Birding Tour Indonesia: The Lesser Sunda Islands– Comprehensive Tour
Dates and Costs
20 June – 10 July 2022
Spaces Available: 2
Price (includes all domestic flights): US$7,975 / £6,776 / €7,992 per person sharing, assuming 4-8 participants.
Single Supplement: US$740 / £629 / €741
* Please note that currency conversion is calculated in real-time, therefore is subject to slight change. Please refer back to the base price when making final payments.
20 June – 10 July 2023
Spaces Available: 4
Price (includes all domestic flights): US$8,625 / £7,328 / €8,644 per person sharing, assuming 4-8 participants.
Single Supplement: US$850 / £722 / €852
(Please also read our blogs about recommended field guides for the seven continents here)
Duration: 21 days
Group Size: 4 – 8
Tour Start: Ngurah Rai International Airport, Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia
Tour End: Ngurah Rai International Airport, Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia
All domestic flights (Bali-Sumba, Sumba-Timor-Rote, Rote-Timor, Timor-Alor, Alor-Timor, Timor-Flores, Flores-Bali)
All accommodation (double room)
Meals (from dinner on day 1 until breakfast on day 21) and snacks/fruit
Drinking water – please bring a refillable water bottle
Expert tour leader
Local bird and wildlife guide fees
Birdwatching site entrance fees and travel permits
Overnight AC cabin boat trip to Komodo Island
All ground transport with AC and tolls/taxes while on tour, including airport pick-up and drop-off
Flights to/from Ngurah Rai International Airport, Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia
Baggage for internal flights (estimated at between $150-$200 depending on weight of checked bags)
Expenditures due to flight cancellations/delays or other causes beyond our control (force majeure)
Visa fees if visa required
Items of a personal nature, e.g. gifts, laundry, internet access, phone calls, snorkeling/diving trips, snorkeling/diving equipment hire, excess luggage charges for internal flights, etc.
Any pre- or post-tour accommodation, meals, or birding/sightseeing/monument excursions
Personal travel insurance
Gratuities (please see our tipping guidelines blog)
Featured Guide:Andrew Walker
Indonesia: The Lesser Sunda Islands – Comprehensive Tour
Endemics and Specials of Sumba, West Timor, Alor, Rote, Flores, and Komodo Islands
This small-group birding tour visits six endemic-filled islands in the Lesser Sunda region of Indonesia. The tour starts and ends in Denpasar, Bali which provides an international gateway into the country before our tour will get underway, as we bird our way around the islands of Sumba, Rote, West Timor, Alor, Flores, and Komodo on what is sure to be a fascinating adventure around this rarely visited region.
Ornate Pitta, one of many exciting targets on this multi-island tour.
Our tour will focus on finding the island endemic birds, regional endemic birds, and many localized specials on offer here such as Sumba Hornbill, Sumba Buttonquail, Cinnamon-banded Kingfisher, Little Sumba Hawk-Owl, Sumba Boobook, Rote Boobook, Rote Myzomela, “Mt Mutis Parrotfinch” (a currently undescribed species), Black-breasted (Timor) Myzomela, Timor Imperial Pigeon, Timor Friarbird, Timor Sparrow, Orange-sided Thrush, Black-banded Flycatcher, Alor Myzomela, Alor Boobook, Flores Hawk-Eagle, Flores Scops Owl, Wallace’s Scops Owl, Chestnut-capped Thrush, Chestnut-backed Thrush, Flores Crow, Flores Monarch, Elegant Pitta, Ornate Pitta (split in 2021 from Elegant Pitta), Glittering Kingfisher, Yellow-crested Cockatoo (yellow-crested and citron-crested subspecies, considered separate species by some), Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker, and many more, including an exciting range of parrots, fruit doves, sunbirds, and raptors. Komodo Dragons are likely to be a non-avian highlight when we step into a Jurassic world on the island they share their name with.
Sumba Myzomela is one of several range-restricted myzomelas (tiny honeyeaters) that we can enjoy on the tour (photo Yovie Jehabut)
This tour can be combined with another of our Indonesian tours – Sulawesi and Halmahera: Spectacular Endemic Birding, during which we target a huge list of species, such as (Wallace’s) Standardwing and (Halmahera) Paradise-crow – both birds-of-paradise, along with Ivory-breasted Pitta, Sulawesi Pitta, North Moluccan Pitta, Maleo, Hylocitrea (a monotypic family), Green-backed Kingfisher, Blue-and-white Kingfisher, Sombre Kingfisher, Lilac Kingfisher, Geomalia, Malia, Purple-bearded Bee-eater, and Moluccan Owlet-nightjar to name just a few, follow the link above to see the very exciting detailed itinerary.
Itinerary (21 days/20 nights)
Day 1. Arrival in Denpasar (Bali)
A non-birding day. You will be met at Ngurah Ria International Airport, Denpasar (Bali), after your arrival in Indonesia and will be transferred to our nearby hotel, for the rest of the day at your leisure. We will meet for a group welcome dinner together in the evening.
