The Sungai Pandan Forest Reserve is a popular weekend retreat for Kuantan dwellers seeking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
The entrance to the forest, which is located about 25km from the town centre, is hidden from the busy Jalan Kuantan-Gambang.
According to the information board there, the forest reserve is about 50ha and it was opened to the public in June 1980.
The forest is dominated by trees of the Dipterocarpaceae family, which are prolific in Malaysia’s rainforests.
Dipterocarp trees found here are known by their Malay names such as keruing, rengas, kedondong, pakis and buluh.
The centrepiece of the forest is the 100m-high Sungai Pandan waterfall, a series of cascading rapids of fresh water ending in a greenish pool at the bottom.
The cool environment and lovely view make the waterfall an ideal picnic spot.
A suspension bridge hangs across the natural pool, offering a majestic view of the waterfall.
Although there is a trail leading to the top of the waterfall, it appears to have been cordoned off.
Gatekeeper Khairulail Kataib Mat Amin, 31, said the forest was usually packed with visitors on weekends and public holidays.
“Families normally come here in droves during the weekend for recreation and to enjoy a respite from city life in a forested surrounding.
“People like to swim in the pool at the bottom of the waterfall.
“The waterfall is the main attraction but visitors can also have a barbecue in the forest or go trekking along the available trails,” he said.
Salesman Nizar Ahmad Kamel, 20, said he knew the forest would be crowded on weekends so he came on a Friday instead.
“I have not been here in a while and since I have the day off, I brought my family for a picnic here.
“It is pretty quiet on weekdays,” said Nizar, who came with his wife and mother-in-law.
Yoo Kisang, a 31-year-old engineer from Seoul, South Korea, said the view of the waterfall was really breathtaking.
“This is a very good environment and it is really beautiful.
“If I am living here, I will visit this place often,” said Yoo, who was in Kuantan on a business trip.
His friend Heo Boon Cheong, 44, showed him the hidden gem of Kuantan.
“I come here often because it is a very relaxing place.
“This is a good location for family outings,” said Heo.
However, he said, the condition of the road leading into the forest reserve was not that good and he hoped that the authorities could do something about it.
To get to the Sungai Pandan Forest Reserve, turn onto the road to Panching and Sungai Lembing near the Kuantan Air Force Base at Jalan Kuantan-Gambang.
Turn left at the signboard pointing to the forest and after a short winding drive on the two-lane road, the entrance can be seen on the left.
The forest reserve is open from 9am to 5pm on weekdays and 9am to 6pm on weekends and public holidays.
It is closed on Wednesday for maintenance.
There is a camping ground for those who wish to spend the night in the forest.
Entrance fees are RM2 for adults and RM1 for children.
For non-Malaysians, the fee is RM5 for adults and RM3 for children.