Saturday, July 22, 2006

PENANG NATIONAL PARK



By Wendy

Do you know where is the world's smallest national park located and is also leech-free rainforest? What do you know about 'meromictic lake'? Interested to know about the local 'viagra', our very own Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia) which can be seen at it's natural form. All these and much more can be found here in Malaysia at the Penang National Park(PNP).

PNP is located on the north western corner of the Penang Island. The park size is approx. 2,562-hectare and it also boast of being the easiest in terms of accessibility compared to other national park in the world. Only 30 mins.by road from the state capital, Georgetown which passes by urban and rural settings until you reach the fishing village of Teluk Bahang. From the park entrance, it is merely a short walk towards the park.

I had the liberty of visiting the park last weekend with couple of my old school mates and our experience nature guides Joseph and Beatrice. Fancy the thoughts of being born in Penang, yet had never set foot on this side of the island. We started off early in the morning and reaching the park entrance at 7:30am. As we enter the park, we were greeted by a loud cry above us. A group of dusky leaf monkey welcoming us with it's acrobatic jump from the top tree branch, one after another. As we walked passed them, you get the feelings of being followed closely by their watchful eyes. According to our guide Beatrice, the dusky leaf monkeys are tamer than the macaque monkey(another species which can be found here at the PNP).

The beginning part of the trail has a slight hilly slope, after that the trails gets easy all the way toward Kerachut Beach. According to Joseph, he can complete the trails in 15 mins fast run. It took us around 1 hour and 30 mins as we constantly stop by to look at the many interesting flora pointed out by our sharp eyes guides. We also stop by a small stream to have our local 'nasi lemak' breakfast and a quick soak of our tired feet at the stream really works wonder.

After our brief breakfast stop, we are on our way again to our trail. We were shown the 'Lingzhi' (photos above)mushroom, Ganoderma is the fungus Ganoderma lucidum . It is also called the reishi mushroom or in Chinese ling zhi . It is one of the most popular medicinal mushrooms in China, Japan, and the United States.

In ancient China, when somebody in the forest discovered a Ganoderma growing, they would deliver it to the Emperor. It was known as the "king of herbs". To find one of these mushrooms was very auspicious and not everybody had access to the consumption thereof. Ganoderma was first described more than 2,400 hundred years ago during the Shu Dynasty.

We came across many different type of palm trees and also rattan. Joseph pointed out to one of the palm trees with thorns which is nickname as 'wait a minute'. The story goes that a foreign trekker were caught by one of the thorns on the clinghy palm and he called out to his guide ,'wait a minute'. The local guide mistook it as the English name.

There is also the red paperbark trees which Joseph explains that our fishermen use it as a dye for their fishing nets as it helps to strengthen it. Then there is a tree which the leafs smell like 'sarsi'. We also saw small pitcher plants(monkey cup) and the famous 'tongkat ali' tree.

As we walk along we came across a small elevated cement bridge, Joseph pointed out to us that this is the King Cobra area which explains the elevated bridge. We walked passed the area quietly and scouring the area carefully lest we encounter the king cobra.

There are different trails leading to the different beach so decide where you are headed to and follow the easy marked trails. As our main reason for visiting the park was the meromic lake, we followed the Pantai Kerachut trail.


A meromictic lake has layers of water which do not intermix. The deepest layer of water in such a lake does not contain any dissolved oxygen. The layers of sediment at the bottom of a meromictic lake remain relatively undisturbed because there are no living organisms to stir them up. The cool fresh wa-ter stays at the top while the warm seawater stays at the bottom, hence the name meromictic.



We were very lucky to be able to see the forming of the lake as this phenomenon takes place end of July to August according to Beatrice. The lake wasn't fully formed yet. The sandbank at the river mouth was already blocked at the time of our visit resulting us getting the viewing of the beginning stage of the lake formation. Joseph said that by next week, the lake should be completely formed. Taking a dip at the lake is a must to experience the unique and rare feel of the cool and warm freshwater and seawater.


As the cool breeze of the sea picks up, we saw a couple of white-bellied sea eagles cirling the sky. Then one of it dives down and swooped a fish out from the water, a BIG WOW! Nature show at it's best.


The Pantai Kerachut also has a turtle hatchery conservation centre as the sandy beach is nesting place of the Green Turtles (Che-lonia mydas) and Olive-Ridley Tur-tles (Lepidochelys olivacea). We noticed the prints left behind by the turtles and also a few dug-out area of the sands, no doubt made by the turtles as they came ashore to hatched their eggs. The eggs takes around 7-10 weeks to hatch.

For those who wish to spend the night there at the national park. There are camping sites with shower areas and bbq pits and lights. The ranger building is by the beach area.

Alas all good thing must come to an end. We took the motorised boat(which was pre-booked by our guide) back to the park entrance. They charged between RM70-Rm100 per boat which can accomadate up to 8 pax. There are bigger boats which can accomadate more if you travel in larger groups. The boat ride takes 30 mins.passing by another famous beach Teluk Duying(Monkey Beach) and also Muka Head with it's famous light house which was built in 1883.

By the time we reached the park entrance, it is around 1:30pm. We spend around 5 hours inside the national park. How time flies when one is having fun. We were lucky to have great guides to point out to us the various types of fauna and flora. All of it would have been missed if we went our own as it is hard to noticed them if it were not been shown by our experience nature-loving husband and wife team guides of Joseph and Beatrice.

For those who planned to visit Penang, don't forget to take this quick excursion and see for yourself our great nature secret that is hidden at the back of the Penang island. For a mere RM50-RM100 per pax(depending on how many of you), you get a full guided tour excluding the fare for the boat ride back + breakfast. You can opt to hike back which is not a difficult trail so you can save on the boat charges.

Getting There:

30 minutes drive from Georgetown capital in Penang, to Teluk Bahang by road

Nature Guides Contact Details:

Email: freegatemy@gmail.com

Tel: Joseph- 012 480 0584

Beatrice- 012 438 7806