This post was created in collaboration with The Habitat at Penang Hill. We received no monetary compensation for this post, however our visit was complimentary. As always, our opinions are our own.
From the first time we spotted a brochure for The Habitat at Penang Hill we were super intrigued. Based on its beautiful rainforest ziplines, wildlife, and treetop walk we knew that this would be our kind of adventure. Both of us are nature lovers, and getting into the wild is one of our favorite ways of experiencing new destinations. However, we hesitated when we realized that the Habitat was located at Penang Hill...the ultimate tourist trap in Penang.
After nearly five months of living in Penang, we still hadn’t visited Penang Hill. As travel bloggers, a part of us was feeling guilty about it...the other part was dreading having to deal with the long queues for the funicular, and the hordes of tourists at the top. Sure, the panoramic view of the island would be beautiful, but was it worth dealing with the crowds, and how about the cost?
Spoiler Alert: The Habitat at Penang Hill is basically the ONLY good reason to visit Penang Hill, and it was totally worth the cost.
What is The Habitat at Penang Hill?
The Habitat at Penang Hill is a nature reserve designed to give visitors an immersive rainforest experience, with as little impact on the environment as possible. Originally the land was used by the British for recreation and a drainage trail to prevent land erosion in other parts of Penang Hill. The Habitat has repurposed the original structures built by the British, and have also employed environmentally conscious building techniques for all subsequent development.
The Malaysian rainforest is a 130 million year old ecosystem, and one of the most biologically diverse places on earth. According to The Habitat website, scientists have estimated that 20% of the earth’s animal species call the Malaysian rainforests home. Visitors to The Habitat have the opportunity to experience the Malaysian rainforest first hand through a number of immersive experiences without having to feel like they’re contributing to the further destruction of the Earth’s beautiful resources. There are no captive animals at The Habitat, so any wildlife encounters you may have will be completely by chance!
What is the cost to visit The Habitat at Penang Hill?
Standard admission to The Habitat costs 55RM for adults, and 35RM for students, children, and senior citizens. However, there are some great add ons that enhance your experience as well as increase the cost of your visit. The Flight of the Colugo zipline experience costs 160RM per adult, 140 for children, students, and seniors. And the Kancil Walk, a guided tour with one of The Habitat’s very knowledgeable naturalists costs 85RM for adults, 55RM for students, children, and seniors.
For the ultimate experience, we recommend the Signature Rainforest Experience which includes all of the above for a total of 190RM per adult, 160RM for children, students, and seniors. You can buy tickets for most experiences through The Habitat's Website.
How to get to The Habitat at Penang Hill
The Habitat is located on the back side of Penang Hill, and the only way to get there is by taking the Penang Hill funicular which originates at the Penang Hill Lower Station in Bukit Bendara, Penang. For non-Malaysian visitors the roundtrip ticket price for the funicular is 30RM for adults, 15RM for one way (if you choose to hike down). The fast lane ticket costs 60RM per adult for round trip, or 45RM for one way. There are discounted rates for children, students, and seniors as well.
The funicular ride itself lasts about 4.5 minutes each way and was one of the highlights of the trip. The track is incredibly steep, and the funicular moves quite fast. Try to get a position toward the very front or back of the car to take advantage of the views on the way up and down.
What to do at The Habitat
Visiting The Habitat is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the stunning Malaysian rain forest, touch and smell the nature, and hopefully see some animals too. The Habitat offers an array of exciting experiences for any budget. Even with the basic entry ticket, you can have a beautiful walk through this peaceful jungle without feeling like you’ve contributed to its destruction.
If you’re interested in learning about the plants and animals, we recommend booking a guided experience through The Habitat. Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable, and she pointed out so many features of the rain-forest along the way that we would have otherwise completely overlooked.
The Langur Way Canopy Walk
The Langur Way Canopy Walk is a 15m high and 230m long bridge through the rainforest canopy. It is designed to minimise impact on the forest, and features “tree friendly’ cables which never directly contact the trees which support them. The Langur Way is named for the Dusky Leaf Langurs who call Penang Island home. During the construction of the bridge, a family of these Langurs would sit along the cables watching the construction while carelessly munching on leaves. There are no captive animals at The Habitat, but if you’re lucky, you may see some of these beautiful langurs on your visit.
