Up North West, at the tip of Penang Island, lies Penang National Park where several gorgeous beaches are hidden from Time. The park covers an area of 2,563 hectares and is considered as the smallest national park in the world. Yet, it is able to contain a wide collection of habitats such as mangroves, coral reefs and turtle nesting beaches. Among the beaches, Monkey Beach is pretty well known for it is protected by the Muka Head cape, making it an ideal bay with flat and sandy beaches. The beach is also known as Teluk Duyung by the locals which literally means Mermaid’s Bay. However, it is called Monkey Beach by tourist due to the monkeys of the Crab-eating Macaque species which roam this part of the park. Aside the well visited Batu Ferringhi and Tanjung Bunga, you will find this alternative beach fairly surprising.
To get there, you can either take a short boat ride or a 90 minute hike through the park trails. The boat ride (one way only) can range from MYR 8 to MYR 15 per person depending on how many people sharing the boat with you. As you are riding the fishermen’s boat, you will get to see the nautical view up North as well as the natural beauty of the National park from a distance. If you are up for some sweat, the journey to Monkey Beach is well worth it. You will have to do some climbing up and down the rocks and trees but the park trail is fairly easy and you will not be disappointed by what Mother Nature has to offer. There are signs leading you to the beach ahead so you won’t have to worry about getting lost in the National Park. The recommended way by most frequent travelers is to hike your way up the sandy bay and return back via boat so that you can get the best of both worlds.
When you reach the beach site, you will be amazed by its secluded and sandy white beach. The sand is so fine that you will find your feet sinking into the ground as you try to walk ahead. Besides that, the water will be very inviting after your sweaty hike and you would not have to worry about jellyfishes that most other beaches on the island are infested with. Aside from the clear green water, long stretch of sun-bleached sand and exotic trees, the beach is practically empty. You would not find stalls, hotels or crowds there. There are, however, numerous fishing spots and picturesque places where you can sit and relax as you enjoy the wide Indian Ocean view.
While you are soaking yourself among the serene scenery, you might be able to spot some sea otters washing themselves off in the water or the fruit bats that is attracted by the sea almond. In addition, if you want to stretch your legs after chilling along the beach, you can walk uphill towards a lighthouse at the far end of Monkey Beach. This scenic lighthouse was built in 1883 by the British which cost them £37,929. It is 1180 meter in height and 242 meters above sea level. Further off coast, you will be able to spot Song Song Island and Coral Island nearby. You can ask the fishermen to bring you there on a day trips for snorkeling as well as swimming.
During your visit at Monkey Beach, do bear in mind that you are within a National Park thus it is important for you to be a responsible traveler. Stay on trails and maintaining set distances away from wildlife are few of the general environmental guidelines you must be aware of. Also, nudity is not encouraged in this country. Be sensitive to the local culture by wearing clothing that is accepted. It may be a common practice to suntan on the beach naked in your home country but it does not mean that you can do it here even though it is fairly isolated on most days. Apart from that, refrain from aggressive bargaining. It is alright to negotiate for the boat fare but know your limits. You can ask your local hotels for tips or survey the other boatmen around for the price. If your desire price is not met, you should either give in or move along.
Being the second most popular cities in Malaysia, the hustle and bustle in Georgetown is just part of Penang and it is not all about heritage sites and hawker food. For those beach crawlers out there who are seeking for tranquility and privacy, Monkey Beach is the place to be when you are visiting the Penang Island.
Check out on conservation projects organized to promote environment conservation.