Flora, fauna and food all intermingle at the 3.2-hectare Tropical Spice Garden on Malaysia’s island of Penang. This unique ecotourism destination is all about getting friendly with nature, both in the garden and in the kitchen. Learn about more than 500 species of tropical plants and strange spices in this original and relaxing setting.
Often, one of the best things about travelling is discovering delicious new foods, and these days, it’s all the better when you know exactly where those foods are coming from. With Penang’s penchant for spicy delicacies, there’s lots to taste and lots to learn, and this award-winning garden is the perfect place to do it. It’s hard to believe that this spot by the sea used to be an abandoned rubber plantation; after a major transformation, it’s now a must-see attraction on the island.
At the Tropical Spice Garden, you can choose between using an audio guide (included with your entry fee) or having a specialist join you on a trek through the lush foliage of the forest (four such guided tours are available daily). These knowledgeable guides provide detailed explanations of the plants over the course of two to three hours. You’ll also have ample opportunity to stop and soak up the ambiance. Wander among the four spice terraces to learn about how medicinal herbs and spices grow as well as their practical uses. Visit the tea kiosk for some freshly brewed tea in the bamboo sanctuary. After you’ve done a bit more walking around, put your feet up as you sway on the giant swing in the heart of the garden. Adventure-seekers and night owls will enjoy one of the garden’s night walks, where you can encounter the garden’s resident nocturnal wildlife.
Keen foodies and travellers with kids may be interested in some of the special classes and tours on offer. The 3D giant Slides & Ladders area will keep the younger set busy and happy, as will special kids’ programs that aim to inspire curiosity through crafts and treasure hunts. For the grown-ups, hands-on cooking classes with the cooking school’s in-house team of chefs show you how to re-create some of the local cuisine. The venue keeps the class groups small, and each chef-in-training has their own cooking station. The garden, which is on the northern end of the island, is open daily from 9am to 6pm. You’ll want to book classes and special tours in advance.