Birding Tour Indonesia: Sulawesi and Halmahera – Spectacular Endemic Birding
Dates and Costs
14 – 31 July 2022
Space available: 3
Price (includes all domestic flights): IDR97,613,688 / $7,050 / £5,582 / €6,569 per person sharing, assuming 4-8 participants.
Single Supplement: IDR8,528,617 / $616 / £487 / €574
* 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.
14 – 31 July 2023
Price (includes all domestic flights): IDR105,422,783 / $7,614 / £6,028 / €7,094 per person sharing, assuming 4-8 participants.
Single Supplement: IDR9,210,906 / $666 / £527 / €620
(Please also read our blogs about recommended field guides for the seven continents here)
Duration: 18 days
Group Size: 4 – 8
Tour Start: Makassar
Tour End: Makassar
All domestic flights (Makassar – Manado, Manado – Ternate, Ternate – Makassar, Makassar – Palu, Palu – Luwuk, Luwuk – Makassar)
Meals (from dinner on day 1 until breakfast on day 18)
Drinking water – please bring a refillable water bottle
Expert tour leader
Local bird and wildlife guide/trackers fees
Birdwatching site entrance fees and travel permits
Mangrove boat tour in Tangkoko area
Speedboat return travel between Ternate and Sofifi
All ground transport and tolls/taxes while on tour, including airport pick-up and drop-off
Flights to/from Sultan Hasanuddin International Airport, Makassar, Indonesia
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. porter fees, gifts, laundry, internet access, phone calls, snorkeling/diving trips, snorkeling/diving equipment hire, excess luggage charges for internal flights (baggage limited to 20 kg per person), 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
Sulawesi and Halmahera – Spectacular Endemic Birding
This small-group birding tour of Indonesia visits the two endemic-filled islands of Sulawesi and Halmahera. These two islands straddle the equator and sit between the islands of Borneo to the west and New Guinea to the east. They also offer some of the best birding on the planet.
Maleo, the only member of the monotypic genus Macrocephalon in the Megapode family, is endemic to the island of Sulawesi. We will be looking for it on this tour.
Sulawesi, accessed through its capital city Makassar, in the southwest of this interestingly-shaped island (also a convenient international arrivals entry point into Indonesia and the start/end point of our tour) is the westernmost of the two islands and is part of the Greater Sundas (along with Borneo, Sumatra, and Java). The other island, Halmahera, is more Australasian in nature and is part of the North Maluku Islands (also known as the Moluccas). We enter Halmahera through the town of Sofifi, reached by boat from the small island of Ternate, to the west of Halmahera (the closest airport to Sofifi).
We will hope for more great views of Knobbed Hornbill.
This tour provides some incredible birding opportunities with a dose of adventure too, likely to leave you with a firm desire to explore further throughout this bird-filled Indonesian archipelago. Both islands are to the east of the famous Wallace Line, an invisible faunal boundary line which divides the biogeographical realms of Asia and Wallacea (a transitional zone between Asia and Australia) and named after the British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace.
The avifauna of Sulawesi and Halmahera is distinctly Wallacean, headlined by the bizarre mound-nesting megapode Maleo on Sulawesi and the Standardwing (also known as Wallace’s Standardwing or Standardwing Bird-of-paradise), whose raucous calls echo through the forest on Halmahera, as they bounce around their display leks – a magical sight.
We will visit a lek of the rather unique (Wallace’s) Standardwing, a range-restricted bird-of-paradise and one of many spectacular birds we will look for on Halmahera.
