Penang’s Tropical Spice Garden is South-East Asia’s one and only award-winning garden of its kind, coupled with the island’s first specially designed & equipped cooking school, using spices grown “in situ”.
Growing out of Penang’s history as a spice island, Tropical Spice Garden is a bio-diverse living museum of the spices and other plants that have long been our medicines, flavours, and companions. The aim of the garden is to showcase the real cultural heritage of the past and its relevance for the future while educating, inspiring, and refreshing our visitors.
It is one of the top “must-visit” attractions on Penang island – a holistic eco-tourism project spread over 8 acres of secondary jungle, teeming with over 500 varieties of exotic fauna and flora.
Visitors can explore the rainforest trails and spice terraces using audio guides, or engage in-house nature guides. Other facilities to welcome visitors include the herbal tea kiosk, gift shop featuring a wide arrange of speciality spices and unique souvenirs and the Bamboo Garden cafe-restaurant overlooking some stunning bay views.
This showcase garden is a playground for an assortment of birds, insects, mammals and reptiles, offering amazing opportunities for photography or filming.
Tropical Spice Garden was once an abandoned rubber plantation on Penang’s northern shores. Its founders, David and Rebecca Wilkinson, envisioned a serene, tropical garden. Funded by Bertam Consolidated Rubber Co. Ltd., the couple assembled a talented team that included Lim In Chong, Frederick Walker, Katharine Chua and Kenneth Khoo to help them transform this abandoned plantation into an award-winning eco-tourism destination.
Tropical Spice Garden opened to the public in November 2003, showcasing over 500 varieties of exotic fauna and flora (with an emphasis on spices), spread over 8 acres of secondary jungle.
Actual work on-site took one and a half years to complete, and involved the major challenge of harmonising over 500 species of tropical flora with the natural valley fronting the Straits of Malacca.
A great deal of work was done to preserve as much of the original indigenous flora and fauna while maintaining the original topography of the site to give the Tropical Spice Garden a timeless, natural feel. Many of the existing rubber trees were left undisturbed, to give shade and shelter to visitors (and also to the Garden’s smaller inhabitants).
Water plays a prominent role in the Garden, and thedesign team was able to skilfully re-route the water from a small nearby waterfall through a series of man-made canals into a pond by the visitors’ entrance. From many parts of the Garden, visitors can hear the gentle, relaxing gurgle of water meandering through the grounds.
The garden, brainchild of David and Rebecca Wilkinson was funded by MP Evans group and designed by two-time Gardening World Cup gold medal winner Lim In Chong (or Inch as he prefers to be known).
“We had his full attention for the duration of the project and his sense of design and plant knowledge were far more in-depth than any other commercial landscaping company”, said David Wilkinson. “He fully understood that we wanted to create a botanical garden and not simply a beautifully landscaped garden lacking any real story or research.”
Selecting plants for the garden was based on two main criteria: the plants needed to have some educational value or be endemic species, in order to create a garden that not only looked stunning, but also had links to Penang’s history as a spice island. According to designer Inch, “It was important that visitors’ eyes would always be captured by something, whether it was colour, leaf forms, trunks, flowers. All these different factors were important in putting together the whole richness of the experience.”
Tropical Spice Garden is now one of Malaysia’s premier eco-tourism destinations with a number of prestigious awards including:
- Gold Award, Laman Floral Garden Award, The Malaysia International Landscape & Garden Festival 2004
- Merit Award, Tourism Malaysia ‘Best Man-Made’ tourism attraction 2005/06
The management’s aim is to nurture an awareness of nature and the importance of plants in a spectacular and easily accessible setting. Most of all, the aim is to offer the visitor a truly unforgettable garden experience.
Environmentally Conscious Organisation
Tropical Spice Garden is an organisation of environmentally and socially-aware individuals.
- The team members come from the local community and live within Tropical Spice Garden’s neighbourhood. It’s great being able to rely on a tightly-knit, bunch of friendly neighbours!
- During the development of the Garden, natural and recycled building materials were salvaged from pre-war shop houses or sourced from local antique stores.
- The Garden only uses organic fertiliser and integrated pest control methods to limit the negative impact on the cycle of life.
To cultivate the finest garden of its kind in the world, as an inspirational example of fruitful and sustainable relationship between human culture and the natural environment.
Cooking Classes “In Situ”
Cooking classes are fully hands-on affairs with individual work stations. Led by our team of resident chefs, travellers bring home a taste of Malaysia as these experts share their secret recipes. Classes are complete with aprons, recipe sheets, morning Spice Terrace walk and lunch.
Weddings at Tropical Spice Garden
A tropical garden wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime event and calls for nothing less than a momentous celebration and merry-making for family and friends. Tying the knot at Tropical Spice Garden, the couple and their guests have an unforgettable day. The inspiring natural environment combined with a holistic, thorough approach to wedding and anniversary planning makes this one of Asia’s most highly-sought after tropical garden wedding venues.