SIGNIFICANCE OF OUR RAINFOREST
Tropical rainforests cover only 6% of the planet’s surface but in terms of biodiversity, they contain more than 50% of the world’s terrestrial plant and animal species. On plants alone, tropical rainforests are thought to be the exclusive home for 170,000 of the world’s 250,000 known plant species.
The largest intact tropical rainforest in the world is in the Amazon River Basin and it dwarfs the Malaysian rainforests in size by far. However, age-wise, the Amazon jungle’s estimated age of 55 to 70 million years is way younger. Estimated at around 130 million years old, Malaysia’s rainforests is host to some of the most diverse tropical ecosystems in the world. During the Ice Age, Southeast Asia’s rainforests continued to experience moist temperatures due to its geographical location. This, in turn, allowed them to develop much earlier than the tropical rainforests of Africa and South America, the Amazon included.
Over millions of years, Malaysia’s rainforests have nurtured a tremendous diversity of flora and fauna and has served as home to countless unique mammal and bird species. Scientists estimate that they host around 20% of the world’s animal species. Recognized as one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, Conservation International listed Malaysia as one of 17 countries described as “mega diverse”.
Closer to us, the Penang Hill virgin jungle reserve area, on the fringe of which The Habitat sits, is believed to be part of Malaysia’s treasure trove of prehistoric rainforests dating back 130-million years old. Besides its rich biodiversity, it plays an important role as primary water catchment area for Penang island.
Our rainforests also provide essential ecosystem services for sustenance of life including climate regulation, water & nutrient recycling, air purification, carbon storage and soil stability.
THE MAKING OF THE HABITAT
In the early 1800s, as the British established Penang Hill as the first colonial hill station in Asia and built bungalows on its peaks for the use of officers of the settlement, drainage systems were engineered across the hill for erosion control. Several horse stables were also built near the bungalows to house Sumatran ponies used for transportation up the hill before the era of the Penang Hill Railway.
Fast-forward more than 200 years later to 2010. A long but narrow piece of land consisting of a meandering walking path next to a long drainage with an abandoned horse stable was put up for tender by the Penang State Government as the site for an eco-tourism attraction with a canopy walkway. Of crucial importance is the location of this site, which sits on the fringe of a protected virgin jungle reserve, the Government Hill Permanent Forest Reserve established in 1911, overlooking magnificent valley views.
Our Founders, Mr Harry Cockrell & Mr Reza Cockrell, who's family are long time residents of Penang Hill, submitted a bid through their vehicle, Creative Quest Sdn Bhd and were awarded the project in early 2010. Though the Cockrell Family, being ardent nature lovers, knew the hill intimately, this was to be their first venture into eco-tourism. With the award in hand, the journey began to manifest their vision and dream of designing, building and operating a world-class eco-tourism attraction in Penang.
A team was quickly assembled and as further in-depth study of the site was done, ideas flourished and the project expanded beyond the original nature trail & canopy walkway to encompass a treetop walk, event spaces and an Aerial Trail. Every step forward was carefully trod, ensuring minimal impact by designing around nature as far as possible.
Pre-Construction Habitat Nature Trail14 Feb, 2012
The original Nature Trail built by the British to maintain the drain that runs the entire length of the trail. The drain was built to control water flowing down from the ridge above and prevent soil erosion.
Creative Quest Sdn Bhd wins the bid on Penang Hill14 Apr, 2012
The eco-tourism project, estimated to cost over RM3mil, was awarded to local engineering firm Creative Quest Sdn Bhd (CQSB) after the open tender closed on Nov 30, 2010.
CQSB director Harry Cockrell said a project team had been assembled and was waiting to start work.
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said work on the project would start once the agreement was inked between the state government and CQSB in “a week or two”.
Phase one consists of renovation of buildings and the construction of the nature trail and canopy walk.
The second phase is to complete the nature trail and build the ‘heli-pad plateau’ rest area, giant swings and remaining rest areas.
Read more at https://www.thestar.com.my/news/community/2012/04/14/new-attraction-on-hill/#tZuowA53jthHqyyk.99
Soft opening of The Habitat08 Jan, 2016
Soft opening of The Habitat Penang Hill 1.6km Nature Trail was launched on 8th January 2016 with Naturalists offering complimentary guided nature walks.
Chief Minister Launches Phase 1 of the Habitat01 Dec, 2016
The Rt. Hon. Chief Minister of Penang, Mr. Lim Guan Eng, launched Phase 1 of The Habitat on 17th December 2016 officially opening the Nature Trail and Curtis Crest Tree Top Walk.
Curtis Crest Tree Top Walk Opens to Public29 Apr, 2017
Curtis Crest Tree Top Walk opened to the public with newly installed fiber optic lighting featuring the constellation Orion and also for daily Sunset Walks.
Phase 2 of The Habitat20 Jan, 2018
The Rt. Honorable Chief Minister of Penang, Mr. Lim Guan Eng, launched Phase 2 of The Habitat Penang Hill, Langur Way Canopy Walk, on 20th January 2018.
Langur Way is one of the most unique structures of its kind and is the only two-span ribbon bridge in the world. Each span of the bridge is 115m long making a total span of 230m and it sits 40m above the forest floor.
It is likely to be the highest Canopy Walk in the whole of Malaysia located as it is on top of Penang Hill at 700 meters above sea level. It is designed to accommodate 900 people weighing an average of 100kg each at any one time and is the only concrete Canopy Walk of its kind to be built in a pristine rainforest.
"Look deep into nature,
and then you will understand everything better.