Despite the horrific earthquake and tsunami in Palu in late September, we still operated our Oct / Nov 2018 Sulawesi / Halmahera tour that ended in Palu. The trip went extremely well, but it was heartbreaking to meet up with orphans (who had lost their parents in the quake) and to see so many people living in tents in refugee camps at the end of the trip (the last night of the tour was in Palu).

This is a trip in which we see over 100 Indonesian endemics, most of them endemic to single islands (either Sulawesi or Halmahera), and which include the likes of Ivory-breasted Pitta and the unusual bird of paradise Wallace’s Standardwing. The participants on this tour had a whale of a time as everyone got so many life-birds – how can one not get stacks of lifebirds with such a high endemic count?

The end of this trip was incredibly sobering for all of us though, of course.

Image of Mercure Hotel, Palu, Indonesia after earthquake

This is what was left of our beachfront hotel, so needless to say, we had to stay further inland in a single storey hotel that was undamaged.

Image of Mosque in Indonesia after Earthquake

The bridge to this mosque is no longer functional, to say the least.

Image of UN Rufugee Camp in Indonesia after earthquake

Thousands and thousands of tents in various refugee camps (this one funded by the UN) provide a new home to a great many people who lost their homes in the earthquake / tsunami.

Image of children from Palu, Indonesia, after earthquake

We had the privilege of meeting a bunch of children that our local birding guide Nurlin is helping. Some of these children were orphaned because of the recent earthquake.

We found the people of Sulawesi – including all the folks we met in Palu – to be full of smiles, hospitable and friendly. But the pain and grief so very many of these people must be enduring, is hard to imagine. Most have lost family members or friends, and many have lost homes. Our birding guide for the whole trip, Nurlin, lost his home, but was, as always, spectacularly well-organized and our trip ran like clockwork (as usual) thanks mainly to him. Not only did Nurlin run this trip so well, but he has also been doing a huge amount to help children and others adversely affected by the earthquake. The participants on the tour were very generous and donated a lot of money to Nurlin’s relief efforts. Birding Ecotours is also donating some money (the exact amount still to be determined). If you want to add anything (e.g. $50, $100 or $500), we can send this along with our own donation, to Nurlin. Please e-mail us if you would like to get involved in some way.

By not cancelling this tour, we also significantly helped folks on the ground. Most of the tour cost goes directly to the folks in Sulawesi for services they provide to run the tour. These folks are living off ecotourism, and at a time like this they need the money even more than usual.