The birding on these islands is excellent, with a variety of stunningly colored endemic kingfishers which illuminate the forest in the Sulawesi lowlands (such as Lilac Kingfisher, Green-backed Kingfisher, and Sulawesi Dwarf Kingfisher), the Hylocitrea (a highly sought-after monotypic family), the enigmatic Geomalia (an aberrant ground thrush), and the Satanic Nightjar in the mountains. Further to the aforementioned Standardwing, the island of Halmahera also supports the large Ivory-breasted Pitta, several spectacular kingfishers such as Common Paradise Kingfisher, Blue-and-white Kingfisher, and Sombre Kingfisher, the unobtrusive Scarlet-breasted Fruit Dove, the bizarre Moluccan Owlet-nightjar (just one of a multitude of great nightbirds possible on the tour) and a variety of other regional endemics and distinct subspecies. It is highly likely that a number of birds we see on this tour will be further split into new species.
The above is just a few of the potential highlight birds we will be looking for. Some of the many other targets include Gurney’s Eagle, Sulawesi Nightjar, Purple-bearded Bee-eater, Sulawesi Pitta, North Moluccan Pitta, Invisible Rail, Blue-faced Rail, Grey-headed Fruit Dove, White-necked Myna, Red-backed Thrush, Ashy Woodpecker, Knobbed Hornbill, Sulawesi Hornbill, Blyth’s Hornbill, Yellow-billed Malkoha, Ochre-bellied Boobook, Halmahera Boobook, Scaly-breasted Kingfisher, Beach Kingfisher, Great-billed Kingfisher, Azure Dollarbird, Sulawesi Blue Flycatcher, Great Shortwing, Sulawesi Streaked Flycatcher, Malia, Rufous-bellied Triller, Piping Crow, Black-ringed White-eye, Lompobattang Flycatcher, (Halmahera) Paradise-crow (a member of the bird-of-paradise family), and Goliath Coucal. There are also plenty of brightly colored parrots (especially on Halmahera, which has a more Australasian feel than Sulawesi) such as White Cockatoo, Eclectus Parrot, Great-billed Parrot, Violet-necked Lory, Chattering Lory, Moluccan King Parrot, and Moluccan Hanging Parrot. A highly rewarding and thoroughly exciting tour is guaranteed here!
A large Green-backed Kingfisher waits patiently for its prey (usually a lizard) low in the forest understorey in northern Sulawesi, where it is an endemic.
This tour can be combined with our West Papua: Birds-of-paradise and Endemics of the Arfaks and Waigeo tour which follows on after this tour and connects with a wide-range of highly sought-after birds-of-paradise such as Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise, King Bird-of-paradise, Arfak Astrapia, Black Sicklebill, Western Parotia (and many more), as well as a spectacular list of kingfishers such as Red-breasted Paradise Kingfisher, Yellow-billed Kingfisher, and Hook-billed Kingfisher, plus fruit doves, parrots, and jewel-babblers to delight.
Following that tour, we also have our Papua New Guinea: Birding Attenborough’s Paradise tour which seeks out over 20 bird-of-paradise species, such as Blue Bird-of-paradise, Ribbon-tailed Astrapia, King of Saxony Bird-of-paradise, and Princess Stephanie’s Astrapia as well as numerous sought-after species, many of them endemic, including several monotypic families and endemic families. There are so many staggeringly beautiful birds in this region so why not come exploring with us, we would love to show you around!
Itinerary (18 days/17 nights)
Day 1. Arrival in Makassar
A non-birding day. You will be met at Sultan Hasanuddin International Airport, Makassar, after your arrival in Sulawesi 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.
Day 2. Makassar to Malino
After breakfast we will leave the city and drive east towards the town of Malino where we will spend the night. Malino is situated on the edge of the Bantimurun-Burusaraung National Park which unites a number of protected areas together. Much of the park is hilly with seriously impressive karst limestone landscape – you can see this as you fly into the airport in Makassar.
As we leave the city, we will look for some of the interesting species found in Makassar, such as Pale-bellied Myna, Barred Buttonquail, Woolly-necked Stork, Pale-headed Munia, Chestnut Munia, Scaly-breasted Munia, Clamorous Reed Warbler, Golden-headed Cisticola, Lemon-bellied White-eye, Common Kingfisher, and Javan Pond Heron, amongst other more widespread and common open-country and farmland birds.
