In this landscape photography guide, I show you a place in Malaysia that is great for seascape photography: Tioman Island. I share how to get there, where to stay, and my favorite photo spot on the island.
Tioman Island is a small tropical paradise located off the east coast of Malaysia. It is known for its crystal clear waters, white sandy beaches, and lush green forests. Two of its main attractions are diving and snorkeling. The island is home to various dive sites, boasting a wide variety of marine life.
But I didn't visit Tioman Island solely for the underwater world surrounding it. I wanted to see what it had to offer in terms of landscape photography. So I did my research to find photo spots on the island, which was harder than I thought because there wasn't much photography-related information available.
Browsing various stock sites and taking a close look at Tioman's coastline with Google maps, I finally narrowed my search to the area between Genting in the west and Mukut in the south. The coastline between those two villages is a mix of jungle, secluded beaches, and beautifully shaped granite rocks.
Eventually, I settled on Genting as my home base because it was easy to get to, and there were some accessible photo locations close by.
How To Get To Tioman Island
Tioman Island is typically visited by bus via Mersing from either Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. Because we were staying in Kuala Lumpur, I will focus on how to get to Tioman from there. If you want to start your journey in Singapore, you can check out this helpful guide by Go Islands.
A good place to start when planning a bus tour in southeast Asia is usually 12GoAsia. I booked several trips with them and found them very reliable. One thing to know is that they sometimes won't show all available options, and it's often not possible to book more than three or four weeks in advance. If your desired trip isn't available through them, you can try Easybook instead.
The bus operator for which we booked our tickets through 12GoAsia was Sanwa Express. The price for a one-way ticket to Mersing was 41 Ringgit per person, which is roughly 9 USD. This trip was scheduled to take five hours, starting at the Bersepadu Selatan terminal south of Kuala Lumpur. We ended up spending more than six hours on the bus.
Because the bus ride takes that long, you have two options if you want to catch one of the ferries to Tioman that usually leave Mersing in the morning. You either take the afternoon bus to Mersing and spend the night there. Or you book one of the overnight buses which are operated by Transnasional. Although Mersing itself doesn't have much to offer, planning in a layover is the safer option.
In addition to booking a bus, you must also buy a ferry ticket from either Cataferry or Bluewater ferry. Both leave in the morning and take between 90 minutes and 2 hours to the various ports along the west coast of Tioman. We booked via Bluewater ferry. A return trip was 120 Ringgit per person, which is around 28 USD.
If you book your ticket online, you should still be at the harbor around one hour before departure and first trade your online ticket against a boarding ticket at one of the booths inside the Mersing harbor center, just opposite the harbor. You must also pay the entrance fee for the marine park there.
To get back to Kuala Lumpur from Tioman, take one of the morning ferries that leave Tioman around 7 am. Then take the 10 am or 11 am bus back to Kuala Lumpur. It stops right in front of the harbor center.
Where To Stay On Tioman Island
Tioman Island has a length of 39 km and is covered by tropical rainforests. That's why traveling between the different villages requires a boat.
As I wrote above, I decided to stay in Genting which is the first port the ferry stops. From there, it continues up to Tekek. If you want to stay in any other village than those two, you require an additional transfer. It can usually be organized by the hotel you stay at.
Genting is a beautiful little village with a long, white sand beach. There are no big hotels or restaurants, and when we visited, we were the only western tourists in town. Finding something to eat can be challenging because the restaurants don't have reliable opening times. Thankfully, there's also a little supermarket where you can buy water and snacks.
From Genting, you can walk down and past the Japamala Resort or up to Paya Beach. It gives you some inexpensive options for getting to other locations on the island without hiring a boat.
We stayed in the beautiful little Beach House at the northern end of Genting. It is a quiet spot with a beautiful beach, some snorkeling opportunities, and incredible photo spots within walking distance. The breakfast is basic, and you don't get the amenities you'd have in one of the more expensive resorts on Tioman island. But the options for taking great seascape photos near the apartment make up for it.
It's not ideal though for exploring some of the mountains on Tioman - Single Dragon Horn and Gunung Nenek. Finding a place to stay in Mukut or one of the resorts in the south might be better suited for that.
Tioman Island Photography
As you can see in the photo above, the coastal landscape of Tioman Island looks a lot like the Seychelles. Close to Genting, you find many little coves with huge granite rocks - it's scenery as you'd expect on La Digue.
During the four days I was staying in Genting, I did some exploration south towards the Japamala resort and north to Paya beach. The path to Paya beach is very photogenic. You pass through some beautiful tropical forests with tall trees. At the northern end of Paya beach, you'll find a little island called Pulau Tumuk. This island would make for a wonderful photo subject during sunrise. It's also a great snorkeling spot with a little coral garden and plenty of colorful fish.
The path toward the Japamala resort is rougher than toward Paya beach. After around 30 minutes, you end up on a beautiful little cove just north of the resort. This place would be perfect for sunrise or even sunset. But you need some proper boots and a good flashlight. There are wooden bridges to cross, which didn't look like they get used a lot - so be careful if you head down there.
But to take great photos while staying in Genting, you don't necessarily need to do such hikes in the dark. Just head to the northern end of town and continue along the coast. You'll find countless subjects both during low and medium tide. If the tide is too high, it's difficult to reach some of the more interesting areas, as the water will swallow most of the beach.
To give you an idea, the title photo of this article was taken on low tide, with many smaller rocks jutting out of the water. The photo above was taken around medium tide, which is the perfect time to photograph this area. A good resource for checking the tides worldwide is Tides4Fishing.
Tioman island wasn't on my radar when we started our travels through Southeast Asia in September 2022. Neither had I heard of it, nor had I seen photos. Because we wanted to end our time in Malaysia with a coastal holiday, I started looking at the various islands in this area. And I'm glad I did. This island is a tropical paradise. It's clean, covered by jungle, and surrounded by beautiful coastal scenery. The snorkeling we did at Pulau Tumuk was a lot of fun, and the landscape photography around Genting was comparable to La Digue on the Seychelles. I can't wait to visit again someday in the future.