A proper island getaway will require from you to put some work and effort into getting there: paddle on a raft if we believe Survivor, survive a plane crash according to Lost or take the night bus, a ferry, and a speedboat in my case. While I doze off at the ferry station, a side effect if the night bus is too punctual and arrives at 5 am, I can only hope my island getaway to the Japamala Resorts on Tioman island is worth it.


Five hours later I can finally kick my shoes off and my luggage is taken from me by helpful hands. Now I know I would have traveled even further to get here – Japamala is nothing but paradise.

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It is a good thing the beach here is secluded and nobody notices that my bikini doesn’t fit anymore. I’m trying to decide which cabana has the nicest view (impossible, the view is gorgeous everywhere) when one of the staff members shouts Shark! Shark! and points into the water. Five minutes later I have managed to wriggle my breakfast belly into my wetsuit and chase a shoal of baby reef sharks with my camera. Unfortunately, I am unsuccessful which is due to the fact that they are incredibly fast and I am incredibly shy – after all, they look like proper sharks already!


My Jungle Luxe Sarang is huge and comes with a private rock pool, patio, and a jacuzzi which, once again, I use to rinse off my equipment. It also has the biggest, best bed I have ever slept in and so I don’t even feel bad when I take an extensive nap.

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In the afternoon, I decide to use the space to do yoga on my deck. My class attracts an audience and while I have been warned, I am still in awe to see a real monkey family surround me all of a sudden. I am torn between being a little scared and really wanting to pad them, I end up just taking a lot of pictures – after all, this is my first Malaysian monkey and I don’t know yet if there is more to come.


Thanks to the monkeys interrupting my practice, I make it in time for the complimentary cocktail hour which is served in the Mandi-Mandi restaurant overlooking the water. The sunset eludes us and the drinks remind me of the 80s, but lanterns glow all the way to shore and the waves softly crashing, it still doesn’t get much better.

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The next day I do a whole lot of nothing that consists of moving from breakfast to the beach into the water under water on a day bed into the sand. From there I go for a very Italian lunch of seafood pasta while lounging barefoot in my bench. No, I am not being impolite – Japamala is taking the term barefoot luxury quite literal – no shoes allowed with your fancy drink!

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The afternoon brings a tropical downpour and with that another nap, no excuses needed. Just in time, though, for some more tanning and playing in the shore, the sun makes an appearance again. As if the beach in front of the restaurant isn’t secluded enough I walk 5 minutes to get to a perfect stretch of sand that is all mine and where I can channel my inner Robinson. Also, a perfect spot to try my new camera and take underwater selfies without an audience. Even here I feel self-conscious and a little silly and decide that a selfie stick is really not something I will bring to a deserted island in a hurry.

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Unfortunately, time does seem to be in a hurry here, because my stay is over no time. The next morning I have to leave before sunrise to catch the ferry and so even the perfect bed can’t help me sleep well.
Aruni, the lovely receptionist, hands me breakfast to go and waves goodbye. I make my way over the jetty as I have to leave as I’ve arrived – by water. The way is dark and eery, I wonder where the baby sharks sleep. I hope that I will come back one day and see them all grown up, maybe I will even be brave enough to get a proper picture then.


A big thank you to Japamala for hosting me, for feeding me double breakfast portions, and for ‘arranging’ monkeys and baby sharks!

How to get there:

To get to Japamala from Kuala Lumpur they can arrange private transport. Alternatively you can take a bus to Mersing and from there the ferry to Tioman Island. From the main ferry station, the Japamala speedboat will fetch you.
Combination tickets can be bought online, but honestly, I was having trouble with the system when it came to departure times and booking ahead. Therefore a special thank you to Annie from Samadhi Retreats reservations for getting it all sorted for me.

All images by Annika

This post was written by Annika Ziehen who was a Travelette until 2019. Originally from Germany, Annika has lived in New York and Cape Town and now travels the world full time. She considers herself a very hungry mermaid and writes about her adventures, scuba diving and food on her blog The Midnight Blue Elephant. You can also find her on Instagram here!