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

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