A tryst with the Rainforest at The Habitat Penang Hill

posted in: Asia, Cities, Malaysia, Nature | 44

Penang in Malaysia continued to surprise me with its unique options of things to do here. First being the street art of Penang and then a visit to the Chew Jetty, discovering the heritage sites of George Town and then, the refreshing beach at Batu Ferringhi. One would think that I was done with all the surprises at the end of Day three but No! I just discovered another with the rainforests of Malaysia – right here in Penang. I was treated to a refreshing nature walk at The Habitat Penang Hill.

The Habitat Penang Hill

An eco-park full of rainforest vegetation – a little wild and yet not so – The Habitat Penang Hill was a refreshing nature trail. The place was closed on the day we visited but thanks to the Penang Tourism Board and Malindo Air we got a special access to the park. A guided walk through this park introduced me to the endemic residents of the rainforests of Malaysia. And boy, were they interesting! Stay with me as I share my journey to the The Habitat Penang Hill in this post.

About Penang Hill

Penang Hill

Essentially, these are the high mountains or peaks of Penang and these have been home to the little of the rainforest this island has. The British here found this to be an excellent retreat from the heat of the lowlands. This led them to build several bungalows along these peaks – some of them still around while some lost to time. Earlier, the only way up the hills was a horseback or by foot but these days – there is a funicular ride waiting to take you there.

A Funicular Ride to Penang Hill

The Funicular that takes you atop Penang Hill

As I mentioned earlier, we landed at the base station of Penang Hill on a supposed holiday. This was one huge reason I found the place empty except for a few families. Apparently, the place is so crowded on other days that it is better to take the fast lane to avoid the queues for the funicular can only take a limited number of people per trip.

The Funicular track that cuts through the greens of Penang Hill

However, that did not stop us bloggers from scrambling in to get the best positions to mount our devices. There was no way any of us were not capturing the seeming steep incline. The funicular approximately takes around 8 minutes to reach the main station and it is actually quite a ride for not just is it steep, it is beautiful! And naturally so, as the track cuts through the dense green cover of Penang Hill.

Introducing The Habitat Penang Hill

Our taskmaster and guide – Gillian asked us to put on blinders as we emerged out of the Funicular. She said that what we were about to pass by could wait till our nature trail was done and we were not to be distracted by it. Frankly, it was exactly this that had me itching to do what I was told not to do! Yes, I admit, I still am a truant but then, am sure you would be too, given the enchanting viewpoints and landscapes we were being made to march past.

A view of George Town from the view point at Penang Hill

Nonetheless, like a kid with a finger on my lips, I made it with the group to the doorstep of The Habitat Penang Hill. While we waited for our appointed guide, I read through the signboards at the gate to know that this eco-venture was opened only in 2016 to the public. The venture was aimed at preserving nature and promoting an awareness of the Malaysian rainforests. What lay within the park was virgin rainforests that were naturally designed into themed corners like the Butterfly area, the Ginger Grove, the Yellow Garden etc. And within each were its wild inhabitants including the creepy crawlies, the winged beauties and of course, the jumping beasts.

Briefing at The Habitat Penang Hill by our nature guide

We were ushered into the briefing area of The Habitat Penang Hill by our nature guide and given instructions on how to go about our nature trail, the precautions to be taken and what we can expect to see. It is here that he kindly, gave us some bug repellant spray – for where there are rainforests, there are mosquitoes and some of us had already encountered them. Once we were all done, we followed him through our 1.6km trail of The Habitat Penang Hill.

The Flora along the nature trail

The Greens dotted by the colored flowers at The Habitat Penang Hill

The natural trail was along a cobbled trail that curved along the edge of the cliff. Our guide explained that the path was made not just for a safe trail but also to enable an easy path for the kids, the aged and the disabled. Along the trail, were kept signboards that tell you a little bit about which flora or fauna you can expect in that area. That is quite useful as if you are as bad as I am about identifying these, then they point you to the right names. Of course, you can always ask the guide!

Fern buds at The Habitat Penang Hill
Some pink amidst the greens of The Habitat Penang Hill
A colorful inflorence of flowers at The Habitat Penang Hill

There was something very enchanting and mystical about that trail – whether it was just the serene silence of the woods or the melodious chirping of the birds or just the way colorful flowers emerged out of those multitude shades of greens. Each of those flowers stood out for varied reasons – some for their unusual shapes, some for their colors, some for the fact that they were against a lovely backdrop and then there were some that were just a lovely inflorescence.

