Scuba diving in Tioman island in Pahang is one of the best spots, along with the Perenthians islands further north. From Kuala Lumpur (or Singapore), Tioman island remains the easiest and cheapest available as it can be reached by car within max 5h to 6h drive, depending on traffic.
It’s also a perfect place for beginners in Asia or experienced divers looking for additional certifications. The conditions there are perfect for learning new skills and there are many professional and quality dive centers on the island.
How to get to Tioman island & back
With your own transport – it’s an easy 5h drive from Kuala Lumpur to Mersing. In Mersing, there is a paid secured parking right by the jetty for RM15 per day. But as we transited one night in Mersing, we stayed at Mersing hotel, which provides free shuttle services from/to the Jetty and has a parking for RM 8 per day. I think a great scenario for a 3 to 4 days week end could be to leave Kuala Lumpur right after work, drive to Mersing and do a late check out at Mersing hotel and keep the car there. This small and affordable hotel is clean, simple and just perfect in the city center to stay for the night. You can take the first ferry the next day and be already diving the same afternoon!
We did the journey by bus with Maraliner company, Sanwa tours also had a good number of trips during the day: from TBS station in Kuala Lumpur to Mersing bus station. Then we had our hotel pick us up at the station in Mersing.
To purchase tickets from TBS, you can use their online purchasing website. On this website you can purchase from all the bus companies departing and see all their schedules. It’s then easier to just collect the ticket from the online purchase counters at the station. It’s all very well done and easy. I would recommend using this portal. Busonlineticker.com also works quite well as an alternative and at TBS, you can withdraw the tickets purchase there at the online booking counter.
Mersing is incredibly small, and if it wasn’t for our heavy diving gear, we would have walked from the bus station to the hotel. I think it would take a good 40min walk to cross from the bus station to the jetty if you travel light.
To book the boat, you can buy the tickets online from Bluewater ferry. The ferry leaves on time !
On the way back, ask the dive center to arrange a taxi pick up from the Jetty, or you can walk back downtown if you don’t have too much luggage. Some bus also departs from the jetty directly during high season. (which is something that would be written on your ticket when you book ). From the jetty to the bus station downtown, we paid RM20.
Scuba diving in Tioman island
We went there on the last week-end before the island closes for the season . ( Halloween marks the last week, and re-opens usually early February ) So needless to say, we didn’t see the best that Tioman island had to offer. But what we saw was interesting enough that we know we will be back. We dove with B&J Diving on Air Batang ( kampung ABC ferry stop ) and we stayed at their resort Tioman dive resort.
What to say, it was nice. The people were good, Tioman is a duty-free island, so evening beers by the dive shop bar were even more pleasant as they were cheap. We felt safe and all the dive masters we had guiding us were professional. We could dive the small house reef by ourselves for free.
I would gladly recommend this destination for beautiful corals and lots of reef fish ( even though we had some serious rocky waves on a few days ourselves ).
Tips & advises
On Air Batang, there are almost no restaurants – namely one of each side of the dive shop, Mawar restaurant half way to the (nice) pizza place at the very end of Air Batang right by the oversea stilt road to kampung Tekek. And they opening time is quite irregular. Breakfast was the hardest to find opening on time for you eat before diving starts. It’s just overall very very slow in terms of service. There is a lady by the jetty (left side when facing the jetty) that sells Nasi lemak early in the morning from 7am. There are tons of cats where her place is, and it’s not a proper restaurant, more like she sells it by her kitchen door and there are couple of table and chairs. Ask the dive shop staff for direction. With a kopi susu, probably the fastest and quite tasty breakfast you could get early.
There are also no small supermarkets of sort. You can rent a bicycle and make your way through the narrow road to Kampung Tekek ( the main town ) if you need supplies. Walking there is about 1h to 1h15 one-way (we did it one evening to explore). I would stock up some snacks from the mainland if I was to stay just a few days.
Overall, Tioman island offers a lot of variety for your stays ( from cheap cabins to fancy resorts such as Berajaya resort or Japamala resort ). There are also loads of quality diving operators around. It’s well connected to Singapore, Johor and Kuala Lumpur to make it the easiest and nicest spot to reach from these hubs for a short diving trip.