GEORGE TOWN, July 7 — Hikers are told to venture into the forest only during daylight hours so they do not lose their way once it gets dark.
But what if you could experience a rainforest at night and catch glimpses of nocturnal animals and insects... with experienced nature guides?
For those keen to explore the forest in Penang Hill at night, there are two night exploration sessions during the Penang Hill Festival this July 18 and 19.
A Senior Science Officer from the Centre for Global Sustainability Studies of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Mohd Abdul Muin Md Akil will be one of the guides.
Abdul Muin, who has been going into forests at night since 2008, knows many of the forest trails like the back of his hand and that’s not all, he even knows where to find the amphibians and reptiles along the trails.
“I have been conducting night forest walks for fellow researchers and my friends all over Penang over the last five to six years,” he said.
Since the inaugural Penang Hill Festival last year when he guided a night forest walk, he has also been providing his expertise for monthly night walks on the hill.
Armed with powerful torch lights, Abdul Muin and another guide, KP Ong, took a group of on a 3km night walk recently along one of the walking paths on the hill.
The walk, which began at around 8pm, started from the upper station, went down Path B and continued on to the Upper Tunnel and Lower Tunnel Trails.
Abdul Muin said it is important for first-time hikers and visitors to follow the main official trail so they do not get lost in the forest.
“It is when they get too confident or veer off from the main paths that they get lost,” he said.
On the two-hour walk, he shone his torchlight on trees, along the trails and the ground to spot nocturnal creatures that usually come out to feed at night.
Sometimes lucky visitors get to spot mousedeer foraging for food but they have to be quiet so as not to scare the animals off.
He said the number of animals coming out on any night also depended on the weather.
“Sometimes, after rain, we will get to see more amphibians and reptiles,” he said.
That night, though it had been a dry week, quite a number of animals, insects and arachnids were spotted.
Two different types of spider — the wolf spider and the Malaysian purple femur tarantula — were spotted along the trail.
A fluffy-looking tiny insect called the Planthopper was spotted trundling down the path while two different types of lizard — the Penang bent-toed banded gecko (C.pulchellus) and Penang rock gecko (C.affinis) — were also spotted.
Abdul Muin said the bent-toed banded gecko is endemic to Penang so it is seldom found outside the state.
Deeper into the trail, a bright green adult oriental vine snake (ahaetulla prasina) was spotted lounging lazily on a branch.
Ong took it from the branch and despite being wild, the snake was tame enough to be handled and was unperturbed by numerous hands stroking its smooth scaly body.
“As long as they don’t feel threatened, they will not attack but this species of snake is quite friendly to be touched by humans as long as we don’t hurt them,” Abdul Muin said.
The common palm civet, locally known as the musang, was spotted briefly before it made its escape and two types of frog, a river frog and dwarf bush frog, were spotted near a stream meandering downhill across the path.
The night walk ended at one of the middle stations of the funicular train where one last creature was spotted: A common sunda toad, resting comfortably by the station.
The Penang Hill Night Walks are held on the last Saturday of each month and those interested will need to register at the nature trails counter on the upper station of Penang Hill.
Find out more about the Penang Hill Festival at penanghill.gov.my.