Gunung Senyum Recreational Forest (Hutan Lipur) is situated in Pahang Darul Makmur.
Covering an area of about 794 hectares of forest in Jengka (in the district of Maran), it was opened on the 14th of July 1989 as a recreational park for the public.
This recreational forest is named after the main hill Gunung Senyum, which is just a few minutes walk from the car-park.
Further away, needing about 45 minutes of trekking in the jungle, is Gunung Jebak Puyuh. Both hills are limestone hills.
The site is managed by the Temerloh District Forestry Department ( Jabatan Perhutanan Negeri Pahang) and there is an office and living quarters of the forest rangers manning the site there.
We can find in the complex some nice chalets, dormitory / hostel accommodation and a campsite for tents. Other facilities include a hall, toilet and washing facilities and a surau (mussolah) for Muslims to pray.
It is a pleasant place for weekend family retreats, company family days and motivational and social events.
Needless to say, it is a great destination for adventure lovers, especially for those who wish to have an educational tour of nature in a tropical forest.
Activities that can be taken there include abseiling, hill climbing, jungle trekking, and nature and wildlife appreciation.
How Did Gunung Senyum Get Its Name?
"Gunung" in the Malay language is "Hill or Mountain", and "Senyum" is "Smile or Smiling".
So Gunung Senyum is the Smiling Hill or Mountain!
Well, locals say that the name originated (a long time ago) when the Sultan of Pahang visited the place.
When he reached the foot of the hill he inquired of his palace officials who were accompanying him, the name of the hill. But he only got sheepish smiles from them as nobody knew its name.
Not sure whether the Sultan named the hill then, but from that time onwards the limestone hill was referred to as "Gunung Senyum".
Gunung Senyum is 486 meters (1600 feet) high. We can climb up the hill to the top where there is a bay-route indicating the height level and serves as a geological survey beacon and reference mark for topographical bearing and co-ordinates for Pahang.
The main attraction here is of course the caverns and caves. So make sure to bring along a good torch or head-light, and wear suitable shoes and pants for the exploration.
There are about 18 caves inside Gunung Senyum, while there are about 7 caves within Jebak Puyuh.
The caves are easily accessible, mostly interconnected with one another and hence they are quite easy to explore, although a guide is highly advised as novices can easily get lost in the dark caverns and caves.
In fact, there were a few occasions when people got lost in the maze of caves and forests, so always get a guide (ask from the forest rangers office there) when you go trekking or exploring the caves.
The usual entrance at Gunung Senyum is via Gua Angin (Windy Cave), and when we get there then we know why it's called such.
And you can glimpse a "full moon" when you explore the Gua Terang Bulan ("Lighted Moon Cave"). Ask your guide how you can see this.
One of the caves that we (me and family) found amazing is the Gua Taman (Garden Cave). We can see various coral formations that are shaped like sea-creatures.
But what was really amazing to us is the area's comparatively sheer cleanliness, like a garden. The place was unusually well-kept, with the minimum of fallen, mellowed leaves as are commonly found under jungle canopies.
Well, we were told by the ranger guide that the place is not kept clean by the forest rangers staying there, but by the "invisible inhabitants" of the caves, and it has been like that for ages.
Traditional Malays believe in the orang bunyian or people living in the third or invisible dimension. He..he.. Got you feeling the creeps?
Some of the caves there are not opened to the public or encouraged for public entry so as not to endanger the living stalagmites and stalactites that are still in the active process of growing.
The area is of hilly dipterocarp vegetation, with many species of trees and herbal plants that are also of traditional medicinal value to the Malays.
And it contains some rare and unique species of flora and fauna that are found only in limestone caves.
For instance, as mentioned in this Malaysian Karst Society website, of the 48 known land snail species found in both hills, 11 are Malaysian endemics and of that 6 are site endemics that is, only found on these two hills.
A prominent foreign botanist with the Forest Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) reported that the plant "Senyumia minutiflora (Gesneriaceae)" is endemic to Gunung Senyum and Gunung Jebak Puyuh and is found nowhere else in the world.
Which means we should preserve these two important sites for posterity.
We can also find about many species of malaysian birds in the area.
I spotted a beautiful raffles malkoha nesting near the chalets, a lesser racket-tailed drongo, and a pair of oriental-pied hornbills, besides other more common birds.
Even without binoculars, we can see mammals, like langurs, squirrels and bats, and of course the many species of small and tiny insects, spiders, frogs, butterflies and dragonflies.
It is located about 40km from Temerloh, and 20km from Bandar Pusat Jengka.
From Kuala Lumpur, we can reach the place by way of Temerloh or Jerantut and via Kuala Kerau where a new bridge has been completed (when previously we needed to cross the river by boat).
Do make a look-out for the many turn-off signboards to Gunung Senyum from the main roads mentioned.
For bookings of chalets, dorms, campsite, etc, contact the Temerloh Forestry Department (see right yellow box).
So, if you want to experience a tropical jungle, don't forget to visit this Gunung Senyum Recreational Forest.
Take a visit to Gua Taman and observe yourself its unusual cleanliness, and the coral formations of sea creatures.
However do remember, when we are there in the forests and caves, that we mind our behavior and language, and don't dirty the environment.
Because we can never know what will happen if we anger those "invisible inhabitants" of Gunung Senyum!
Most of all, it is all about conserving and preserving our rare heritage and natural environment for posterity, especially these two unique limestones hills of Gunung Senyum and Jebak Puyuh in Pahang.
Once gone, they will be lost forever.
As always from me..
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