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The Tropical Spice Garden Story

The garden was once an abandoned rubber plantation along 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 rubber plantation into one of South East Asia’s award-winning eco-tourism destinations.

Spread over 8 acres of secondary jungle, Tropical Spice Garden opened to the public in November 2003 – showcasing over 500 varieties of exotic fauna and flora with an emphasis on spices.

Today, Katharine Chua helms the garden as its Managing Director, continuing the legacy of its founders alongside Kenneth Khoo, the Garden Curator. It is now one of Malaysia’s premier eco-tourism destinations and ranks among Penang’s must-visit attractions. It has also won 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

We hope to instil and nurture an awareness of nature and the importance of plants in a spectacular and easily accessible setting. Most of all, we hope to offer you a truly unforgettable garden experience!

The Garden Inspiration

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.

We worked 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 our design 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.


Environment Conscious Organisation

Tropical Spice Garden is more than just a garden! We’re an organization of environmentally and socially-aware individuals.

  • Our 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, we utilized mainly natural and recycled building materials salvaged from pre-war shop houses or sourced from local antique stores. After all, old is gold!
  • Our Garden only uses organic fertilizer and integrated pest control methods to limit the negative impact we have on the cycle of life.
  • We love to recycle! So please help us out by depositing your rubbish in the appropriately marked dustbins.
  • We make it a point to deal with smaller local vendors and traders to support their businesses and share the success. After all what comes around, goes around and we want to play our role as a responsible and caring organisation.


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.


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. We aim to showcase the real cultural heritage of the past and its relevance for the future while educating, inspiring, and refreshing our visitors.


The Tropical Spice Garden logo is a flower, but not just any flower. It’s a modern interpretation of the Bunga Kantan or Torch Ginger, indigenous to Malaysia and South East Asia. Did you know that torch ginger flower (finely chopped) is an indispensable garnish for our famous Penang assam laksa? Our logo reflects our pride in our local roots and emphasises our role as a botanic institution (and it helps that we love to eat laksa too!).