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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