Sulawesi is the largest and oldest island within Wallacea, a vast zone of oceanic islands separating continental Asia from the Pleistocene landmass of Australia and Papua (Sahul). The Sulawesi birding Forests harbor some of the most unique animals on Earth. The islands are located in the region known as Wallacea, which contains a distinctive fauna representing a mix of Asian and Australasian species. A fruit-eating pig with huge tusks, a dwarf buffalo, endemic macaques, and cuscuses exemplify a truly unique mammal community. Sulawesi birding forest, like the hub of a wheel, is surrounded by a variety of exotic ocean basins, including the Flores Sea, the Banda Sea, the Molucca Sea, the Java Sea, and the Straits of Makassar, as well as the diverse islands of Borneo, Java, Flores, Halmahera, and the Philippines. More than half of the original forest has been cleared, and most of the remaining forests have been reduced to fragments.
In addition to a rich sulawesi birding life, Sulawesi is home to nearly 80 endemic mammals such as the unique dwarf buffalo known as the Anoa, a curious pig known as the Babirusa, the Spectral Tarsier, the Sulawesi Bear Cuscus and the Crested Black Macaque that is found in the Tangkoko Nature Reserve.
Sulawesi birding tour aims to provide you with some of the best bird watching to be had in Sulawesi, Indonesia an area that boasts one of the largest endemic bird populations on earth with the main island of Sulawesi being home to no less than 12 endemic genera and over 40 endemic species. A further 56 species are endemic to the Sulawesi birding sub-region which covers the neighbouring islands of Sula and Banggai. However most can be found on the main island. Birdwatchers who visit this mysteriously K-shaped island are guaranteed to find a host of new and unusual species.
Day 1: Arrival in Makassar (Sulawesi)
After your arrival in the capital of South Sulawesi, you will be transferred to a comfortable hotel overlooking the harbor, for the night. For early arrivals an afternoon trip can be taken to Makassar fishponds for a swathe of Asian shorebirds, with a chance at Javan Plover among others, and the possibility of Savanna Nightjars hawking over the ponds at dusk.
Day 2: Karaenta Birding Tour – Lore Lindu NP
The first (of many) early rises, will see us travel up into the forested limestone hills north of the city. Karaenta Nature Reserve provides a beautiful setting for the first of many endemics. In particular, this area offers the highly local Black-ringed White-eye, an endemic that is confined to South Sulawesi. This forest also provides a good chance to catch up with Sulawesi Dwarf Hornbill, Piping Crow, and, with luck, Sulawesi Goshawk. Checking the slopes lower down we might also find the recently described (in 2015) Sulawesi Streaked Flycatcher. The area also holds an endemic mammal too in the form of the Moor Macaque. After much of the morning in this area we will return to Makassar and take a flight to Palu in Central Sulawesi. From Palu we will head to Wuasa, our base for exploring the montane forests of Lore Lindu National Park in the coming days. The first of four nights will be spent in a simple guesthouse in Wuasa, close to the park.
Days 3-6: Sulawesi Birding Tour at Lore Lindu National Park
We will have plenty of time to bird the rich forests of Lore Lindu, which offer a range of elevations, and therefore, species. Some of our birding will center around Lake Tambing, where Piping Crows may come to call from dead snags around the edge of the lake in the early mornings; mobile flocks of fantastic Fiery-browed Mynas come down to rest in the trees regularly; feeding flocks move through the canopy holding Pygmy and Cerulean Cuckooshrikes, Rusty-flanked Fantail, Sulawesi Leaf-Warbler, and the very odd Malia; while the understory is home to two of the most difficult birds in the area, the shy Great Shortwing, and the reclusive Maroon-backed Whistler. Other possibilities in this area include Superb Fruit-Dove, flocks of Yellow-and-green Lorikeets, and the noisy flocks of Finch-billed Mynas. On at least one of the days we will make the climb up the infamous Anaso Track, which allows access to higher altitudes, and the possibility of Sulawesi’s sole endemic bird family, Hylocitrea; the rare and strange Geomalia (recently found to be an odd zoothera thrush); along with Red-eared Fruit-Dove, Maroon-backed Whistler, White-eared Myza, and Streak-headed Dark-eye. These ascents will also give us a chance at the rare Sombre Pigeon, and will bring us to the favored area of the robust Purple-bearded Bee-eater, one of Sulawesi’s flagship species. There is also often the chance to find Diabolical (Satanic) Nightjars roosting during the day at regular stakeouts along there.