If you would like to fit in a pre-tour extension looking for the likes of Bali Myna, Javan Kingfisher, Javan Banded Pitta, Black-winged Starling, Cave Swiftlet, Green Junglefowl, Javan Plover, Java Sparrow, and Javan Owlet please let us know and we would be delighted to arrange something for you.
Overnight: Denpasar, Bali
Day 2. Denpasar (Bali) to Waingapu (Sumba)
We will depart Denpasar in the morning and fly to Umbu Mehang Kunda Airport in Waingapu, eastern Sumba where we will meet our excellent local guide who will remain with us for the duration of our time in the Lesser Sundas. We will transfer the short distance to our comfortable hotel with picturesque views and enjoy our lunch.
In the afternoon we will go birding near the Kambaniru River and the Yambu grasslands, here we will target our first of many high-quality birds such as the tough Sumba Buttonquail, along with Oriental Dwarf (Rufous-backed) Kingfisher, Blood-breasted (Sumba) Flowerpecker, Thick-billed (Sunda) Flowerpecker, Apricot-breasted Sunbird, Five-colored Munia, and plenty more.
Overnight: Waingapu, Sumba
Day 3. Waingapu to Tabundung (Sumba)
We will drive across to Tabundung district making some birding stops along the way throughout the morning. After lunch in Tabundung we will visit Billa Forest in Matalawa National Park where some exciting target birds will be possible, such as Sumba Hornbill, Sumba Green Pigeon, Cinnamon-banded Kingfisher, Yellow-crested (Citron-crested) Cockatoo, Sumba Brown Flycatcher, and plenty more.
We will have dinner in the national park office and then have a post-dinner owling session where we will target the endemic pair of Little Sumba Hawk-Owl and Sumba Boobook.
Overnight: Matalawa National Park, Sumba
Little Sumba Hawk-Owl is one of two endemic Ninox owls we will be looking for in Billa Forest. (photo Yovie Jehabut)
Day 4. Billa to Waingapu (Sumba)
Depending on how the previous evening’s owling session went we may or may not need an early start this morning to try see (or improve views of) either Little Sumba Hawk-Owl or Sumba Boobook.
We will intend to go to a different section of Billa Forest in the morning where we will search for more endemics and specials, such as Sumba Myzomela, Blyth’s (Nusa Tenggara) Paradise Flycatcher, Sumba Flycatcher, Rusty-breasted Whistler, Marigold Lorikeet, Eclectus Parrot, Red-naped Fruit Dove, and others such as Elegant Pitta, Chestnut-backed Thrush, and Russet-backed Jungle Flycatcher.
After lunch we will drive back to Waingapu, making some roadside stops along the way for anything interesting we may spot.
Overnight: Waingapu, Sumba
Day 5. Praingkareha (Sumba)
The main focus of today will be finding the Sumba Buttonquail. This is one of the rarest and the toughest endemics on the island, so we will need to put in some effort to locate it. Other possibilities that are usually present in the buttonquail area include Sumba Flycatcher, Great-billed Parrot, Red-cheeked Parrot, Spotted Kestrel, Indonesian Honeyeater, Zitting Cisticola, Striated Swallow, Five-colored Munia, and Pale-headed Munia.
Overnight: Waingapu, Sumba
Day 6. Waingapu (Sumba) to Kupang (Timor) to Bolatena and Nembrala (Rote)
We will firstly take a morning flight from Waingapu, Sumba to Kupang, Timor before completing our journey with a short flight to Bandar Udara D. C. Saudale, Rote. Once we have cleared the airport, we will head straight to Bolatena in the north of this small island, where we will commence our birding with a search for Rote Boobook. We could bump into a range of interesting birds while looking for the owl, several of these are outlined below.
Overnight: Nembrala, Rote
Day 7. Rote Birding
We will have the full day on Rote. We will spend the morning birding back at Bolatena with the afternoon spent undertaking some more relaxed birding around our accommodation. At Bolatena we will again look for Rote Boobook, but we will also be looking out for other Rote endemics and specials in the afternoon and following morning, such as Rote Myzomela, Rote Leaf Warbler, Timor Green Pigeon, Banded (Black-backed) Fruit Dove, Pink-headed Imperial Pigeon, Jonquil Parrot, Northern (Rote) Fantail, Black (Slaty) Cuckoo-Dove, Olive-brown (Timor) Oriole, Helmeted Friarbird, Orange-sided Thrush, Timor Blue Flycatcher, White-bellied (Timor) Bush Chat, Flame-breasted Sunbird, and Timor Stubtail.
Overnight: Nembrala, Rote
Flame-breasted Sunbird is one gorgeous sunbird and we are sure to get plenty of good views of this striking species.