In the afternoon we will commence our first forest birding session where we will hope to find range-restricted endemics such as Lompobattang Flycatcher, Black-ringed White-eye, Red-eared Fruit Dove, Sulawesi Thrush, and Hylocitrea. Hylocitrea is a major tour target as it is a Sulawesi-endemic, monotypic family; there are two subspecies and both are possible on the tour, we have a chance of the other subspecies in the Lore Lindu area. At night we will look for Sulawesi Scops Owl, Speckled Boobook, and Sulawesi Masked Owl.
Day 3. Malino to Rammang-Rammang (via Makassar)
We will spend the morning in the same highland forest area as the previous afternoon and will look for Lompobattang Flycatcher, Black-ringed White-eye, Red-eared Fruit Dove, and Hylocitrea, once again, along with other species such as Piping Crow, Bay Coucal, Sulawesi Blue Flycatcher, Sulawesi Myzomela, Sulawesi Fantail, Sulawesi Leaf Warbler, Malia – a large (c12 inches/30 centimeters), bizarre and slightly enigmatic endemic bird, that is now considered to be part of the Locustellidae (Grassbirds and Allies) family, Sulawesi Swiftlet, Sulawesi Serpent Eagle, Sulawesi Thrush, Sulawesi Drongo, Black-crowned White-eye, Warbling (Mountain) White-eye, Sulphur-vented Whistler, Spot-tailed Sparrowhawk, Golden-mantled Racket-tail, Turquoise Flycatcher, Citrine Canary-flycatcher, Snowy-browed Flycatcher, Crimson-crowned Flowerpecker, Sulawesi Bush Warbler, White-necked Myna, Fiery-browed Starling, and Dark-eared Myza.
White-necked Myna is a stunning yet widespread species on Sulawesi.
After our morning birding session, we will head back into Makassar then head northeast to the Rammang-Rammang area, another part of the huge Bantimurun-Burusaraung National Park, likely passing through Karenta Forest along the way. Here we will look for Green-backed Kingfisher (this area holds a distinct local subspecies and much-touted split as ‘Black-headed Kingfisher’), Sulawesi Streaked Flycatcher (a species described as recently as 2014), Yellow-billed Malkoha, Sulawesi Pitta, Black-ringed White-eye, Yellow-sided Flowerpecker, Grey-sided Flowerpecker, Black Sunbird, Black-billed Koel, Knobbed Hornbill, Sulawesi Hornbill, Ashy Woodpecker, Piping Crow, Sulawesi Babbler, Sulawesi Goshawk, and more.
In the evening we will have another owling session in the area around our ecolodge where we will hope to find Sulawesi Masked Owl, Sulawesi Scops Owl, Speckled Boobook, and Great Eared Nightjar.
There are not many woodpeckers to the east of the Wallace Line, Ashy Woodpecker is the largest of them, at 12 inches (30 centimeters) and is endemic to Sulawesi.
Day 4. Rammang-Rammang to Makassar, then fly to Manado and on to Tangkoko
We will check out of our lodge and then make our way back to Makassar but go via the Karenta Forest area for our final birding in the Bantimurun-Burusaraung National Park area where we will have another look for Green-backed (Black-headed) Kingfisher, Sulawesi Streaked Flycatcher, Sulawesi Pitta, Piping Crow, and Sulawesi Hornbill, along with the other species listed for the afternoon of day 3.
We will likely grab lunch in one of the many outlets in Makassar airport before we take our short flight north to the town of Manado. On getting through the airport in Manado, we will continue in a northeasterly direction to the village of Batuputih Bawah, close to Tangkoko Batuangus Nature Reserve. We will likely start birding in the local area late in the afternoon after first getting checked in to our accommodation, where we might find Black Sunbird, Brown-throated Sunbird, Olive-backed Sunbird, and Pale-blue Monarch in the garden. We will have two full days (days 5 and 6, as well as the morning of day 7 birding the excellent Tangkoko environs and our time here is sure to be a tour highlight).
