Birdwatching on Gurney Drive

Please stop and watch the birds on Gurney Drive….


Gurney Drive is the main point where the public can visually connect and meet the sea, here on Penang Island. It is here that you can view Kedah Peak on the mainland, an often ethereal and hazy shadow of a mountain that floats on the view. All the early voyagers to Penang made reference to Mount Kedah. It marks the entry by sea into Penang Island.

The promenade (originally called New Coast Road & completed in 1936) was renamed in 1952 after Sir Henry Gurney the British colonial Administrator, was assassinated on route to the hill station Frasers Hill on Oct 6th 1951, by communist insurgents during the Malayan Emergency. Thousands of people attended his funeral at Cheras War Cemetery in Kuala Lumpur. The Rolls Royce in which he was assassinated is displayed at the Penang State Museum.

Wake up early….

I walk on Gurney Drive, with lots of other people, early morning at least 5 times a week. I always aim for sunrise. It is a stunning introduction to each day. I’m always surprised by the beauty of it all. The Drive is approximately 2.5kms in length and most times, there is too much traffic, noise and fumes. Where the drains discharge, and especially around the seafood restaurants, your nostrils will smart in protest at the sharp scent of ammonia and rotten food. It is at times unpleasant, but if you walk with purpose, or run, past these points, you’ll get over it. I smile at each municipal street cleaner as I walk by, acutely aware of the fact that without them thanklessly sweeping everyday, the pavements and the beaches here, would be a tip.

I started walking here for exercise, a routine I wanted to keep to. A minimum of 10,000 steps a day!  What a change this has made to my mind, body and mood, despite fumes and nasty smells. It has now become a bit of an addictive passion and I carry both my big Nikon camera & my iPhone6 with me each day.


I look forward to the sunrises each day, but it is the birdlife that has really got me gripped here. In particular, the very beautiful, small colony of white egrets that fish so elegantly along the shore line. There are also little herons, redshanks, waders and at night, a change of guard with larger night herons, standing still as sentries, where the island water discharges at the main drains out to the sea.

Otters, dolphins, monitor lizards, mud skippers, bats, crows and pigeons add to the mix. Everyday there is something different. You cannot come to Penang and miss a walk along Gurney Drive. With reclamation for more development about to start, the line of the shore, the mudflats, the bird colonies and wildlife,  are all at risk. Before it all disappears, sunrise or sunset, get your steps in now and take a moment to look out, up and around. Stop and watch the birds!

For me they are an inspiration for my artwork, and their elegance and calm resilience, a call to become more aware of what the natural environment means to me. I do not wish for them to disappear.

How to get there….

From China Tiger, our apartments on China Street in the centre of the UNESCO heritage zone of George Town, take the Rapid Bus 101 from Weld Quay. Bring your camera! Ask to get off in front of Gurney Plaza. Walk the length and back, from the ‘Sunrise’ Apartments roundabout to the collection of fishing boats on the end. It is here you can wait for the sun to rise above the hills. The egrets are fishing all day long, shining bright white in the sun, moving position with the tides.

Get savvy….