Get Away From the City Sightseeing Runaround at Penang Island National Park
Overshadowed by Penang Island's cultural history and fantastic food, Penang National Park seems to good to be true. And it is.
First absorb Penang's heritage and eat yourself silly on asam laksa.
Afterwards, spend a day at the park for a perfect place to relax and recouperate from the daily grind of city sights and delights.
Located on the northwest corner at Teluk Bahang, just past Batu Ferringhi beach, Penang National Park is a small, but remarkable, gem in the constellation of Malayisa's protected nature parks.
Just declared a park in 2003, it combines a wonderful ecological mix of palm forests, hill forests, mangroves, sandy beaches and a special lake. The pristine terrain covers over 2,500 hectares (about 10 sq. miles) and offers a biological parade of sea turtles, sea eagles, scorpions, snakes, otters, pitcher plants, fungi and other flora and fauna.
Spend a day to discover the smallest national park in Malaysia and cruise a natural jungle, not an urban one.
Natural Things To Do
Penang Island: Nature Attractions
Jungle Trekking Trails
As a green lung, local Penangites have long enjoyed the scenery and serenity of trekking the hilly terrain of the Pantai Acheh Forest Reserve, set aside in 1928. A popular activity for weekend nature lovers, most the trails take only an hour or two to walk along moderate forest slopes. Spend a day hiking to a beach or trying to observe mammals, reptiles, insects and birds.
Teluk Bahang to Muka Head (2 hours, 2.5 km)
A good day hike crossing over small streams and ravines, this is a very popular trail. Starting at the fishing village at the Park HQ, walk the trail past the beach at Teluk Aling and onto Teluk Duyong in about one hour.
Also reachable by boat, the beach at Teluk Duyong fronts a picturesque bay perfect for a swimming break.
Follow the trail behind the beach to the Muka Head Lighthouse, a remnant of the colonial era builti in 1883. A wide walking path gently rises through hill forests with several covered huts along the trail for rest or rain cover. Search for colorful mushrooms and pitcher plants and look out for geckos in rock crevices.
Reach the lighthouse within one hour and enjoy a panoramic view atop the hill of the surrounding sea. A great location for scenic photos. (Please enquire first at the park entrance if the lighthouse is open to visitors.)
And if you want to save an hour, just hike to Teluk Duyong (also called Monkey Beach) and leave out the lighthouse trek.
Teluk Bahang to Pantai Kerachut (2 hours, 3 km)
Cross over streams, trek through forests and reach the beach on the trail from Park HQ to Pasir Pandak and on a suspension bridge to the path to Pantai Kerachut.
Get a good introduction to tropical rainforest habitats by hiking uphill before descending down the narrow valley leading to the shoreline on the west side.
A hardy trek is rewarded with a long stretch of sandy beach in a cove where sea turtles land to nest. A small turtle hatchery offers a chance to see new hatchlings and learn about marine turtle conservation.
Both Green turtles (April to August) and Olive Ridley turtles (September to February) nest in the coastal habitat, as eggs are collected from other beaches for incubation at Pantai Kerachut.
The unusual and ecologically interesting meromictic lake, just behind the beach, offers a different habitat to explore with a 45 minute walkaround.
Pantai Kerachut to Teluk Kampi (1 hour, 1.5 km)
Past the jetty and the turtle sanctuary, a path leads back into the forest and uphill over boulders and treefall. It takes a bit of scrambling to reach the beautiful vista of Pantai Kerachut and the long coastline. A good spot for a trail break or picnic. From the top its all downhill to the sea to reach Teluk Kampi.
Always be aware of thunderstorms and early darkness when hiking the island trails. Carry a torch, plenty of water and some snacks. Keep track of time and plan wisely, especially if returning to Park HQ the same day.
Turtle Conservation Centre
Like a tourist with a second home, ancient marine turtles return to Penang Island each year to start the next generation.