Day 8. Rote to Kupang (Timor) to Soé (Timor)
We will take a morning flight from Rote back to Kupang from where we will drive to Soé. The plan will be to stop and look for birds along the road at Fatuleu with targets including Black-banded Flycatcher and Timor Blue Flycatcher. Here we may also find Timor Friarbird, Rose-crowned Fruit Dove, Cinnamon-banded Kingfisher, and Orange-sided Thrush. In the afternoon we will visit Oehala waterfall which can sometimes produce Black-breasted (Timor) Myzomela, Fawn-breasted Whistler, and Northern (Timor) Fantail.
Overnight: Soé, Timor
Day 9. Gunung Mutis (Timor)
We will spend the full day birding Gunung Mutis home to some little-known and exciting birds, such as the currently undescribed “Mt Mutis Parrotfinch”, which we will hope to see. While here we will be looking for many target species, such as Timor Imperial Pigeon, Black-breasted (Timor) Myzomela, Plain (Timor) Gerygone, Timor Leaf Warbler, Timor Blue Flycatcher, Blood-breasted (Timor) Flowerpecker, Banded (Black-backed) Fruit Dove, Chestnut-backed Thrush, Island Thrush, Pygmy Cupwing (Wren-babbler), Lesser Shortwing, and Sunda Thrush.
Overnight: Soé, Timor
Day 10. Soé to Camplong to Bipolo to Kupang (Timor)
A morning visit to Camplong Nature Reserve is likely to offer some great birds, highlights here could include Timor Friarbird, Orange-sided Thrush, Black-banded Flycatcher, Iris Lorikeet, Timor Blue Flycatcher, Rose-crowned Fruit Dove, Pacific Emerald Dove, Elegant Pitta, Streak-breasted Honeyeater, Indonesian Honeyeater, Flame-eared Honeyeater, Scaly-crowned (Sunda) Honeyeater, Arafura Fantail, Northern Fantail, Island Monarch, Ashy-bellied White-eye, Orange-sided Thrush, Blue-cheeked Flowerpecker, Buff-banded Thicketbird, Timor Stubtail, Thick-billed (Sunda) Flowerpecker, Spot-breasted Heleia (Timor White-eye), and Timor Cuckoo-Dove.
Our afternoon birding session will take in the well-known Bipolo Forest where we shall again seek out many of the species mentioned above. After our birding we will return to Kupang.
Overnight: Kupang, Timor
Black-banded Flycatcher, striking even by Ficedula standards and endemic to Timor. (photo Yovie Jehabut)
Day 11. Kupang (Timor) to Alor (Alor)
We will make the most of a rare lie in before we take our late-morning flight to the small island of Alor. On clearing the airport we will make a stop at the Takpala traditional village to enjoy some hospitality and dancing prior to visiting the Hutan Nostalgia Nature Reserve for some birding. Here we hope to find Olive-headed Lorikeet, Timor Cuckoo-Dove, Little (Eucalypt) Cuckoo-Dove, and Spotted Kestrel. If time permits, we may make our first attempt to find Alor Boobook in the evening.
Day 12. Alor Birding (Alor)
We will spend the full day birding at a range of sites around Alor where we will seek out Alor Myzomela, Wallacean (Alor) Cuckooshrike, Flores Green Pigeon, Sunda Bush Warbler, Javan Bush Warbler, Lesser Shortwing, Flores Hawk-Eagle, Short-toed Snake Eagle, Bonelli’s Eagle, Timor Stubtail, Thick-billed (Sunda) Flowerpecker, Blood-breasted (Timor) Flowerpecker, Common Hill Myna, Chestnut-backed Thrush, and plenty more. In the evening we will search for Alor Boobook, Eastern Barn Owl, and Mees’s Nightjar.
Day 13. Alor to Kupang (Timor)
We will take a morning flight from Alor back to Kupang, Timor and will check into our hotel. Once the heat of the day has passed we will spend the late afternoon visiting some mangroves and farmland near the city where we will look for Timor Sparrow, Zebra (Timor) Finch, Timor Friarbird, and Black Kite, we may also find some resident, over-summering Palearctic, or over-wintering Australasian shorebirds.
Overnight: Kupang, Timor
Black-naped Oriole is currently a widespread species, however recent scientific studies are showing that several (maybe as many as six) species may in fact be involved in the complex. Those birds present in Flores could be split and become ‘Nusa Tenggara Golden Oriole’.
Day 14. Kupang (Timor) to Bajawa (Flores)
Leaving Timor for the final time we will take the short flight to Flores (Bajawa Airport) in Soá. If time permits, we will call into the nearby hot springs before having lunch in Bajawa. After lunch we will stop to visit Bena traditional village and we will follow this up with some birding around Inerie Volcano. Here our targets will include Flores Green Pigeon, Black-naped (Nusa Tenggara Golden) Oriole, Scaly-crowned Honeyeater, Leaf (Flores) Lorikeet, and Chestnut-backed Thrush.
