Ah, such a great day! I spent my first outing on Tioman Island hiking from Air Batang (ABC) to Monkey Bay, and then onwards to Salang, with two fellow travellers, one from Italy and one from France. The jungle was lush, the water was sparkling, and the beaches were pristine. Truly a day to cherish. Read on to find out about the hike.
Air Batang to Salang Via Monkey Bay
We woke up relatively early at 8am, got organised, then departed, bound for Monkey bay which is on the north side of Tioman island. We would spend the full day hiking through the jungle between four bays: ABC - Monkey Beach - Monkey Bay - Kampung Salang.
From ABC our first major hike through the jungle. It was dense, green, muddy, and tangled with roots. For the most part the path trailed along electricity cables, heavily insulated for they dragged through dense foliage. The cables are an express way for the monkeys; with the branches and vines of the trees being the slow, scenic route. On the way we spotted several peculiar insects: bright, yellow and black worms, which almost looked like slugs, or leeches, but were very outlandish in their appearance; fat, ghostly centipedes, which were pure white in colour; and noisy, vibrantly green cicadas. We scrambled over logs, under ferns, pushed aside clawing vines, and swatted away hordes of flies and mosquitoes.
We arrived at the beautiful Monkey Beach at around 11am. Monkey beach is quite spectacular: clean, golden sand; lined with thick, green, tropical forests; trimmed with a small river which you need to jump across at one end; and trimmed with a rocky headland at the other end. It is a claustrophobic beach, but that only adds to its tropical allure: humid, encroached with forest, compounded by the closeness of all the elements. We wondered to the end of the beach to find the onward path, but failed. We walked around for minutes before finding any hint of the next trail. Eventually we back-tracked along the beach to a flat section of the forest, then cut a bee-line through the forest towards the nearest visible electricity cable, and luckily struck the track along the way.
We followed this path north-east, scrambling over rocks, but with similar vegetation to the last section, to eventually reach Monkey Bay, the highlight of the walk. Monkey Bay from the outset is not quite as beautiful as Monkey Beach: the surrounding area is flatter and the jungle is less dense, making the bay feel less exotic overall. We stopped at a swing half way along the beach, where we fooled around like boys. Soon after we were in the water. The bottom of the bay was amazingly flat: we could walk out two hundred meters in to the ocean, and the water was only came up to our chests. And the water was dead flat, almost a mirror, the the bay is very well protected from the elements. I went back to my bag and collected my camera, to wade back out in to the ocean to take a few snaps. It was a bit of a risk to bring my camera out in to the ocean, but I felt comfortable doing so for how flat and shallow the bay was. Plus the water was such an amazing blue, and absolutely clear, it was a hard opportunity to miss.
Again, it took us some time to find the forward path towards Salang: we needed to check several locations before we found it. In the end we found it all the way at the end of a beach, identified from a bridge which we found nestled in the jungle. Beyond the bridge were a few huge boulders, which we needed to use vines to scramble up. Once up, we found a clearly visible path once more, and were certain that this was the correct way. This part of the walk had a very muddy slope, it was very easy to slip down so we had to walk carefully and use roots and vines to pull ourselves through it. We stopped here to help an older group of Spanish people, who we met on the previous beach. The last obstacle of the section was an enormous tree that had fallen on the path: I had to use my upper body strength to lift my legs vertically through a gap between the tree’s trunk and one of it’s large lower branches.
Soon enough we arrived in to Salang: the north-most town on the island. We stopped at a cafe for lunch, before hunting down a water taxi to take us back to the ABC. We spent more than an hour, asking all of the operators for their best price for six people. It makes no sense that two people pay the same as six, yet the locals were insistent that we pay RM30 per person. Consider that the price per person for this ten minute trip is equal to a two and a half hour trip all the way back to Mersing. Since the price was always the same, we could have taken six boats back, rather than one boat with six people for the same price, and the locals would have been happy to oblige. We think that there is a cartel of tour operators, where someone is telling all the community members to fix their prices to maintain maximum profits. One local wanted to negotiate with us, but he sad he couldn’t for all the other people in the town would be angry with him. Regardless, the return boat trip was lovely as the western afternoon sun washed the coast of the island in beautiful, golden light.
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Snorkelling around Tioman Island
In the next article I go on a snorkelling tour around the island. Read about it here.