Overnight: Tangkoko Area, Batuputih Bawah
Days 5 – 6. Tangkoko area (including Tangkoko Batuangus Nature Reserve, mangrove boat trip, and Temboan Hill areas)
Tangkoko Batuangus Nature Reserve is practically as far north as you can go in Sulawesi, not far from the tip of the Minahassa Peninsula – the long arm that bends out from Palu in central Sulawesi (where we will find ourselves later in the tour!). The geography of this island and adjacent Halmahera is fascinating, and the birds even more so! We are sure to really enjoy ourselves over our two full days here as we bird on foot and by boat as we look for four gorgeous endemic kingfishers: Sulawesi Dwarf Kingfisher, Lilac Kingfisher, Green-backed Kingfisher (the “Green-backed” subspecies rather than the “Black-headed” subspecies referenced in days 3 and 4), and Great-billed Kingfisher, along with beauties such as the ginormous Knobbed Hornbill and smaller Sulawesi Hornbill, gaudy Sulawesi Pitta, plus so many others like Sulawesi Hawk-Eagle, Sulawesi Serpent Eagle, Sulawesi Goshawk, Spot-tailed Goshawk, Red-backed Thrush, Philippine Megapode, Sulawesi Myna, White-necked Myna, Grosbeak Starling, White-rumped Triller, Pied Cuckooshrike, Sulawesi Cicadabird, Grey-rumped Treeswift, Yellow-billed Malkoha, Purple-winged Roller, Bay Coucal, Ashy Woodpecker, Black-naped Oriole, Hair-crested (White-eyed Spangled) Drongo, Isabelline Bush-hen, Barred Rail, Buff-banded Rail, and maybe even the mythical Blue-faced Rail, with some luck.
On this tour you will see many stunningly beautiful birds, Knobbed Hornbill does take that up a notch, this huge bird is gorgeous.
Parrots, pigeons, and doves are common here and we could see Yellow-breasted Racket-tail, Golden-mantled Racket-tail, Blue-backed Parrot, Ornate Lorikeet, Great Hanging Parrot, Pygmy Hanging Parrot, Silver-tipped Imperial Pigeon, Green Imperial Pigeon, White-faced Cuckoo-Dove, Black-naped Fruit Dove, Oberholser’s Fruit Dove, Superb Fruit Dove, Grey-cheeked Green Pigeon, Pink-necked Green Pigeon, Sultan’s Cuckoo-Dove, Stephan’s Emerald Dove, Spotted Dove, and Zebra Dove!
The park is also great for three really cool mammals, the tiny Spectral Tarsier (the smallest monkey in the world), (Sulawesi) Celebes (Black-) Crested Macaque, and (Sulawesi) Bear Cuscus – a marsupial! We are, after all, in that fascinating Wallacean mix-zone between Asia and Australasia.
The Celebes Crested Macaque is a rather interesting mammal, very reminiscent of some of the African primates.
Nightbirds are usually plentiful here and Ochre-breasted Boobook, Speckled Boobook, Minahassa Masked Owl, Sulawesi Scops Owl, Great Eared Nightjar, and Sulawesi Nightjar are all possible, and we will hope to find some of these on day roosts while we are out birding in the forest too.
Our mangrove boat trip will likely yield a different range of species, this is the best area for the aforementioned Great-billed Kingfisher. We will also be on the lookout for Great-billed Heron, Pacific Reef Heron, Striated Heron, Brahminy Kite, White-bellied Sea Eagle, White-rumped Cuckooshrike, Common Kingfisher, Collared Kingfisher, Sacred Kingfisher, Pied Imperial Pigeon, Channel-billed Cuckoo, Lesser Frigatebird, Slender-billed Crow, and Golden-bellied Gerygone. There may be some early shorebird migrants about too such as Eurasian Whimbrel, Grey-tailed Tattler, or Common Sandpiper.
