Stepping off the boat and onto the long pier resembles something out of Jurassic Park scene. The inpenetrable jungle emerges almost immediately out of the sand, with its stunning natural features hinting at a fantastical world lurking beyond. Beautiful clear water crashes up against monstrous granite rocks, with the backdrop of impressive limestone cliffs jutting up towards the sky, past a crown of mist. Legend has it that Tioman was a princess dragon flying from China on her way to her prince in Singapore, but loved it so much, she stayed in the calm, warm waters of the South China Sea. Tioman island is a 2.5 hour ferry ride from the Mersing harbor on the mainland. Enduring the hot, stuffy ferry trip is completely worth it because this kind of vacation is really the epitome of Malaysian beach beauty and doesn’t come every weekend. We stayed at Bagus Place Retreat where enjoying nature, contemplating life, and doing nothing but swimming and diving is the perfect itinerary. The wooden bungalows are simple and perfectly immersed in nature, giving you the most island-feel possible. This slice of heavenly seclusion and privacy is just what the soul needs sometimes. There’s no WiFi, so for once disconnecting is not only possible but mandatory. If you go stir crazy, take an adventurous walk to the waterfall (2 hours walking on foot one way) where you can see monkeys (some are even kept as pets on leashes), exotic squirrels, and monitor lizards along the way. You don’t even have to go far to see beautiful creatures: black tip reef sharks will approach the pier at night for feeding, and the babies are less shy, swimming around in the dozens during the day.