Overnight: Bajawa, Flores
Day 15. Bajawa to Kisol to Ruteng (Flores)
An early start will see us heading to the famous site of Poco Ndeki (Kisol). The remnant lowland forest here holds the majority of the lowland endemics found on Flores. Our main targets here will include Flores Green Pigeon and Flores Crow but many other endemics and specials occur and could include Flores Hawk-Eagle, Wallace’s Scops Owl, Glittering Kingfisher, Chestnut-capped Thrush, Ornate Pitta, Yellow-ringed White-eye (Wallace’s Heleia), Crested White-eye (Heleia), Thick-billed Heleia, Leaf (Flores) Lorikeet, Great-billed Parrot, and Russet-capped Tesia.
We will look for the shy and uncommon forest-dwelling Flores Crow while birding on the island.
In the afternoon we will drive to Ruteng where in the evening we will take a night walk looking for the rare Flores Scops Owl.
Overnight: Ruteng, Flores
We will hope for great views of the endemic Flores Scops Owl, a rare resident of montane forest. (photo Yovie Jehabut)
Day 16. Ruteng Nature Reserve and Golo Lusang (Flores)
We may make an early start (depending on the previous evening’s owling session) and will look for Flores Scops Owl again, if needed, along with other targets such as Wallace’s Scops Owl, Bare-throated Whistler (the song of this one will blow your mind!), Russet-backed (Flores) Jungle Flycatcher, Crested White-eye (Heleia), Little (Flores) Minivet, Golden-rumped Flowerpecker, Dark-backed Imperial Pigeon, Pale-shouldered Cicadabird, Cream-browed White-eye (Helia), and Chestnut-backed Thrush.
After a lunch break, we will visit the forest at nearby Golo Lusang, here we will look for Timor (Flores) Leaf Warbler, Cream-browed White-eye (Heleia), Wallace’s Hanging Parrot, White-browed (Flores) Shortwing, Flores Hawk-Eagle, Bare-throated Whistler, and Leaf (Flores) Lorikeet.
We will have time for some more owling in the evening if needed, maybe focusing on finding Wallace’s Scops Owl.
Overnight: Ruteng, Flores
Day 17. Ruteng to Puarlolo (Flores)
We will leave Ruteng to the west and will reach Puarlolo where a trail through some secondary hill forest will present us with a great opportunity to find the rare, range-restricted endemic Flores Monarch. Here we can find plenty of other exciting species too, such as the gorgeous Chestnut-capped Thrush, Flores Crow, Wallace’s Hanging Parrot, Green Junglefowl, Black-naped Fruit Dove, Glittering Kingfisher, Red-cheeked Parrot, Ornate Pitta, Helmeted Friarbird, Rusty-breasted Whistler, Blyth’s (Nusa Tenggara) Paradise Flycatcher, Russet-capped Tesia, Chestnut-backed Thrush, Rufous-chested Flycatcher, Golden-rumped Flowerpecker, and Thick-billed (Tenggara) Flowerpecker.
We can find several cryptic Geokichla thrushes on this tour – this is Chestnut-capped Thrush.
We will continue to Ndengo village for lunch and in the afternoon we will visit Cunca Rami waterfall. We will spend the late-afternoon birding around the grounds of our comfortable ecolodge where we could see Wallacean Drongo, Ruddy (Parzudaki’s) Cuckoo-Dove, Collared Kingfisher, Glittering Kingfisher, Tenggara Swiftlet, Oriental Dollarbird, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker, Black-naped Monarch, Blyth’s (Nusa Tenggara) Paradise Flycatcher, and Black-fronted Flowerpecker.
Overnight: Mbeliling, Flores
Day 18. Puarlolo to Labuan Bajo (Flores) to Komodo Island (Komodo)
We will spend the morning back at Puarlolo in the forest looking for some of the species mentioned above. Once we check out from our accommodation, we will wind our way down and off the mountain, to the town of Labuan Bajo. Here, we will go directly to the pier to meet our air-conditioned cabin boat to take us to Komodo National Park (maybe seeing Lesser Frigatebird, Black-naped Tern, Beach Stone-curlew, or Great-billed Heron along the way). In the afternoon we will stop at Pink Beach for some swimming and snorkeling. We will spend the night on the boat, near the pier of Komodo Island, ready for the following morning.
Overnight: Cabin boat, Komodo
Day 19. Komodo Island (Komodo) to Labuan Bajo (Flores)
The morning will be spent birding in Komodo National Park where we will look for the rare Yellow-crested Cockatoo (the yellow-crested subspecies rather than the citron-crested subspecies we will have looked for earlier on the tour on Sumba). There are other birds we will look for on Komodo Island, such as Flores Hawk-Eagle, Variable (Nusa Tenggara) Goshawk, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Green Junglefowl, Barred Dove, and Lemon-bellied White-eye.
The Critically Endangered (BirdLife International) Yellow-crested Cockatoo will be a big target bird on Komodo Island. (photo Yovie Jehabut)
One of the main reasons for coming to Komodo Island however, is to see the impressive Komodo Dragon, a giant monitor lizard that can reach lengths of up to almost 10 feet (3 meters); pretty much the closest you can come to a dinosaur in this day and age!
