Penang National Park
Penang National Park is the only park in Malaysia that covers both land and sea area. The border covers half nautical mile of the sea as well as a portion of the north west corner of the land mass of Penang island.
There are other Marine Parks, but these are different as they comprise of whole islands with five nautical miles of the waters (in most cases) surrounding them as protected areas. "Protected" means no destructive activities like collecting flora, land fauna or other marine animals are allowed.
Penang National Park is not really well known at the moment, most visitors skip it because it is inaccessible by road. You could only hike to those secluded beaches -- the trail is pretty rough for those who are not fit enough and therefore they have to rent a boat (at a pretty high price) to get there.
It is also the smallest National Park in Malaysia (and in the world for that matter) and its main gate at Teluk Bahang is merely 30 minutes drive from George Town. It is good that the park is gazetted as such because a nature heritage is truly lacking in Penang, amidst all the so-called development and progress.
Beaches at the National Park
I have heard about this park many many years ago from my friends who were USM students. Groups of young people like to go up there camping and hiking for the weekend. The university also has its own research center at one of the beaches (Pantai Ailing).
However, Pantai Kerachut, which takes around 1.5 hours of hiking to reach is more popular as a camping site. If you wish to camp, you have to apply for the spot in advance as only 80 people are allowed at any one time to camp there.
This beach also has a small turtle hatchery base. If you are lucky, you will be able to see baby turtles being quarantined before they are set free to the sea. The turtle eggs take 62 days to hatch. After hatching, they will be kept for two days before being set to the sea at dusk, to avoid easy detection by predators such as birds or monitor lizards.
At this the place also you can watch a bizarre nature phenomenon: a meromictic lake. This lake is very unique in this part of the world as at certain times, it has two layers of sea water and river water distinctly separated from each other.
Another popular beach is known as Monkey Beach, its formal name is Teluk Duyung. Here also there is a cape called Mukah Head. In my opinion it is called so because the shape of the cape if seen from above resembles the profile of a man. ("Muka" is Malay for face). At the peak of this small cape is an old lighthouse, built in the 19th century. It is still guiding ships which pass the Straits of Malacca and the Andaman Sea. A hike up to the lighthouse (can take up to an hour) is also interesting as you can see a fantastic view all around you from the peak.
Teluk Tukun is my favorite beach at Penang National Park. Why? It has the mix of the beach and a cascade of several fresh water pools that is fed by Sungai Tukun. The area is complete with a nicely set up campsite and also a walk way canopy! It is perfect for a family outing too since it is only about 20 minutes hike from the main gate. Most children above 6 years old should be able to handle it well. If you have the chance to enjoy this place, please take care not to litter or to use soap when bathing or even detergent to wash clothes as this will change the pH balance of the water.
Pantai Acheh is further south, facing the west. It is a mix of wetland and also forest. It is only accessible by boat. You definitely cannot hike through the mangrove swamp! Anyway, the speed boat ride is fantastic, the boatman should be able to stop at certain places near Mukah Head and show you the formation of rocks that resemble a crocodile or a turtle. Legend has it that these rocks were real animals which were cursed by "Sang Kelembai" (sometimes spelled "Sang Gedembai)". This mythical creature was a guardian of the forest according to the Malay folklore.
Animals at the National Park
About the animals, there are plenty of birds to watch. Monkeys too and also lemurs. Most visitors are disappointed not being able to spot any big animals.
In order to have a better idea of the location of the beaches, check outthis map.
Well, if you go into the jungle in a group of ten people and make loud noise, even the Lion King would go a-hiding! So, please go about quietly, and enjoy the peace at Penang National Park. There are a few trails to follow.
The park rangers do a good job ensuring the safety of the visitors, as well as keeping an eye on potential lawbreakers. There is also a maintenance crew that keep the park clean. You should be grateful that at the moment, the entrance to the park is still free of charge.
Like I said, Penang National Park is part of our natural heritage. It has to be preserved and cared for. Otherwise, Penang island would turn into another concrete jungle with hardly any green place for us to recharge. Here I put a photos page of some parts of the National Park for your viewing pleasure.
Now that you also know Penang still has some nature heritage left still in pristine condition but what about Kuala Lumpur? Surprisingly, there is also some green treasure to be enjoyed within a few hours drive from this capital of Malaysia. Check out this web site about Kuala Lumpur nature escapes for more details.
The Meromictic Lake at Pantai Kerachut is quite an interesting place.
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