The bridge itself is quite remarkable, but the real attraction is the forest that surrounds it. Walking along the The Langur Way, you can clearly see all of the layers of the impressive jungle from the forest floor to the canopy above. As we crossed the bridge, our guide pointed out a giant black squirrel jumping from limb to limb in the distance. It was so cool to see such a uniquely large squirrel (about one meter in length), and with our untrained eyes we would never have spotted it ourselves. Our guide had been working at The Habitat since before it opened, so she knew exactly where the animals like to hang out, and exactly where to look for them.
As we walked across, we also encountered a bright green lizard just hanging out on the side of the bridge. We were able to get quite close and snapped a few pictures before it took a giant leap of faith onto one of the trees below!
The Trail and Gardens
The 1.6km nature trail through the Habitat is a great way to get up close and personal with the plant life on display at The Habitat. Depending on the weather, you’ll also get amazing views of the rolling hills and the Andaman sea beyond them. We visited on a cloudier day, so our views were more limited to the natural beauty up close.
Along the way, we were so impressed by the variety of plants around, from psychedelic ferns and palms, to beautiful and fragrant flowers. We just couldn’t help ourselves from stopping to take pictures, we wanted to touch and smell everything we could. Our guide pointed out so many plants that we had never seen before! She explained that many of them are edible, while others such as ylang ylang are used for their fragrances as essential oils.
We encountered a few lizards on the trail, an ancient trilobite, as well as a giant moth that was bigger than my hand. Our guide’s knowledge seemed endless as she explained everything we encountered in great detail. She knew the names of every plant and animal, and was able to tell us interesting facts about all of them.
Every part of The Habitat seemed to be designed to protect the nature. The trail has several information boards, posted unobtrusively along the way, which give information about the various flora and fauna found within The Habitat. To reduce potential waste, plastic bottles are banned within the park. We never saw a single piece of trash anywhere. We did however encounter bottle filling stations, so you can refill your reusable bottles and stay hydrated at all times.
One of our favorite spots along the trail was the giant swing which extends out into the trees! The swing was so smooth and relaxing, we could have sat there all day, maybe even taken a nap if there weren’t so many more awesome things to see.
Curtis Crest Treetop Walk
Named after the famous botanist Charles Curtis, the treetop walk was one of the main features that initially attracted us to The Habitat. This 13m high raised walkway gives a remarkable 360 degree view of Penang, including the city of George Town. At an elevation of 800m above sea level, it’s the highest public viewing point on Penang, and on a nice clear day you can see all the way to Langkawi!
A grove of conifer trees, originally planted by Charles Curtis surrounds and envelops the walkway giving you the feeling that you are standing right at the tops of the trees.
If you’re afraid of heights, this one might be a little intense for you… We saw one child in tears, fearing for his life as he clutched the railing. However, Gabi, who tends to get a little nervous about heights, had no problem whatsoever. The construction of the treetop walk is incredibly sturdy, and can hold up to 120 people.
We spent about 20 minutes up there just snapping photos and soaking up the breathtaking views. Even on a cloudy day we were impressed by how much we were able to see from this high vantage point.
We got a great view of the Penang Governor’s Mansion, Bel Retiro, a private residence which is only inhabited by the caretaker when the governor is not present. We thought this must be the best job in all of Penang! This lookout spot was originally used by the British to watch for approaching enemy ships. If enemies were approaching, they would fire the signal cannon to warn the troops at Fort Corwallis down in George Town of the impending invasion! You can still see the cannon there today.
After taking in the breathtaking sights from the Curtis Crest Treetop Walk, we soon said goodbye to our naturalist guide, and moved on to our next attraction, the zip lines!
The Flight of the Colugo
The most exciting part of our day at The Habitat had to have been the zip lines! With a fear of heights, Gabi was a little worried about this part, and as we got closer and closer to this part of the tour, I could tell that her nerves were building. As for myself, I just couldn’t wait for my chance to fly through the rainforest! The Flight of the Colugo zipline course is named for the Malaysian Flying Lemur, and includes five zip lines, an abseil, and one rope bridge.
