West Java, Gunung Malabar Nature Reserve

Written by on November 19, 2010 in Java Mountains with 0 Comments

West Java, Gunung Malabar Nature Reserve

Malabar (Puncak Besar)


Gunung Malabar, Gunung Malabar Nature Reserve, Cagar Alam

Malabar Tea Estate is a very small, 8 ha., nature reserve and tea estate located at the slopes of Gunung Malabar amidst beautiful scenery. The site was founded as an honour to K.A.R. Bosscha, the founder of the tea estate.
You can visit the estate, both arranged or on your own, from Bandung. Lodging in the Guesthouse Malabar and permits can be arranged at the state-owned PT. Perkebonan XIII.
* Malabar Tea Estate
o Guesthouse Malabar
* Bandung
o Many possibilities
PT. Perkebonan XIII, Jl. Ir. H. Juanda 107, Bandung. PHPA, Jl. Jend. A.Yani 276, Bandung.

Mountain Malabar
The first thing you see upon entering the Cisangkuy Valley from the north is Mt. Malabar. The name alone conveys something exotic; in fact, it’s quite possible that the mountain is named after the Malabar coast in India; since West Java was one of the strongholds of Indian Hindu culture, this would not be surprising. It’s a magnificent work of nature at more than 2,300 m above sea level. Dominating the Bandung skyline, Mt. Malabar is the mountain you see from Bandung’s northern hills. The huge explosion crater which opens to the northwest tells you that here is still another of West Java’s old volcano family.
Follow the directions above to Banjaran. 5 km after Banjaran there is another turnoff to the left which takes you to a camping ground much frequented by Indonesians. This narrow but well-surfaced road winds higher and higher through the rice terraces, with beautiful vistas of the Bandung Basin.

The camping ground near where the old tea plantation used to be is also a starting point for some good hikes, for example to a waterfall a little farther up. Ambitious souls might consider an assault on the summit of Mt. Malabar, which, however, is anything but easy and should be carefully planned. Afternoon rains are more common here than in Bandung, so do take that into consideration.

The huge cleft in the mountain flank in front of you originates from a pre-historic eruption. This was also once the location of the world-famous transmitter station Radio Malabar. In those days no other colony of such economic importance was so far away from its “motherland” as was the Dutch East Indies. Thus, the Dutch made a prodigious effort to install Ruins eerily overgrown with ferns and pine trees are all that remain of the old Malabar Tea Plantation. a radio station that would allow direct communication between Holland and Java.

After Marconi first succeeded in sending radio signals across the Atlantic Ocean in 1906, the technology was quickly refined and inter-continental radio communication became possible. For the Dutch project, huge wire antennas had to be hung between two mountain peaks. The huge cleft on the flank of Mt. Malabar provided ideal natural conditions for such a facility; the antennas could hang right across the ravine, the Lamajan hydro-electric power station a little farther up the valley provided the electricity to transmit, and the whole thing was not too far away from Bandung. On 5 May 1923 Radio Malabar went on the air with the most powerful transmitter in the world (up to 1,800 kW). A telecommunication link with Holland, 12,000 km away, had been established. When Dutch rule collapsed, the facility deteriorated, never to be restored. The foundations of the antenna poles are supposedly still somewhere in the jungle.

Dilapidated, too, are the houses that were once the residences of the tea plantation’s managerial staff. These are located on the western slope of the mountain at 1,300 m, some 35 km, or about one hour’s drive, from Bandung. Eerily overgrown with a strange-looking mixture of pine trees and huge tropical ferns, they are still marked with the names of the former occupants, mainly Dutch and Chinese. A bit farther up are the remains of a swimming pool filled with water diverted from the river and full of silt. It must have been a lovely if somewhat chilly place to swim. This is all that remains of the old colonial facilities. Nowadays, there are some food stalls, a tennis court, an information kiosk (probably not open when you are there), and a number of inviting trails up into the forest.

This vast mountain area lies directly south of Bandung in Cisangkuy valley and is surrounded by a huge tea plantation – the largest in West Java. There used to be a Radio Malabar transmitter station here which was world famous in colonial times – all that remains today is a few crumbling stone walls. The name of the mountain is apparently taken from India’s Malabar coast and Hindu tradition and culture remain strong in this area. The highest peak is known as Puncak Besar (‘big peak’) and is actually very easy to reach from Pangalengan (sometimes spelt ‘Pengalengan’) to the south of the range.

For Puncak Besar, take a left at the first fork in the road before the town itself. Pangalengan is over 1,500 metres above sea level and there are plantation trails and farm huts and occasional warungs leading up the hillside towards Puncak Besar as high as 1,900m. From the village of Cinyiruan (1,590m) it takes about three hours to reach this very-rarely visited, unmarked and overgrown highest peak of the range and two hours to descend. There is plenty of room to park vehicles near the sports field. A notable landmark near the beginning of the trail is the grave of Gerarld Alfred Cup, presumably a European with links to the local tea industry. You will inevitably have to ask farm workers for help negotiating the maze of trails or, better still, ask a local to guide you all the way up. Without a guide, a GPS is absolutely necessary. There are some good views on the lower slopes, Gunung Tilu to the west and in the distance you may be able to see Gunung Gede Pangrango and Salak in very clear conditions. Higher up, the views are much more limited though there are a few places where you catch a glimpse of the vastness of the mountain range.

