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The Eco Treasures of Penang National Park

(c) By Forest Ang

...it offers big biodiversity as a national park.....

Introduction
Pantai Acheh Forest Reserve was declared the Penang National Park (PNP) on 4th April 2003. Located at the north-western corner of Penang Island stands the last wilderness and nature heritage of Penang, covering an area of about 2562 ha. Part of the area forms the catchment of Teluk Bahang dam. It is the most remote part of the state. Lying way out of civilization, it is the nature park for scientific & nature studies and recreational activities. Penang National Park is all lush green and the fragrance of the sea breeze is enchanting. It conveys to us the message of eco-balance that everyone should live life joyfully. Its ecosystem consists mainly of tropical lowland forest with coastal features. Be it beaches, hills, forest trails or even lake, it offers big biodiversity as a national park.

Background
The proposal for the PNP was first mooted in 1959 by a group known as "The Committee for the Preservation of Areas of Natural Beauty, Pulau Pinang". In 1976, MNS Penang Branch sent an official memorandum to the Penang State Government to elevate the Pantai Acheh Forest Reserve (PAFR) to that of a National Park. A 1978 MNS-USM expedition found that species diversity in the PAFR was high with 25 species of mammals, 53 species of butterflies, 46 species of birds and a considerable variety of marine life (e.g. seaweeds, sea anemones, corals, mollusks, marine worms, crustaceans, echinodems, sea turtles). In 1985, the MNS (Penang Branch) again sent a memorandum to the Penang State Structure Plan Unit advocating that PAFR be designated as a National Park. The MNS led scientific expedition from 15-23 April 2000 shown this pristine site harbours a wealth of 417 flora and 143 fauna species. Among the animals spotted at the park and its surroundings are turtles, otters, dolphins, mousedeers, rare lizards and monkeys. The unique features are the five habitat types not found in the other major Malaysian nature reserves - meromictic lake, wetlands, mangroves, mudflats, coral reefs and turtle nesting beaches.

The Beaches
There are 8 beaches. The beaches of Penang National Park are popular amongst tourists as well as locals. Each beach has its own uniqueness; richness of variety of floras and faunas and of its potential tourism activities.

1) Teluk Bahang Beach
It should be noted that Teluk Bahang is the area where the Bahang Bay is located. It is usually being confused with the Teluk Bahang township. At the very edge of the northern boundary of the forest reserve lays Teluk Bahang the forest reserve. The panoramic fishing jetty engulfing the backdrop is a rare sight by itself - built of mangrove timber and palm trunks. This scenic beach is bustling with tourists and campers going into the national park. The area is disturbed with sandy beach and seasonal muddy seabed. Much litter have accumulated and scarred the scenic beach. A little stream flows into the bay. A scout camp was supposedly built here to replace the coronation camp at the Botanic Gardens. Army reserves trainings were common here.
Flora: - Disturbed secondary forest and hardy plants such as the screw pines dominate the coast. The red paper-like bark called pelawan trees are abundant. Undergrowth and ferns spread between the trees.
Fauna: - Reptile such as monitor lizards and snakes are common. Squirrels and monkeys occasionally make an appearance.
Tourism: - This beach is easily accessible within walking distance from the jetty and the restaurant. There is a shady camping ground and with civilization just around the corner � makes suitable venue for family outings.
How to reach there:
From Georgetown, use the northern coastal road passing through Tanjung Tokong, Tanjung Bungah, Batu Fringghi and Teluk Bahang town. At the Teluk Bahang roundabout, continue straight towards the fishing jetty. You will be able to see a popular restaurant call the "End of the World". (Note: "End of the World" was demolished and replaced with the park HQ). Use trail 1A.

2) Teluk Tukun
Sungai Tukun flows into Teluk Tukun. A small island opposite is Pulau Tukun Tengah. At the estuary, the forestry department had built chalets. The national park headquarter will be situated here. Camping pits were built along Sungai Tukun. There are several small swimming pools for campers. The piped water is supplied from the upper stream.
Flora: - The cool stream feeding the Tukun bay fans out into the shallow sea. Several mangrove trees are found along the estuary. Secondary forest is the main feature. Exotic flowering plants and ornamental plants are decorated along the trail parallel with the stream. Timber trees are found along the upper reaches of the stream.
Fauna: - Two types of monkeys are found here. The dusky leaf monkeys and the long tailed macaque can be seen if you are observance enough. Birds are aplenty.
Tourism: - Proper camping ground and amenities provided by the authority make camping a luxury. Birdwatching should not be missed here. The swimming pools provided good place for family outings and nature camps. How to reach there:
It is about 20 minutes from the park HQ. You need to walk along the coast to reach the beach of Teluk Tukun. The trail is clear and easy. Use trail 1A-1B.

3) Tanjung Aling
Tanjung Aling housed the USM's research centre. There is a jetty to bring in supply from town. The forest and coastal areas are been used for research on bio-technology. The research station's collection museum has vast collection of flora and fauna exhibits.
Flora: - The secondary forest surrounding the centre has vast variety of plants. Herbal plants are aplenty and need more research to discover the potentials.
Fauna: - Rats, birds, monitor lizards, snakes and squirrels are common. The occasional landing of turtles provide record of the larger fauna found here.
Tourism: - The beach is easily accessible and it is a suitable camping site for campers who prefer to camp within the vicinity of the biological station. It is also a resting place for hikers enroute to Muka Head and beyond.
How to reach there: It will take about 30 minutes to reach Tanjung Aling from Teluk Bahang. One needs only to follow the coastal trail via Sungai Tukun. Use trail 1A-1B-1C.

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