Nestled at the northwest corner of Penang island and rising from the fringe of beautiful coastline is Malaysia’s smallest national park and arguably the world smallest covering 25.63 square kilometres of lush, dense forest with diverse tropical flora and fauna.
I grew up knowing the park as “Pantai Acheh Forest Reserve” and frequently went hiking with a group of school mates to the then pristine, chalk-white and littered-free sandy beach Teluk Duyung, most popularly known as Monkey Beach. There were fewer people then, unknown and undiscovered by the tourists.
Unfortunately, a great place can never be the same once it’s discovered by tourists. Like bees to honey, local opportunists are attracted by the tourists.
On several recent visits to Monkey Beach, I found the ambiance at the beach has changed over the years. It is touristy and commercialised. The beach is no longer pristine and blissful the way I remembered. There were locals peddling tourists with horse rides and water sports and there were eyesore poorly erected huts selling foods and drinks. I wonder to myself how this could have happened. This is after all a national park but it feels like any other tourist beach in Asia.
But not all is bad at Penang National Park. There are the jungle trails where you truly immerse yourself with your jungle walk listening to a symphony of jungle sounds. There are other beaches which are less touristy and quieter than the Monkey Beach but a bit further and harder to get to. Hence, the reason why Monkey Beach is the most popular beach at the national park among the tourists, and it is swimmable.
If you are not interested on the long hours of jungle trek, but still want an experience of the world smallest national park so you can say that you’ve been there, the first section of the walk is light and easy with proper pavement and a picturesque coastline to experience the diversity of the coast’s flora and fauna. Below is a short video clip on this easy walk.
If you still want to know more about Penang national park, I have found the HuffPost’s article most interesting and worth sharing. It is more informative than the official Malaysia’s national park website.