GEORGE TOWN, July 3 — What is the best way to experience a 130-million-year-old rainforest? Nature walks and treks are okay but let's face it, there is nothing quite like soaring through it like a flying lemur.
The Habitat, up in Penang Hill, recently introduced an exciting zip line course through the forest that allows visitors to do exactly that.
”The Flight of The Colugo” is a great way to take in the rainforest at 30 metres above the forest floor.
According to The Habitat Managing Director Allen Tan, the zip line was named after the Sunda colugo, which is also known as the Malayan flying lemur.
“The colugo is a nocturnal animal and it glides from treetop to treetop at night when it comes out to look for food,” he said.
He said it was another way for visitors to enjoy the full splendour of the forest and view it from the tree tops.
The first zip line, also known as the honeymoon line as it has two lines so two people can zip across together while holding hands, is about 30 metres above the forest floor.
Although this is the longest line, it felt like it ended much too soon as trees and greenery zoomed past us in a rush and the height was forgotten.
There are a total of five zip lines in the whole adventure course which is not only confined to zip lining as you get to abseil down 15 metres from a tree and walk across a rope bridge in between.
After the first line, we have to walk about 65 metres to the second platform for the second zip line before zipping to the next platform, abseiling down to go to another platform and then a walk across a shaky but strong rope bridge.
The length of each zip line differs, with the shortest measuring only 32 metres and the rope bridge is only 23 metres long.
It was good to note that at each platform, our guides followed strict procedures to clip us to the safety ropes one by one as we got onto the platform, even if it is located on the same level as the ground.
Tan said only a maximum of eight people are allowed to be on each platform at any one time.
“Each group will be accompanied by two fully trained and certified nature guides,” he said.
One guide will first zip across to the second platform while the second guide will help to launch the guest.
All guests are given a safety briefing and reminded that they are not allowed to clip or unclip their harnesses as these would be done by the guides.
Tan said each guide had to undergo a six- to eight-week training stint before they had to take tests to be certified.
Standard operating procedure to ensure the safety of the zip line includes daily, weekly and monthly checks on all equipment including the ropes and the harnesses.
“We have thorough maintenance schedules for the equipment and we have a re-certification and re-checking system by external checkers to re-certify the guides and to check the course,” he said.
The best part about the zip lines and the platforms is that these were constructed with minimal impact on the rainforest.
Most of the platforms are attached to trees using the tree hugger weave system where any weight on it will tighten the weaved nets around the tree and further secure the platform to the tree.
Tan said the system does not damage the trees and allows them to continue growing.
The weave and cables are also regularly checked to ensure that they are not strangling the tree’s growth.
“The health of the trees is of utmost importance so we check on the trees and take care of them to make sure they are growing well,” he said.
The whole zip line course takes about one hour and 30 minutes as throughout the course, the accompanying guides tell stories about the trees and animals in the rainforest at each platform.
Zip liners may get to observe some of The Habitat’s residents such as the black giant squirrel (Ratufa bicolour), dusky leaf langur (Trachypithecus obscurus) and the greater racket-tailed drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus) among many others.
As we were zipping through the forest, we managed to catch sight of the black giant squirrel feasting on the leaves of a tree and the greater racket-tailed drongo, a bird that emits a loud bird call.
According to our guide, this bird can mimic 40 different birdcalls and when one of us whistled at it, the bird answered right back.
At the end of the zip line, we had to walk back to the first platform to remove the safety harness and helmets before going on to explore the rest of The Habitat.
The Habitat’s Langur Way canopy walk is now reopened to public.
It is a 230-metre bridge at 15 metres above the forest floor so it has a stunning view of the forest around and below it.
Another interesting place to visit in the nature park is the iconic Curtis Crest treetop walk that towers high above everything at 800 metres above sea level.
The Curtis Crest gives visitors a 360-degree view of Penang from the top of Penang Hill and is best experienced during sunset for a bird’s eye view of the spectacular changing colours of the skies.
The Habitat is open from 9am to 5.30pm daily while sunset and night walks are from 5.30pm to 8pm.
The "Flight of the Colugo" is available at different time slots: 9.30am, 10am, 11.30am, 12pm, 3pm and 3.30pm.
Find out more at thehabitat.my.