Sea turtles lay over a hundred eggs in a single nest because reaching adult size is a risky adventure for hatchlings. Monitor lizards devour eggs, humans collect eggs to sell, and the sea is full of predators even before fishing nets become death traps.
Giving each hatchling a better chance of survival is the primary purpose of the turtle sanctuary at Pantai Kerachut.
All marine turtles are endangered animals. Two species nest at Penang National Park:
Turtles land at three beaches within the park: Pantai Kerachut, Teluk Kampi and Teluk Ketapang Kecil. Turtle eggs take two to three months before hatchlings emerge to find the sea.
To maintain protection and safeguard against any human interference of nesting turtles or hatchlings, the Fisheries Department sets out these guidelines:
Visit the turtle sanctuary with your kids or friends to learn more about turtle conservation and the importance of not buying or eating eggs to increase their chances of survival.
Day on the Beach
The beaches of Penang Island are full of fun, food and activity. The beaches at the park are remote, pristine and peaceful.
Work up a sweat and trek through the jungle before reaching the sun and sea or choose to hire a boat to cruise around the park to your favorite beach getaway. Each journey has its own advantages, whether to observe forest flora and fauna or watch sea eagles along the coast.
There are eight beachfronts to choose from, each with their own particular simple charm:
Built by the British in 1884 to steer ships to safe passage around Penang Island, the lighthouse is a national treasure.
Still in use and preserved as a monument to Malaysia's colonial past, walk the jungle trail to this hilltop observation post (242 meters or 794 feet) for great views of the island.
Located at Muka Head, start at Teluk Duyung beach and climb a gradual uphill trail leads you through picturesque rainforest that provides plenty of plants like fungi and pitcher plants to gaze upon.
The lighthouse is not always open to the public, so either check with the park staff or make a booking for your group to view this interesting artefact of a different era.
An ecological oddity, there are only a few dozen meromictic lakes in the world. The lake combines seawater with freshwater without mixing, making two separate water layers.
The dense salt water layer lies below the less dense freshwater layer sourced from five small stream inlets.
Monsoon winds whip up the sea and sand to form a barrier that locks in saltwater in the lake. Freshwater continues to trickle in from streams in the surrounding hills.
Winds also break down the barrier that allows seawater to flow out again. Most of the year the lake is very low, only to be filled again when the monsoon season arrives.
Take a 45 minute walk around the meromictic lake to see the how this unique habitat transforms during different times of the year.
Penang Island Maps
North Penang Map
Penang National Park Trails
Penang Island: Hotels
Hotels in Penang Island are plentiful and range from cozy budget lowrises to bayside resorts. Penang National Park is really just a taxi ride away, so staying anywhere on the island will fit into your holiday plans. That way you can enjoy the city sights and nights out on the town for famous cuisine along Gurney Drive and other hot spots.
Penang Island: Getting There & Getting Around
Located on the northwest corner of the island and just past Batu Ferringhi beach, visitors can reach Penang National Park within 30 to 45 minutes from downtown.
Look for the fishing village at Telok Bahang and easily find the park entrance next to the Fishermens' Association hotel. In the same compound, you can visit the Interpretation Centre, book boat tours and check out nature guide packages.
There are no accommodations inside the park and camping may be restricted to conservation programmes and study groups. Please check on camping availabilty before arrival.
With easy access via taxi or bus, visitors can stay at more comfortable hotels located nearby at Batu Ferringhi or even in Georgetown. Bring food, water and snack items with you since there are very few stores and restaurants at Teluk Bahang.
Boat Tour Services
Visitors to the park are encouraged to take advantage of boat tour services arranged from private operators. Save time by going straight to your favorite beach to spend an afternoon or just enjoy the views from sea level with an island cruise.
Here are some activities and outings offered by boat tour operators and some contacts (no endorsements):
Penang Island: Travel Resources
For more information on travelling to Georgetown Malaysia visit www.travel-penang-malaysia.com where you will find details on other attractions of Penang.
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