Pe­nang: A Nat­u­ral Par­adise

Be­sides food, art and her­itage, the Pearl of the Ori­ent also boasts many nat­u­ral trea­sures just wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered by the in­trepid eco-ad­ven­turer

Expatriate Lifestyle - - Northern Special - Words by Karin Chan Photo by En­topia by Pe­nang But­ter­fly Farm, Trop­i­cal Spice Gar­den & The Habi­tat Pe­nang Hill

Think Pe­nang and some key words im­me­di­ately jump to mind: char kuay teow, laksa, UNESCO Her­itage Site, Kek Lok Si Tem­ple, The Blue Man­sion and traf­fic jams (let’s face it, be­ing stuck in fes­tive sea­son jams on the North-south Ex­press­way is the stuff of leg­end). But be­sides the sta­ples of food and her­itage, did you know that this rapidly de­vel­op­ing state also has a wealth of eco-ac­tiv­i­ties to of­fer? Here are four that you should check out.

TAKE A WILD WALK THROUGH THE HABI­TAT One of the newest eco-ex­pe­ri­ences on the is­land, The Habi­tat is an ex­cel­lent way for vis­i­tors to im­merse them­selves in the stun­ning nat­u­ral beauty of Pe­nang’s rain­forests. The Habi­tat’s 1.6km na­ture trail starts just a few min­utes’ walk away from the top sta­tion of the Pe­nang Hill Fu­nic­u­lar Rail­way, pass­ing by themed gar­dens and framed look­out points that of­fer spec­tac­u­lar views of the Pe­nang sky­line.

Take ad­van­tage of the com­pli­men­tary tours and learn how to spot the na­tive flora and fauna. En­joy the riot of colours at the Red,yel­low and Pur­ple Gar­dens, watch but­ter­flies flit around at the But­ter­fly Bank, sway over the jun­gle on the Gi­ant Swing and savour the aro­mas in the Fra­grant Gar­den. In the fu­ture, you’ll be able to tra­verse the tree­tops via the Canopy Walk and stand on top of the world (or Pe­nang, any­way) at the 13m-high Tree­top Walk, which is the high­est pub­lic view­ing point on the is­land.

LEARN TO COOK AT THE TROP­I­CAL SPICE GAR­DEN A for­mer aban­doned rub­ber plan­ta­tion-turned-renowned nat­u­ral at­trac­tion, the Trop­i­cal Spice Gar­den is lo­cated in Batu Fer­ringhi. While it boasts over 500 va­ri­eties of flora and fauna, the star of the show is – as the name sug­gests – the spices. Wan­der around your­self with an au­dio de­vice (avail­able in seven lan­guages) and a map, or go on a sched­uled guided tour. Full tours last for two to three hours, but the 45-minute ex­press tour means you won’t miss out on the high­lights.

Study spice se­crets, sip fresh herbal tea and en­joy the gar­den’s seren­ity as you make your way through, but don’t for­get to stop at the cook­ing school to put that new­found spice knowl­edge to use! Book a slot in a 10-per­son class and re­ceive a com­pli­men­tary guided tour of the Spice Ter­races in the morn­ing, then learn to serve up Ny­onya, Malay and In­dian cui­sine un­der the watchful eye of pro­fes­sional chefs. Make sure to give it your best shot as you’ll be eating what you make for lunch at The Pavil­ion.

EAT LO­CAL FRUITS AT OR­CHARDS AND FARMS The abun­dance and va­ri­ety of trop­i­cal fruits avail­able is one of the best things about liv­ing in Malaysia, and tak­ing a tour through some of the farms and or­chards on the out­skirts of the is­land is a great way to com­bine ed­u­ca­tion with fruity fun. The Green Acres farm and or­chard tour is renowned for the op­por­tu­nity to learn about and taste lo­cal fruits like cala­mansi limes, rambu­tan, man­gos­teens, jack­fruit and more. The farm is also proud of its still-pro­duc­ing clove trees, which are a rar­ity in Pe­nang.

You can’t talk about Malaysian fruit with­out men­tion­ing their king – durian – and durian sea­son in Pe­nang is al­ways highly an­tic­i­pated. Road­side durian stalls pop up by the dozen when the sea­son gets un­der­way from June to Au­gust, but imag­ine be­ing able to pick and eat your durian fresh off a tree! That’s ex­actly what you’ll get to do when places like Green Acres and Free­dom Eco Farm start their sea­sonal durian tast­ing tours. What bet­ter time to have your first taste of durian?

MEET THE BIRDS AND THE BUT­TER­FLIES AT THE PARKS If you’re a fan of our feath­ered friends, the Pe­nang Bird Park is the first and largest of its kind in the coun­try with over 300 species of birds spread over five acres of land. Wan­der through the calm gar­den-style en­vi­ron­ment of the park, re­plete with sooth­ing wa­ter fea­tures, as you ob­serve every­thing from tiny sun­birds to large os­triches in their nat­u­ral el­e­ment. Check out the horn­bills, sun­birds and pheas­ants in par­tic­u­lar; and if you have time, try to catch the twice-daily shows.

Pre­fer creepy crawlies? En­topia by the Pe­nang But­ter­fly Farm may be just what you’re look­ing for. Home to the largest but­ter­fly and drag­on­fly gar­den in the coun­try, The Na­ture­land, some 15,000 free-fly­ing but­ter­flies are found here at any one time. You’ll be able to learn about meta­mor­pho­sis and even re­lease some but­ter­flies of your own! Oth­er­wise, The Co­coon is where you’ll dis­cover more in­ver­te­brates and ex­pe­ri­ence what it could be like to be an in­sect with in­ter­ac­tive edu-sta­tions. EL

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