When we arrived at the start of the course, we were introduced to our guides, two young girls, Waheeda and Naqibah. They helped us get suited up in our ziplining harnesses, explained what each piece of gear does, and gave us a safety demonstration. We were very well informed about how to stay safe throughout the entire process. We had two guides at all times, one to help with each take off, and one to go ahead to the next platform and help us with each landing.
The first zip line was called the “Honeymoon Zip.” This line was unique in that Gabi and I were able to go simultaneously side by side, even holding hands if we wanted. Gabi was quite nervous to take off on the first zip, but with the encouragement of myself and our two wonderful guides, she was able to find the inner strength to step off the platform.
After the initial honeymoon zip, Gabi’s nerves began to subside, and she enjoyed each zip more than the previous. Our guides were so helpful and encouraging. They made us feel so safe by always keeping at least one carabiner attached at all times. When I asked them about their training, I was surprised to learn that they had to go through a seven week certification course, and have to be recertified every few months to keep their jobs! Obviously safety is the primary concern here.
The feeling of flying through the rainforest, looking down upon the forest below was like none other! It was so thrilling to dangle my feet into the nothingness as I zipped along on the wire. At each platform, Waheeda and Naqibah would explain the various trees and plants around. They pointed out the sap flowing from the trees, the fruits growing on them, and explained their significance to the local population. They were so knowledgeable, and gave us a ton of information along the way about the construction of the zip line course and showed us how it was designed to minimize impact on the supporting trees.
The Flight of the Colugo was definitely the highlight of our day at The Habitat! We were able to see parts of the Habitat that are inaccessible from the main trail, and even spotted a really cool horned lizard hanging out on one of the trails between lines. We felt like we’d made two new friends in Waheeda and Naqibah by the end of it, and didn’t want to leave. Remember when I said before that we thought the caretaker at the governor’s mansion had the best job? We were wrong. The zipline guides have the coolest job around!
Tips for visiting The Habitat:
- Bring a refillable water bottle: In an effort to protect the environment, The Habitat has banned single use plastic bottles on the property. There are stainless steel bottles available for purchase, but they also have water bottle refilling stations around the property that you can use to refill your own bottle.
- Wear insect repellent: The Habitat is a jungle. There are plenty of mosquitoes flying around. If you don’t want to be bitten, we recommend using repellent or wearing clothes to cover your body.
- Bring binoculars: It’s not a must, but a pair of binoculars would be quite useful to spot wildlife in the distance.
- Wear good, comfortable walking shoes: The majority of the Habitat’s walking trails are paved, so you don’t need hiking boots, but there is a lot of walking to be done, so heels wouldn’t be the best choice.
- Wildlife is not a guarantee: While the jungle is teeming with wild animals of all sorts, The Habitat has no captive animals whatsoever. Animal sightings are purely by chance.
- No outside food/beverage: In an effort to minimise waste in The Habitat, outside food and drink are banned. However, there are some small cafe/snack bar areas where you can purchase low waste snacks and drinks.
So was The Habitat worth it?
By the end of the tour, Gabi and I felt so high from our experience at The Habitat. For the rest of the day we walked around like we were on a cloud. We just couldn’t believe that such an experience could exist at Penang Hill. The Habitat was such a peaceful relaxing experience, especially in contrast to the bustling crowds around the rest of Penang Hill.
The additional cost of visiting the Habitat really filters out the people who would potentially ruin the experience, and ensures that only those who really care about the nature enough to pay extra will be there.
After we finished our tour of The Habitat we headed back to the funicular, and made our way back down the hill. We had no interest in the other attractions Penang Hill had to offer. Nevertheless, we felt that the trip up the hill (including the cost of the funicular) was completely worth it just to visit The Habitat.
We remarked to each other that we would definitely be more than happy to brave the crowds at the lower station for a chance to experience The Habitat again. Even with the poor visibility due to weather, this was definitely a 10/10 experience for us, and we would happily pay full price admission to come back on our next visit to Penang, hopefully with better weather next time!
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