Rainforest Journal

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Day trip at Penang National Park

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In a previous post some years back, I talked about the Tanjung Tuan Forest Reserve at Port Dickson, which contains coastal hill dipterocarp forest. Another location where similar forest exists is at Penang National Park. The park sits at the north-west corner of Penang Island and is the smallest national park in Peninsular Malaysia at only around 2500 hectares, but nonetheless is one of the most interesting, as it contains a myriad range of coastal habitats.

These habitats range from lowland to hill dipterocarp forest, various types of mangrove swamps in pristine state (more sandy and without much of the thick grey sludge/mud you see elsewhere), transitory littorial forest, and casuarina beach strand forest. It seems there are also old coconut plantations in the park, adding to the diverse mix of habitats in such a narrow, small area.

penang national park

The Penang National Park

Coastal hill dipterocarp forest

Coastal hill dipterocarp forest cloaks the hills in Penang National Park

Unfortunately, I did not have time to walk the trails in the park, and had to contend with a boat trip around the seaward fringes of the park, ending at a beach called Monkey Beach. The forest here is beautiful, although most of it is old secondary forest, interspersed with pockets of primary jungle perhaps.

monkey beach

Monkey Beach. I did not see any monkeys there that day, well….except for the Homo sapiens variety.

monkey beach

Monkey Beach is a sheltered bay with a nice sandy beach.

Beach forest in Penang

Beach forest in Penang National Park. This forest type exists as a very narrow band only, quickly making way for the more regular lowland forest. There even appears to be nipah palms lining the tiny stream in the photo. The coconut trees in the back are probably planted years ago.

From what I could see looking in from the outside, the forest here is dominated by Shorea curtisii stands, which typically grows in hill dipterocarp forest everywhere, but normally at higher elevations.

Probably because there is much less human traffic here compared to the other beaches in Penang, the seawater here looks greener and more pristine, and sea turtles actually come ashore to lay their eggs here. Rocky outcrops dominate most of the boundary between sea and land with some boulders resembling curious shapes, or so my boatman pointed out, only broken up occasionally by the sandy stretches of the beaches.

Rocky shoreline

A rocky shoreline is the prevailing land feature here.

Original Penang Island

I guess this is how Penang Island looked in the past. Well, more or less…

Perhaps in the future, when I am in Penang, I will make a trip into the recesses of the park, and visit the meromictic lake and small streams and rivers that flow through the park. Aside from other island habitats like Pangkor Island, Penang National Park offers a glimpse of natural coastal habitats that are still quite unchanged from the times of Sir Francis Light, who first landed on Penang Island some 230 years ago.

NB: There seems to be some conflicting info on the web, regarding the actual size of the park. A few sources state its size at around 2500 ha, but most recent sources give the size as 1200+ ha. The main PERHILITAN website gives the size as 2563 ha, which is made up of 1182 ha (land area), and 1381 ha (marine area).

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One Comment

  1. enjoyed this write up.. i hiked to the lighthouse from nat park entrance and it took a good 3 hours including to traverse across some jungle streams flowing out to sea.. difficult to wade so walk a long while to get across.

    the jungle is interesting and your description helps us to know more about the jungle species

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