Penang National Park
Exploring Malaysia’s Newest National Park – Taman Negara Pulau Pinang
Far quieter than Taman Negara in Peninsular Malaysia, the Penang National Park is Malaysia’s smallest and youngest national park. Known locally as Taman Negara Pulau Pinang, the Penang National Park occupies around ten square miles in the northwest corner of Penang Island.
Eight of the best beaches in Penang are hidden away inside the Penang National Park. Nesting sea turtles, a meromictic lake with both saltwater and freshwater, undeveloped beaches, and mangroves await anyone willing to tackle the trails in the national park.
Penang National Park Interpretation Center
Make the high-budget interpretation center at the entrance of the national park your first stop before going for a hike. The lavish facilities are brand new; the interactive and education displays have barely been touched by visitors. Binoculars and a spotting scope allow you to watch real life in the fishing village from a high vantage point.
The Interpretation Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.
Hiking in the Penang National Park
The three trails in the Penang National Park are steep yet well-maintained – the park facilities still feel new. A canopy walkway offers a glimpse of life in the trees and serves as a shortcut between the two main trails. Both main trails have enough leg-burning stairs to make even fit hikers sweat.
All visitors are required to register at the information window before entering the Penang National Park. If you intend to use the canopy walkway trail, you must purchase a ticket at the window or you will be turned away! The information counter is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Unless camping, hikers are expected to sign out before 6 p.m. Entrance into the national park is free.
Penang National Park Trails
Only 500 meters from the park entrance, you will be faced with a decision. Turn left to visit Pantai Kerachut – a beautiful beach where the sea turtles nest – or turn right to see Money Beach and Malaysia’s second oldest lighthouse. It is possible to see the entire Penang National Park in one day with an early start and lots of energy!
Monkey Beach: Monkey Beach – or Teluk Duyung – is named appropriately; macaque monkeys patrol the beach and roam the trails. Hiking to Monkey Beach takes a solid one hour and 15 minutes. Pantai Teluk Aling is a pleasant beach along the same trail approximately halfway to Monkey Beach. Read about monkey safety for handling surprise encounters.
Muka Head Light House: If you have the energy, continue 30 minutes more past Monkey Beach to Malaysia’s second-oldest lighthouse.
Canopy Walkway: The 20-minute canopy walkway trail serves as a shortcut between the two main trails. The walkway has a view of the river below and provides an opportunity for spotting birds. You must purchase your ticket for the walkway in advance at the entrance to the national park. The canopy walk is open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.; Closed on Fridays. Adults: $1.75; children: $1.
Meromictic Lake: Only a handful of mixed saltwater and freshwater lakes exist in the world – the Penang National Park has one. Despite the claim, the meromictic lake is shallow, muddy, and generally not much to look at. Reach the lake by walking left toward Pantai Kerachut about 1.5 hours.
Pantai Kerachut: Arguably the nicest beach in Penang, Pantai Kerachut is also a favorite nesting spot for endangered sea turtles. The deep, coarse sand is paradise after a sweaty hike; you may even have the beach all to yourself! Camping is the only way to see the turtles which come in at night. There are toilets, showers, and camping facilities at the far end of the beach as well as a small turtle sanctuary with baby sea turtles on display. Walking time: 90 minutes.
If your legs can’t take anymore, boats can be chartered from both Monkey Beach ($17) and Pantai Kerachut ($33) to bring you back to the national park entrance. Tickets must be purchased in advance before you begin your hiking.
The small fishing town of Teluk Bahang is the gateway to the Penang National Park. A peaceful respite from Georgetown, Teluk Bahang is a place where life begins early and shuts down early.
Food: A handful of Chinese restaurants, a Muslim-owned cafe, and assorted food stalls dotted along the main road offer a few Penang food favorites. A 24-hour minimart at the entrance of the national park has basic necessities.
Water: Take advantage of the water refilling machine located in the strip of shops on the left side of the road as you approach Penang National Park; 10 cents scores you 1.5 liters of water and keeps one more plastic bottle out of the landfill!
Money: The only ATM in town does not accept international cards – bring enough cash to survive.
Accommodation in Penang National Park
There is no place to stay inside of the national park, however there are two very basic accommodation options in Teluk Bahang. Many visitors to the Penang National Park are only daytrippers from Georgetown or nearby Batu Ferringhi. Camping is allowed with permission on Pantai Kerachut.
- Fishermen’s Village Guesthouse: $6 a night nets you basically what you would expect for the price. Even still, the rooms in the basement of the owner’s house come with fan and are the closest option to the Penang National Park. Take a right at the end of the main road in Teluk Bahang into the small fishing village and look for a sign on your right.
- Miss Loh’s Guesthouse: Miss Loh’s, close to the roundabout in Teluk Bahang, is difficult to find. Dorm beds for $3 and rooms for $7 make this a popular option, despite being farthest from the national park. Phone: 04-8851227.
Getting to Teluk Bahang
Getting to Teluk Bahang from Georgetown is easy. Bus #101 runs from KOMTAR, the Weld Quay jetty, and Chinatown in Georgetown counterclockwise around the island to Teluk Bahang every 45 minutes. The one-way fare to Teluk Bahang should cost around $1.20.
[Text courtesy of About.com, http://goseasia.about.com/od/penang/a/penang-national-park-malaysia.htm]
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