The Habitat at Bukit Bendera, Penang Hill
on top of the hill
Penang Hill is the classic school field-trip spot. It’s within the island, isn’t terribly far away, and remote enough to excite third-year students. During the recent years, the Penang tourism board has revamped many of the existing tourist spots and Penang Hill (also known as Bukit Bendera) was no exception. In addition to sprucing up the train which brings visitors up and down the hill, there is now a nature preserve at the top called The Habitat. This new attraction comes complete with not one but two treetop walks, giant swings at strategic locations, a zip-line, and a gift shop.
LANGUR WAY CANOPY WALK
The Langur Way Canopy Walk, named after the dusty leaf langur (a monkey), is about 250 metres in length, and is your standard treetop walk. Unlike some bridges which like to complain and groan, this one didn’t make much noise. For those of you who are scared of heights, consider this your foray into exposure therapy.
curtis crest tree top walk
The second treetop walk is basically is a large circle, and you are completely exposed to the elements of the sun. Will a pterodactyl swoop down and pluck you away? Seems completely possible when you’re that high up and there aren’t any trees around you.
oh the things you will see
What nature preserve is complete without carnivorous plants and spiders? Before you reach the treetop walks, you’ll get to walk through the rainforest. I spent most of the time looking up at everything around me, and could have happily spent my entire afternoon there.
If plants and bugs and heights are just not your aesthetic, then you can sign up for the aptly named adventure course, The Flight of the Colugo, which has 5 zip lines, 1 absiel (I googled it for you — abseil means rappelling), and 1 rope bridge for your aerial pleasure.
Or if DIY is really what appeals to you, then you can also make a terrarium during one of the free workshops.
And if you only visit attractions just for bragging rights on social media, you can sit and take a selfie on a giant swing.
Or put your phone away and just appreciate the power of your two optical orbs.
getting to penang hill
To get to The Habitat, you’ll first need to get to the top of Penang Hill. There is a multi-story carpark at the entrance of PG Hill but it fills up very quickly, so take a grab/taxi instead.
tickets + skipping the queue
There are hiking trails to get to the top of the hill but most people take the funicular railway train. You can purchase train tickets online or at the counter there. If you are like me and decided the best time to visit would be on a public holiday, be prepared for an overwhelming queue. We opted to buy premium tickets which meant a shorter queue + being able to board the funicular tram first. Be smarter than me and purchase tickers online from the comfort of your home.
Visit the official website for updates on ticketing, opening hours, and events.
up the hill
Don't worry about sitting on the train ride up. You’ll want to be standing to get a full view.
Once the train reaches the top, disembark and take a minute to admire the view. Congratulations, you are now on top of Penang Hill! On a clear day, you’ll be able to see the bridge connecting Penang Island to the mainland.
getting to the habitat
Head to the square and look for The Habitat’s tent where you can purchase tickets. Unlike me, you should plans ahead and purchase your tickets online beforehand.
Since the main entrance to The Habitat was undergoing renovation, the staff transported visitors to another entrance via pick-up truck. Hang on tight and don’t drop your phone or any belongings!
exit through the gift shop
The other entrance brought us straight to the gift shop/cafe, which also served as the entrance to the reserve. Unlike most gift shops which have tacky and overpriced souvenirs, the selection at The Habitat is not bad. Think books on botany, delicate and beautiful mobiles, and yes, reusable straws and water bottles.
We stopped for quick bite at the cafe but what you need to check out is the outdoor staircase at the back as well as the mounted fern on the side of the bathroom stall. Think rainforest music, tall trees, and fresh air.
And that’s basically it! I’d schedule a good 3 — 4 hours for your field trip including getting to PG hill, getting up the hill, getting to The Habitat, walking around the rainforest and on the treetop walks, and getting back down. Enjoy the views and as usual, bring your own reusable water bottle as there are several water fountains throughout the Habitat. And it goes without saying — do not litter and do not disturb the wildlife in any way .