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Travel: Malaysia-Tioman Island & Precinct
by al armiger

Malaysia-Tioman Island & Precinct
Malaysia-Tioman Island & Precinct
Panuba looked delightful with its bungalows perched on the bouldered foreshore and up the steep hillside to the jungle edge. The restaurant at one end and the jetty and dive centre at the other hemmed the complex and the small sandy beach. The bungalows were homely, tidy and clean with air conditioning, tiled bathrooms, showers and flushing toilets. There were no cooking facilities, and we would later discover room servicing would have to be occasionally requested.
I must say our initial room allocation would have more appropriately been assigned as the resort check-in, being right at the land end of the jetty and with little privacy. However the obliging resort manager Yana soon had us re-accommodated in a far more suitable unit. Indeed after the weekend rush, she repositioned us once again to what I would consider the premiere unit of the resort with its elevation affording us privacy and simultaneously a vista of the entire bay.
With the beachfront restaurant so close at hand serving such an array of mainly Malay delights; who would want to cook. Fish was their forte; curried trevali steaks served in a crock of bisque to die for, sambil chilli and garlic fish fillets or chilli and garlic prawns. On some nights you could select the fish of your choice to be BBQ’d and basted with the chef’s special sauce. If you were not replete after that, there were tempting deserts like the classic bananas on ice; fried bananas with two scoops of ice-cream.


Malaysia-Tioman Island & Precinct
Malaysia-Tioman Island & Precinct
While alcohol does not feature on the menu, 5 ringets (about NZ$ $2.00) could procure a can of Tiger to sup with your meal. Beer was in fact the only item that had to be paid for up front. Everything else including purchases from the resort shop was on the slate without anything being signed for. I was a little ill at ease at this imposed trust initially, but resigned myself that the prices were so reasonable that I could not get into too much strife unless there were to be some enormous discrepancies. To my delight this concern would eventually prove to be totally ill founded.

In the morning after a complimentary breakfast of orange juice, fruit, noodles, toast and rich rich coffee we decided on our first day to do a 40-minute walk to Monkey Bay. The jungle walk that basically followed the overhead power cables that encircled the island proved to be reasonably challenging, especially as I had elected to haul my 20 odd kilos of camera equipment along with me. Fortuitously a two-metre long monitor lizard crossing the track brought a little respite from the sweat generating and somewhat arduous trek.

Finally two beaches and a lot of jungle later we arrived at a beautiful and almost deserted bay that by equation of the elapsed time, we decided must be Monkey Bay. The appearance of a monkey in the coastal brush only endorsed our conclusion.


Malaysia-Tioman Island & Precinct
Malaysia-Tioman Island & Precinct
Some two hours of sun and spectacular snorkelling later we were about to embark on our return trek when a boat arrived to collect a pair of the few visitors to the beach. The boatman, obviously an opportunist for business, enthusiastically summoned our attention and convinced us very easily that 15 ringets each, was a far better deal than facing that walk through the jungle again.

It was the boatman that enlightened us in his broken English, that we had in fact, not reached our intended destination. “No no, Monkey next bay”, he shouted above the 40 horse Yamaha as he obligingly showed us from the comfort of his boat. However I was not disappointed at our shortfall. Monkey Bay was busy with people and our bay, whatever its name, had been idyllic and had indeed produced a monkey.Back at the bungalow, dusk was a time to sit on the balcony, rum in hand, camera on tripod, then wait to see if Mother Nature was about to show a spectacular finale to the day. She was a little phlegmatic about this, demanding perfect choreography of conditions, but when she got them, she could be impressive.

Routine would then have us to the restaurant that sat right on the foreshore. Here we would do a cursory check of who had arrived and who had left that day and maybe join an acquainted couple to share stories of our respective travels, while enjoying one of those sumptuous meals and a Tiger or two.



Malaysia-Tioman Island & Precinct
Malaysia-Tioman Island & Precinct
A lot of our days would begin with the light breakfast before rendezvousing at the Bali Hai Dive Centre, named in honour of the movie musical filmed in this location. It was conveniently just 50 metres down the boardwalk adjacent to the jetty. Here we would gear up before being briefed for the days dive excursion by one of Buda’s instructor/guides.
Buda, the proprietor was aptly named, a jovial character of similar stature to his namesake, albeit only about a 1.6m tall ebony version. He and his team ran an efficient but relaxed ship with emphasis on everyone having an enjoyable and safe dive and a fun time. I am sure the gold Buda smiles on the ebony one.



Malaysia-Tioman Island & Precinct
Malaysia-Tioman Island & Precinct
Every dive seemed to be billed with star attractions ranging from the humorously fearless clown fish to the blatantly aggressive triggerfish.
And back at the resort, the occasional visitor often reminded one of ones proximity to the jungle. The most startling reminder was stepping out our door to be greeted by a small python slithering along the warm path, his sleek body about 1.5m long. David, a middle aged Frenchman and permanent resident at the resort, discovered us shooting this poor creature to near blindness with our camera and offered to return it to the jungle once we had finished our impromptu photo shoot.
He simply picked up the snake by the neck assuring us that, “as long as yu are gentle with im e will not urt yu”.
It then proceeded to coil around his arm and slither from one arm to the other seemingly totally at ease with him. By now a small paparazzi had formed complete with aspiring reporters.
“Do they come into the rooms,” the young English girl enquired nervously?
And the more gallant, like my wife Tracy asked, “May I hold it too?"

Ten days of diving Tioman’s ocean gardens, exploring her jungle tracks and beaches and some times just laying in the sun with a good book, passed quickly. It was time to leave the friendly people of Tioman Island to their paradise.