You would think that a tropical island would be surrounded by water sports but the reality on Penang Island is more limited. Penang Island’s south coast, reserved more for industrial development, is not conducive to water sports; the west coast is largely protected by the island’s National Park; and, the east coast’s busy shipping lane holds only pollution and danger. Which, really, only leaves the northern coast as the best shore to host aquatic entertainment.
Is it any wonder that Penang Island has water sports dotted along its northern shore? Not really. What is surprising are the amount of complaints about the lack of them, or at least the ability to take part in them. The weather is congenial, the water warm, clean and safe… and the prices – as so often a consideration that has made Penang, if not Malaysia, popular in recent years – very reasonable.
The first port of call must be the Penang Water Sport Recreation Centre (Pusat Kegiatan Sukan Air (PKSA)). Located just beyond the Tanjung Bungah Floating Mosque, PKSA is a non-profit organization that aims to provide the people of Penang with an outlet for engaging in outdoor activities and enjoying Penang’s natural marine environment. Kayaks can be rented by groups of up to ten people on walk-in and must be booked beforehand by groups of ten or more. However, as their most popular activity, available for just RM15 per person per hour, we recommend booking any way. The obvious destination, while standing on the beach and looking out to sea, is Pulau Tikus (the Island) – an hours round trip that provides a brilliant sea-view of the Tanjung Bungah beach and its ever developing skyline.
If you are looking for more of a workout, PKSA also offers Dragon Boat rental. The traditional Chinese rowing is, however, a demanding sport and as such should not be approached lightly. Unlike kayaking – which requires no more than two arms and a reasonable sense of balance – Dragon Boats are unruly beasts, unstable unless guided by professionals, uncomfortable and glide less easily through the water. A maximum of 20 people can rent a boat for RM200 per hour along with an instructor (RM100) and steersman (MR60), an important attendee as the boats cannot steer solely by oars. Lifeguards can be hired upon request. In addition, sailing and windsurfing lessons are also available upon request.
Address: Jalan Batu Ferringhi, 11200, Tanjung Bungah, Pulau Pinang
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 10:00am – 12:30pm/2:30pm – 6:00pm; Saturday and Sunday, 9:00am – 12:30pm/2:00pm – 6:00pm
As well as PKSA, the beaches in Tanjung Bungah and Batu Ferringhi both offer more touristy water sport activities. Cools Watersports in Tanjung Bungah and Ferringhi Sea Sports. Co in Batu Ferringhi are two such companies, not that the names really matter. Walking along the beach, it is easy enough to recognise a small shack advertising parasailing, jet skis and banana boats in each location. Geared mainly to tourists, these activities will come with a premium cost but can’t be had anywhere else. Comparatively, they still fall far below the average prices for beach water sports around the world. For the most part, the coordinators and drivers are friendly and responsible, even if a tad boisterous, but what can you expect from guys filled with sea air and salt water as a standard requirement in a day-to-day job.
It is also good to keep in mind that in Teluk Bahang, on the northwest corner of Penang Island, next door to Entopia, the newly opened ESCAPE Water Park offers dingy rides, plunge pools, drop slides and much more. While not offering water sports per se, the park is a welcome addition to Penang Island’s family friendly activities.
Lastly, if you are looking to take water sports more seriously as an investment of time and money, why not join a club specifically designed for water sport activities. Windsurfing & Aquatic Sport, affiliated to the Chinese Swimming Club (CSC), has equipment catered for sailing, windsurfing, stand up paddleboard (SUP), kayaking and canoeing. A popular course is their introductory sailing and windsurfing course designed for complete beginners. For members of the CSC they charge RM60 per person and RM100 for non-members, not a huge amount of money for those eager to develop skills as well as having fun. Plus, lunch is included!
Address: 562, Jalan Tanjung Bungah, 11200 Tanjung Bungah, Penang
Contact: CSC: +604-899 0813
Coach: Katherine +6012-543 9369