Penang National Park

National Park in Teluk Bahang

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The old saying about good things coming in small packages suits dainty Penang National Park. At 23 sq km it's Malaysia's smallest national park, but you can fill a day with activities as diverse as jungle walks, fishing and sunbathing on quiet, golden-sand beaches. Private guides and boat operators amass near the entrance and parking lot. A one-way trip from the entrance should cost RM50 to Teluk Duyung (Monkey Beach), RM90 to Pantai Kerachut and RM130 to Teluk Kampi.

Sign in at the park entrance, which is a short walk from Teluk Bahang’s main bus stop. It’s an easy 1km walk to the head of the canopy walkway (now indefinitely closed), from where you have the choice of two routes: bearing west towards Muka Head (5km, up to two hours) or south to Pantai Kerachut (3km, up to 90 minutes).

The easiest walk is the 15-minute stroll west to Sungai Tukun, where there are some pools to swim in. Following this trail along the coast about 10 minutes more brings you to the private University of Malaysia Marine Research Station, where there is a supply jetty, as well as Tanjung Aling, a nice beach to stop at for a rest. From here it’s another 45 minutes or so down the beach to Teluk Duyung, also called Monkey Beach (after the numerous primates who scamper about here). It's another 30 minutes to Muka Head, the isolated rocky promontory at the extreme northwestern corner of the island, where on the peak of the head is an off-limits lighthouse dating from 1883. The views of the surrounding islands from up here are worth the sweaty uphill jaunt.

A longer and more difficult trail heads south from the suspension bridge towards Pantai Kerachut, a beautiful white-sand beach that is a popular spot for picnics and a green-turtle nesting ground. Count on about 1½ hours to walk to the beach on the clear and well-used trail. On your way is the unusual meromictic lake, a rare natural feature composed of two separate layers of unmixed freshwater on top and seawater below, supporting a unique mini-ecosystem. From Pantai Kerachut, you can walk about 40 minutes onward to further-flung and isolated Teluk Kampi, which is the longest beach in the park; look for trenches along the coast – they're remnants of the Japanese occupation in WWII.