The International Steam Pages

I do like to be beside the seaside, Penang 2009, Part 4

For convenience I have now grouped lifestyle illustrated features by topic:

After our visit to Burma and transit in Thailand, we had an extended visit to Penang - click here for the main index page.

This page is also one of a series on 'Hills and Trails in Penang. Click here for the index.

A couple of days after we walked the Moon Gate Trail, it was time for another expedition, this time to Pantai Kerachut in what is now the Penang National Park in the far north-west of the island. It is readily accessible from Teluk Bahang where the island's north coast road terminates - as does the 101 bus. Looking back past the fish farming platforms, it was a real pleasure to leave the 'modern' Penang behind again for a few hours: 

It was another day which was wet in part although as always most of the rain seemed to fall on the highest part of the island. It's a well marked path which climbs to about 700 foot (200 metres) although it is not always in the best of condition - the main point of interest being the cutting near the summit which was excavated by hand many years ago to facilitate the removal of timber.

After rather more than an hour including a rain check, we got to the beach. Being Sunday there were a fair number of students present but they wisely kept out of the midday sun. The sea is full of jellyfish and multitudes of small fish and the boat carries mainly tourists who find the walk in too strenuous. To get back to the park entrance they have to round Muka Head which has a lighthouse on top of it although it's barely visible in the photograph:  

One of the special points of interest here is the unusual 'meromictic lake' behind the beach. At times storms close its exit point trapping sea water which then sits under a layer of fresh water until a combination of water pressure and fresh storms causes the 'dam' to burst - both must be spectacular events which few people people ever get to observe:

As in any national park, the wild life is an important feature, although the fauna present keeps to itself. The park is one of the few places on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia where turtles come into lay their eggs, particularly the smaller Green Turtle although Ridleys Turtles are also seen. There is a small research station here which assists in hatching eggs to avoid both natural and unnatural predation. However impressive the number of eggs hatched is, given estimated survival rates, in global terms the effort is quite honestly only marginal to the survival of the species:

I did think I would see only the monkey scavengers, but at the last minute I came face to face with the park's version of the Loch Ness Monster, which took one look at me and swam away as I scrabbled for the camera - it was a large Water Monitor, I am more familiar with the kind that climbs trees for fruit and birds eggs:

The only thing that spoiled the day out was Yuehong turning an ankle on the slippery way back, which left her hobbling for several days.

When she was 90% recovered, we tried the other standard walk next to the north coast beach to Muka Head's 1883 lighthouse via Monkey Beach - which was disgracefully filthy from the litter of all the boat borne visitors and their boatmen with taxi driver mentality (It's not just me, my 70 year old friend Oen said over dinner that evening that he'd rather walk than take a taxi in Penang). For me the highlight was an incredibly unshy kingfisher and what I believe may have been a couple of flying foxes (looking like giant squirrels) because despite signs proclaiming that the lighthouse would be open for visitors it was locked and bolted and there was no view out from ground level at the top of the hill it stands on.

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson