Hiking in the Penang National Park
Penang National Park holds a curious record, it’s the world’s smallest National Park. However, it is home to an extraordinarily wide spectrum of tropical plants, animals, and geographical features. It contains six different types of habitat: a meromictic lake, wetlands, mangroves, mudflats, coral reefs and turtle nesting beaches. All of this in only 2500 hectares, which means it’s a great place for hiking! You will never get bored. “Good things come in small packages.”
Hiking in Penang National Park
There are two main trails in Penang National Park. One goes through the jungle to Pantai Kerachut aka Turtle Beach, while the other goes through the coast to Teluk Duyung aka Monkey beach. Everywhere you read about them says that it’s impossible to do both in the same day. So, you have to chose between them… or do you? Well, unless you are extremely fit it’s very difficult and a little foolish. What’s the point of rushing everything only to walk through the jungle for 7 or 8 hours? Yet, we did both trails in one day and it was great! Moreover, it only took us about 4 hours of hiking… How did we do it? We did the trail to turtle beach, then took a boat from turtle beach to Monkey beach and then hiked back to Penang National park entrance!
Note that there is a Canopy Walk in the Park, but it was closed when we went there. Supposedly this Canopy allows you to walk among the rain forest tree tops and costs only 5 Rm per person.
Trail to Turtle Beach
If we really had to choose we would have done this trail. Within minutes you are right in the middle of the tropical lush jungle. The path is clear and easy to follow, but it’s hard work with some steep and slippery parts. This is a true jungle trail with only some concrete steps to help climbing the steeper parts. During the trail there are a few huts to rest and some information about the trail, the fauna, the flora and the park. Just before arriving to turtle beach you will have to cross the suspension bridge over the meromictic lake, a rare natural feature composed of two separate layers of unmixed freshwater on top and seawater below. Or a muddy plain because this rare lake only exists during rainy season.
Taxi boat from Turtle beach to Monkey Beach
In our opinion turtle beach is the most pristine of Penang, however it has a big downside you can’t swim there. Anyway, it’s a wonderful beach to enjoy the sun, the sand and the solitude. This beach is a turtle nesting reserve, thus the name. While it’s very difficult to actually see the turtles in the beach you can visit the turtle center where they have some information and a few turtles to show you.
From here you can get a taxi boat to Monkey Beach. Although it’s safe if you book it at the park’s entrance, we just tag along with a girl we met during the trek and payed for our way. There are several boats doing this service, so it’s fairly easy to go to one of them and haggle your way. The trip itself is very pleasant and you get to see the park from a different view. It takes about 10 minutes to reach Monkey beach.
Trail from Monkey Beach back to the park entrance
We were expecting monkey beach to be very different. Why? We were expecting it to look like turtle beach or Koh ta kiev. However, with the amount of boats,water sports and people, it really didn’t look like a National Park, it was just another average beach… Unfortunately both the water and the sand weren’t very clean. We rested a bit, enjoyed a swim and continued the trail, now returning to the Park Entrance.
Although, this last trail was always close or by the shore, it’s still a forest trail that gets narrow and a bit challenging, with the occasional boulder or fallen tree to vault over. Along the trail we saw several monkeys and two scary monitor lizards. This part of the trail is also dirtier, particularly right in front of building of University of Malaysia Marine Research Station. It’s very disappointing that the university is contributing to the pollution of the park instead of helping clean it.
In conclusion, if you want to see the whole park this is your best option. Do both the trails and connect them by a small and pleasant boat ride. As a bonus you get a circular trail and don’t have to come back the same way you went. Hiking through Penang National Park is a very safe and easy way of enjoying a virgin tropical jungle. In a few minutes you are in the middle of a jungle like the ones you see in the movies or pictures and you’ll be pleased by its sounds, smells and views.
Useful information about Penang National Park:
Getting there: Get bus 101 that runs from Georgetown’s jetty to the National Park. It’s the last stop, where the bus turns around. This bus travels along Chulia Street, KOMTAR, then out of town along the coast through Batu Ferringhi beach. There’s a bus every 10 minutes and it takes about hour for the full way.
Price: The park has no entry fee, however you need to register at the entrance. The bus costs 2.7 Ringgit (0.5 USD) each way. If you fancy our suggestion of doing both trails and connect them by boat then it obviously have to pay for the boat. We paid 20 Ringgit (4.2 USD) per person.
Time required: Both trails take about 1:30, and the boat 10 to 15 minutes. However, overall this is a full day activity, particularly if you want to do both beaches as we suggested! The park opens from 8:00 to 17:00.
Don’t Forget: Bring lots of water and snacks. In monkey beach we found people selling snacks and drinks but hiking in the jungle is hard work and you can get dehydrated very fast. Bring walking or running shoes with good grip, this is a jungle hike!
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