On at least one of the mornings we will venture out super early to try for other endemic nightbirds, with Sulawesi Masked-Owl, Speckled Boobook occurring, along with the Cinnabar Boobook, which was only recently discovered in the park. This will also enable us to visit an area at dawn when shy forest birds such as Sulawesi Thrush and Blue-fronted Flycatcher may be more easier to find. Some time will also be spent around the Sedoa Valley, which offers the best raptor watching opportunities in the park, with Sulawesi Serpent-Eagle, Sulawesi Hawk-Eagle, and Black and Rufous-bellied Eagles all occurring. On the afternoon of day 6 we shall drive back to Palu for the night, stopping en-route to bird a scrubby riverside area, which is good for White-shouldered Triller, day roosting Savanna Nightjars, and Pale-headed Munia; and also holds the rare Red-backed Buttonquail. The first three nights will be spent at a local guesthouse in Wuasa, while the final night will be spent at a good hotel in Palu, in readiness for our flight out the next morning.
Day 7: Palu to Tangkoko
In the morning we will fly from Palu to Manado, (via Makassar) in North Sulawesi, and take the drive out to Tangkoko. Although much of the day will be spent traveling, there should be time in the afternoon to visit a forest lookout near Tangkoko, where species like White-bellied and Silver-tipped Imperial-Pigeons, Golden-mantled and Yellow-breasted Racquet-tails, and White-necked Mynas occur regularly. At dusk we will make our first try for the often tricky Sulawesi Nightjar, while the grounds of our lodge often holds Sulawesi Scops-Owl. The following three nights will be spent at a guesthouse in Tangkoko.
Days 8-9: Tangkoko
This reserve on the eastern tip of the Minahassa Peninsula, is one of Sulawesi’s flagship parks, the excellent lowland jungle and mangrove forest providing superb birding, and great mammal-watching opportunities. The reserve is especially famous for kingfishers, and with the assistance of the skilled local park guides, we will be search for Sulawesi Dwarf, Lilac-cheeked, Green-backed, Great-billed, and Ruddy Kingfishers while on site. The wonderfully open nature of the forest provides excellent chances to find, and see well, a number of other normally tricky forest species too, such as the recently split Sulawesi Pitta (from Red-bellied), and the handsome Rusty-backed Thrush. The endemic Ochre-bellied Boobook can sometimes be found at daytime stakeouts too. Our time in the area will be mixed between trail walking through the forest, which may see walk among one of the large habituated groups of Celebes Crested Macaques; taking a boat ride through the mangroves for kingfishers and the endemic White-rumped Cuckooshrike; and watching for canopy species from a scenic lookout, which can yield a huge variety of endemics, from Sulawesi and Pygmy Hanging-parrots to Sulawesi Dwarf-Hornbills and Purple-winged Rollers, and Ornate Lorikeets. Both nights will be spent in a simple lodge just outside the park, which will provide excellent, and large, meals throughout our stay.
Day 10: Tangkoko to Kotamobagu
After a final short session around Tangkoko we will depart for another lowland site, Dumoga-Bone National Park, (now clumsily renamed as Bagani Nani Wartabone National Park). After a final few hours in Tangkoko, checking for gigantic, multicolored Knobbed Hornbills, or striking White-rumped Trillers, we will undergo the long drive west along the Minahassa Peninsula. En-route we will stop by sets of rice paddies, checking for Spotted Harriers, Sunda Teals, Black-faced Munias, and checking the muddy edges for rails and shorebirds. Three nights will be spent in a city hotel in the town of Kotamobagu.
Days 11-12: Sulawesi Birding Tour at Dumoga Bone National Park
Two days will be spent in the lowland forests within this sprawling national park, visiting three main areas of forest within the park-Tambun (the famed Maleo breeding site), Toraut, and the Molibagu Road. On at least one day we will drive out to Tambun, for the otherworldly Maleo, an odd megapode, which lays its eggs in the warm volcanic soils in the park. With luck, we shall see some pink-flushed adults digging in the clearing in preparation to lay their eggs; and on some days it is possible to help with the release of chicks back into the wild. After spending some time searching for Maleos, we will walk in this small forest patch, searching for a local endemic, Maroon-chinned Fruit-Dove and perhaps get further chances at Sulawesi Pitta, if needed. Mixed flocks within the forest might also yield Yellow-billed Malkoha, the strange white-eyed race of Hair-crested Drongo (a surefire split?!), Black-billed Koel and Bay Coucal. These forests also hold White-faced Cuckoo-Dove.
