- Elevation: 1,764 m (5,787 ft)
- Prominence: 1,041 m
- Ribu category: Kurang Tinggi
- Province: Jawa Barat (West Java)
- Google Earth: kml
- Other names: Karantenan is the name of the highest peak
Gunung Sawal is a large mountain range of modest height at least as popular with wildlife researchers and pilgrims as with ordinary hikers. There is a population of javan leopards (‘macan tutul’) in the forests here, along with ancient sites of coniderable significance locally, so all conservation researchers and history enthusiasts will hope that a visit here never becomes like the commercialised trekking experience you find on other mountains.
Karantenan – the true summit of the Sawal range
The mountain range can be approached from several directions and by far the best route for the highest summit – known locally as Karantenan – starts at the small village of Tembong (938m) which lies to the north of the peak, a few kilometres south of Panjalu and Situ Lengkong lake.
You are requested to register in the book at Rumah Abah Ading (Abah Ading’s house) which is on the right side of the road just before it ends after the crossroads. Abah Ading is the ‘kuncen’ or ‘juru kunci’ (guardian of sacred places) for this mountain. Ideally take Abah Ading or someone else with you from the village, so that they can tell you about the interesting sites on the trail. If you aren’t Indonesian they will definitely be surprised to see you!
Regular hikers can be at the summit in just over two hours, but there are couple of places you could go wrong near the beginning. After the last house on the right, immediately take a narrow path to the right instead of following the cobbled track in front of you. The correct path curves round and begins to lead up the hillside.
The trail leads initially through coffee plantations and then a mixture of pine woodland and coffee. In clear weather conditions there are some excellent views of Ciremai to the north. There is a short section of undergrowth before you see a log hut above you to your right. Just beyond this hut, views are even more impressive, not just Ciremai but also smaller Tampomas to the north-west.
In recent years, the trail has become a little better-known and it was even featured on local television and online video channels. You will see several metal signs made by the local media organization Kawali TV, the first of which is Pintu Gerbang 1 (1,115m) near a few rocks.
Beyond this is Dadatar Akhir Kebon Kopi (1,245m) which marks the end of the coffee plantation. The proper entrance to the forest (1,279m) soon follows but is unmarked except for a wildlife banner a little higher up (1,289m). Back in 2010, several regional boundary markers were noticed in the forest (DB8 at 1,285m, DB10 at 1,314m and DB12 at 1,360m) but in 2020 they weren’t spotted although markers lower down in the plantations were.
At 1,412m there are some large rocks on the trail, one of which is ideal for sitting on. You are already past halfway to the summit. A little further on is a more impressive cluster of rocks, one of which is so flat that the spot is known as Batu Datar (1,425m).
There are few views due to the density of the forest but if you take a left at Batu Datar, a side trail leads you to a waterfall known as Curug Putri Dewi Haryani Ningsih after the wife of Prabu Trisna Jati Antaputih, the founder of the Panjalu Kingdom who is said to be buried at the summit.
The main trail continues via Tunggul Pohon Besar (1,492m) and Pohon Kembar (1,605 – ‘the twin trees’) before finally reaching the summit.
Near the top are a couple of water pools – one small and one large) and a small upright stone (supposedly an ancient grave). It is said that the pools here never run dry and local pilgrims visit this spot to make offerings, pray and bathe in this water. It is also claimed that originally the water was carried in a jug from Mecca and that is why this spot remains of considerable local significance since even before the time that Islam first arrived in West Java.
The very highest point is a grassy area just above the water pools and there is a small cement cube with a geodesy marker on top. This, the highest of the Sawal range’s peaks at 1,764m, is known as Karantenan. In 2020, there is another banner about widlife, and a small sign mentioning the period use of camera traps here to capture images of the leopards.
You may be able to glance north towards more shapely yet smaller peaks in the Sawal mountain range such as the more commonly climbed Gunung Bongkok (1,429m – spelt ‘Bangkok’ on the Bakosurtanal map) near Tasikmalaya.
Note that the mountain can also be climbed from Tabraya (‘Kertabaya’ on Bako maps) just 1km to the west of Tembong. From here, plantation tracks lead quickly into the dense forest. There are numerous ‘summits’ of a very similar height (1,739m and 1,727m spot heights on the Bako map but with no names) stretching along a crescent-shaped and enjoyably narrow ridge for over two kilometres but getting to the highest point is very tricky from here due to the complexity of the layout of the mountain ridges. The Tembong approach is definitely the one to take for the true highest summit.
