Monday, October 31, 2005

PENANG NATIONAL PARK


Introduction

Pantai Acheh Forest Reserve was declared the Penang National Park (PNP) on 4th April 2003. Located at the north-western corner of Penang Island stands the last wilderness and nature heritage of Penang, covering an area of about 2562 ha. Part of the area forms the catchment of Teluk Bahang dam. It is the most remote part of the state. Lying way out of civilization, it is the nature park for scientific & nature studies and recreational activities. Penang National Park is all lush green and the fragrance of the sea breeze is enchanting. It conveys to us the message of eco-balance that everyone should live life joyfully. Its ecosystem consists mainly of tropical lowland forest with coastal features. Be it beaches, hills, forest trails or even lake, it offers big biodiversity as a national park.
Background
The proposal for the PNP was first mooted in 1959 by a group known as “The Committee for the Preservation of Areas of Natural Beauty, Pulau Pinang”. In 1976, MNS Penang Branch sent an official memorandum to the Penang State Government to elevate the Pantai Acheh Forest Reserve (PAFR) to that of a National Park. A 1978 MNS-USM expedition found that species diversity in the PAFR was high with 25 species of mammals, 53 species of butterflies, 46 species of birds and a considerable variety of marine life (e.g. seaweeds, sea anemones, corals, mollusks, marine worms, crustaceans, echinodems, sea turtles). In 1985, the MNS (Penang Branch) again sent a memorandum to the Penang State Structure Plan Unit advocating that PAFR be designated as a National Park. The MNS led scientific expedition from 15-23 April 2000 shown this pristine site harbours a wealth of 417 flora and 143 fauna species. Among the animals spotted at the park and its surroundings are turtles, otters, dolphins, mousedeers, rare lizards and monkeys. The unique features are the five habitat types not found in the other major Malaysian nature reserves – meromictic lake, wetlands, mangroves, mudflats, coral reefs and turtle nesting beaches.

The Beaches
There are 8 beaches. The beaches of Penang National Park are popular amongst tourists as well as locals. Each beach has its own uniqueness; richness of variety of floras and faunas and of its potential tourism activities.
1) Teluk Bahang Beach
It should be noted that Teluk Bahang is the area where the Bahang Bay is located. It is usually being confused with the Teluk Bahang township. At the very edge of the northern boundary of the forest reserve lays Teluk Bahang the forest reserve. The panoramic fishing jetty engulfing the backdrop is a rare sight by itself - built of mangrove timber and palm trunks. This scenic beach is bustling with tourists and campers going into the national park. The area is disturbed with sandy beach and seasonal muddy seabed. Much litter have accumulated and scarred the scenic beach. A little stream flows into the bay. A scout camp was supposedly built here to replace the coronation camp at the Botanic Gardens. Army reserves trainings were common here.
  • Flora: – Disturbed secondary forest and hardy plants such as the screw pines dominate the coast. The red paper-like bark called pelawan trees are abundant. Undergrowth and ferns spread between the trees.
  • Fauna: – Reptile such as monitor lizards and snakes are common. Squirrels and monkeys occasionally make an appearance.
  • Tourism: - This beach is easily accessible within walking distance from the jetty and the restaurant. There is a shady camping ground and with civilization just around the corner – makes suitable venue for family outings.
2) Teluk Tukun
Sungai Tukun flows into Teluk Tukun. A small island opposite is Pulau Tukun Tengah. At the estuary, the forestry department had built chalets. The national park headquarter will be situated here. Camping pits were built along Sungai Tukun. There are several small swimming pools for campers. The piped water is supplied from the upper stream.
  • Flora: - The cool stream feeding the Tukun bay fans out into the shallow sea. Several mangrove trees are found along the estuary. Secondary forest is the main feature. Exotic flowering plants and ornamental plants are decorated along the trail parallel with the stream. Timber trees are found along the upper reaches of the stream.
  • Fauna: - Two types of monkeys are found here. The dusky leaf monkeys and the long tailed macaque can be seen if you are observance enough. Birds are aplenty.
  • Tourism: - Proper camping ground and amenities provided by the authority make camping a luxury. Birdwatching should not be missed here. The swimming pools provided good place for family outings and nature camps.
3) Tanjung Aling
Tanjung Aling housed the USM’s research centre. There is a jetty to bring in supply from town. The forest and coastal areas are been used for research on bio-technology. The research station’s collection museum has vast collection of flora and fauna exhibits.
  • Flora: - The secondary forest surrounding the centre has vast variety of plants. Herbal plants are aplenty and need more research to discover the potentials.
  • Fauna: - Rats, birds, monitor lizards, snakes and squirrels are common. The occasional landing of turtles provide record of the larger fauna found here.
  • Tourism: - The beach is easily accessible and it is a suitable camping site for campers who prefer to camp within the vicinity of the biological station. It is also a resting place for hikers enroute to Muka Head and beyond.

