Penang National Park (Taman Negara Pulau Pinang) is one of my favorite places in the world. Therefore, as you can expect, I am writing this post with special care. On the tiny island of Penang, just an hour and a half from the city of George Town, this national park (the smallest in Malaysia) is placed.
Undoubtedly, it is a place that I know I will be back soon, since there is the possibility of free and wild camping and my explorer soul asks me to spend at least one night there, with the dreamy sunsets and the liberating murmur of the jungle.
HOW TO REACH penang national park
To reach the National Park in Penang you need to take the bus 101 from Georgetown. We took it at the Lubuh Chulia Street. I’ll leave you the following map so you know the route (direction towards Teluk Bahang). Price is 4 MYR (1 €) and the travel lasts one and a half hour. First bus leaves at 5:30 and the last one at midnight.
Once you arrive, there will be a bunch of locals that will offer to take you in a boat to the different beaches in the Penang National Park. My personal suggestion is that even saving the walk don’t do it. Walking through the National Park has been one of the most incredible strolls I have ever taken.
ROUTE THROUGH THE PENANG NATIONAL PARK
Before starting trekking through the park you need to pass a booth where you shall provide your names, your Passport number and tell them if you plan to camp there. Entrance is free, but I understand they want to keep control of who enters and exits the park.
Besides, there’s a huge sign with the park’s map and the different existing routes. In this map we saw that one of the main attractions was closed, the Canopy Walkway, a wooden bridge 250 meters long, that is suspended among the trees at 15 meters from the floor. If you have the chance to find it open, the Price you need to pay for traversing it is 5 MYR at the visitors’ registration office.
Our trekking goal for that day was to get to point D of the map (the most popular beach in the park, called Teluk Duyung, although better known as Monkey Beach). There we would spend the morning and eat. After that, we would go back to point A and continue to point F (Pantai Kerachut). As we read, this is the beach where the best sunsets are seen from around the national park.
In total 1 hour and a half one way + another hour of return + another hour of going + another hour and a half of return. 5 hours of trekking at 30 degrees and with an unimaginable humidity. But it turned out to be a very good experience. One of the highlights of our 20-days Southeast Asia trip.
TREKKING TOWARDS MONKEY BEACH
The route gets more pleasant thanks to the beautiful views, but it is not easy. Even though the way is quite well-trodden (weed has been removed and there exist wooden bridges to cross the most complicated sections), humidity makes it harder. I had never sweat that much before.
With no preparation we only took one single bottle of 1.5 liters of water for the two of us, which we finished before arriving at Monkey Beach. Considering the high temperatures and humidity, We suggest Carrying at least two 1.5-liter bottles per person to Penang National Park.
Even though we read in many blogs that it was difficult or even impossible to find monkeys in the Penang National Park, much earlier than we had anticipated, the magic became reality.
Note: this was the first time I saw monkeys in freedom. As the Zoos personally give me horror, seeing these animals in freedom was a very special moment.
Following the path, it kept getting more and more complicated, but at the same time we kept finding more and more surprises. We saw a giant lizard, mind-blowing butterflies and beaches that started to be a wonder like the one I show you in the picture called Teluk Ailing. Point C in the map.
You can’t lose the path and after an hour and a half walking, we found a rock that indicated we were about to reach the first stop.
MONKEY BEACH PARADISE
Just before arriving we saw monkeys again. This time they were guarding the bridge that makes way to the Monkey Beach.
Once we crossed it, being very careful they wouldn’t steal something from us (yes, these monkeys are used to steal food, mobile phones or whatever they can to visitors, so watch for your belongings and close your backpacks), we arrived at PARADISE.
The beaches of Penang National Park are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.
We were practically alone, together with a couple of local people that sold some water to us.
The beach is very long and the sand is fine and white, which makes the water cloudy if there are waves. It is not the best beach for snorkeling.
LUNCH IN MONKEY BEACH
Something I loved were the huts built down the palm trees so visitors may sit and eat in the wooden tables, or rest from the sun. I obviously was expecting a local to come and asks us to pay a fee for using the hut. But no! They are totally free and they came only to say hello.
Please, tie well your belongings to the tables and chairs. It is very common that while you are in the water a monkey comes and takes everything it can, especially backpacks when you have food inside them.
The day before, after touring George Town, we bought things to eat during our day in the Penang National Park (bread, cheese and dragon fruit).
We went through the whole beach from one point to the complete opposite, but we didn’t follow the trail to reach the Muka Head lighthouse. We wouldn’t have enough time for that and for reaching the Pantai Kerachut beach before sunset.
Between the palm trees you’ll find swings and lianas to enjoy your time at the beach.
