Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Penang National Park

A BIG surprise encounter while jungle trekking in Penang National Park on 12 Jan 2012 with 2 French tourists, Lisbeth & Olivier Romanelli

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Penang Hills

Penang Hill is a hill resort comprising a group of peaks in Penang, Malaysia. It is located in Air Itam, which is 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) from the city centre of George Town. The hill stands out prominently from the lowlands as a hilly and forested area. Penang Hill is also known by the Malay name Bukit Bendera, which refers to Flagstaff Hill, the most developed peak.

Penang Hill is mainly hilly granitic mass. The hill system is higher towards the northern part with its highest point at Western Hill, at an elevation of 833 m (2,723 ft) above sea level. Other than Western Hill, there are a number of peaks in the region, such as Bukit Laksamana (Malay for Laksamana Hill), Tiger Hill, Flagstaff Hill and Government Hill. Flagstaff Hill is 735 m (2,450 ft) above sea level. A number of small rivers and streams originate from the region. Sungai Pinang (Malay for Penang River) is the largest of the rivers, and it starts from a number of tributaries in the area.

Because Penang Hill has a cooler environment, it has been a popular holiday retreat. A number of bungalows were built around Flagstaff Hill. The northern part of the Hills are not well developed. Government Hill, Bukit Timah (Malay for Timah Hill) and others are designated water catchment areas and no development is permitted.
Some recreational potential exists at the upper reaches of the river where the water is relatively clean. In a number of cases, sudden changes in ground level have resulted in a series of small waterfalls and rapids, where bathing, dipping and picnicking are popular.
The lower terrain of the Hills is used mainly for agricultural and residential purposes.

Jalan Sultan Yahya Petra, more commonly known as Summit Road, leads from the top station to the western part of the hill right towards Western Hill and Tiger Hill.
The eastern face of Penang Hill is well served by a series of roads and paths, for example, Moniot Road, Viaduct Road, and Tunnel Road. Moniot Road is named after a Frenchman, Michael Jules Moniot who surveyed it between 1846 and 1855. Moniot Road has been declared a Heritage Trail in 1995 by the Governor of Penang.

A system of bridle paths forms a picturesque labyrinth of walks connecting the different bungalows. Indian penal servitude prisoners shipped from Bencoolen, Sumatra to Penang during the second half of the 19th century built these by-paths.
Numerous trekking trails lead from various starting points in the lowlands to Penang Hill. The more popular trails include the Moongate Trail, trail from Air Itam Dam to Tiger Hill, trail from Hye Keat Estate and trail from the Municipal Park (formerly Youth Park). Some of the trails are used by farmers to transport produce to the markets of Balik Pulau and Air Itam.

The most important feature of Penang Hill is the cooler climate. The core summit area has an average temperature ranging from 20° to 27°C. The mean minimum temperature is consistently below 21°C. The hottest months are between December and April while the coolest months are between June and October.

The most common forest type found on Penang Hill is the hill dipterocarp forest. Growing at higher altitudes are some of the submontane oak-laurel as well as coniferous trees. The Tree fern which is normally associated with higher elevations is also found growing here.
Penang Hill is scientifically important as a type site of many Malaysian plant species. In the past, botanists came here to collect plants for herbaria around the world. It is an area rich in biodiversity and has a great number of endemic species, some of which are so rare that their existence is endangered.

The rare and endangered species include the parasitic plant Exorhopalia ruficeps, which grows in the shady and damp undergrowth. The Penang Slipper Orchid (Paphiopedilum barbatum) is fast becoming over-collected and disappearing. The endangered witch hazel Maingaya malayana was rediscovered years ago and has since been propagated.

Large mammals are not found in Penang Hills. Wild boars, small and medium sized mammals such as the squirrels, monkeys and tree shrews can be sighted. A number of species found in these hills are nocturnal. These include the civets, flying lemurs, flying civets and bats.
In the evenings, the characteristic calls of the cicadas and crickets are often heard. If one is discerning enough, the stick insect and leaf mantis may be found well-camouflaged among the vegetation.

