If someone told you to imagine a tropical paradise, then you would probably think of South East Asia, a vast region filled with idyllic tropical islands. Then you would immediately conjure up images of white sand beaches framed by lush, tropical jungle, palm trees swaying in a warm breeze and clear cerulean seas filled with wildlife. Then you would try to forget the hordes of package tourists and concrete hotels and resorts that are infesting more and more of these islands every year and try to imagine instead a local village atmosphere, with just a few small beach huts to stay in and barely another soul around.
You would be imagining Juara beach.
Juara is a small beach, hidden away on the East side of Tioman island in Malaysia, and unlike the more commercially developed and busier towns and beaches on the islands Western coast, it has still managed to retain that elusive small village atmosphere and has limited development along its long stretch of curved coastline.
‘All those Robinson Crusoe fantasies had finally come true!’
It is a little difficult to get to, which is probably one of the reasons it isn’t as popular or busy as some of the other beaches, but after making the effort to reach it I was totally blown away by how secluded and isolated it felt, exactly what I was after and I was so glad I did! Apart from the local villagers – who were extremely friendly – I could count the other backpackers and travellers I met during my week there on one hand and still have fingers to spare, and I spent my self imposed exile in blissful peace and quiet, enjoying jungle walks and reading a book on a stunning white sand beach that I had all to myself most of the time! All those Robinson Crusoe fantasies had finally come true!
The beach itself is very loosely divided by a small headland of rocks and is considered to be two separate beaches, but it is still technically one long stretch of stunning beach and you can easily walk along it and cross from north to south without any problems. If you are lucky – as I was most days – then you can walk from one end to the other without seeing a soul and then simply relax on your very own piece of paradise with a good book and no one else around! If the peace and quiet get a bit much for you, the swimming and snorkelling is absolutely amazing! Be careful though if you are heading into the ocean in the monsoon season there can be jellyfish about and some strong riptides can start to pick up making conditions a little less favourable, but not impossible to enjoy.
I was there in what was technically the off season at the time so that probably helped make my dream of having the place almost entirely to myself a reality, and now I’m telling you all about it I’ve probably contributed to ruining it forever, so hush! Keep it to yourselves!
There are a few small beach hut operations spread out along the beach, so that you can walk along the beach itself or the long paved road that follows the coastline a little inland without the place ever feeling too built up or crowded. There is a small convenience shop and a small restaurant that specialises in fresh fish caught just off shore (as well as doing some of the best fish sambal and rice I have ever tasted!) and a great little treehouse bar that is very laid back and loves playing the ubiquitous backpacker soundtrack (basically an old Bob Marley CD). It helps that Tioman island is a duty free zone so alcohol is very cheap here compared to the conservative Singapore and Malaysian mainland. If you end up staying after sundown make sure you have a torch on you to help you get back home as there are no streetlights along the concrete path to the beach huts
For those of you who feel the need for a little mild exercise there are easy hikes through the jungle with trails marked with red and yellow markers on the trees. There is a gorgeous waterfall an easy twenty minutes walk up hill that is perfect for a swim and cool down, and there are plenty of other hikes or walks to other parts of the island for those with a mind to walk further.
There are plenty of things to do to keep you from getting too bored though, just in case the idea of a near deserted tropical paradise isn’t enough for you! Surfing is an option on Juara thanks to a local beach hut owner who also happens to be a surfer and gives surfing lessons, and there are a bunch of dive operations on the other side of the island if you want to get your diving qualifications. The snorkelling is amazing just off the beach, or if you prefer you can head back over to one of the other beaches on the west coast where you can arrange a snorkelling tour of nearby islands such as Pulau Tulai or Renggis island where the snorkelling is absolutely stunning. Unless you have a real thing for snorkelling however, there really isn’t the need to go to that expense as the snorkelling just off the beach at Juara – or any of the other beaches in fact – is great. The Juara Turtle Project is located on the South Beach and is open to visitors who are interested in turtle conservation for a small donation fee. It is well worth visiting if you are there. It does hold some limited volunteering opportunities too for anyone who is interested.
How to get there.
Juara beach is accessible by a long road from Tekek that essentially cuts straight through the jungle. This used to be a simple dirt road that could only be passed by a four wheel drive vehicle or on foot, but now that has been replaced with something resembling a normal concrete road that most vehicles can pass on.
Once you get off the ferry at Tekek, you will immediately be faced with the 4WD taxi mafia. These are basically drivers who have colluded to jack up the prices to extortionate rates far beyond what is reasonable, because they know most people will have no choice but to pay. Haggling is generally useless as they are all pretty much in cahoots. They charge per person as well, which is just a way for them to get more money.
If you are lucky, there will be a local heading across the road in their own car, and you can ask them to take you for much less than the taxi mafia are demanding.
Another way if you are relatively fit and feeling up to a long walk is to trek on the same road across to Juara beach. It isn’t difficult, the road is concrete and flat, but it is hot and will take a good few hours. Take plenty of water.
You can also get a speedboat to take you from Tekek or one of the other beaches to Juara, but it is seriously expensive!
Basically it is either a hassle or relatively expensive to get over to Juara beach, but it is totally worth it whichever way you choose. Yes it is a pain in the backside, but this hassle is what has led most people to simply head up to ABC beach or Genting, and is keeping Juara beach relatively quiet and undeveloped, so you can’t complain too much at it! Besides, they do say the bigger the effort the bigger the reward, and that is certainly true in the case of Juara Beach!
Have you ever been to Tioman island or Juara beach? What did you think? Leave a comment and let me know.