seem to be the most reputable.
- Bali Hai Divers
- Bali Hai is based right on the pier of the Panuba Inn, which is a very central location for reaching all the dive sites. I dived with them in April 2009, and found them very professional. Their day boat was like new, as was most of their equipment. Bali Hai is PADI certified and offers the full range of courses.
- B&J Dive Centre
- B&J seems to be one of the oldest dive shops on Tioman. Their original shop is in Salang, and they have a branch on ABC as well. Offers the full range of courses from PADI, DAN and IANTD.
- Dive Asia
- Dive Asia has branches in Salang, Tekek and ABC. They are a PADI 5-Star as well as Gold Palm IDC.