Penang Botanic Gardens are usually simply called the Botanic Gardens by Penang islanders. Also known as the Waterfalls Gardens – from the 122-metre high waterfall that sends its water down through the gardens -, Penang Botanic Gardens are located in a valley along Jalan Kebun Bunga and are one of the most visited places on the island with some 5,000 people making a beeline for the gardens on weekdays alone. On weekends, public and school holidays, the figure doubles to 10,000.
Set up by the British in 1884 by Charles Curtis of the Gardens & Forests Departments Straits Settlements, this used to be an old granite quarry site, located at the end of Waterfall Road, about 8 kilometres from Georgetown city centre.
Once open to the public, the waterfall has apparently been cordoned off for safety reasons. People visiting the gardens come to jog, exercise, breath the good hilly air or just sit on the lawn and picnic by the water stream.
The environment is beautiful: this well landscaped place contains a huge variety of indigenous and exotic plant species, including cannonball trees (with their unique flowers ‘the size of a cannon ball’), sengkuang trees, pinang palms, black lilies, slipper orchids and more. Some of these trees were imported by the British from other parts of the works, including South America. Some of the more interesting plants at the gardens are kept under lock and key, and are only open to visitors from 07:00 – 19:00. Most trees have signs with their names on it: tamarind, bamboo, pinang palm, mangosteen and lychee.
Penang Botanic Gardens is divided into 12 open sections: the Formal Garden, Lily Pond, Perdana Plant House, Tropical Rainforest Jungle Track, Fern House, Fern Rockery, Aroid Walkaway, Cactus House, Orchidarium (with an amazing collection of specimen), Horticulture Centre, Nursery and Quarry Recreational Park. The path to the Lily Pond is covered in an amazing rainforest vegetation, the pond area is pleasant and serene, and the pond itself, fed by a small waterfall, is filled with aquatic plants.
Walkways in the gardens are easy to walk and accessible to wheelchairs. During your walk it is not unusual to catch sight of fauna and wildlife including colourful birds, black giant squirrels, turtles, a myriad of insects and butterflies and even a resident monitor lizard. The surrounding hills are home to about 200 dusky leaf monkeys who are often seen in the gardens. They can become aggressive if they are fed, so as a rule, do not feed them. There are signs in the park reminding you of that – and of the RM500 fine if you do.
I visited the gardens in about 2 hours, though it can take lot longer. There is a shuttle bus at the entrance that for 5 RM it takes you up the hill for a short visit and then back down. It is ok for those with limited mobility or totally unfit, but it is beyond the purpose as in this way you miss most of the sites. I visited the gardens at 5pm and enjoyed my time, though I am told the best time is obviously in the early morning.
At the main entrance you can see a small road going uphill to your left: it is the way to Penang Hill, which can be reached in about one hour walk. It is a steep but delightful and highly rewarding trek, but be very ware of the macaque monkeys along this path, that can be cheeky and frisky if you get too close to them.
How to get there: Penang Botanic Gardens can be reached by buses 7 and 10 (check as routes may change) at the bust station Komtar building in Georgetown.
TransitLink bus 202 runs a route that goes past the Penang Botanical Gardens, on its way to Teluk Bahang.
If you fancy a walk, you can start from Weld Quay (Pengkalan Weld) in Georgetown. Cross the weld by the pedestrian bridge, turn left and walk until you reach the junction with Gat Lebuh Chulia. Turn right and walk the distance until you arrive at Penang Botanic Gardens.
Address: Pavilion Administrative Complex, Jalan Kebun Bunga, 10350, Penang
Opening Hours: Penang Botanic Gardens are open 5.00am to 8.00pm daily. Admission is free. Park officials run guided tours for the public and for organized groups. Call +604 226 4401 or +604 226 4405