This year I will take more consistent photos to document the weather in November, December and January. These pictures were in my photo album from the last monsoon. Rain or shine Tioman is beautiful.
There were grey skies and rain in November 2020. On the 23rd, it rained heavily for hours and the small stream next to the reception became a rushing river sweeping the beach away. This happens every monsoon. The rough seas bring it back.
What is it like on a rainy day?
Wet! The high humidity of the tropics plus rain means everything goes damp. Keeping the fans on really helps. But anywhere out of the reach of a fan stays damp, for example balcony rails and veranda chairs. Washing hung out on the balcony will not dry. Fortunately, we have a dryer. Rainy days are either depressing or restful, depending on personal preference. Rest needs neither sunshine nor rain. The glow of lights in our cosy reception feels womb-like to those familiar with European grey days.
We expect rain around a full moon and we bad weather around a new moon; about 3 or 4 patches of torrential rain for 3 days, during the 3 month monsoon season. There are years when these bad spells are less. The Malaysian Met Office has predicted a mild monsoon this year because of the La Nina cycle. El Nino years see more rain.
There were rainy days but more sunshine in December 2020 but we asked our long-stay guests to leave before New Year’s Eve (they had planned to spend it on Tioman) because the Windy app was showing storm strength wind were on their way. We knew the ferries would stop. They celebrated the start of 2021 in KL.
The times they are a-changin’. The monsoon always used to start on the 5th November and end at Chinese New Year. Thanks to climate shift we can no longer predict the weather. In 2019 and 2020, Chinese New Year saw sunshine, no storms and no cancelled ferries.
Why do people think Tioman is closed during the northeast monsoon? A little history.
In the 1980s, the majority of visitors to Tioman were backpackers, with a Lonely Planet guide in their pocket, travelling from India to Australia. Monsoon or not, they came. If the ferry was cancelled, they were happy to spend a few more days.
In 1994, the central generator was built and 24 hour electricity arrived. A frame huts at RM10-15 a night were replaced by wooden cabins with fans costing around RM35 and then cement buildings with aircon appeared and prices jumped to RM200+. Visitors paying those prices were looking for sunshine and snorkeling trips and were not happy to come during the monsoon because locals take their boats out of the water as the sea is much choppier.
For the next 20 years, most businesses were happy to close for the three month monsoon season. This has resulted in the impression that Tioman is not worth visiting during the monsoon which is true if you want a sunny beach holiday and boat rides. But if those are not needed, the beauty and drama of nature remains unbroken during the monsoon.
Technology takes out the guesswork.
Weather apps help us stay open all year. The Windy app accurately predicts when the Coast Guard will stop ferries sailing and guests can be advised not to come or to leave early.