Hiking to the Tail of Penang

Penang Island is often described as a turtle shaped island, with four flippers, the head (Batu Ferringghi) and an almost rectangular shaped body. So where’s its tail? All the way down south, between Teluk Kumbar and Bayan Lepas, is where Penang’s little tail is. It is also a small area of forest and rubber shielded away from the ever growing development woes of the island. While unknown to most hiking circles, it makes a good walk (except for certain parts where the trail disappears)

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The point marked as ‘Viewpoint’ is ‘The Tail of Penang Island’

We started in Sungai Batu, at the beautiful Teluk Bayu Beach. The usual Hiking ‘Kakis’, me and Peter had the company of a lady, Mohanah on this hike. While the hike was anything but ladylike, the both of us were impressed that she did it with relative ease and 0% complains!

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Teluk Bayu Beach, one of the most gorgeous beaches in Penang Island. ‘The tail of Penang’ is the forested cape in the far end of the picture.

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Wild Ixoras

In about half an hour we walked over the beach and through the jungle and came out at a viewpoint (a huge rock) which was the very tip of Penang’s Tail. Beautiful views of Penang’s Southern seas and every 20 minutes, planes fly across, to land at Penang International Airport.  It was a beautiful view indeed and one that I will always cherish.

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A Plane! A Plane!

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Numerous fishing boats dotting the Southern Seas. If the Penang State Government’s plans for  reclamation to create three new islands in the Southern Coast gets its way, this and many other gorgeous view will be history.

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Hiking Kakis for the day: Peter, Mohanah and yours truly, Rexy

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Fungi, possibly Cookenia sp

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Bracket Fungus

The hike continued from the viewpoint, in a northeast direction. The trail ran out at various points and we were forced to bash our way through the thick rubber and shrubbery. With some help from Mr GPS as well as a few ‘I think its this way’ from me and Peter, we made it out to the next beach, a rather hidden one, cut off from the rest by the hills. I haven’t found its name yet, so I’ll call it the ‘Secret Beach’

 

 

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Coming out at the ‘Secret Beach’, we were the only odd hikers there as only the fishermen seem to know it.

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We found a wonderful swing there and proceeded to take a good rest and of course feast on some snacks.

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Photo credits:Peter Van Der Lans

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The bliss of a Saturday morning, on the beach.

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We spent some time at the Secret beach before continuing along the seafront (in a Northeastern direction). A clear trail started at the end of the beach and we followed it as it winded up the hill and went eastward to Kampung Binjai, in Permatang Damar Laut. The journey took about 2 and a half hours and was indeed a great hike by the sea!

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Yellow flowers (possibly a legume) as we walked along the trail. A pleasant sight indeed!

 

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Hiking Trails of Penang Island

Its been a long time that I’ve wanted to make a trail map of the trails in Penang Island. From the time I began using a GPS device (my phone app, Sports Tracker) in 2011, I’ve been constantly tracking the various trails we have on the island. By no means would I say this is a complete map but this is the closest I have gotten in my 13 year hiking journey (I’ve been hiking since I was 12)!

If Penang were to be compared with the other cities in Malaysia, I can very confidently say we are the hiking capital of Malaysia!
Here is a rough picture of the trails we have in Penang. I hope to complete more in the days to come and make this map a lot more colourful!

Trails of Penang Island

Pantai Acheh to Pantai Mas

Today me and Peter did a seven hour hike from Pantai Acheh to Pantai Mas and finally back to Pantai Acheh. The route taken was via RG25-Bukit Batu Itam and scrambling down to Pantai Mas and back to Pantai Acheh via Tanjung Gemuroh.

The map below shows this 11km hike. The green lines indicate the Penang National Park boundary while the purple line shows the trek we did.

Pantai Mas

We parked at the Pantai Acheh Chinese School and proceeded to start at about 9.45am. Pantai Acheh to RG 25 and the peak of Bukit Batu Itam is relatively an easy trail to do, albeit finding it might be a slight challenge. It starts off at a cement trail not too far away from the school and rises through durian and rubber plantations, passes Rain Gauge 25 and finally enters the Penang National Park through its southern border for an onward ascent to the peak of Bukit Batu Itam.

