Tioman: An island for flashpackers travel place by Mzondi Lungu

Malaysia islandsThe island of Tioman and the waters surrounding it are protected nature reserves, which has helped it retain its wild vibe.

Although part of the Malaysian state of Pahang, Tioman is actually reached from the Johor town of Mersing. There’s also a direct ferry from Singapore.

This popular Malysia holiday island has two claims to fame that continue to be hyped by media and marketers. One, the dramatic topography of this teardrop-shaped isle in the South China Sea was (supposedly) used as a backdrop for the 1958 movie “South Pacific,” while Time magazine named it one of the world’s most beautiful islands in the 1970s.

Though it’s now a firm fixture on the tourist trail and has lost a little of its exotic mystique, it retains –- where many of its Southeast Asian contemporaries have lost theirs –- the natural environment and wildlife that first made it famous.

First among animals, on land at least, are the giant monitor lizards that roam among the kampungs (Malay for villages) in search of food. Don’t worry, they avoid humans. Most of the time.

Where to stay: They don’t come more recommended than Bagus Place Retreat, winner of a 2012 Travellers’ Choice award from TripAdvisor. For a boutique experience, check out JapaMala.

Getting there: There are bus services from all over Malaysia to Mersing,; from here it’s a two-hour boat ride to the first jetty on the island. Tioman also has a small airport, which Berjaya Airways flies to from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

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