The Pitcher plant at The Habitat Penang Hill
Coffee Berries along the trail at The Habitat Penang Hill
Brush like flowers

Keep your eyes peeled for unusual plants along the way. Like the Pitcher Plant, or the colorful coffee berries or maybe the brush like flower. These are truly some amazing highlights in those greens.

Peek-a-boo with the residents of The Habitat Penang Hill

Ants over the Ginger flower at The Habitat Penang Hill

Where there are rainforests, there are creepy crawlies like the Tarantula and the centipedes. But then, there are also, winged beauties like the several drongos that we spotted and the colorful butterflies who refused to get clicked. However, let me treat you to the two \ guys, who tried their best to escape my camera. The first being this gorgeous Giant Squirrel.

The Giant Squirrel at Penang Hill

And the other who did manage to camouflage himself was this Green viper. Just managed to catch his body and a bit of his head! And to think, he just slithered across my path to get lost in the greens! Sigh! I definitely am not missing him the next time!

The camouflaged Green Viper at The Habitat Penang Hill
Spot the Head of the Slithering Green Viper

The Treetop walk at The Habitat Penang Hill

Tree Top Walk at The Habitat Penang Hill

One of the unique attractions of The Habitat Penang Hill is this giant structure that they call the Treetop Walk. It is a 13m highest structure for public viewing of Penang and can accommodate around 120 people at one go. The platform allows you a complete 360-degree view of the island. It is here that you can spot some of those heritage bungalows that the British had built in the 18th century. Like this one called Bel Retiro, which is the Governor of Penang’s mansion.

Bel Retiro - the Governor's mansion in Penang

The site of this Skyview was actually a tennis court used by the British officers. These guys used to keep a watch out for any attacks that could happen from the Andaman Seas and alert the rest of the troops in case of any enemy approach.

View of the Andaman Sea from the Treetop Walk at The Habitat Penang Hill

Walking along this Treetop was quite an experience. There were times I just held on to the rails to ensure that I was on solid ground. It does give you a few shivers when you look down at the bottom through those crevices, you really know how high you are walking!

Other attractions of Penang Hill

A quick stop at the Giant Swing at The Habitat Penang Hill

With a quick stop at the Giant Swing of The Habitat Penang Hill, we finally exited the park. It was a rushed visit but well, there is always hope for more the next time. However, it was not all over for we did manage to catch a little of what I was marched past when I stepped down from the Funicular. One of that was the View Point of Penang that gave you as good a view as you could get of the distant George Town. And then I found those missing truants from The Habitat enjoying a swing of their own near the View Point. I think playing mischief must be quite an ancestral trait that must have passed on to us…Ahem! Maybe Me! 😉

Our ancestors at Penang Hill

While at Penang hill, don’t miss the Love Lock area, especially if you are there with your beloved. This is where you can lock your memory with a padlock on the gate. Of course, there are other things too like the Wax Hand shop, an Owl museum, a temple, a mosque and much much more. On the whole, I think you can safely spend one complete day on Penang Hill without getting bored. However, all said and done, your highlight will always be The Habitat Penang Hill. I suppose sometimes, the matron of the group – Gillian in this case, is always right!

Getting here

  • Plenty of convenient flights including the one that I used – Malindo Air, get you into Penang from all the major cities of the world.
  • To get to Penang Hill, you can take a cab to the base station. From here, you need to take the funicular up. The rates for the Funicular are as in the picture below:

Funicular rates at Penang Hill

Travel Tips

  • You can find the official website of The Habitat Penang Hill.
  • The entrance ticket for this is RM 20 per adult and RM 10 for kids. A guide is included in these charges.
  • Wear flat shoes and cotton clothes for it is humid here. Also, carry a light shawl in case it gets chilly at that height
  • Though you can get a bug spray from The Habitat Penang Hill, best to carry one yourself.
  • Please follow the instructions of the guide to keep safe
  • There are water stations at various points but you either have to fill your bottle or drink directly from it.
  • There are restroom facilities within the campus.
  • Penang Hill has a large cafe for refreshments. You can even buy some souvenirs from here.
  • Penang has plenty of hotels to suit different budgets. You can book these Penang Hotels through various websites.

I was here as a part of my visit organized by Penang Tourism Board and Malindo Air


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