4) Teluk Duyung- Teluk Duyung is a beautiful bay protected by the Muka Head’s cape. It is the most popular beach for tourists. Teluk Duyung is also called Muka Head, named after the Muka Head’s peak which stands a majestic lighthouse. It is a private land cultivated with coconuts and durians. A burial ground of at least 80 years old resembles that of Indonesian’s Acheh is an interesting historical artifact.

  • Flora: - Pyrrosia angustata an uncommon fern found only in this part of national park. Other noticeable trees planted include casuarina trees, sea almond, cashew nuts and the swaying coconut palms. A colony of unidentified aroids grow between a section of the coconut orchard.
  • Fauna: –The fact that Teluk Duyung is also popularly known as Monkey Beach suggests that monkeys are abundant. The species that are common here are the Long Tailed Macaque. Other animals include the vipers, monitor lizards, squirrels and rats. Amongst the most noticeable big birds are the White bellied Sea Eagles and the Brahminy Kites.
  • Tourism: - It is an ideal swimming bay with flat and sandy seabed. Beachcombers will enjoy collecting mollous during low tides. Lunch packages were organised by the beach hotels. Barbecue pits were built by them to cater for the tourists. A broad flight of steps leads up from the beach to the lighthouse. The peak offers a panoramic view of the Kedah’s peak and the surrounding islands. The lighthouse was built in 1883 and has a useable well on the peak.

5) Teluk Ketapang- This is a small isolated beach stretching less than 100 meters. It was originally known as Monkey Beach. This is where monkeys roam the beach scavenging and ransacking campers. The beach got it name from the numerous sea almond trees known locally as Pokok Ketapang. The seed of the sea almond when cut open give a white kernel tasting like almond and hence the name sea almond.

  • Flora: - There are many exotic trees planted by the previous inhabitant of this isolated beach. Quite a number of matured timber trees are found along the trail between Teluk Duyung and Teluk Ketapang. Some rare herbs can also be found. These include the famous aphrodisiac plant called eurycoma longifolia or locally known as tongkat ali.
  • Fauna: - Bats are abundant here as the sea almond attracts fruit bats. The long tailed macaques are common. Monitor lizards and sea otters are often seen around the rocky bay.
  • Tourism: - This secluded beach with a small bay can be easily accessed by boat. The hotels that offer packages often come to this beach to prepare barbecue lunch for the guests. Turbulent current around the Muka Head’s cape hindered smaller boats from easy assess to this beach. Black sand is found along the beach. A little stream flows to the sea providing the needed fresh water for campers and tourists.

6) Pantai Kerachut- Famous for its seasonal meromictic lake, it is a popular picnic and camping site and famous turtle hatchery. Collecting of the turtles’ eggs is prohibited. Pantai Kerachut is the only beach where the Green Sea Turtle Chelonia mydas can be spotted. It is believed that the Green Turtle only migrate here for nesting as extensive algae are not known and found around Penang Island. It is one of the largest sea turtle and the Penang National Park will ensure the continuity of the turtle’s visit.

  • Flora: – Cashew nuts are common here. This indicates that some agriculture activities had taken place many years ago. Fully-grown timber trees are found inside the forest beyond the coast. From afar the tree crowns look greyish from the crowns of shorea curtiss.
  • Fauna: – Bats and birds are common. Long Tailed Macaques are a nuisance as they raided campsites for food. The other Dusky Leaf Monkeys which are shy are harder to spot. The calls from a pair of resident stock billed kingfisher in the evening occasionally break the monotonous beating waves and chirping birds. Wildboars, monitor lizards, and mousedeers are quite common during low tourist seasons.
  • Tourism: - The memorictic lake is the greatest attraction here. Warm saline water below and fresh water on top. Crab, rare fishes and large prawns are quite common. The fishery department has built a turtle sanctuary.