Penang Hills have a rich bird fauna. Over 100 species or about 80% of the birds found on Penang Island have been recorded here. They range from the common garden species to rare deep forest inhabitants.

Source : Wikipedia

Penang Botanic Gardens

The Penang Botanic Gardens function more as a park than as botanic gardens today. The Gardens' main objectives include "conservation programmes, provision of a clean, safe and conducive public recreation environment, education and raising of public awareness in the appreciation of nature and gardening". The Gardens continue some research, collaborating with other Botanic Gardens in the development and implementation of botanical and ecological research programmes both nationally and internationally.[4]

The Penang Botanic Gardens Department aims to provide visitors with programmes that focus on the historical and cultural heritage of the gardens, the plant collections, natural landscape and rich diversity of flora and fauna. It also aims to provide professional advice related to botany, taxonomy, horticulture and landscaping.

The gardens occupy a 592 ac site in a valley described as "an amphitheatre of hills" covered with lush tropical rain-forests. Its lush greenery and tranquil setting makes it a favourite park and a popular tourist destination. It is Penang's unique natural heritage, being the only garden of its kind in Malaysia. As well as being a repository of flora and fauna, unique to the country and to the region, it serves as a "green lung" for metropolitan Penang.  As such, the garden is a popular recreational spot; some of the recreational activities include jogging, walking, jungle trekking and aerobics.

Amongst the flora in the gardens, most conspicuous are the Cannon Ball Tree (Couroupita guianensis) and the large buttress roots of the Sengkuang Tree (Dracontomelon dao). There is also the Pinang Palm (Areca catechu) that lent its name to the island of Penang, and the Black Lily (Tacca integrifolia) with its unique purplish-black coloured flowers. The Candle Tree (Parmentiera cereifera), the endemic Slipper Orchid (Paphiopedilum barbatum) and the ginger, Geoctachys penangensis, can also be found in the gardens.

There are also collections of rare plant species housed in the Fern House, Palm Collection, Aroid Walkway, Orchidarium, Perdana Conservatory, Cactus House, Bromeliad and Begonia House, Herb Garden, Fern Rockery, Sun Rockery, and the Formal Garden.

The garden fauna include long-tailed Macaques, Dusky Leaf Monkeys, Black Giant Squirrels as well as many insects and butterflies.

The path around the Lily Pond offers access to tropical rain-forest, a short distance from the Botanic Gardens gate. The walk from the Lower Circular Road passes two prominent groups of palms and bamboo clusters along the Waterfall River. Two orchid houses provide comparison between cultivated hybrids and wild orchid species. The best time to admire the flowering trees is during the dry season, from February to April, when the Thai Bungor (Lagerstroemia loudonii), the Javanese Cassia (Cassia javanica) and the Rosy Trumpet (Tabebuia rosea) are in full flower.

From the Lily Pond path there is a climb to the site of Charles Curtis' former house, although only a few bricks can still be seen. Various hiking paths lead from the Botanic Gardens, to Penang Hill and to Mount Olivia at the north. Mount Olivia was the site of the Raffles' home and was named after Raffles' wife, Olivia.


The 400ft Waterfall at Penang Botanic GardensThe waterfall and reservoir are private property although they can be visited by arrangement with the Penang Water Authority (Perbadanan Bekalan Air Pulau Pinang). The Friends of the Penang Botanic Gardens, a non-governmental organisation, organises monthly visits to the waterfall. The Penang waterfall was closed off to the public as a safety measure during the confrontation between the newly independent Malaysia and Indonesia in the 1960s.

Early visitors to Penang Island described it as one of the key attractions of the island, including Ibrahim Munshi, son of Munshi Abdullah, who described it in his journal, the "Kisah Pelayaran". The waterfall was an important source of water for ships calling at Penang port in the early part of the 19th century. In 1804, the first water treatment plant in Malaysia was set up here, to supply the needs of 10,000 people in Penang. In 1805, an aqueduct was constructed to channel water from the fall via Pulau Tikus to a reservoir near the port. The quality of the water, filtered through the aged rocks of Penang Hill, was very high, and was described by the early sailors as "sweet".

