When people travel in Malaysia and think about what to do in Penang, they think about the heritage buildings in Georgetown and beaches in Batu Feringghi. Therefore, it might surprise you to find out that Penang has one of the most beautiful public parks in Malaysia. The Penang Botanical Gardens, which is also known as the Waterfall Gardens due to the cascading waterfall nearby, is Penang’s treasure natural heritage. The garden dates back to 1884 when it was established by the British from an old granite quarry site. With the help of the Penang State Government, the Garden is active in several research and botanical activities even though it serves more as a public park. Various collaborations have been done with other Botanic Gardens (both nationally and internationally) in the development and implementation of botanical and ecological research programmes. The Garden’s main objectives include provision of a clean, safe and conducive public recreation environment as well as educating and raising public awareness in the appreciation of nature and gardening.
There are several facilities that you can find in the garden: recreational area, toilets, wheelchair access walkways, bandstand, gazebos, jogging tracks, jungle trails, resting lawns and plant nurseries. Aside from that, you can actually ask for a group tour by prior arrangements as in line with ecotourism efforts, the Botanic Garden is complementing the Governments effort and disseminating the importance of taking care of the environment to the masses. In addition, if you come across a plant yourself and wanted to know more about it, there is a plant information kiosk which is available at the Gardens Office from 8.00am to 4.30pm during weekdays. After a long walk around the garden, you can quench your thirst by getting some refreshments as well as souvenirs at the Gardens Shop (also known as Botanika) beside the Formal Gardens.
One of the many attractions in the garden would be the Rain Tree or the 5 o’clock Tree. Originally from South Africa, this majestic rain tree had greeted millions of visitors since 1800’s. It is located at the main entrance of the garden and provides much shade with its large and umbrella-shaped crown. This magnificent tree can grow up to 35 meter in height and it bears small pinkish white cluster of flowers throughout the year. One fun fact about this tree is that it folds its leaves during rainy weather as well as before sunset and open just after sunrise. It is due to this that it got its name, 5 o’clock Tree or Pokok Pukul Lima by the locals. This “sleep motion” is actually to retain more moisture for the tree by enabling more dew to settle when the leaves are folded.
It is important to comply with international environmental conventions and ecotourism while you are visiting Botanic Garden. Even though there are several trees bearing ripe juicy fruits that are tempting, do not harvest it for your own consumption. That goes for the various beautiful flowers found here. Not only can these affect fragile ecosystems, it is also illegal. Also, you should keep the garden ground clean by not littering. It is definitely an eye sore to see empty plastic bottles or chocolate wrappers lying around this gorgeous site. Aside from that, setting up camp fire is forbidden here even though picnic areas are provided. It is encourage that visitors do not smoke as well to prevent any fire accident from happening. Lastly, as you are among nature, it is best to keep your audio equipment in your bag. Let the chirping of birds and the soft whisper of the wind embrace you. Appreciate everything around you while you are visiting the garden.
Step away from the Metropolitan Penang while you are traveling in Malaysia and enjoy the lush greenery and tranquil setting Penang’s Botanic Garden has to offer.
Check out on community projects organized to promote environment conservation.