Ultimately, doing a hike to Puncak Besar only would not being doing justice to what is a very wild and very interesting mountain range. There are three notable peaks each of which can be climbed individually – that is definitely the easiest option. At the northern end of the range are two excellent peaks with good views from the tops – Puntang (north east, 2,222m) and Haruman (south west, 2,140m) both accessible from Mekasari and the Gunung Puntang tourist area which includes the Curug Siliwangi (waterfall) and Puntang camping grounds. The entrance is at 1,279m above sea level. Other than the waterfall, Mount Puntang itself is by far the most popular hiking objective here and Haruman, by contrast, is a steep, muddy climb up a sometimes unclear path. They both require about 4 hours to reach the top of.

The summit of Gunung Puntang is free from tall trees and so is by far the best viewpoint in the entire mountain range. In clear weather you can see across the city of Bandung in the Bandung plain across to Burangrang, Tangkuban Parahu and Bukittunggul north of the city, and beyond Gunung Haruman to Gunung Tilu and Gunung Patuha. You may even be able to see Pangrango in the distance. The trail to Gunung Puntang starts at the Puntang carpark area and leads straight up towards a minor first peak, Puncak Mega (1,870m), where there are ruins similar to the ones found on Haruman on the other side of the valley. These are apparently the remains of radio towers for Radio Malabar – the main ruins of which are to be found a 20-minute walk up the valley itself from the car park. It’s best to take a guide for Gunung Puntang as finding the trail at the start can be very confusing due to the number of small trails. There is an information office  at the car park where you can ask for assistance. Once you’re halfway up Gunung Mega it is very obvious as you follow the ridge as it leads up towards Puntang. Allow 7 hours in total to climb Puntang and return to your car.

North-south traverses are possible (from Mekarsari to Pangalengan and vice versa) but they are rarely undertaken and navigating can be very difficult on overgrown and thorny trails. This is definitely one where you need gloves and long trousers to avoid being cut. On the positive side though, this is one of the wildest areas in West Java and you are likely to see some very interesting and rare wildlife. It takes a full day, about 8 hours, to make a traverse.

If doing a north-south traverse it is better to go via Haruman as the western ridge is more easily followed than if hiking from Puntang which would involve negotiating a very large jungle plateau – have a look on Google Earth, an obvious place to get very, very lost. A GPS device is essential in this rarely-visited terrain. From the Haruman peak it is fairly obvious that you must simply follow the ridge south-east towards Puncak Besar, staying on or near the top of the ridge throughout. There are some beautiful views, especially from the top of Haruman, of the vast valley below and Puntang, Mega and the other eastern mountain tops too. This is an area full of waterfalls and landslides so do take care!

One other difficultly in doing a north-south traverse is finding the correct trail to Puncak Besar. The forested peak comes into view about 90 minutes beyond Haruman but finding the trail to the top (a right turn) can be tough. There are several overgrown trails leading south towards Pangalengan but they don’t all go Puncak Besar and, given just how overgrown they are, a lot of people would have difficulty crawling under very sharp, low branches! It would definitely be a good place for army training! If you’re heading south you will inevitably end up on a farm trail before long and then reach the tea plantations north of Pangalengan where you can get an ojek to your accommodation or a bus back round to Bandung if you’re early enough!

Bagging information by Daniel Quinn


Getting there

For both Pangalengan and Mekarsari (Puntang) there are angkots or you can take a Pangalengan bus from Bandung’s Leuwipanjang terminal – for Puntang and Haruman get off at Cimaung (5km beyond Banjaran) and take an ojek to Mekarsari (follow signs for ‘Taman Bougenville’). The bus from Bandung to Pangalengan takes 2 hours and is approx. Rp15,000. If travelling by private vehicle, head towards Banjaran and follow signs for Pangalengan.


There are a couple of hotels in Pangalengan. The Malabar Guesthouse, originally built in the 1940s, is several km from the centre of Pangalengan but is very nice indeed and is surrounded by Malabar Tea Estate and has some brand new rooms. It isn’t the easiest place to find – ask for ‘Pintu’ and then ‘Malabar Mess’. Advance booking and extra sweaters recommended.


Not required but take a photocopy of your passport photo page just incase. Entrance to Gunung Puntang at Mekarsari is a very reasonable Rp5,000 per person and guides are available at a reasonable price.

Water sources

There are plenty of streams and rivers in the valleys but take plenty if doing a ridge traverse.

ountry: Indonesia

Subregion Name: Java (Indonesia)

Volcano Number: 0603-081

Volcano Type: Stratovolcano

Volcano Status: Holocene?

Last Known Eruption: Unknown

Summit Elevation: 2343 m 7,687 feet

Latitude: 7.13°S 7°8’0″S

Longitude: 107.65°E 107°39’0″E

The forested Gunung Malabar stratovolcano, located immediately south of the city of Bandung, is of possible Holocene age (Bronto 1995, pers. comm.). The broad, 2343-m-high basaltic-andesite Gunung Malabar rises north of Wayang-Windu lava dome and west of Kawah Kamojang volcano.

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