We will have lunch back on the boat, likely stopping for some more swimming and snorkeling around Pink Beach. The reef life in this part of Indonesia is fascinating and well worth exploring.
Arriving back into Labuan Bajo in the late afternoon we will check into our hotel and rest up.
Overnight: Labuan Bajo
Day 20. Potawangka (Flores)
Our final birding session of the tour will take us to some forest not too far out of Labuan Bajo, here we will have further opportunities for species such as Flores Monarch, Wallace’s Hanging Parrot, Variable (Nusa Tenggara) Goshawk, Bonelli’s Eagle, Glittering Kingfisher, Ornate Pitta, Wallacean Cuckooshrike, Black-naped Monarch, Rusty-breasted Whistler, Brown-throated Sunbird, and Yellow-ringed White-eye (Wallace’s Heleia).
Afternoon birding will take us to some nearby rice paddies, seasonal wetlands, and shoreline where we will likely see some different birds such as Sunda Teal, Wandering Whistling Duck, Javan Plover, Malaysian Plover, Beach Stone-curlew, Flame-breasted Sunbird, Black-fronted Flowerpecker, Black-faced Munia, White-shouldered Triller, Pied Bush Chat, Zebra (Timor) Finch, Stork-billed Kingfisher, and Cerulean Kingfisher.
We will have a final group evening meal together and discuss the “bird of the trip”, not likely to be an easy task, given the number of exciting species we are likely to have found.
Overnight: Labuan Bajo
We are likely to see some pretty spectacular sunrises and sunsets on this tour, the sunsets off Labaun Bajo (above) can be particularly colorful.
Day 21. Labuan Bajo (Flores) to Denpasar (Bali) where the tour concludes
A non-birding day. After a leisurely breakfast at our hotel we will fly back to Denpasar where the tour will end in time for an evening departure out of Indonesia or your further travel (such as our Sulawesi and Halmahera: Spectacular Endemic Birding tour). Please do not book your onward flights until we have confirmed the internal flight times which may be subject to change!
Overnight: Not included
Please note that the itinerary cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors.Download Itinerary
Indonesia: The Lesser Sunda Islands – Comprehensive Tour
GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT INDONESIA CAN BE READ HERE
This is an amazing opportunity to connect with numerous thrilling regional and island-endemic birds as we cover the Lesser Sunda islands of Sumba, Timor, Rote, Alor, Flores, and Komodo (with a start and end point of Denpasar, Bali “The Islands of the Gods”). This is a comprehensive tour to an area not visited by many birders annually. We will find numerous endemic owls, such as Flores Scops Owl, Little Sumba Hawk-Owl, Rote Boobook, and Wallace’s Scops Owl (and more), alongside spectacular species such as Sumba Hornbill, Yellow-crested Cockatoo (of two subspecies), Bare-throated Whistler, Black-banded Flycatcher, Elegant Pitta, Ornate Pitta, and many more delights from a wide assortment of families like honeyeaters, kingfishers, parrots, pigeons, fruit doves, flycatchers, and thrushes. We will also be looking for Komodo Dragon, the world’s largest lizard on this tour. We should get good photo opportunities as we make our way around these little-visited islands.
DAILY ACTIVITIES, PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS, AND TOUR PACE
This Indonesian birding tour through the Lesser Sunda islands needs reasonable fitness and is run at a moderate pace, covering a lot of remote ground. The tour is likely to be tiring due to the distances covered in remote areas and the heat to be expected, more on that in the “Weather/Climate” details below.
We will be visiting some remote areas on this tour, though will also be passing through towns and cities occasionally on our quest to find as many of the region’s special birds as possible. Remember we will be visiting a developing country and will be staying in remote areas, where there are limited sanitation facilities and services will be very different to what you might expect from home, or even other areas in Indonesia. Notwithstanding the above, we have tried to make this tour as comfortable as possible by staying in accommodation that we know well and is of the highest standard in the local area. Hopefully our time between birding sessions will be as comfortable and relaxing as possible. But some of the accommodation in some locations is rather basic, see more information in the “Accommodation” section below.
This tour entails multiple domestic flights and some boat trips (a mix of fast-ferries, live-aboard boats, and speedboats/outrigger boats). There are several long drives on the tour (e.g. some in the region of five hours), sometimes on poor roads and this can be tiring, particularly when the heat is added into the mix.
We will have long days in the field, though often, when the situation allows, we will rest during the heat of the middle of the day (when bird activity is lower). We will usually have an early breakfast (sometimes this will be a boxed breakfast) before we head out birding. Lunch will usually be back at our accommodation or a restaurant but occasionally might be ‘in the field’ as a boxed picnic lunch, this will very much depend on where we are birding. Dinner will most often be back at our accommodation or a nearby restaurant. There are a lot of nightbirds possible on this tour so there will be several night birding sessions either after dinner, or sometimes before dinner (with a later mealtime being on the cards). Note in some areas there are no facilities at all near birding areas (such as when we are birding on Rote), this is likely to result in a long day as we will have to leave our accommodation very early to get to the birding site for first light and may be out until after dark in the evening (after an endemic owling session), making do with boxed meals/snacks and a late dinner. There will also be no bathroom facilities for most of this day.