Overnight (two nights): Tangkoko Area, Batuputih Bawah
Endemic to Sulawesi, we will hope to find Ochre-breasted Boobooks on their day roost, it is worth it just to see their incredibly intense bright yellow piercing eyes!
Day 7. Tangkoko to Tomohon (Gunung Mahawu)
After a final morning birding the wonderful Tangkoko area, we will travel to the town of Tomohon, located to the south of Manado. We will have a late afternoon birding session on nearby Gunung Mahawu where we will look for the endemic Scaly-breasted Kingfisher. We will also be back here the following morning.
Day 8. Tomohon (Gunung Mahawu) to Ternate, then on to Halmahera
We will be back on the mountain at dawn hoping for some great birds. We will likely be greeted by a dawn chorus of booming White-bellied Imperial Pigeons, plus some of the following species: Rusty-breasted Cuckoo, Bay Coucal, White-faced Cuckoo-Dove, Sultan’s Cuckoo-Dove, Red-eared Fruit Dove, and Superb Fruit Dove. We will search for Scaly-breasted Kingfisher and while looking for that we might also find Purple-bearded Bee-eater, Sulawesi Pitta, Spot-tailed Sparrowhawk, Red-backed Thrush, Sulawesi Blue Flycatcher, Citrine Canary-flycatcher, Rufous-throated Flycatcher, Snowy-browed Flycatcher, Turquoise Flycatcher, Pale-blue Monarch, Sulawesi Bush Warbler, Sulawesi Pygmy Woodpecker, Sulawesi Myzomela, Sulphur-vented Whistler, Sulawesi Babbler, Streak-headed White-eye, Warbling (Mountain) White-eye, Black-crowned White-eye, Crimson Sunbird, Yellow-sided Flowerpecker, Crimson-crowned Flowerpecker, and Grey-sided Flowerpecker.
Formerly called Mountain White-eye, following a recent taxonomical reworking of some Zosterops species these birds have now been merged into Warbling White-eye, regardless of their English names they are delightful little birds.
After our morning birding session, we will drive back to Manado where we will board a flight to Ternate in the North Moluccus. Ternate is a spectacular volcano and the flight into the island is well worth having a window seat for! Once through the small airport we will take a short car ride to the harbor where we will board our private speed boat taking us to the town of Sofifi on Halmahera. Once on land we will get into our 4×4 vehicles and start the drive to our base for the next four nights. The drive takes about four hours; we head south out of Sofifi passing through some agricultural land (lots of coconut plantations) and then we will turn east as we go over an impressive mountain range (where we will see some gorgeous rainforest – and potentially stop if we see something very interesting), after reaching the opposite coast we will then head north again, finally reaching our idyllic beachside resort. It will be a long day but well worth it. This area of Halmahera has been chosen as our base as it offers excellent accommodation, great food, fantastic snorkeling during the down time, and most importantly it offers unparalleled birding on the island with all of the island endemics possible in the forest close to the lodge.
Overnight: Weda Bay
Days 9 – 11. Halmahera Birding
We will have three full days to focus our attention on a range of Halmahera island endemics as well as many North Moluccan regional endemics. Our first morning will see us make an early start to get into the forest before it is properly light, the reason for this is to get in place to wait for the amazing display of (Wallace’s) Standardwing. This bird-of-paradise does not look like much in the field guides but let us assure you when you see it in real life, it is a stunner!
There is also a second member of the bird-of-paradise family present on the island, the (Halmahera) Paradise-crow. As its name suggests this is a very crow-like bird-of-paradise that has a beautiful duet and makes a wide-range of interesting sounds, alas, it’s not the best-looking bird-of-paradise but it is nonetheless a very interesting bird and we will hope for some good views of this one too.
Another big (literally) target is the Ivory-breasted Pitta. This is definitely one of the best-looking pittas in the world and is actually, on average, the largest. We will hope for some good views of this one, as well as the smaller and also beautiful, but possibly more secretive North Moluccan Pitta. We will also keep our eyes peeled on the ground for Dusky Megapode, Nicobar Pigeon, and if we are incredibly lucky maybe even the Invisible Rail (the clue is in the name!).