In the late morning we will move onto another area of the park checking the roadside paddies and wet areas for Barred and Buff-banded Rails, and Wandering Whistling-Ducks on the way. After lunch at a nearby guesthouse, we will move on to Toraut, another forested section of the park, where we hope to find the regularly roosting Speckled Boobook within the park buildings, and pick up Pied Cuckooshrike during an afternoon forest walk, or Sulawesi Dwarf-Kingfisher, of we have missed it at Tangkoko. The plan for the second of these days will largely be governed by what is seen on the first day, but will probably include some roadside birding along the Molibagu Road, which is good for the endemic Ivory-backed Woodswallow, and is great for mynas, with Finch-billed, White-vented and Sulawesi (Crested) Mynas all occurring; it is arguably the best site for the latter, scarce species. It can also be a good spot to search for raptors like Barred (Sulawesi) Honey-Buzzard and the scarce Sulawesi Sparrowhawk. The two nights will again be spent in Kotamobagu.
Day 13: Gunung Ambang to Tomohon
The earliest rise of the tour is in order on this day in order to get ourselves in position on the lower slopes of Gunung Ambang for the chance at two very special birds: Before dawn the Cinnabar Boobook (only described to science, from this mountain, as recently as 1999), and post-dawn Scaly-breasted Kingfisher, the toughest of the many kingfishers on offer on this tour. The traveling time to get there, and the need to hike up to the nown areas for them necessitates a very early start. After dawn our focus will turn to tracking down the inconspicuous and very local Matinan Flycatcher, which is currently only known from four locations, all in North Sulawesi, with this being the only currently accessible one. In the afternoon we will drive back east towards Manado, stopping in a resort in the weekend getaway town of Tomohon, close to Gunung (Mount) Mahawu. If we are still missing Speckled Boobook, this offers another chance to find it, with good numbers to be found in this area.
Day 14: Gunung Mahawu to Manado OR Departure
A short drive from the resort brings us to arguably the best site in Sulawesi for the tricky Scaly-breasted Kingfisher. It is particularly difficult, as it calls right around dawn, and rarely for long after, and so we will ensure we are on site pre-dawn, when the calls may help us to track it down. This site also offers a good chance of the endemic Crimson-crowned Flowerpecker, which occurs with a wealth of other endemic nectar feeders at the site, which also includes Yellow-sided and Gray-sided Flowerpeckers and Sulawesi Myzomela. Within the forest interior there is also the chance of Sulawesi Blue Flycatcher and the ultra rare Rufous-throated Flycatcher, for which this is arguably the best site in the country. The mountain is also good for rails, with Barred Rail and Isabelline Bush-hen also occurring. In the afternoon we will return to Manado for evening departures out (for those NOT joining the extension), or to stay in Manado for those joining the Moluccan Extension. For those joining the extension, we will enjoy some rare luxury in a seaside resort overlooking mangroves, which can produce the endemic White-rumped Cuckooshrike, terns and petrels offshore, or Asian shorebirds like Terek Sandpiper and Lesser Sand-Plover loafing on the hotel jetty.
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CLIMATE: Hot and humid for much of Sulawesi and Halmahera, with a chance of heavy, tropical, downpours at any time. Cool in the mountains in Lore Lindu and Gunung Ambang, where rain is expected.
DIFFICULTY: Moderate to difficult, a fair amount of walking is required. There are three, optional, strenuous walks on the tour in Sulawesi (at Gunung Ambang and for the up to two visits to the Anaso Track in Lore Lindu). The walking in Halmahera is not difficult anywhere. The toughest aspect of this trip are the very long days, made longer by the pursuit of the many endemic nightbirds available on this tour (10% of the endemics are nightbirds). Many of these are usually, with effort, seen, by taking long days in the field.
