The first time I heard about the Escape Theme Park in Penang, I knew I had to bring the monkies there.
But this is not your usual Theme Park in the traditional sense for there are no roller coasters, merry-go-rounds, spinning teacups or giant costumed characters. Instead, Penang Escape Theme Park is a theme park where Mother Nature takes center-stage, and one that is conjured up with generous doses of creativity and pure fun! Much like this.
Billed as Malaysia’s first environmentally friendly theme park, Escape's emphasis is on connecting with your family and friends, as well as capturing a sense of adventure. Think Forest Adventure at Bedok Reservoir Park, but multiply the area AND fun factor by a HUNDRED times!
Yes, the entire theme park is that huge with more than 15 outdoor activities for both adults and children. Rising organically out of the surrounding jungle, Escape combines physical challenges utilising existing jungle trees, such as rope bridges and climbing walls, with natural play activities including tree-climbing, caving adventure and even a free-fall experience.
To be honest, we did not know where to start when we first entered the premises. But trust the kiddos to lead the way... where they zoomed in on Monkey School.
If your child is too young to go on the rope obstacle course as depicted in the first photo of this post (Minimum height of 1.2m), then this junior version will be perfect for those aged 12 and below! The good thing about this obstacle course is that there is no minimum age to participate. As long as your child is confident enough to tackle the obstacles, it is all good!
Monkey School’s aim is to provide an experience for kids to learn and practice whole-body coordination skills in a fun and safe environment while tackling obstacles and challenges. Even Ale was super gung-ho about completing the 2 obstacle trails!
Throughout the entire course, a safety harness is employed to each child but even then, the obstacles are located less than one metre above ground so everything is pretty safe.
I think the kiddos must have loved the Flying Fox portion most, as I have lost count of the number of times they went on the obstacle courses!
The Foxy Burrow was yet another hit with the kids, which offers kids the chance to go on a caving adventure complete with a labyrinth of burrows.
At any one time, a maximum number of three kids are allowed in the burrows and they will be given a helmet each with a searchlight to aid them in climbing over rocks, squeezing through gaps and ducking under obstacles in the dark in order to make their way out.
Yes, Ale gamely went along with the caving adventure and the kiddos performed pretty okay. And for anxious parents, don't worry - you can watch your kids' progress on the CCTV located outside the burrows.
Although the Foxy Burrow is restricted to children below 12 years old, parents can also have a taste of bashing through a cave at A-Maze (located diagonally opposite Foxy Burrow), a hide-and-seek maze adventure for families to enjoy together.
But if you thought scavenging through the darkness was tough, you haven't seen Go Ape yet.
Bringing back fun memories of the good old days, Go Ape is quite simply a tree-climbing challenge and an activity for all ages.
When was the last time your child scaled a tree? Before our visit to Escape, my monkies never did. But if climbing a tree is akin to bringing out the ape in us, then I think this must have held true for Ayd. He was the only one among all of the kids to successfully reach the summit of the tree... and ring the bell in the process. Super proud of him!
After such a strenuous activity, it was time for a relaxing one next... but adrenaline-wise, it was still a fist-thumping activity all the same!
The Jungle Swinger is just as its name implies; one climbs up an extremely tall ladder, steps onto a platform, jump off and swing away!
Let me just say it may look easy, but the moment where one takes the first step to jump off from the platform is one nerve-racking one. Talk about a leap of faith. But kudos to the children - ALL attempted it. Even Ale, who went on the junior version - Tarzan's Rope (maximum weight 40kg) - not once, not twice but three times!
And if the adults ever wanted to give their aging hearts a much-needed break, the Tot's Trail would be it.
Fashioned for children aged 12 years and below, this multi-activity play structure has climbing, crawling and balancing activities all rolled into one.
Consisting of rope bridges, wooden tunnels and slide, this play structure kept the kids occupied for a fair but of time while we adults made ourselves comfortable on the benches in the middle of the play area. A good idea too, as we were able to keep an eye on them as they navigated through the entire course... at least five times. But who's counting?
If the previous activities had a high thrill factor, then the next one would rank the lowest in terms of thrill.
The Zoom Bug is a human-powered go-kart race for kids aged 12 and below, and kids take the go-kart one round around the race to see who will have bragging rights.
Sounds relatively simple, no? Although, the adrenaline factor may not be high, but I guess the thrill factor comes in the form of being able to race with your fellow friends and emerge triumphant!
But one attraction that you can absolutely not miss is the exhilarating Tubby Racer.
This is one ride that you can hurl yourself down a hillside in a large rubber tyre. There are two straight slides and a curvy one. The minimum age to ride alone is 6 years while younger kids can ride together with an adult in a larger rubber tyre.
During our first time trying out the ride, we were astonished that there were no queues! But we found out the reason soon enough - the ascent to the top while lugging a huge rubber tyre is one tiring affair. It is definitely not an easy walk up the slope but trust me when I say that the rush of adrenaline down the hill slope is TOTALLY worth it. I did not manage to snap any photos but this video of Ale and me whizzing down should be ample proof of the massive fun we had.
The rush of adrenaline was just insane and while all of us wanted to go on it countless times, we only managed to race downhill twice, no thanks to the energy-sapping climb to the top.