We will hope for a repeat of the excellent views of Ivory-breasted Pitta here.
The area is full of fruit doves and pigeons and we will look for Blue-capped Fruit Dove, Grey-headed Fruit Dove, Superb Fruit Dove, Scarlet-breasted Fruit Dove, Great Cuckoo-Dove, Sultan’s Cuckoo-Dove, Spectacled Imperial Pigeon, Cinnamon-bellied Imperial Pigeon, and Pied Imperial Pigeon. Parrots are abundant here too and over the course of our stay we will hope to get perched views of many, such as White Cockatoo, Moluccan King Parrot, Great-billed Parrot, Eclectus Parrot, Violet-necked Lory, Chattering Lory, Red-flanked Lorikeet, Moluccan Hanging Parrot, and more!
Kingfishers, too, are very well represented in Halmahera and we will hope to find Moluccan Dwarf Kingfisher, Sombre Kingfisher, Common Paradise Kingfisher, Azure Kingfisher, Sacred Kingfisher, Blue-and-white Kingfisher, and Beach Kingfisher – the latter two are possible around our accommodation, watch out for the Beach Kingfisher as you take a swim right outside your room! A common sound here is the huge, heavy wingbeats of Blyth’s Hornbill and we should get repeated good views of this impressive species. Other large birds often in the area can include Azure Dollarbird, Goliath Coucal and Gurney’s Eagle.
There are so many other interesting birds here, and we will build our list of specials, likely finding Rufous-bellied Triller, Halmahera Flowerpecker, Dusky-brown (Halmahera) Oriole, White-streaked Friarbird, Dusky Friarbird, Black-chinned Whistler, Drab Whistler, White-naped Monarch, Moluccan Monarch, Moluccan Flycatcher, Moluccan Goshawk, Rufous-necked Sparrowhawk, Variable Goshawk, Moluccan Cuckooshrike, Halmahera Cuckooshrike, Moluccan Cuckoo, Rufous Fantail, Island Leaf Warbler, Cream-throated (Halmahera) White-eye, Northern (Halmahera) Golden Bulbul, and Long-billed Crow.
Beach Kingfishers are often right outside our rooms so we will hope for some good views.
Nightbirds we will search for during our stay include the uncommon Halmahera Boobook, Barking Owl, Moluccan Scops Owl, Large-tailed Nightjar, and Moluccan Owlet-nightjar. We will hope to see some of these on day roosts, otherwise in early-evening owling sessions.
Overnight (three nights): Weda Bay
Day 12. Halmahera to Ternate then fly to Makassar
Reluctantly we will leave our lovely beachside resort as we prepare to leave the beautiful and remote island of Halmahera and start our journey back to Sulawesi. Essentially a travel day, we journey by 4×4, speedboat, and plane back to Makassar where we hope to arrive in the afternoon.
Day 13. Makassar to Palu then on to Lore Lindu
We will take a morning flight from Makassar to Palu in central Sulawesi. On leaving the airport we will start our journey to Lore Lindu National Park, our next base for a few nights. Along the way we will likely stop for a few open-country birds such as Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Lemon-bellied White-eye, White-shouldered Triller, Red Collared Dove, Pale-headed Munia, Black-faced Munia, Chestnut Munia, and maybe even day-roosting Savanna Nightjar.
As we reach the Lore Lindu area we will make some roadside stops where we might find Red-eared Fruit Dove, Fiery-browed Starling, Sulawesi Thrush, Pygmy Cuckooshrike, Cerulean Cuckooshrike, Great Shortwing, and the bizarre Geomalia (now considered to be an aberrant ground thrush and not a babbler as previously thought).