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Walking through the Durian Orchard

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Not many people take selfies with rain gauges these days

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Tall trees along the Penang National Park border

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Nearing the peak of Bukit Batu Itam

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Bukit Batu Itam and RG26

The walk seemed very doable at this point, however a difficult part started when we descended down to Pantai Mas from Bukit Batu Itam. Initially the trail is well marked after which it totally disappeared into the thick jungle!

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We had a spectacular view of the Pantai Acheh Mangroves soon after leaving Bukit Batu Itam

Me and Peter had to rely on intuition and predicting the trails which went down. A lot of scrambling and getting the old trail down was like looking for a needle in a haystack! There were points we had to rely precariously on trees,roots and rocks to get down.

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A huge landslide in the middle of the forest!

We followed the sound of a stream and kept pushing downward, finally ending up at a beautiful waterfall all by accident! (This was the second time on a hike with Peter. Unfortunately I do not know how to trace my steps back there,as this was during our scramble down).

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The hidden waterfall near Pantai Mas

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Another shot of the hidden waterfall

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When was Peter not excited about new waterfalls?

We reached Pantai Mas at about 3.10pm while it was high tide and it was quite a disappointment as the beach totally disappeared under water! The only thing visible there were the stands of old coconut trees from the time this beach was a private plantation and the newly planted mangroves by National Park Authorities (Perhilitan).

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Stands of coconut trees at Pantai Mas

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A beach? When it is high tide its more of a mangrove swamp!

We took a few photos and continued along the National Park Border trail which skirts along Tanjong Gemuroh, to Pantai Acheh.

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The well marked border trail from Pantai Mas to Pantai Acheh

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Signboards from a time when the Penang National Park was the Pantai Acheh Permanent Forest Reserve.

This trail is usually used as a ‘shortcut’  and ended up at the ‘infamous’  Pantai Acheh pig farm. Pushing our way through the unbearable smell, we finally came out to the Pantai Acheh Village. We ended our little adventure at the Kopitiam opposite the Pantai Acheh Chinese School about 5.00pm. And its back to work as usual tomorrow!

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At the pig farm. The pigs here are a lucky lot, they spend their last days enjoying the sight of a rain forest, before ending up as bacon.

The Accidental Waterfall: Exploring Sungai Pinang Barat (Titi Kerawang River) via the Mount Elvira Pass

In my 13 year hiking journey through the hills of Penang, 2017 has been a particularly eventful year, exploring the great unknown and untamed corners of the island’s hills. This particular hike was a good catch up from the fun and excitement we had in early 2017, when me, Rob and Peter formed a unlikely alliance to explore the last untamed portions of the island.

This particular hike was in mine and Peter’s minds for some time, and intended to explore the upper regions of the Titi Kerawang stream (where I’ve been previously and offered to bring Peter up, albeit failing “this mission” miserably as you will find later in the story) and also his kind offer to show me “new hiking territory”, the Mount Elvira pass.

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Looking down at Balik Pulau midway to the Elvira Pass

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A Trilobite Beetle

The Mount Elvira pass is a small pass which goes between the 700+ meter peak of Mount Elvira and its shorter sister peak, Batu Itam (A <700 meter peak, not to be confused with Bukit Batu Itam in PNP). This pass can be spotted from the Balik Pulau market, where we began this hike. A trail up to this pass from Air Itam area has been in existence since the mid 1800s and continues (albeit in much less use), to be used by  hill dwellers who call parts of Mount Elvira home. It was our intention to join up to this trail (which has now been tarred over), from the Balik Pulau side.

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We were just talking about the voodoo lily while hiking, when, guess what we stumbled upon a dozen on the trail!

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Voodoo Lily (Armophophallus prainii)

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Steep Ascend up to the Pass. Tired or not, we are always in for a selfie!

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That “M” indicates that this trail was surveyed by Charles Jules Moniot, a surveyor who resided in Penang in the 1840s-1850s

We went up to this pass and came down to the well known Iron Cross Junction (Tiger Hill Junction) and continued down along the trail to Titi Kerawang.

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Mr Millipede!

As I promised Peter, I was to take him on a trail to a well hidden campsite along the Titi Kerawang valley, however our plans took a twist when all by accident, we took a steep right turn down into an “unknown” trail, meters away from where I really intended to show him.