Most of our birding on this tour is carried out on flat or gently undulating roads, tracks, and trails, some of these are interspersed with short and steep inclines and declines, but nothing likely to be too problematic for most people in the main, and we will be going at a slow, birding pace. When we are birding in the mountains of central Flores, we will spend most of our time birding along roads. We will likely need to come “off-piste” in our search for some of the more secretive species unlikely to be seen right from the roads and this could include short sharp inclines and declines and sometimes boggy/slippery “trails”. Most of the lowland areas are likely to be very dry and rocky, sometimes we will need to walk through dry, rocky streambeds so care should be taken. Walking sticks or hiking poles are useful by providing additional stability to aid balance and are compulsory for anyone who is not steady on their feet. Most of the walks will be short and close to vehicles, a few walks will be longer but nothing likely to cause anyone any problems if proper hydration is maintained, due to the heat.
TRANSPORTATION AND SEAT ROTATION
We use several types of transport on the tour as we move around the region by land, sea, and air.
On land we will use a range of minibuses of varying sizes, sometimes 4×4 vehicles, such as a Toyota Hilux or similar, and sometimes a group of saloon cars, such as a Toyota Avanza or similar. During our time in vehicles, we will have a seat rotation policy in place, so that everyone on the tour has the same opportunities with seating positions. All participants will be expected to abide by the seat rotation policy. People suffering from motion sickness will not be excused from this policy, so please make sure you have any medication you might need. We will be driving along windy and rough roads in places. We require that you are fit and flexible and can maneuver yourself into and around the vehicles.
We will take multiple domestic flights on this tour (see “Domestic Flights” below, for specifics).
We will potentially use a fast-ferry to move between Timor and Rote (or vice versa) depending on flight schedules, which are subject to changes beyond our control. We will have airplane-style seats and be in an air-conditioned section of the boat and the trip would take up to two hours. We will spend one night on a live-aboard boat for our trip to the Komodo Islands, we will have air-conditioned cabins (see “Boat to Komodo Island” section below).
This bird tour starts and ends in Denpasar, Bali, however there are multiple domestic flights required. Please refer to the tour map tab for a visualization of the tour route. The flights are anticipated to be as follows: Bali-Sumba, Sumba-Timor-Rote, Rote-Timor, Timor-Alor, Alor-Timor, Timor-Flores, and Flores-Bali assuming the flight schedule works for our needs. We may need to substitute in a fast-ferry boat trip between Rote and Timor and we will monitor flight schedules as they can change without warning.
Note that the costs for the domestic flights are included in the tour costs, but the cost for hold luggage is not included in the ticket costs. We estimate this to be in the region of between US$150 – US$200 per person and will need to be paid for at the airport in Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) cash. We will update you two months before the tour as to current estimated prices in case of any unexpected changes. You will need at least between Rp1,500,000 – 2,000,000 per person for hold baggage costs. See “Money” section below.
Most providers have a weight limit of 44 pounds (20 kilograms) and a hand luggage weight limit of 15 pounds (7 kilograms). Any overweight baggage will invite additional costs by the airline used and will be the responsibility of the individual to pay (in cash) while at the airport. Making excess baggage payments at the various airports is likely to take extra time and cause delays to the group, so adhering to the baggage allowance is best for everyone.
BOAT TO KOMODO ISLAND
We will have an overnight trip on a boat to Komodo Island, likely one of the boats here, the exact boat we use will be determined by our final group size and availability. If you would like additional information on the boat closer to the time of the tour, please let us know.
Please note the expected maximum weight allowances for the domestic flights and please therefore pack as lightly as possible. A medium, soft-sided, strong duffle bag (not the hard sided cases) is likely to work best for packing in the tour vehicles (noting that this will likely include minibuses, 4×4 vehicles, ferries, live-aboard boats, speedboats, and planes). We recommend a daypack is used to keep items that you wish to use daily when in the vehicle, in the field, and for hand luggage when flying, this should be of the standard size that fits into overhead luggage compartments in planes.
Your safety is our paramount importance on this tour, that’s why we try and provide you with as much thorough general and tour-specific information as possible.
Care should be taken when in cities, airports, and ports where petty theft (e.g. pickpockets etc.) could occur.
Trips and falls when on trails, tracks/roads, rocky, dry riverbeds, and while getting into or out of the vehicles or boats are all possibilities on this tour and care should be taken, especially when conditions are rocky, boggy, or slippery. A walking stick of hiking pole is compulsory if you are at all unsure on your feet. Note we will, at times, venture off marked trails/roads in pursuit of certain target birds and these may include steep inclines or declines.
Natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, and flooding are frequent across Indonesia. We will keep abreast of the situation ahead of, and during the tour. Be aware that a volcanic eruption far away from the tour location can cause flight delays, for example should a volcano erupt in or near the Indonesian international airports in Bali or Java.
Insect repellent with a high DEET concentration can be useful for keeping Mosquitoes away. The islands we will be visiting have a low Malaria risk, but prevention of bites is recommended, and please consult your doctor or travel health specialist for current information. We would recommend using an insect spray with a high DEET level as it can also keep chiggers and leeches away. Chiggers, possible at a couple of locations, can lead to Scrub (Bush) Typhus and can be seriously irritant as well as lead to medical issues. Leeches, possible in wet areas, like the mountains of Flores, do not spread diseases, but they are annoying and can cause blood loss. Rubber boots can help with reducing issues with chiggers and leeches.
Please follow any safety information from our boat crew on our Komodo Island trip. Care should be taken when swimming and snorkeling. The underwater life is interesting, but it does come with some dangers. We recommend you familiarize yourselves with seriously dangerous creatures such the (Sea Wasp) Australian Box Jellyfish and “Blue-ringed Octopus”.
While on Komodo Island we will be in the realm of the massive Komodo Dragon which is the world’s largest and heaviest lizard, weighing in at a staggering 200 pounds (90 kilograms) and measuring up to a whopping ten feet/three meters! Some have even been recorded with a weight of 330 pounds (150 kilograms)! Komodo Dragons should be treated with total respect, they have venom glands loaded with toxins that lower blood pressure, cause massive bleeding, prevent clotting, and induce shock. They bite down with serrated teeth and pull back with powerful neck muscles, resulting in huge gaping wounds. The venom then quickens the loss of blood and sends the prey into shock. Dragons can calmly follow an escapee for miles as the venom takes effect, using their keen sense of smell to locate the corpse. Read more from National Geographic on these amazing living dinosaurs, here. Our time on Komodo Island will be carefully managed by national park staff and the safety of visitors is one of their main concerns.
We can expect the weather on the tour to mainly be hot and dry, while when we are birding in forests it may feel more humid. Most of the birding is carried out in the lowlands of Sumba, Rote, Alor, and Komodo where we can expect daytime temperatures of around 85–91 °F (30–33 °C) and nighttime temperatures of around 69–72 °F (20–22 °C). When in the lowlands of Flores and Timor the same can be expected, however on both of these islands we will also spend some time birding at higher elevations, e.g. up to 6,000 feet (1,800 meters) on Timor up to 8,200 feet (2,500 meters) on Flores. Here we can expect lower temperatures, though apart from very early morning it isn’t really that much colder, and our accommodation will be located lower than the birding areas so not quite as cold as the birding sites. While birding at these higher elevations, we can expect temperatures of around 70–75 °F (21–23 °C) during the day and temperatures of around 50–60 °F (10–16 °C) at night. We can sometimes experience winds that might make temperatures feel hotter than they actually are (the opposite to a wind chill!). Rain showers are unlikely, though always possible, particularly when we are in the mountains on Flores.
The sun gets very hot, very quickly in the morning and it is imperative that hydration levels are maintained, and sunscreen applied from early in the day.
We will stay in a range of accommodation during the tour and the majority of this is comfortable, though one night in Sumba will be in very basic accommodation (this is a necessity to bird the area we want to explore for the best chance of the endemic forest birds of the island). All accommodation will have air conditioning and/or a ceiling or standing fan (with the exception of the one night in remote Sumba). Most accommodation will have Wi-Fi and the majority (with the exception of all on Sumba) will be in areas with phone signal. Some Wi-Fi might be restricted to public areas, such as restaurants. All rooms will have ensuite facilities with western toilet facilities. Some bathrooms (e.g. in Rote) may be of the “wet-room” style commonly found throughout Asia. We will be spending one night on a live-aboard boat as we travel to Komodo Island (see the “Boat to Komodo Island” section above for specific information on that).
We are visiting multiple islands on this tour, some of the accommodation is very close to birding sites and others are a little further away (due to the remote nature of where we are going). On some days we will have to drive one hour from our accommodation to where we want to be birding, and on some days (like while birding on Rote) we might have to drive over two hours from our accommodation – which is the closest option currently based on exploration of the area in October 2021).
There is phone signal across much of the tour route though there are some areas where there is no, or very limited signal. The phone signal in Sumba is very poor, even in the towns, where we stay overnight, and where we go birding. Most of the other islands have better connections. The easiest option will be to use your phone on an international roaming package. It will be possible to purchase and use a local SIM, but because we will be visiting multiple islands it will entail quite a lot of faff and is not really recommended, unless totally essential, though we can help guide you if you want to go down this route. It will definitely be easier to rely on Wi-Fi in the various accommodations we stay at. Most airports we visit will have free Wi-Fi.