Overnight: Lore Lindu Area
Days 14 – 15. Lore Lindu National Park area (Anaso Track and Lake Tambling area)
Lore Lindu National Park protects some of the largest tracts of montane rainforests remaining on Sulawesi. We will have two full days here as well as the morning of day 16. We will likely focus our birding attention on two areas while here, the famed Anaso Track (considered a tough hike) and Lake Tambling. There are a lot of new birds for us here with potential highlights including Hylocitrea (the monotypic family), Purple-bearded Bee-eater, Geomalia, Malia, Sulawesi Streaked Flycatcher, Sulawesi Woodcock, and Satanic Nightjar.
The unusual Geomalia is usually a shy and secretive bird but we will hope to get some views during our time in Lore Lindu National Park. (Photo Allin Sawuwu)
Plenty of other highlight species here will make our birding time really exciting with further possibilities including Snoring Rail, Great Shortwing, Purple Needletail, Sulawesi Pitta, Sulawesi Thrush, Red-backed Thrush, Rufous-throated Flycatcher, Blue-fronted Blue Flycatcher, Sulawesi Blue Flycatcher, Mountain Serin, Grey-headed Imperial Pigeon, Sombre Pigeon, Sulawesi Ground Dove, Red-eared Fruit Dove, Oberholser’s Fruit Dove, Scaly-breasted Kingfisher, Green-backed Kingfisher, Sulawesi Drongo, Piping Crow, Yellow-billed Malkoha, Sulawesi Hornbill, Knobbed Hornbill, Ivory-backed Woodswallow, Sulawesi Goshawk, Dwarf Sparrowhawk, Spot-tailed Sparrowhawk, Sulawesi Masked Owl, Minahassa Masked Owl, Eastern Grass Owl, Speckled Boobook, Cinnabar Boobook (the currently undescribed “White-spotted Boobook” form), Ashy Woodpecker, Sulawesi Pygmy Woodpecker, Golden-mantled Racket-tail, Citrine Lorikeet, Maroon-backed Whistler, Streak-headed White-eye, Sulawesi Leaf Warbler, White-eared Myza, and Crimson-crowned Flowerpecker.
Overnight (two nights): Lore Lindu Area
Sulawesi Masked Owl is one of several exciting nightbirds possible on the tour.
Day 16. Lore Lindu to Palu to Luwuk
We will have a final morning birding around the Lore Lindu National Park area before we drive back to Palu, where we will board our afternoon flight to Luwuk in the east of central Sulawesi. On clearing the airport, we will make the short journey to our comfortable hillside hotel where we will enjoy some excellent views of the bay as we relax before our evening meal.
Day 17. Taima
We will have a long day today as we look for one of the most charismatic birds of Sulawesi. We will make an early start from Luwuk in order to reach Taima on the tip of eastern central Sulawesi in the morning, where we will hope to watch a breeding colony of Maleo at fairly close quarters. The set up at this site is great, with jobs provided to local people who help monitor and protect the birds, this has massively reduced hunting pressure on this Endangered (BirdLife International) species. We will view the breeding area (a sandy beach that looks like it has had bombs dropped on it, due to all the nest holes dug by the birds!) from blinds and/or a tower hide depending on whether you like heights or not. We will view the area and the birds in small groups, so as not to disturb them.
While in the area we will look out for other species that may be found here, such as White-rumped Cuckooshrike, Sulawesi Babbler, Red-backed Buttonquail, Golden-bellied Gerygone, Black-naped Oriole, Philippine Megapode, Grey-cheeked Green Pigeon, Black-naped Fruit Dove, Green Imperial Pigeon, Isabelline Bush-hen, Collared Kingfisher, Purple-winged Roller, Great Hanging Parrot, White-breasted Woodswallow, Grosbeak Starling, Hair-crested (White-eyed Spangled) Drongo, Great-billed Heron, Sulawesi Serpent Eagle, Barred (Sulawesi) Honey Buzzard, and Sulawesi Hawk-Eagle.
After lunch we will drive back to Luwuk, likely stopping at some rice paddies or forest patches along the way in case there are any potential last-minute additions we can make to, what is sure to be, a pretty impressive bird list by this time. We will have a final group evening meal together. during which time we will try and pick a ‘bird of the trip’; not likely to be an easy decision!