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Looking up to the peaks of Laksamana and Penang Hill

And guess what we stumbled upon! Yet another beautiful waterfall which forms part of the puzzle in Sungai Pinang Barat’s (Titi Kerawang stream) marvelous downhill journey! All by accident, we stumbled upon a simply amazing find!

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Another puzzle in Sungai Pinang Barat’s (Titi Kerawang river) journey downstream

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And down she goes, into a bottomless pit!

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What do you do when you stumble upon a new waterfall? TAKE A PHOTO POINTING AT IT!

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Grizzly find at the river, a python devouring its prey. We assumed it was dead, but soon realized it was not!

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Magnificence in the forest!

Penang’s Voodoo Lily (Armophophallus prainii, കാട് ചേന)

On a recent hike in the greater Penang Hill region, I stumbled upon rather alien looking plant. A long tongue sticking out of a lily like vase. A whole clump of about a dozen of them in full bloom!  On a quick internet search and a tip from my friend Peter, I was  found out that it was the Voodoo Lily (Armophophallus prainii). Not too sure how common they are in Penang, but this was my first time seeing them in about 13 years hiking the hills of Penang! They are related to a more well known cash crop, the Elephant Foot Yam (ചേന) which is a tropical tuber crop grown across South Asia.

It is not often that you come across something as alien as this, so enjoy the photo of these uniquely shaped flowers.

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Don’t normally take photos with flowers, but when I do, its a Voodoo Lily!

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Hidden beauty of Hutan Simpan Kekal Pasir Panjang

Hidden away in a corner of south west Penang is the little known hill of Bukit Pulau Betong (360m), and an even lesser known forest reserve, Hutan Simpan Kekal Pasir Panjang (Pasir Panjang Permanent Forest Reserve) on its peak.

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Approximate location of Bukit Pulau Betong

Decades if not centuries of farming have rendered most of the hills in the southern and middle belt of Penang, devoid of natural vegetation. In a sea of farms and orchards, Hutan Simpan Kekal Pasir Panjang is one of the few virgin jungles which have stood the tests of time and survived to tell the tale. This post takes a look at what’s inside this hidden gem of the southern hills.

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Only 33 hectares

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Forests of the Southern Penang

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Towering Dipterocarps dominate the skyline

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A rare opening in the canopy

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Bukit Pulau Betong Peak is marked with a Summit Stone.

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A good hiking trip is never complete without good company!

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I call this pair the Meranti Sisters

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Titi Kerawang Upper Falls

Its 2017 so fast! rexymizrah has been up in the net for about 4 years now! 2017 has been a great hiking year indeed, thanks partly to the fact that I met two new hiking buddies, Rob and Peter! Both operate two very interesting websites on hiking in Penang, Rob’s site can be found at http://www.internationalsteam.co.uk/penang/penanghillsindex.htm while Peter’s one is http://www.bicycle-adventures.com/hiking-in-penang.html

The past few weeks saw the three of us “assault” trails in the Titi Kerawang area with exceptional success. One thing that I left out though was the cherry on the cake, the Titi Kerawang Upper Falls.

Hidden away from the public eye, the Titi Kerawang Upper Falls is the real deal when it comes to a waterfall. Most tourists and Penangites only get to see the lower falls as it is way more accessible and promoted for tourists. Right above where people make a beeline to see the waterfall, huge water pipes pump water downstream for human consumption. And thus for security reasons,most of the Titi Kerawang upstream is off limits to the public.

So, what lies beyond what you see at the touristy Titi Kerawang Waterfall?
This post will show you a few photos of exactly that!

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What we know of as the Titi Kerawang Waterfall today is the confluence of two main streams which join to become one. Unfortunately, these two do not have a name but we will conveniently name them the Laksamana Feeder Stream which as the name says flows from the Upper Bukit Laksamana Valley and the bigger Tiger Hill Feeder Stream which starts from the Tiger Hill Reservoir on the slopes of Tiger Hill.

Both rivers meet at a place I call Beth Nahrain which translates to the house/or land between two rivers. These two rivers meet to form what is now known as Sungai Pinang Barat.

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Muka Sauk Point is where a sheer drop in the slope happens producing a beautiful waterfall which we know as the Titi Kerawang Upper Falls. Beauty has no better definition than this!911img20170211114335

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Titi Kerawang Upper Falls