The oval-shaped reservoir of the Penang Waterfall was constructed in the gardens in 1892 by British engineer James MacRitchie, who was also responsible for the MacRitchie Reservoir in Singapore, built in 1894. The Penang reservoir was reconstructed in 1950.

Today, only a small proportion of the Penang water supply comes from the waterfall reservoir — approximately 10–15% of the population obtain their water from here, while most of the island's water supply comes from Sungai Muda, on the border of Penang and Kedah.

Source : Wikipedia

Monday, October 31, 2011

Penang National Park

Penang National Park is currently the smallest national park in the world, spanning 2,562 ha (1,181 ha on land and 1,381 ha in the marine zone) awaits scientists, researchers and nature lovers to explore its myriad of natural treasures. The park which is located in the north western corner of Penang Island is the only rainforest in Malaysia which is relatively leech free ! except at few remoter areas of the park. Previously known as Pantai Acheh Forest Reserve, it was gazetted as a National Park in April 2003. The park is unique as it contains several different types of habitat including a meromictic lake; forests of hill/lowland dipterocarp, peatswamp, mangrove; sea with coral reefs and turtle nesting beaches.

Meromictic Lake
A unique natural lake which is 1 sq. km in size, resulting from seasonal phenomenon of wind, tidal action and sedimentation from wave action, at certain time of the year the river mouth (a 2 metre wide opening) will be blocked by sandbank resulting in fresh river water getting trapped within and seawater seeps through the sandbank and fill the inland area slowly. The two layers of fresh and seawater never mix, the cool fresh water stays at the top and the warm seawater stays at the bottom, hence the name meromictic. When the combination of rain, wind, tidal and wave condition is right, it breaks the sand embankment, water will flow out rapidly through the river mouth into the sea and in no time the same area becomes a field of mudflats, with hardy, terrestrial grass. To survive, animals and plants living in and around the lake must adapt to its changing conditions, several species of crabs, fish and prawns breed well in these waters. Lichens flourish on branches of shrubby trees.

Flora and fauna
The park is a haven for a wealth of 417 flora and 143 fauna species. 77 species of medicinal plants, 53 species of macro fungi have been found here. Flora ranges from rocky bonsai to timber, palms, medicinal/herbal plants, fungi and lichens. Disturbed secondary forest and hardy plants such as screw pines dominate the coast. The red paper-like barked gelam trees are abundant; undergrowth and ferns spread between the trees. Other noticeable trees planted include casuarina trees, sea almond, cashew nuts and the swaying coconut palms. Wild orchids can be sighted on steep rocky slopes. There are also pitcher plants (nepenthes spp), which managed to survive the coastal habitat. Trees such as Chengal, Meranti Seraya, Jelutong, Gaharu, Tongkat Ali and Bintangor are found inside the forest beyond the coast. The dusky leaf and the long tailed macaque monkeys, birds noticeably the White-bellied Sea Eagles which nest here, Brahminy Kites, sparrows, magpies and kingfishers, crabs, fishes and large prawns are common here. Animals such as wild boars, wild cats, civet cats, turtles, otters, dolphins, mousedeers, rats, bats, squirrels, monitor lizards, spiny hill tortoises, and snakes (reticulated pythons, king cobra) are sighted here.

Attraction and activities
Proper camping ground and amenities provided by the authorities make camping a luxury. The natural environment provides a great place for outdoor activities and nature camps. It is ideal for jungle trekking, angling, bird watching, swimming, photography, boating, researches, training, education and wildlife observation.

Getting around the national park
There is no road system into the national park, to get in one either treks on the jungle trails or take a boat from Teluk Bahang fishing village (1st gateway) or Kampung Kuala Sungei Pinang (2nd gateway) to the beaches.

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