LIKE walking into an oasis within an oasis, Penang Hill boasts of bypaths with myriad plants and trees that feel almost like a scene out of a fairy tale.
A stroll along the 400m Bamboo Walk will leave one gasping in awe to see a tree with its gnarly roots exposed, taking one back to the scary trees scene in the Disney movie, Snow White.
Upon learning further from Nature Walks@Penang Hill team director KP Ong, the leaves of this tree – Simpoh Gajah (Dillenia Reticulata King) – are used in Indonesia to pack meals as they keep the food fresh.
The walkway boasts of a variety of bamboo plants and medicinal herbs, making it not only pleasing to the eye but educational.
At Heliconia and Ginger Walk, the 450m path boasts a variety of colourful plants such as the Brazilian Red cloak and Red Ginger (Alpinia purpurata) which are part of the ginger family.
The Moniot Trail 1825 is considered the main hidden gem as it is an all-natural trail that takes one through a pathway that narrows and then opens up to a natural stream.
The 3km trail offers visitors insights into walking in the forest with a sense of becoming one with nature as a volunteer guide shares nuggets of quirks and richness of the hill.
Another must-visit trail is Fern Garden, a short 200m walk that will have you wanting photo opportunities with the multiple varieties of ferns.
Ong usually lets visitors share their knowledge of plants as they exchange information and share the importance of protecting the plants and trees along the trails.
“We must protect them and ensure they grow organically without external disturbance.
“Like if there is a fallen tree, unless it is causing some disruption or can hurt someone, it is to be left in its exact fallen position.
“Bugs, scorpions, spiders and even snakes will inhabit the fallen tree and it becomes their home.
“Moving it means taking away their habitat, ” he said.
Ong said visitors can walk along the trail on their own as maps are provided with colours to mark the respective walks.
The paths have painted footprints in the respective trail colours, so one cannot miss them.
“Most of the plants are labelled with their scientific and common names, ” he said.
Penang Hill Corporation landscaping and maintenance chief M. Arunasalam said the plan is to cultivate plants native to the hill.
“Some areas are retained with its original species only as we do not want to take them away from their original landscaping.
“We, however, have introduced multiple variants of bamboo in Bamboo Park and various types of ferns in Fern Garden.
“These are all native to the hill but have specific requirements like sunlight. Those that cannot grow with too much sunlight are grown under shade, ” he said.
Arunasalam said the signs used to label the plants and trees, the wooden planks used along the Moniot Trail and the furniture installed at the various rest areas along Penang Hill are all made from recycled trees that collapsed over the years as well as scraps from renovated structures.
“We believe in reusing, recycling and re-purposing everything here, ” he said, adding that his team cuts, carves, assembles and paints the signage and rest area structures from scratch.
Arunasalam said this was just the beginning as there would be more to come as there are many other existing trails to be explored.