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Selected Nature Trails of Penang Island

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(c) Forest Ang

Length: 5.5 km 2 hours
Recreational grading : 1-2
Condition: disturbed but substantial natural character remaining
Use: moderate to well used
Status: water catchment and orchard

This paved trail has become popular among hikers because the journey is scenic and shaded most of the way, and there are no steep slopes. The trail ascends through a water catchment area and then descends through a series of orchards. During the fruit season, the greatest attractions are durians and rambutans. You may be able to purchase these fruits from occasional vendors on the way.

This trail is easy to find. From the upper car park at Air Itam Dam, take the road that circles the dam in a clockwise direction. After 13-15 minutes of walking, follow a track that branches off on the left side of the road. This is a cemented motorcycle track frequently used by farmers to transport fruit and vegetables to Air Itam market. Watch out for motorbikes that freewheel downhill.

From the junction to the highest point of this trail takes about 20 minutes. The cement motorbike trail starts to climb, passing through secondary rainforest. Unlike other trails in Penang, this 20 minute stretch is a herbal heaven. On both sides of the trail you can see numerous species of herbs including aroids, black lilies, wild ginger, white weed, amorphophallus, curculigo, selaginella and many others. Just before the end of the ascent you will come to a brightly-painted Chinese temple. Opposite the temple is a shed that looks like a farmer’s store house. Rest here if you wish. There is a stream nearby. Then a three minute walk brings you to a major four-way junction.

At this junction, the trail on the left leads to Bukit Penara, where a television transmission station is located. The trail on the right takes you to a junction from which other trails branch off to Sungai Pinang, Tiger Hill and other parts of the island.

You should continue straight on from the junction. The trail will soon start to descend. The rest of the journey is downhill all the way through durian plantations. During the fruit season the valley is filled with the heady aroma of durian.

After having passed through the herbal heaven, this second part of the journey is a fruit heaven. Any fruit that can be found in Penang is grown along this trail. Mangosteen, banana, coconut, tapioca, cempedak, pineapple, nutmeg, papaya, petai, rambutan, cocoa, jackfruit, areca catechu, cashew nuts as well as rubber and oil palm are just some of the produce grown here.

There are many side trails. Follow the trail that descends downhill. There are several small streams along the way and the water is clear and cool. It is very tempting to drink from them but you are advised not to do so because insecticide spraying is rampant here. On the way down you will also be able to enjoy views of the valley and Pulau Betong in the distance.

Eventually you will reach the main road leading to the market in Balik Pulau. The market has been in existence for more than 80 years. Local residents display and sell all types of fruits. But Balik Pulau market is particularly famous for its durians and belacan. Many people come all the way from other parts of the island to buy these sought after items and to sample the famed laksa. You can take a bus back to Air Itam or hike back the same way.


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