TREKKING towards PANTAI KERACHUT
At 2 o’clock we picked everything up and went back where we had come from to take the path to Pantai Kerachut.
On the way, at Teluk Ailing, we found this huge and friendly lizard that was so comfortable having a sunbath until he saw us.
The jungle became much thicker on the way to this beach. It was evident that this beach is less visited than the first one. You could not see wooden bridges like the previous ones, but the road was full of sand and earth, with more slopes and branches.
I prefer this route instead of boarding the coast, like in the first path we went through, you go across the forest.
Once again, we had problems because the lack of drinkable water, and we were really worried about this. After a long walkabout, much longer than the one we did in the morning, we finally reached the bridge that enters the beach. And once again we discovered another amazing place.
To the left of the bridge there is usually a meromictic lake. This type of lake has the peculiarity that it contains two types of water that do not mix, sweet water with salty water (which comes from the sea).
As we read in the Penang National Park guides sometimes this lake appears and other days it is not. The day we went was practically empty.
At this beach, there was no one, not even a single tourist, not a ship, nor a local around. We could only see the dock we had already seen at the beach pictures before our travel. There was where we wanted to see the sunset.
We couldn’t believe that the two of us were alone in that paradisiacal beach until we found the next sign (which by the way it wasn’t very visible).
Bathing on the beach was prohibited. there were some important dangers to take into account like mortal poisonous jellyfish, occasional waves of 5 meters or steep slope at the bottom of the sea.
We toured the beach and went to the end of the pier to have a better view of the beach.
And from there we saw two huts hidden in the undergrowth, so we went immediately. Maybe someone could sell us some water. We found a boy who said that the hut was an investigation center. Luckily enough he told us that outside the hut there were a couple of showers and if we wanted we could take a shower there, also he sold us the desired water. He also asked us if we were going to sleep there and with regret, we had to reject. Of course, next time we’ll camp here.
CENter for the conservation of turtles
The other hut was a center for the conservation of turtles. I am a supporter of ethical tourism and I was not happy entering there, but since I was free I didn’t leave feeling like I had sponsored them.
The objective of this center was to locate the eggs laid by the mothers in the beach of Pantai Kerachut and protect the zone. Once the turtles are born they take care of them until they are bigger and they can return them back to the ocean, without the risk of being a prey for predators etc., until here everything was perfect.
The problem comes when they keep two adult turtles, totally healthy, in a dwarf bathtub, with no space to get out of the water, just for the sake of showing them to tourists. This fact bothered us enough.
To top it all, no one watched the turtles. If I wished, I could have taken the turtles and they wouldn’t have noticed.
sunset in the dock
When we got out the sun was starting to set, so we stayed at the dock. As we read, from here you can see the best sunsets of Penang National Park.
As a sunsets and sunrises freak, i know perfectly that there are certain sunsets that can amaze you since you were expecting nothing from them and others which are totally opposite.
Well, I had huge expectations of this sunset. I saw many red skies pictures and in the end, our sunset didn’t pass the yellowish color. Yes, it was gorgeous, but I was expecting much more! So well, next time we’ll carry our camping tents and will be there nights ahead.
Crossing the forest during the night
And only then we noticed that now we were in the evening and we had to walk 1 hour and 20 minutes to return back.
We collected our things as fast as we could and literally ran through the forest. We tried to advance the most we could before it was getting dark. But unavoidably it caught us up.
We were in the middle of the forest, in the darkness, and with more than an hour ahead of us. We didn’t take a flashlight with us. Only a mobile cellphone that we used to light the path and walk. As I told you this path was rougher than the one leading to Monkey Beach. We had to sidestep tree roots, branches, sand embankments and it still was a magical and wild experience.
The sound of the forest during the night is different, or maybe it is just the fact that when we can’t see the other senses are sharpened. We could perfectly hear the monkeys calling other monkeys. Maybe it was the low temperature but the route wasn’t long at all. When we realize, we were back at the registration office happy and fully eaten by the mosquitoes (take repellent with you).
HOW TO CAMP AT PENANG NATIONAL PARK
I know that more than one of you want to camp in this jungle. I want to tell you that there is a limited number of places per day. The accommodation is free, you simply have to take your tent.
There are areas for camping since camping on the beach is prohibited so as not to damage the eggs of the turtles. So please, if you want to help these animals, if you camp do it in the authorized areas. You have all the information about camping in the Penang National Park here.
In conclusion, I just wanted to state that of the ones who prefer discovering new places rather than traveling to places I already visited. However, with the Penang National Park it is different. I have no idea what countries I will visit on my next trip to Asia, but Penang National Park will be on the itinerary again for sure.