7) Teluk Kampi- Teluk Kampi has the longest beach in the park. Tell signs of trenches were found along the northern coast indicating a defense post for the Japanese Army. Historically this could be the best landing place for seafarer. There are many artifacts and past history to be found if one is to venture further.

  • Flora: The beach is long and plants are aplenty ranging from rocky bonsai to timber and herbal plants. Wild orchids found on steep rocky slopes are common. An old fruiting pokok malacca can be found along the beach. The tree bear fruits throughout the year welcoming hikers to refresh their taste buds.
  • Fauna: Fish are wild. Campers will never have to bring food if they care to fish. Wild boar and some wild cats have been sighted. A couple of sea otters can be seen basking on the beach from afar.
  • Tourism: A stroll from one end of the beach to the other offered a sweeping panorama over the blue ocean far beyond. Lazing on this isolated beach, the distant skyline with passing steamers and setting sun guarantee to refresh and charge up your life again.

8) Pantai Mas Pantai- Mas is a golden beach. It was a beautiful beach until the pig farm at Pantai Acheh village polluted it with muddy discharge from the farm. The beach still looks “golden” with the golden sand if not for the enormous amount of rubbish. Being very close to civilization, mud and mangrove create a wilderness few people would like to go. The difficulty to access Pantai Mas by sea could be the reason why dwellers abandoned their homes here.

  • Flora: Formally a coconut plantation, it is now a wasteland overgrown with lalang and other undergrowth. Strangely not too distant from the coast a whole colony of nepenthes manages to survive the coastal habitat. The muddy seabed also helps mangrove trees to propagate. The soft wood sea hibiscus with the yellow flowers has flourish right to the edge of the beach.
  • Fauna: Lizards are common. Aroids and some exotic ornamental plants can be found. A resident otter family can be seen every day along the mangroves. Mousedeers, civet cats and small mammals are found in the interior.
  • Tourism: With muddy seabed and difficult accessibility by boat, Pantai Mas is an adventure beach. Here streams run throughout the year.

The Hills

The vast stretch of hills stretching from Teluk Bahang to Pantai Acheh holds great potentials for adventure and tourism. It has undulating topography with ravines and little valleys and hills of irregular height linked by ridges. It is through these ridges that many trails crisscrossed each other to form an intervene web of trails in the park. The highest point is Batu Itam at 1500 feet on the southern flank of park. Bukit Telaga Batu is about 1100 feet and has potential folklore of a 6 inches deep well on a boulder on top the western flank of the hill.

The magnificent serviceable lighthouse stands majestically on the Muka Head peak of 700 feet is still faithfully guiding seafarers into our Penang's water. The hill practically joins to form a ridge bisecting the park into West and East. It is fortunate that a dam has been built on the southern east of park providing the needed buffer zone whereby rich flora and fauna will thrive.The eastern side of the park is therefore a vital water source. This area should be a protected area for wild species against human intrusion. Most of the hills remind us of clear skys and dark forest, of steep climbing and flat terrains, of slippery leaflets, of large boulders, of cheerful friends shared by a common memories of pain and fun. Perhaps this could be the only place where hikers are free to roam in Penang.

The Safari

Each evening looking out on the distant setting sun, the raptors make their final catch before going back to the tall seraya trees. Hovering and guiding gracefully above and making a dashing dive, and emerging with a catch or two seem much more enjoyable than seeing caged exotic wildlife imported from far away places. This is best natural safari.
Resort At present there is not much resort facilities at the park. The only available accommodation is at Sungai Tukun. Other beaches are suitable for camping. However, permission is needed for camping.

Tourism

Tourism forms the basis of northern Penang's economy, to which the park make a significant contribution. The beach tours were adequately promoted on the sun, sand and sea. The variety of unexpected sights offered by the coastline, the greenery, the greyish canopy tree tops, the acrobatic raptors, the golden beaches combed with fresh sea breeze, can be fully appreciated while on a boat.

Conclusion

Under the shadow of the Penang National Park, all wild life dwells. It is the last wilderness in Penang and must be preserved at all cost at its present state to face the constant challenges to that very distracting force seeking to pit against nature called development. With vibrant beauty, all flora and fauna sing in harmony and invoke us to treat them with love and care. Nature has so extravagantly bestowed upon us this last wilderness called Penang National Park.

*Article taken from http://www.forestexplorers.com/pnp.html

By Agnes

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