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The Smallest National Park in the World hidden in the corner of Penang

Getting the evil eye from a tortoise at Penang National Park
Reese (walking ahead, around a corner): Ahhhh!
Mark: What?! What is it?!
Reese: Oh sorry, it's nothing. (sighs in relief)  Just some sculpture.
Mark: A sculpture?  In the jungle?
Reese: Ahhh!  It moved!
Mark (running up to see): Wow!  That's one, mean looking tortoise
The slowest hiker I've ever seen (wait, wasn't that what the hare said?)
To remind ourselves that we are living on an island, and that there is much more to Penang than just George Town, we jumped on bus #101 and took it to the end.  It follows the coastline through Batu Feringhi, past Teluk Bahang, to a dead-end road on the northwest corner of the island, at the trail head of Penang National Park (or Pulau Pinang Taman Negara).

After buying two bottles of water, we signed in at the park entrance and headed off.  Ten minutes down a paved path, you have the option of going right to the canopy walk, monkey beach, and the historic Muka Head lighthouse, or left, as we did, to Pantai Kerachut (Beach), a rare meromictic lake, and the Sea Turtle Conservation Centre.
The trail is an old timber hauling track where locals would use water buffaloes to drag the logs down the hill.  Now the track is a mix of concrete stairs and dirt paths (unless you have knee high boots and are highly motivated, I wouldn't recommend going if it is raining hard or you think it might).  The well marked trail takes about 1.5 hours through spectacular rainforest.  It's well worth the hike, but if you want to take a shortcut, you can always rent a boat to go straight to the beach.
Watch your step along the trail...
A Painted Bronzeback snake near the path
Emerging from the jungle, sweaty, and already out of drinking water, we stepped onto a bridge and welcomed a strong sea breeze from Pantai Kerachut beach on our right.
On the left, a shallow meromictic lake that only exists during intermittent periods of the year, when it can fill or empty many times during monsoonal changes.  It is a rare phenomenon, where the warmer, denser sea water sits on the bottom of the lake, and never mixes with the cool fresh water layer on top, fed from five jungle streams.   
Along the shore, you can find many small crabs scampering in and out of the water
After the irate greeting from a tortoise on the walk down to the beach, we were hoping for a friendlier welcome from a sea turtle along Pantai Kerachut beach.  Since the reintroduction of sea turtles here, you will find many holes burrowed into the sand along the tree line.  We found a few recently dug holes, but unfortunately no Green or Olive Ridley Turtles in sight. 
Behind the tree, you can see holes in the sand, dug out by sea turtles to lay their eggs
At the far end of the beach, you can find the Pantai Kerachut Turtle Conservation Centre which is open to the public.  If you're lucky, you might be there when they release a hundred baby turtles as they scurry into the ocean. 
You can find more information at the Penang National Park official site and in their pdf brochure.

For jungle trekking in Penang, you can head over to the recently launched PenangTrails.com website.

13 comments:

Christina Schweighofer said...

Great pictures! I'd love to spend the day at that beach and feel the swing of the bridge. (In L.A. it's coldtoday. We're going skiing...)

debi said...

What incredible pictures. The evil eye is spooky! What a gorgeous beach - I'd love to see the baby turtles.

Reese said...

Hi Christina - skiing doesn’t sound like a bad idea at all, especially in such a gorgeous place such as Mount Baldy:) We do miss some cool weather here.

Thank you Debi. We’ll definitely go back to see the baby turtles if they’re around. It would be a wonderful experience. I'll share the pictures with you then.

siewleong said...

Penang is looking good, maybe it's the LGE effect? Is that bridge new?

Curious Cat Travel Photos said...

Great post, thanks. Wonderful pictures.

Reese said...

Hi Siew Leong - we're seeing positive signs but there are still many areas for Penang to improve, especially when it comes to the environment.

The bridge was probably built in 2003 when the National Park opened.

Reese

Reese said...

Thanks Curious Cat:)

Joan Looi said...

This looks like fun and the beach a wonderful reward after trekking through the humidity for over an hour. Thanks for sharing your experience. This is one spot we will definitely put on the list when we go back to Penang this summer.

Kathy said...

Great post! I've been thinking about going here. How was it getting back, just jump on the 101 going the opposite way I'm guessing? How often does it come?

Reese said...

Hi Joan - it's a must do after all the overeating in Penang! (Remember to bring lots of water because there is no where to buy after you enter the park)

Kathy - Thanks, you'd enjoy the nature and fresh air. Yup, 101 straight back to Komtar. The bus comes every 10 minutes or so.

Joan Looi said...

This looks like fun and the beach a wonderful reward after trekking through the humidity for over an hour. Thanks for sharing your experience. This is one spot we will definitely put on the list when we go back to Penang this summer.

Kathy said...

Great post! I've been thinking about going here. How was it getting back, just jump on the 101 going the opposite way I'm guessing? How often does it come?

siewleong said...

Penang is looking good, maybe it's the LGE effect? Is that bridge new?