Tioman Island (pronounced Tee-oh-mahn), a tiny island off the south of Malaysia's east coast, is visited mostly by backpackers, who have a multitude of cheap chalets to flop in; scuba enthusiasts, who have a range of coral gardens to explore; and nearby Singaporeans. The island is only 39km (24 miles) long and 12km (7 1/2 miles) wide, with sandy beaches that line several small bays, clear water with sea life and coral reefs, and jungle mountain-trekking trails with streams and waterfalls. So idyllic is the setting that Tioman was the location for the 1950s Hollywood film South Pacific.

Tioman has been snubbed by scuba enthusiasts because it was developed before its northern island neighbors, Redang and Perhentian. For many, Tioman's accessibility didn't jive with their expectation of "unspoiled" ecology. To be honest, I have many friends who have taken dive trips all over Southeast Asia and claim that diving in Tioman is as good as, if not better than, diving in Redang and Perhentian.

Tioman has retained much of its tropical island charm, perhaps by virtue of the fact that only one modern resort has been built on it. Activity is spread throughout the kampungs, which spring up in the various bays. Tekek is the most developed, but also the ugliest, where you'll find the airport, main ferry jetty, and some convenience shops. Other kampungs include Air Batang ("ABC"), Salang on the west coast, and Juara on the east coast. Each kampung has some accommodations, most of them very basic wooden chalets, with some access to simple restaurants.