During my years in Asia, I have trekked through national parks and rain forests, I have hiked to tea and coffee plantations, I have visited spice farms and factories, but I had never been to a place that had it all! If you are a nature lover, the Penang Tropical Spice Garden is the kind of place you will not want to leave when the staff will finally announce it is closing time…
Penang Tropical Spice Garden was set up 13 years ago by David and Rebecca Wilkinson, a British couple who transformed what was an abandoned rubber plantation into one of Malaysia’s award-winning eco-tourism destinations. Today you can still see the colonial house where David and Rebecca lived at the beginning of a long adventure, and from where they came up with this wonderful concept.
I was shown around by Paul Lim, the young Assistant Marketing Manager, who shared with me some of the secrets behind spices, most of which he himself learned during his time working at the Tropical Spice Garden. “It is so nice here” – admitted Paul – “surrounded by all this green, this lush nature… I feel great and privileged, and I perform with a smile on my face”.
And while we walked through areas like the Spice Terraces, the Heart of the Garden and the Spice Globe, we stopped for a feet fish spa in a natural pond where guppy fish come and go with the stream, we tasted a healthy herbal tea of pandan, lemongrass and stevia in the tea kiosk area, and we breathed the fresh afternoon air coming from the sea, which is right below, always on sight from this amazing 8 acres property. Then, through the well-stocked souvenir shop at the end of the walk, where visitors can purchase teas and spices seen at the Tropical Spice Garden, we ended up at their signature restaurant, the Tree Monkey, where I parted from Paul and sat on a wood terrace overlooking the azure Andaman Sea and surrounded by giant trees, to enjoy a yummy and generous serving of Thai Massaman Curry. Life was great.
But this was not the end of my visit at the Tropical Spice Garden: it was just the beginning. Yes, because during the following 3 hours, I walked through all available paths, this time as slowly as I could, taking in the smells, filling my eyes with the well-maintained tropical garden that never stops amazing you with its secret corners, its myriad of different plants (I am told there are over 500 species in the garden!), its well-documented boards with lots of information about the marvels of nature creations.
My audio device was such a great help, easy to start and pause and flexible enough to give you freedom of choice, describing track by track most plants and trees at the Tropical Spice Garden. The device is available in different languages. So I learned about the aphrodisiac and stimulating qualities of the Tongkat Ali root and of the Kacip Fatimah, and about the incredibly ancient ferns, about the history of rubber and of the spice routes in colonial Asia, and much much more!
I felt like in a park; not a huge one, but one big enough to spend a day out in Penang. I was not alone though: giant butterflies, dragonflies, birds, sounds of nature, cicadas, frogs… I was told that dusky leaf monkeys come down at dusk from the rainforest neighbouring the Tropical Spice Garden to nibble on leaves and fruits, can you imagine? Amazing!
When I had looked at Tropical Spice Garden website, I had known this place would surprise me. I just did not know how much.
Experience all these at Tropical Spice Garden
- Explore the lush, landscaped award-winning gardens set out over 8 acres of secondary jungle.
- Get up close and personal with over 500 species of tropical flora and fauna, some you’ve never seen before!
- Relax at a breezy, outdoor café overlooking the Straits of Malacca and the beautiful shoreline of Teluk Bahang.
- Shop for unique, Malaysian made gifts or premium spice therapy spa products at the gift shop.
- Cook tasty Malay, Nyonya and Indian cuisine with the help of our professional chefs.
- Organizing a tropical garden wedding? Hire the gardens for your special day!
Jalan Teluk Bahang,
11050 Penang, Malaysia.
Tel: +604 – 881 1797, +6012 430 7795