Of course, there was still the small issue of tackling the main attraction of Escape Theme Park - Monkey Business, one which you will do what monkeys do best: climbing, balancing and going from tree to tree, through creatively designed obstacles.
Monkey Business is a series of aerial obstacle courses, divided to three levels with increased difficulties in courage, physical, coordination and mental agility. Level 1 is appropriate for children aged 12 and below, but with a minimum height of 1.2m while Levels 2 and 3 are for those aged 12 and above.
I valiantly offered to accompany the kids on the Level 1 course and I immediately regretted my decision when I came to my first obstacle.
Actually, the obstacles are not that tough. Rather, it is the height as well as the ability to put your faith in your safety harness that truly put your mental strength to the test.
The course is all about ropes, nets, cables, zip lines and tricky steps... which the kids obviously have no difficulty in maneuvering at all.
Luckily for me, I did not get stuck in any of the wooden tunnels or cause any rope bridges to snap. So if a barrel-like me can complete Level 1 of the Money Business course, any one can.
We pretty much allowed the kids to re-visit some of previous attractions after that and while most of them chose to conquer the Monkey School junior obstacle course again, Ayd had his eyes set on something else.
See the tall tower on the right in the above photo? That is Atan's Leap, a 20m tower - YES, TWENTY crazy metres! - where one gets to leap through the air and experience the exhilaration of a rapid descent. And that was enough to entice Ayd.
When Ayd told me he wanted to try it out, the first thing that came to mind was, "Are you out of your mind???" But he was so bent on giving it a go that I have no idea where his love for heights and adventure came from. And so, leaped off he did.
While waiting for his turn, he was the only child in the queue and I suspected his presence gave courage to a few adults there! Cannot lose face in front of a child, no?
But Ayd was not done yet.
The Gecko Tower is a four-sided climbing tower, each with its own level of difficulty. There is a timer that allows you to pit challenge yourself or pit against a partner. Having stopped the timer at the top of the tower, one can then abseil down to the ground.
Amazingly, Ayd went on all FOUR sides of the tower! Of which, he managed to reach the summit for two sides. Not too shabby at all!
We were at the theme park at 9.30am and had originally planned to spend about 3 to 4 hours there. We ended up leaving close to 5pm and even then, the kids didn't even want to leave!
I knew they would enjoy their time at Escape but as it turned out, not only did they enjoy it through and through, all of the adults loved it as well! And to think we did not even finish trying out all of the attractions. There is the Discovery Dig, where children can pan for treasure, in a nod to the early days of Malaysia’s mining history. Also, we were very much intrigued by the screams - joyous or scared, it's debatable - of people whizzing above our heads on the Flying Lemur, an ultra-long zip line (139m!) across the ravine. Or the Coco Climb, where one will be able to scale a coconut tree the primitive way using a rope around the trunk.
Personally, the easiest way to gauge the FUN level of any attraction is to count the number of times one whips out the mobile phone to kill time (obviously using the phone to snap photos or record videos does not count). The more times you use the phone to check your mails, Facebook or surf, the more sucky the place is. And Penang Escape Theme Park is one place that I can survive the entire day without the compelling need to check my phone!
Even the theme park decrees it.
Make no mistake; you have to work hard for your thrills at Escape and in a world where we are constantly bombarded by technology, this is a refreshing change from the usual theme parks that children are used to. I love the general rustic feel of the theme park, where environment and nature-friendly features such as buildings with grass roofs were incorporated into the design of the park.
And in case you are planning to pay Penang Escape Theme Park a visit, here are a few things to take note of:
- No outside food or drinks (even water) are allowed to be brought into the park. They do enforce this quite strictly, to the point of checking bags at the point of entry.
- There is a food court located in the middle of the theme park, serving up normal fare like fish & chips, burgers, mee goreng, chicken rice and nasi lemak. Prices are from RM8 and up. Drink prices are also pretty reasonable, with a bottle of water at RM2.50 and can drinks at RM4.
- The park operates on a cashless basis, meaning all food and bevarage purchases are to be made using a stored value card. You can top up the card at the kiosk beside the food court and any unsed credit will be refunded at the exit.
- Sports shoes are a must in the park. You can rent shoes too at the gift shop should you be in the wrong footwear.
- It's advisable to bring gloves, as lots of the activities involve the use of ropes.
- Lockers are RM5 per day for multiple access.
- For more details on all attractions and their age and height limits, visit escape.my/play/attractions.
- ESCAPE is located past Batu Ferringhi in Teluk Bahang, just before the Butterfly Farm. It is approximately a 30-minute drive from Georgetown, and less than 10 minutes away from our Golden Sands Resort accommodation.
I guess the adults never thought we ourselves and the kids would have enjoyed it so much, but we did. And we will definitely visit Escape Theme Park again the next time we are in Penang... especially with the new Escape WATERPLAY park due to open by the end of this year!
Escape Theme Park, Penang
828 Jalan Teluk Bahang, 11050 Penang
(Beside Penang Butterfly Farm)
Opening Hours: Tuesday - Sunday 9am - 6pm
*Closed on Mondays, unless it is a Public Holiday.
Admission Charges: Adults RM60 | Kids (4-12) & Senior Citizens (60 & above) RM45 | FREE for kids below 4 years old