Today we went on a hike up Pulau Tioman, reputed to be the most beautiful island in the world. I am not sure who gave it this designation, but it was quite interesting and very beautiful to say the least. It was a true jungle hike, with huge banyan trees, monkeys, and creeping vines everywhere. It is vibrantly green, but if you look closely there are unusual iridescent butterflies, nearly fluorescent green snakes and what could be described as harlequin slugs. Stunning is an appropriate descriptive for the humidity; my camera was almost unusable due to the oily film covering the lens. The hike was fairly challenging with steep descents and many spots that, thankfully, were equipped with ropes and occasionally cement steps where water would have otherwise washed away any semblance of path.

Monitor lizards are about, but we did not see any. If you are not familiar with the monitor lizard, it is basically a dragon, three to four feet in length with pebbly whitish hide and a thick, low-riding body. The long snout and rather ferocious demeanor cement their reputation as one lizard not to try to mess with. As I mentioned, we did not see any near the streams we passed, but our guides assured us they were there.

Once back in town I was stunned to see thousands of giant fruit bats hanging out in the daytime, everywhere! They were enormous with foot-wide wingspans and toasty brown bodies that became blacker toward their heads. Some were simply snoozing, but others were actually fighting or horsing around in the trees overhead.

I found Tioman raw and rustic, although I only spent a short time here as I dive later this afternoon off the coast. A lot has been written about the ongoing construction here and its negative impact on its world-class diving. However, having dived four different spots it seems there are other issues, not the silt from construction that has caused damage. It appears fishermen’s nets have been dragged through the reefs, breaking off some of the delicate corals.

I would very much like to return to Tioman, spend some more time and explore other areas of the inner island as well as the fantastic diving spots. Hopefully there will be another opportunity, and when it arises I will be sure to enlighten you with more details and—hopefully—a dragon photo or two.

Written by Jesse Siglow