Monkey Beach and More in Penang, Malaysia

I am numb, numb with sparkling joy that I haven't felt in quite some time!  That is how amazing this day was!

Having an extended circle of fellow traveling families all together has been a real joy -- overwhelming at times, but joyous none the less.  When we discovered that it was Spencer's 5th birthday we all sprung into action to figure out a great day for him and his family.  After much debate we all, and by that I mean all 30-35 of us, (Yes the number is so big that I cannot get the same count 2 times in a row so I have to put down a range!) we decided on a trip to Monkey Beach.

Monkey Beach is located inside of Penang National Park.  Interestingly, it is the smallest national park in the world covering just over 9 square miles. Access to the park and beach are free, you just need to sign in and out so they know no one has been left behind for the evening.  The park itself is easy to reach either by car or taking the 101 bus to the end of the line. Some of us drove, while the rest boarded the bus in Batu Ferringhi for the 15-minute ride out to the park.

Because we had so many little children in our party we decided that the 1+ hour walk through the jungle was just not going to be a fun undertaking. Since the entrance to the park is at the Teluk Bahang fishing village, there is also the option of a quick boat ride, about 10 minutes to reach Teluk Duyung, or Monkey Beach.

When we arrived at the park we were greeted immediately by tour boat operators anxious to get a new fare.  We needed 3 boats to host all of us as each boat holds 10 people. And after some bargaining we ended up paying 16RM per person or roughly $5.  The charge is by boat though so the more poeple you have the most cost effective it will be.

If we went only to Monkey Beach it would have been about 1/2 that cost but we decided to do the longer scenic route.  Inside the park are few interesting and unique things to see; a mecromitic lake (where 2 types of water, fresh and salt, do not mix but rather stay separated, there are only 19 in the world), a sea turtle hatchery, mangroves, mud flats, and also a lighthouse.  They all seemed too good to pass up.

Beautiful rock formations along the way!
2 eagles on the shore
Off we went zooming along the clear water around the edge of Penang. It was magnificent, beautiful, and full of interesting moments.  From racing the other boats, to spotting eagles, to guessing what animals the rock outcroppings resembled most, the boat ride itself was a great start to the day.

First stop was the lake.  Unfortunately at low tide there simply wasn't a lake at all.  A bit of a start up fail until we all watched the kids run down squishing in the mud flat that is sometimes a lake, observng the shells and discovering they were all moving and in fact quite alive! We explored the mangroves around the lake, a lovely bridge, and some of the littles even stripped down to get in the ocean as they could wait no longer!

The lake that wasn't
It made for great exploring fun though!
Down the beach we trekked to reach our second stop, the turtle hatchery. I had heard mixed things about this attraction so I was a bit skeptical. We were all pleasantly surprised at how interactive the facility was. There were nests, baby turtles, and a great guide ready and happy to answer all our questions. We all left feeling like he had won the lottery on best jobs ever!  I love how my kids are seeing first hand how wide open the world is to do whatever it is you love in life!

As we boarded the boat to take us to Monkey Beach, I sat bouncing over turquoise waves, pondering how it is that I am so blessed in life to have these experiences.  I had no idea how much more amazing the day could get!

Within 5 minutes of landing on the beach, the oldest boys -- Lord of the Flies style -- captured a giant crab.  They proceeded to kill it and with help of a local man, cook it up.  No one was expecting crab for lunch but thanks to the local wildlife we all enjoyed a small sampling, leaving the biggest portions for the 2 eldest boys -- the hunters!  It was delicious and a wonderful unschooling moment in action!

Showing off their catch!
We ended up spending 3 hours on that beach; swimming, chatting, building dams, building sand castles, eating, singing happy birthday and eating fairy cake (a staple in Australian b-day parties apparently). We swung, snorkeled, and fought off the scavenging monkeys. The boats returned when we asked them to around 4 in the afternoon.

Fairy yummy!  Who knew?

After a quick freshening up at home we all made the trip out to Sri Anada, the best Indian restaurant I have ever been to, and proceeded to end the evening with full bellies, happy hearts, and extremely tired children.

It is hard to put into words how wonderful this day was.  It has taken me a week to write it all down and much like a photo of the sunset, it just cannot be expressed to true perspective in words. Thank you all so much for making a beautiful day, an exciting week, and taking online friendships to a real world level!

And that is how you celebrate turning 5, travel style!

If you are curious about our newest world travel friends, head over and follow their blogs!

The Kings...We have known this beautiful family for years now as we started out together in Costa Rica. They now live in Bali with their 2 young children.  It felt like a bit of home seeing them again and I am so grateful we were able to catch up in person.

The Millers...I had been following this family since our own journey began.  They have older children who were everything I thought they would be, considerate, joyful, and an inspiration.  They are the type of family that you want to emulate when you read about them and then you meet in person and know you were right all along!

Going Anyway...This family was such a pleasure to get to meet.  They effortlessly manage 5 children including one, Sparky, who is wheelchair bound.  They are all so happy and each one of them is included in every aspect of their amazing ad adventurous lives.  Inspiration is an understatement!  I hope to meet up again in some corner of the world!

World School Adventures....Amy, Mike, and their 2 young boys have just started out on their adventures, only 1 week in when we met up.  It was such an honor to be part of their transition into this nomadic lifestyle.  I cannot wait to hear more about their adventures and see how they acclimate to their new lives.

Travel With Bender...Erin and her young family were really the catalyst to this great meet up.  They have been here a while and so we have gotten a chance to really spend time together.  They are so much fun!

Malaysian Meanders...This family we sort of came across via the web a few weeks before the planned get together, we invited her and her lovely family to one of the parties and all enjoyed meeting them and connecting!  Hoping to spend more time together as they will be here for a while and so will we:)

Lastly Sara and family, and Lauren and family...these 2 families were an absolute joy to meet and be around for the week.  Sara is here more long term and we are all so grateful to have her and her family as new friends. Spencer's (Lauren's son) b-day party was the reason for the wonderful trip we had to Monkey Beach and I am so grateful to have met them all, even though none of them are bloggers;)

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  1. Awww... thanks for the kind words! It was a FANTASTIC Week, no doubt! Love the picture of Gabe being a dork with the crab!!

    1. I love that one too! That crab looks even bigger then it actually was:)

  2. I wish I could have gone but was heading down the road to sickness on this day. It sounds like I missed a great time. My eldest boy and hubby have camped on Turtle Beach and loved it.

    1. Maybe we need to make another trip then:) Just say the word, we would love to go back!

  3. We had so much fun that day too. It was the first time my boys had ever swam in an ocean! Loved being able to share such a fun outing with so many amazing families!!!!!!!

    1. Wow Amy, I had no idea that was their first time! How special, I am glad I was a part of it. My boys all swam in an ocean at a very young age but we lived near a beach and it wasn't frigidly cold:)

      Hope we can fun it up again in Chiang Mai:)

  4. It really was a great day. So happy we were all in this place at this time. We love you guys! Great post!

    1. Aww, you are so sweet! I feel the same way, so darn lucky to have been part of this great convergence of families!

  5. You guys must have surely had an awesome time in monkey beach, the photos explain the time you had and i too would love to spend a vacation like this.

  6. If only I had this kind of lifestyle when I was a kid. haha, turning 5 in the beach travels style sounds awesome!

  7. I want to spend my next holiday in this lovely place. It looks great. Nice pictures. Definitely I will go there with my family.

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