With the distinction of being the world’s smallest national park, Penang National Park (also known as Pantai Acheh Forest Preserve) boasts an astonishing range of diversity both in terrain and among its plants and animals. With 417 types of plants and 143 animals, Penang is easily the most biodiverse portion of Malaysia – no visit to Malaysia is complete without a stop in Penang.
You can reach the park via the Teluk-Bahang 101 bus from George Town. All visitors must check in upon arrival for safety reasons – particularly if you are planning on hiking. A little planning will make your visit to the park more enjoyable. You will be hiking through forests. The trails are not paved or well-graded. Bring water with you as it will get hot and there are no vendors along the way. Wear breathable clothing and sensible shoes.
- Monkey Beach – Also known as Teluk Duyung, it’s just what it sounds like – you hike in to visit a beautiful beach that is frequented by crab-eating monkeys. You’ll also see mangrove trees along with an astounding assortment of plants. Be prepared to meet big and small lizards along the way as well. Don’t forget to stop and look up into the trees for spectacular birds. The path to Monkey Beach is steep and rocky. If you go on from Monkey Beach, you climb further up until you reach the Muka Lighthouse. It’s worth the trip for the far-reaching views from the top of the lighthouse. Use common sense – don’t feed the animals, leave only your footprints.
- Turtle Beach – As you hike to the turtle sanctuary, you will come to Kerachut Beach. You will also see a meromictic lake where layers of fresh and salt water do not mix. At the turtle sanctuary, you will see either green sea turtles (April and August) and Olive Ridley turtles (September through February). These turtles come to shore to lay and bury their eggs. Staff at the park do their best to protect both species and get them off to the best start in the wild.
- Canopy Trail – If you’ve always wanted to walk through the treetops, this is your chance. Admission to Penang National Park is free but there is a nominal charge for a chance to walk 7500 feet and 45 feet above ground on suspension bridges in the trees. The hike to the bridge is one of the few paved walks and is not taxing. Call ahead as the bridge is often closed after heavy rains and due to fallen trees.
- Boats – If you are not much of a hiker, you can get boat rides into and away from the beaches throughout the day at a reasonable price. Or, if you’re feeling romantic, take a sunset cruise around Kerachut Beach before heading back to George Town.
- Camping – Have you always wanted to spend the night in the jungle? You may camp at no charge at designated campsites throughout Penang National Forest. This option is for experienced campers/hikers who are familiar with primitive camping. If you are ready to carry your gear/food in and out of the park, you are ready for the adventure of a lifetime. Respect the rules. Camping on the beach can disrupt the turtles’ cycle – light from fires or lanterns distracts the mother turtles when they climb onto the beach to lay their eggs late at night.
A visit to Malaysia is going to be memorable no matter what you do. A visit to Penang National Forest will make it unforgettable.