Tioman Island, Malaysia

Once voted the most beautiful island in the world by Time Magazine, Tioman Island since its 80s heyday has faded a bit from the global eye. However, this vast and varied Malaysian marine park remains a weekend hotspot for Singaporeans, a diving haven of Southeast Asia, and a temple to several endangered species. With its chalets pressed against beautiful beaches, its mountainous and mysterious jungle, and its small and friendly community vibes, Tioman is still a strong contender for those top tens. Here’s a quick guide to choosing your island village, based on your trip needs and wants.

SCUBA by day, party by night – Tekek or ABC

Two of the biggest villages, Tekek and Air Batang, provide ample opportunity for both of these endeavors. The parties don’t reach Full Moon status, but these are two of the liveliest areas on the island, and you’ll always be able to find a drinking buddy at one of the beachside bars. Don’t go out too hard, though – you won’t want to miss out on the phenomenal SCUBA diving surrounding the island. Tioman is located in a marine park, so the corals are pristine, and the schools are massive. It even has a few shipwrecks you can explore if you have your advanced certification. Diving is cheap and bountiful, so adding a night dive or staying an extra day isn’t out of the question even on a tight budget.

Go for romance – Salang

SCUBA is plentiful in Salang as well, but if you want a bit more secluded feel, the northernmost village is perfect. It’s closest to most of the coral spots, so snorkeling is easy and accessible, and the sandy beaches are at the doorstep of Salang’s private chalets and hotels. If you’re craving a bit more adventure, head south to Monkey Bay, but take care that your valuables aren’t stolen by some greedy long-tailed macques that inhabit the island.

Walk on the wild side – Kampung Juara

While the west coast has several village popping up along its shore, the east has only one – the 400-person town of Juara. This kampung – the Malay word for village – is only accessible through the mountains. You can take a taxi, but if you want to really savor some incredible views (and earn some incredible calf muscles), double down on water bottles and take the 7 km hike up into the jungle. Keep an eye out for snakes, monitor lizards, and if you’re lucky, the endangered mouse deer, a rare native of Tioman Island.

Once in Juara, stay close to nature by visiting or volunteering with the Juara Turtle Project. The conservation project houses a hatchery to protect sea turtle eggs and is home to a blind sea turtle that tourists can meet. After spending so much time in beautiful and pristine natural lands, you may be inspired to find out what you can do to protect them.

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