ACCOMMODATION: As this is a remote part of the world the accommodations on this tour are highly variable, with good to excellent accommodations available in some areas, but completely lacking in others. At all sites we use the best accommodations in the areas. In the cities of Makassar, Palu, Tomohon, Manado, and Ternate, good large modern hotels are used with private en-suite bathrooms, 24-hour electricity, full time hot water, air-conditioning and Internet. The nights of days 2-5 at Lore Lindu will be spent at a very simple guesthouse, with no running hot water, but with 24-hour electricity and en-suite bathrooms. A flask of hot water is provided on request though, and showers are merely bucket showers. In Tangkoko another simple guesthouse is used that has large spacious rooms, with running showers, but no hot water is available. The rooms have en-suite bathrooms and electricity is via generator, which is usually turned off between the hours of 9PM and 5AM. In Kotamobagu, we use an old city hotel for the night of days 10-12, with full-time electricity, air-conditioning, and full-time running hot water. (day 1 in Makassar, day 6 in Palu, days 10-12 in Kotamobagu, day 13 in Tomohon, and day 14 in Manado).
BIRDING PHOTOGRAPHY: This is a birding tour, with a focus on getting as many birds as possible, although casual photographers in the group are likely to find the habituated Sulawesi Crested Macaques and Spectral Tarsiers, roosting owls, kingfishers and other staked out birds at Tangkoko in particular good subjects for photography. Elsewhere photography is much more limited. There are no feeders at any sites on this tour.
TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS: A valid passport is required; the passport must be valid for at least six months past your intended stay. Visas on arrival in Indonesia can be obtained for tourists from the US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and most European countries for stays of under 30 days. There is a fee for this, payable in cash. Travel requirements are subject change; we recommend double-checking entry requirements six weeks prior to the tour, or ask our office staff for help.
WHAT’S INCLUDED? Tips to drivers, local guides, and lodge staff; accommodation from night of day 1 through to night of day 13 (of not joining the extension); if joining the extension, accommodation from night of day 1 through to night of day 14 of the main tour, and nights of day 1 through to night of day 6 on the extension; meals from dinner on day 1 through to lunch on day 14 (if not joining the extension) or through to breakfast on day 7 of the extension, if joining that too; one-way air ticket from Makassar to Palu on day 2, one-way air ticket from Palu to Manado (via Makassar) on day 7 for the main tour; for those joining the extension one way air-ticket from Manado to Ternate on day 1 of the extension, and one way air ticket from Ternate to Manado on day 7 of the extension; safe drinking water throughout; Tropical Birding tour leader with scope and audio gear from the afternoon of day 1 to the evening of day 14 (on the main tour), through to morning of day 7 on the extension, if joining that too; local guides at Karaenta, Lore Lindu, Tangkoko, Dumoga-Bone, Gunung Ambang in Sulawesi and Galela and Weda on Halmahera; one arrival and one departure airport transfer per person (transfers may be shared with other participants of the same tour if they are on the same flight); ground transport for the group to all sites in the itinerary; one night search – including boat transport – for Moluccan Scrubfowl on the night of day 1 of the extension on Halmahera; one private mangrove boat trip on one afternoon/morning at Tangkoko; private speedboat between Ternate and Halmahera on day 1 of the extension, and between Halmahera and Ternate on day 6 of the extension; entrance fees to all birding sites mentioned in the itinerary; a printed and bound checklist to keep track of your sightings (given to you at the start of the tour – only electronic copies can be provided in advance).
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED? Optional tips to the tour leader; tips for optional luggage porters in city hotels in Makassar and Palu on the main tour, and Manado and Ternate on the extension; international flights; snacks; additional drinks apart from those included; alcoholic beverages; visa fees (payable on arrival in Indonesia); departure tax when leaving Indonesia; travel insurance; excursions not included in the tour itinerary; extras in hotels such as laundry service, minibar, room service, telephone calls, and personal items; medical fees; other items or services not specifically mentioned as being included.
First you may check out some of the above sample Itinerary and if you’re interested then we ask you to take a few minutes of your time to fill in the Reservation Form. From this form we learn about your preferences and will be able to arrange your very individual holiday.The schedule and the price of the whole trip will be sent to you by e-mail promptly. Study it very carefully and tell us if you want some changes to be made. We can help design the trips for you according to your age, capability, point of interests and any trips that meet your requirement with our flexible conditions.
WEST & EAST NUSA TENGGARA
WEST PAPUA / IRIAN JAYA