Gunung Bongkok (1,429m)
Not to be confused with the mountain of the same name near Gunung Parang and Jatiluhur Reservoir, Sawal’s Gunung Bongkok is a steep peak on the south-west edge of the range, easily accessed from Tasikmalaya. The trail starts in the village of Palasari, Sukahurip (675m), which is also the starting point for Curug Salosin (Salosin waterfall).
The villagers are very keen on a plastic-free and litter-free philosophy which is highly commendable indeed. Routefinding is a little tricky at the very beginning so it is a goo idea to take someone from the village with you. Just beyond a bridge over a small river, you need to climb up to the left onto a small ridge before dropping down to some fields and then into vegetation and the beginning of forest.
Pos 1 (895m) is soon reached and is a nice spot and would be suitable for camping. Two cement pillars (1,018m) mark the proper beginning of the forest and Pos 2 soon follows (1,038m). This is another reasonably option for campers who started too late in the day to reach the summit.
After this is a steeper section known as Tanjakan Asoy Geboy (1,082m). Pos 3 (1,180m) is not as suitable for camping due to the ground being less than flat, but down to the left is the main water source on the trail. After Pos 3, there is a lot of giant bamboo (1,300m) surrounding the trail and this can be a little slippery in places. Look out for pitcher plants (‘kantong semar’) which definitely do grow on the higher slopes of this mountain.
The summit is an open grassy area with enough flat space for several tents and in good weather very pleasant views of the higher ridges of the Sawal range and down to the city of Tasikmalaya.
Most hikers will be up here in just over 2 hours and it takes slightly less to descend.
Gunung Cakrabuana (1,732 m)
About 20 kilometres north-west of Gunung Sawal is another range with a similar height, equally obscure, known as Gunung Cakrabuana. According to the Bakosurtanal map, the highest peak is 1,732m (known as Puncak Sanghyang Wenang to locals), which gives the mountain a prominence of approximately 950 metres, so not that far off Ribu-status! Apparently there are no water sources on the main trails and quite a few leeches! It can be hiked from Bunar and Pangkalan (Pagerageung) on the west side of the highest ridge, Cakrawati, Lemah Putih on the north-east side, or from Kebun Teh Cipasung Lemahsugih (Cipasung Lemahsugih Tea Plantation) on the east side. The Pangkalan and Cipasung routes meet on the ridge at what is known as Puncak Kancana about two kilometres south-east of the true summit. From here, follow the main ridge from Kancana to the true peak.
Bagging information by Daniel Quinn
For a high quality PDF version of this and other trail maps, please download from our Trail Maps page.
- Getting there: From Jakarta, there are two choices. First, take the toll road to Bandung and continue beyond to the end of the toll at Cileunyi. Follow signs to Tasikmalaya but turn off to Panjalu before Tasikmalaya. Primajasa buses to Tasikmalaya leave from Jakarta’s Lebak Bulus and Cililitan bus depot frequently during the day. The second choice for drivers is to go via the north coast toll road towards Cirebon, turning off before Cirebon and heading to Situ Lengkong via Jatiwangi and Majalengka. The nearest train station is Ciawi but far fewer trains stop there compared to Tasikmalaya and Cipeundeuy.
- Guides and GPS Tracks: Want a PDF version for your phone? Looking for a guide? Need GPS tracks and waypoints? Gunung Sawal information pack can be downloaded here.
- Permits: Register in Tembong at Rumah Abah Ading. For Gunung Bongkok, ask villagers in Palasari.
- Water sources: There are several small rivers on the mountain, but reaching them would require a considerable detour. Pos 3 on the Gunung Bongkok trail has water nearby.
- Travel insurance: We recommend World Nomads insurance, which is designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities including mountain hiking.
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Origins and Meaning
Sawal or Shawwal is the tenth month of the Arabic-Islamic calendar. It is the month after the fasting month of Ramadhan, so it opens with the festivities and celebration of Idul Fitri that mark the end of the Fast. It is possible that Gunung Sawal may have had an older name that reflected Hindu or pagan culture, and this name was replaced by the more positive, celebratory Islamic name “Sawal” when the people of the surrounding region converted to Islam. Compare Gunung Slamet. (George Quinn, 2011)