Beachfront at Tioman Island

Tioman Island

How many desert islands do you know who’ve won an Oscar? Perhaps that’s stretching it a bit, but there’s a good reason Time Magazine named Tioman the most beautiful island in the world in 1970 and it hasn’t lost any of its charm for us.

It may look like any other tropical island gem, with its swaying palm trees, white sandy beaches and glittering turquoise waters, but Tioman is more than just a pretty face. This is an island paradise with a history.

For a thousand years, Tioman was a stop for Chinese, European and Arabic trading ships en route between East and South Asia. During WWII, it hosted both the British and Japanese navies, and the wrecks of their warships have been transformed into coral-encrusted habitats for turtles, reef sharks, rays and whale sharks. In 1958, it found fame playing Bali Hai in the Academy Award-winning film South Pacific, and in the 1970s it reached the peak of its star power when it was named the most beautiful island in the world by Time Magazine.

Today, Tioman may no longer be a Hollywood starlet, but she’s no faded belle. A protected marine reserve (along with eight other nearby islands), this is a real Darwinian paradise – both above and below the waves. Dive into the warm, clear waters to find huge barrel sponges, soft corals, sea fans and giant clams attracting crowds of alien-looking nudibranchs, pufferfish and clownfish. On land, hike into thick rainforests in search of spot binturong bearcats, macaques, giant flying squirrels, and 138 different species of tropical bird. Look hard enough and you might even spot the island’s very own biological curiosity, the Tioman walking catfish (no prizes for guessing what it’s famous for).

In between wildlife-spotting, you'll have endless opportunities to relax on the beaches, island-hop by boat, and eat glorious Malaysian cuisine at one of the islands many fabulous restaurants. As far as we’re concerned, Tioman is a bona fide paradise.

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Malaysia

Not just a desert-island idyll (though they’re that too), their exceptionally calm, clear and shallow waters make the Perhentian Islands the ideal place to snorkel or dove among damselfish, neon-bright anemones and stingrays.