Recently I was in the opportunity to visit the Pinang National Park in Teluk Bahang. It's a small fishing village in the north western tip of the island Penang. The name Teluk Bahang means the "Bay of Heat Wave". It is actually only a few kilometers from the much more famous Batu Ferringhi.
Although many people in the village are still related to the fishing industry, tourism is increasing too. The village is located along a long stretch of beach but the main attraction of Teluk Bahang for sure is the national park: Pejabat Taman Negara Pulau Pinang.
Pejabat Taman Negara Pulau Pinang (Penang National Park)
The park is a good example of nature preservation in Penang.
There are two ways to explore the park further: by boat and hiking. When I visited we took a boat in the fishing village. The sea here is quite dirty, but it's mostly because of the fishing boats coming on and off.
A small boat which can contain up to 10 people brought us away from the village. Soon we saw locals fishing from the shore. We passed rocks with imaginary names as Crocodile Rock and Turtle Rock. With some imagination you could see the shape of those animals.
On the way we passed the lighthouse, a typical landmark of Penang. The lighthouse on the top of north western hill overlooking the Andaman Sea at 227 meter altitude. You can hike up to the lighthouse, which will takes 30 to 60 minutes depending on your health and speed.
Pantai Kerachut is totally unspoiled and a popular day out for local Penangians in the weekend. During the week it's mostly abandoned though the weekend too, do not have hordes of tourists.
The beach and the water are very clean though there may be some jellyfish. I went swimming and have not seen one (you can't go to a beach and NOT go in the water...). If you go with children, be aware the seafloor goes quickly down once your are in the water.
There are some picnic benches and a shelter for relaxing. There are also a few toilets and a basic shower. The camp ground is slightly to the back.
Just behind the beach is a unique lake to see. The Meromictic Lake is unique because here, with high tide (and I was there with low tide...hmmm) fresh water merges with salt water and apparently that is a spectacular sight.
The lake is more a kind of lagoon, the salt water enters the lake through a short river arm. The mix of salt and fresh water has a result that you will find here a rare breed of vegetation and animals that can handle this strange mix of water. The Meromictic Lake usually fills up in April and is quite dry in the few months before April.
Turtle Conservation Center
The National Park houses also a turtle conservation center, similar to the one in Segari, north of Lumut. The staff of the center collects turtle eggs, hatch them and release the young turtles. It's an amazing sight to see these little creature trying to find their way to the sea.
Although turtles lay dozens of eggs the mortality rate of the young turtles (and the eggs) is high. It is estimated only 2% of all eggs will survive it's first year by natural courses. The first problem is the egg, monitor lizards are good in finding the eggs. When the little turtle find its way to the sea, birds and fish are on the loose for a good snack. Indeed, the life of a young turtle is full of dangers and few ever make it.
The interesting aspect of turtles is that once they grow up they will return to the very same beach as where they were born. No one knows where exactly the turtles go to after getting their first swimming lesson until they come back although some of the turtles of Penang are seen along the Indonesian coasts.
Around the Meromictic Lake is a short, 1 hour hiking possible. This hike is mostly easy on a good path though on the back of the Meromictic Lake there's a short part steep up. Along the path, you can see an amazing piece of the typical Malaysian jungle.
In fact, you can hike all the way from the entrance of the park to Pantai Kerachut. It will take about 1 to 1.5 hours for the 3 km hike.
Most of the path is flat and in excellent condition. A good option probably is to take a boat from Teluk Bahang and hike back.
Along the trails you will find fresh crystal clear water streams with water to cool your feet.
While we hiked we saw fresh water shrimps swimming. Some of the sceneries on the trails are breathtaking, if you enjoy the jungle.
The variety in vegetation always amazes me. While I hike in the hills in between Teluk Batik and Teluk Rubiah it always knocks me out how many different shades of green the jungle has.
In the air you will see eagles hunting while on land you may be lucky to see a few monitor lizards, especially with high water around the lake and further in the mangrove forests.
Muka Head Lighthouse
The Muka Head Lighthouse is over 100 years old. It's a 45 minutes jungle trek through partly a steep path to an altitude over 200 meter and worth the effort.
With your own transport, car, motorbike or bicycle, it's easy to find Teluk Bahang. Follow directions in Penang to Batu Ferringhi and continue following to Teluk Bahang as there are road directions. The road is small, busy and goes up and down with some bends which do not give a lot of sights on the road.
You can also take a bus. The Rapid Penang bus 101 or KGN starts from Penang ferry terminal or Komtar. It will take about 1.5 to 2 hours (25km).
Stay at Teluk Bahang
There are no hotels inside the park. In Teluk Bahang there a few homestays. You can however camp out at Pantai Kerachut. You need to register at the park. Basic facilities as toilet and shower are available.
The only alternative nearby is Batu Ferringhi. See our Batu Ferringhi page for hotels.
Monitor lizards live here at the beach as scavengers