Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Tioman Island – Picture Perfect

The day that we left Johor and the Johor Strait was a fabulous day. The sun was shining, there was not a breath of wind but we were leaving and that was all that mattered. North and east to the Tioman Island group was our plan, though we had to go out and around Singapore waters to get there. Hugh had just painstakingly installed our new AIS transponder (radar type device that identifies and locates boats) a gift care of our very generous cruiser friends on Tahina, so we could see and count this time just how many boats were transiting through the Singapore Strait and it was a LOT! 

AIS screen shot of the waterway around Singapore, the yellow and green arrows represent the shipping
vessels = LOTS of boats (the purple arrows indicate the lanes for travelling)
The day was long and uneventful and we decided to anchor not far from Changi airport on the eastern side of Singapore and were surprised and excited to see some porpoises swimming around looking for dinner near EJ. We awoke at 5am the following morning to get going and we had a monster of a squall come through, thunder, lightning and a torrent of rain to boot as we motored our way east. Thankfully the electrical storm stayed some distance off and we just hoped for the best. The rest of the sail was uneventful and particularly dull. With no wind about and therefore no sails to tend to, I sat in the cockpit being numbed by the sound of the engine. We dropped anchor at 7pm at Pulau Sibu, the first of the Tioman Island group. 

The anchorage was quite rolly so early the next morning we decided to go and anchor across the bay at Pulau Tinggi which was visible for miles with its jungle covered dormant volcanic peak rising out from the water. But one glance at the water and we knew we had arrived, just 140nm from Johor Bahru. The water was a clear aqua colour and there were gleaming reefs visible ringing the islands. A dive into the water and we were quickly refreshed and loving being in some nice water again, it had been January when we were in Thailand, the last time we had gleefully jumped in the water for a swim. It is a kind of torture being on a boat and unable to enjoy the water that you sit on, some of the water that we have been through I wouldn’t dare touch for fear of what might be lurking below or how thick the oil slick on the top is, blurgh.  

Port Klang, Selangor...nice water yes?

We ventured ashore keen to grab an iced tea or some nasi goreng. To say that it was a sleepy place is an understatement, you might have to put your ear up to the locals face to hear if they are breathing there was that little going on. No iced tea for me. I love visiting these remote islands that are so small and have such difficult terrain that there are no cars, just bicycles and motor bikes. The ‘town’ was two streets deep and it was obvious that they relied on regular ferry or boat deliveries as there were no shops or cafes about. While it was a nice place, we decided to move on 30nm north to the most famous island in the group – Tioman Island. 

Once again with the motor loudly humming away, we made the 6 hour journey to Tioman. It was a sight to behold visible for miles off, mountainous peaks covered in dense jungle that you would have to slash with a machete to get through, ringed by golden sand and crystal clear water, atop lively reefs. Tioman Island was indeed picture perfect. Apparently voted in the top 10 islands in the world in the 1970s, I wouldn’t be surprised if the buildings here hadn’t changed since then. A fabulous place to visit with a chilled vibe and small timber cottages were as commercialised as the accommodation got. We could get used to this. We planned to stay a day and wait for some wind that was supposed to come the day after next…10 days later we were still erring about when we would leave.

Tioman Island
We anchored outside the marina and got to enjoy the 5 knot breeze that came at 3pm and left promptly at 3:15pm. While it was truly beautiful it was no less hot than Johor, but the relentless sun beating down gave us good reason to seek shelter under the water. It was time to go diving! We went on a commercial trip with one of the local company’s and spotting moray eels, clown fish, rays and going through some rock formation swim through’s was great. But we could one-up that by taking EJ, some dive gear and Jo & Jason from Labyrinth, two Aussie Cruisers who were now ‘locals’ after getting lost here almost a year ago, we went off diving at Pulau Tulai. Spotting a huge green backed turtle, sea snake and some fabulous coral fan formations topped off the trip. We enjoyed a mezze platter of flat bread, boat made tzatziki and hommous and a bean and rice mix to pass the surface interval. We even managed the 5nm sail back to the anchorage before dark.

One final set of sundowners at the Cabana Bar with our new friends was rudely interrupted by a storm system that sent all its might onto the Island. Hugh was last seen running along the beach to take the dingy back to EJ to check that she was still holding tight. The westerly wind turned our lovely anchorage into a lee-shore and that made seconds of reaction time if the anchor did not hold to the boat being washed up on the beach. Thankfully all was fine aboard except for our sail shade which got a bit of a beating from the 40kt gusts that were ripping through. We had a tense night on anchor, but the wind let up about 1am and we were able to get some rest.

While the island geared up for a busy weekend with the Sultan coming to visit for the Sultan Ahmad Shah (SAS) ‘eco challenge’ the 8hr mountain endurance race that was being held on the weekend, we did our last fresh food supply run, scoffed down some more roti canai and grabbed a few more cheeky bottles of duty free wine.  Some quick goodbyes to our new friends and we were ready for the big 400nm South China Sea crossing to Kuching Borneo, we could only hope that the wind would come along for the journey with us!

The Cabana Bar, our friend Dale off Freeform’s pick for the best banana bread,
 our pick for a nice shady spot for lunch


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