FOOD AND MEALS
The food during the tour will be of local Indonesian style. In some of the areas we visit (such as when we are in the larger cities and tourist areas) we will be able to get western style food, but this is only on a couple of days, the majority of food will be local. Bringing cereal bars (or energy/protein bars) might be useful for during early mornings or during a long drive, when a snack is required. Some of the places we visit on this tour are remote with limited, or no, convenience stores. It is actually recommended that if you have particular preferences of snacks, you bring them with you from home as we will have limited opportunities for picking up recognizable snacks on the tour, though in some areas we will be able to make use of great bakeries.
Due to the nature of the birding on this tour (outlined in the “Daily Activities, Physical Requirements, and Tour Pace” section above), meals will be at a range of times, sometimes early or late breakfasts and early or late evening meals and will be dictated by the birding or traveling occurring in the day/night. We may get a sit-down breakfast on some occasions and at other times these may be boxed and rather basic (again, we will be going to remote areas and fancy food is not really a feature of most of this tour). On some occasions we will have lunch back at our accommodation or a nearby local warung (local restaurant), though we might also have a picnic-style boxed lunch. Many of the meals will involve an assortment of meat (mainly chicken and fish, occasionally beef and seafood) and vegetable dishes. There will be a hearty supply of rice and noodles with most lunches and evening dinners. A selection of food will usually be placed in the center of the table and shared by the group. Us knowing your dietary preferences ahead of the tour is essential, so please fill us in on anything we should know.
If you must eat food at certain times, for medical reasons for example, please bring a supply of snacks to do so because we cannot guarantee set mealtimes on this birding-focused tour.
Important Note: You will need at least between Rp1,500,000 – 2,000,000 per person for hold baggage costs that are not included within the tour costs.
It is recommended that you either bring a supply of Indonesian rupiah with you from home or withdraw some cash from the international airport that you arrive at (such as Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport, where the tour starts from). There should be opportunities to withdraw cash, if needed when in Bali (at the airport), Kupang (Timor), Ruteng (Flores), and Labuan Bajo (Flores). It is unlikely that there will be opportunities to withdraw cash while on Rote, Alor, or while in more remote areas of Timor and Flores. There are no facilities on Komodo Island.
It is not uncommon to have difficulties trying to use ATMs in some of the more remote areas and small towns. Not all banks/ATMs accept all foreign cards, most are usually limited to a withdrawal maximum of Rp2,000,000 in one go. Most international bank cards will incur a fee for taking cash from the ATMs.
Most extra purchases/personal expenses are likely to require payment by cash, with the exception of hotels in major cities where cards should be fine to be accepted. Note it is not uncommon for card payment machines, even in major towns and cities, to not work due to problems with the phone line, the internet connection, or other issues.
WHAT TO BRING: CLOTHING AND OTHER ITEMS
The following is a list of useful items to bring on this birding tour around the Lesser Sunda Islands and should be read in conjunction with the general information document for Indonesia.
- A field guide to the region. The following book is best for this tour: Birds of the Indonesian Archipelago: Greater Sundas and Wallacea – James A Eaton et al. (2021), Lynx Edicions. 2nd Edition. The Flexibound version of the 2nd edition of this book is best, rather than the hardback or outdated 1st edition versions that are also available.
- A walking stick or a hiking pole to help on the slippery or rocky tracks and trails. A walking stick is compulsory for anyone who is unsteady walking, as we feel this is a safety issue; we do not want anyone falling over. Uncertain if you need one? Please consult with us.
- Flashlight (torch) and/or a headlamp, and spare batteries/chargers – essential kit for this tour as we will be having multiple owling sessions with endemic owls being found on all main islands we visit. We will have spotlights for observing the birds, but you will need something small so that you can see where you are putting your hands and feet as we walk around, sometimes on roads and trails, sometimes while bushwhacking.
- High concentration DEET insect repellant.
- Leech socks – useful, particularly if it is wet (rubber boots might work) and when owling at night, e.g. on Flores when it’s not as easy to see what’s going on.
- A small personal first aid kit. See the suggested items from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), here. There are pharmacies in all cities we will pass through, but we will only have limited time and access to these.
- Walking/hiking boots are probably best for this tour as they provide good ankle support. Rubber boots can be useful but likely only when birding in the mountains of Flores, so probably not worth bringing for the whole tour, though they can help with keeping leeches or chiggers at bay (but leech socks should be sufficient here).
- Clothes made with a quick-drying fabric are the best for this tour (see the “Weather/Climate” section for further information on likely temperatures during the tour). You are likely to get sweaty and so rinsing out clothes might be needed. Laundry facilities will be very limited on this tour. A fleece can be useful/necessary when birding at the higher elevation sites such as on Flores, and less so on Timor (mainly in the early morning period).
- Rain jacket (and small umbrella) for the time in the mountains when rain could be possible. A dry bag to keep important documents in.
- Swimwear, mask, and snorkel for optional swimming during our Komodo Island boat trip. Note the boat we use has snorkeling equipment to hire (hire costs to be paid in Indonesian rupiah, cash).
- Power bank – useful for keeping cell phones charged up, or if there are any unexpected power cuts while in remote areas.