Visitors to Penang’s virgin rainforest now have an extra way to enjoy the breath-taking surroundings, thanks to a 230-metre canopy bridge opened in 2018.
The Habitat is a world-class eco-tourism facility located on the fringes of a 130-million-year-old rainforest on Penang Hill. This rainforest precariously exists side-by-side with urban Penang and its environs.
The Habitat’s eco-friendly attractions include an historical 1.6km Nature Trail built in the early 1800s by the British East India Company. Additional eco-friendly Canopy Bridges, a Tree Top Walk and Canopy Walkways provide visitors with access to the forest canopy. Visitors find themselves immersed in the natural beauty of the rainforest, marvelling at beautiful tree ferns believed to be over 100 years old, and other ancient rainforest giants such as the Damar Minyak and Rhu Bukit conifers.
With world-class facilities, dramatic natural beauty, and a commitment to conservation and environmental awareness, The Habitat on Penang Hill is the place to visit for a highly complete, exciting and educational Malaysian rainforest experience. Rolling hills, pristine rain forest, lush flora, enormous granite boulders and distant views make The Habitat on Penang Hill a must-see attraction in Penang.
The latest edition is a canopy bridge entitled “Langur Way”. Enjoying a higher perspective thanks to a series of two suspension bridges 40 meters above the rainforest floor, visitors are able to soak in the surrounding sounds or catch a glimpse of the wildlife such as the Dusky Leaf Langur and its family swinging around in the rainforest. The Habitat Canopy Walk is designed and engineered to be “tree friendly” without rigging any of the steel cables directly onto the trees. The spacious and sturdy platforms provide a safe and unobstructed up-close view of the jungle’s canopy.
The Habitat’s specially trained Naturalists teach visitors about the Racket-tailed Drongo’s symbiotic relationship with the Dusky Leaf Langur, and along the way, one may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one of the world’s largest squirrel species – the Giant Black Squirrel (Ratufa bicolour). One can discover a myriad of insects, birds, reptiles and mammals that call The Habitat home.
This world-class ecotourism site aims to promote environmental consciousness and conservation awareness tourism. The Habitat rainforest is part of the lungs of Penang. Through photosynthesis, plants pull carbon out of the atmosphere, storing it in the root stems, leaves and branches, then transforming it into life-giving oxygen. Rainforests also help recycle and clean our water supplies. The Habitat nature trail allows one to appreciate these jungle rainforests and the wildlife that calls them home.
Throughout the Nature Trail, visitors come across numerous rest areas set in themed gardens such as the fern, ginger and fragrant gardens. They can rest at the Golden Bromeliad or Orchid Pavilions, take a moment to reflect and take in the sights, sounds and smells of nature. Or why not take a seat at one of the Habitat’s Giant Swings and enjoy the cool breeze as one takes in the breath-taking views of the Golden Valley at sunset. The 1.6km Nature Trail has been open since January 2016 and has many wonders for visitors to behold.
TREE TOP WALK
The crowning glory of the Habitat is the “Tree Top Walk” at Curtis Crest.
Designed to handle up to 120 people at a time, it offers mesmerising 360-degree views of Penang, including George Town, and serves as the highest public viewing point on the island. On a clear day the islands of Langkawi can be seen in the distance, and if you look just in front of you, Bel Retiro (the Governor of Penang’s mansion), can also be seen in all its splendour.
In the 1890’s this plateau was used as one of the first English tennis courts in Malaya by people holidaying on the hill. It was also used as a military parade ground by the East India Company in the early days of the settlement, and the troops stationed here kept watch for approaching enemy ships. On sighting one they would signal Fort Cornwallis in George Town far below so that they could warn the people and prepare for battle.
This location was also most probably used by famed botanist Charles Curtis (1853-1928), the first superintendent of the Penang Botanic Gardens. In 1884 Curtis was placed in charge of a region that included “The Waterfall Gardens”. He experimented with trees while designing what would become the Penang Botanic Gardens.
Today this historic plateau is also an ideal spot for bespoke events such as weddings, dinner parties and picnics.
Alongside the Tree Top Walk, an Early 19th Century Experimental Garden is under construction.
Other programmes include Sunset Walks available daily where Naturalists take visitors on a guided walk to view a spectacular sunset and share the magic of the rainforest after dusk. One can learn about the hunting and foraging habits of the Colugo and the Red Giant Squirrel and if one is lucky, spot them as they soar through the air from tree to tree.
100% of the Nature Trail is a stroller and wheel chair friendly and is suitable for people of all ages and indeed for the entire family to enjoy.
Green Initiatives are core elements incorporated into The Habitat project. One of their goals is to maximise the energy efficiency of our buildings and minimise the carbon footprint of operational activities over the long term.
All facilities are operated according to best industry practices and world-class standards. Ecologically sound and environmentally friendly methods were also employed in the development and implementation of the project where possible. Earth-rammed walls, a technique using natural raw materials such as earth, chalk, lime or gravel, and green roofs, partially covered in vegetation and a growing medium, have been incorporated into the design and construction of our buildings. Solar and water harvesting technologies are also utilised in the ongoing operations and maintenance of the Habitat project, and will continue to be so for the life of the project.
At the Habitat Penang Hill, they have a “no single use plastic water bottle” policy. Imagine, it takes three times the amount of water to produce the single use water bottle than it takes to fill the bottle. One can purchase reusable stainless steel water bottles at the store that can be filled up at water stations.
The Habitat Foundation
The mission of The Habitat Foundation is to preserve biodiversity through education, research and sustainable tourism. Working together with its sister organisation, The Habitat Penang Hill, a for-profit eco-park on Penang Hill in Malaysia, The Foundation is currently coordinating efforts to list Penang Hill as part of a proposed UNESCO Biosphere Reserve for Penang Island under UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme. This involves working with stakeholders from all levels and spectra of the community as well as government at Local, State and National levels. The Foundation is the primary funder and one of the main drivers of this initiative.
The long-term objective of The Foundation is to provide a platform for scientific research that gathers information, organizes knowledge necessary for conservation and sustainable development for the proposed UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. To this end, The Foundation is working to establish a permanent Rainforest Research Centre (Research Centre) on Penang Hill. This will act as a catalyst for attracting international research, science and money to the Hill thus contributing to its long-term conservation and development based on sound sustainability principles.
The shareholders of The Habitat have also pledged profits generated by the park to support the activities of The Foundation and the Research Centre. In turn, research generated through the Research Centre will be used to enhance the visitor experience at the park creating a circular, self- sustaining economy for the benefit of the environment. Going forward, The Foundation will strive to identify other sensitive sites regionally and internationally which would benefit from this model of conservation and research driven sustainable tourism.