Penang National Park in Teluk Bahang has three main hiking trails, the one to Monkey Beach and Muka Head lighthouse, the one to Pantai Kerachut (Turtle Beach) and on to Teluk Kampi, and the newest one, the trail to Bukit Batu Hitam. All three are well signposted and easy to follow, and all three begin at the entrance to the National Park, where you are required to sign in, and if you are lucky, you can pick up a leaflet which shows the three trails. Entrance to the park is free of charge.
Before you set out, decide which trail you want to do, and whether you want to hike there and back, or to arrange for a fishing boat to pick you up at one of the beaches at a specific time. There are desks just outside the National Park where you can do this, and the price will range from RM 60 to RM 100 for the boat ride, depending on which beach you are being collected from.
Once you enter the park proper, you will walk along a flat brick pathway beside the beach for five minutes, and then, immediately after crossing a bridge, a signpost clearly marks the beginning of the three trails.
Monkey Beach and Muka Head Lighthouse
The Monkey Beach trail is the easiest. It is almost completely flat, and follows the coastline for about an hour from the entrance to the park to the beach, giving you a mix of a jungle trek and a coastal walk. The beach itself is not the best though, as its proximity has made it relatively popular, with hawkers having set up makeshift stalls selling food and drinks, and jet skis and motorboats on the water. To reach the trail to Muka Head lighthouse, walk to the far end of the beach, and follow the steps upwards. It takes another 30 minutes, At 240m above sea level, from the very top the lighthouse offers beautiful views of Penang, neighbouring islands, and sea eagles nesting in treetops.
Pantai Kerachut and Teluk Kampi
The hike to Pantai Kerachut also takes about an hour, and is easy to follow, but is steeper and so more challenging. The trail crosses the headland to reach the more secluded and attractive beach, Pantai Kerachut (Turtle Beach). You climb upwards for 30 minutes, then downwards for 30 minutes, but are pleasantly shaded by the forest the entire way.
The beach is known for its meromictic lake (a mix of fresh and sea water) and the small turtle sanctuary at the far end of the beach, which was set up in 1995 to collect the recently hatched young of the Green Turtles that lay their eggs on the beach, and release them back into the wild once they are old enough to fend for themselves with a lower risk of predation.
To continue on to the next beach, at Teluk Kampi, it is necessary to find the campsite, which lies up a short flight of steps, just inland of the pier. A 45-minute trail begins to the left of the campsite kitchens, skirts the edge of the meromictic lake, and then is signposted on to Teluk Kampi to the right. The 15
minutes of steep climbing here is quite arduous, though a rope handrail makes it less so, but then the trail heads downhill again, and the glorious and deserted sandy stretch of Teluk Kampi, which is exactly what a tropical island beach should look like, makes it all worthwhile.
Bukit Batu Hitam
The final trail is not one for beginners. At almost 11km for the full loop, it takes most of the day, and climbs to 460m above sea level, the highest point within the National Park. It follows the same route as the Pantai Kerachut trail for the first 25 minutes, and then diverges. It is clearly signposted, but very steep, and the benches and rest points en route are very welcome. It offers one good viewpoint over the Teluk Bahang valley, Western Hill and Bukit Laksamana, and is an excellent all-round jungle workout for serious hikers.