Day 18. Luwuk to Makassar where tour concludes
Non-birding day. After a leisurely breakfast at our hotel we will fly back to Makassar where the tour will end in time for an afternoon departure out of Indonesia or your further travel (such as our West Papua: Birds-of-paradise and Endemics of the Arfaks and Waigeo 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. In addition, we sometimes have to use a different international guide from the one advertised due to tour scheduling.Download Itinerary
Indonesia, Sulawesi and Halmahera: Set Departure Trip Report
28 OCTOBER – 14 NOVEMBER 2018
Our birding tour of Sulawesi and Halmahera (with a brief stop on Ternate Island) allowed us to find a spectacular number of endemics of the region known as Wallacea. This region straddles the boundary between Asia and Australasia from a bird, and other wildlife, point of view. The famous biologist Sir Alfred Russel Wallace was the first to notice an amazingly abrupt change in bird and mammal life along what was later called “Wallace’s Line”, the border between Asia and Australasia. A satellite image or map of this part of the planet shows a “bridge” of islands (including some of the world’s largest islands, Borneo and New Guinea) between the Asian and Australian mainlands, so at first glance it’s strange that the birdlife so very abruptly becomes Australian rather than Asian immediately east of Borneo. However, very deep seas (not visible on a typical map) are what have caused the real separation of these two continents’ wildlife. This is because even during ice ages, when sea levels were lower, these two continents would have been separated by the deep seas, whereas islands that are separated right now would have adjoined each other during these ice ages, allowing birds and other wildlife (including large mammals such as rhinos and orangutans) to move freely.
Sulawesi is one of the largest Indonesian islands and lies just east of Wallace’s Line, thus containing a completely different birdlife compared to nearby Borneo. Borneo has stacks of Asian birds like an abundance of woodpeckers, trogons, babblers, and others. Sulawesi, on the other hand, only has two woodpecker species, no trogons, and only one babbler, and it also has a gerygone, which is very much an Australian-type bird. Halmahera is even further “into” Australasia and has no woodpeckers, an abundance of parrots, two birds-of-paradise, including the Standardwing that Attenborough made so famous in his series “Attenborough in Paradise”, and other denizens typical of the Australian faunal region.
Both Sulawesi and Halmahera have spectacular numbers of endemic bird species because they have been isolated from other Australasian (and more specifically other Wallacean) islands for so long. That is, of course, what makes this annual tour of Sulawesi and Halmahera so incredibly exciting – it inevitably means over 100 life-birds for anyone who hasn’t previously set foot on these islands (even for those who have traveled in other parts of Australasia a lot). Seemingly so close to Borneo and the rest of Asia, yet from a bird point of view just so amazingly far away, birders who have spent a lot of time in Asia also inevitably pick up exciting new families, represented by many species, when doing this trip. Politically this is part of Asia, but bird-wise it certainly isn’t.
For 2020 we’re planning to add further Indonesian tours to make our offering on this huge, spectacularly endemic-rich archipelago more comprehensive. We already offer Sulawesi and Halmahera as well as West Papua. But in 2020 we plan to add the South Moluccas, the Lesser Sundas combined with Bali (for Bali Myna and other desirables), Biak/Numfor, and Java/Sumatra. Borneo we already access from the Malaysian side (Sabah and Sarawak), which offers a great infrastructure and a lot of remaining forest compared to Kalimantan, the larger Indonesian part of Borneo.
Day 0, October 27, 2018. Arrival in Manado
This was the day before the tour was to start, and everyone except Janice (who would join us from November 5 until the end of the tour) arrived in Manado today.
Day 1, October 28, 2018. Manado to Tangkoko Nature Reserve
After a good breakfast at the Novotel in Manado we started the drive to Tangkoko Nature Reserve, a place absolutely teaming with Sulawesi island endemics in the extreme north-east corner of the finger-like Minahasa Peninsula – one of the four main arms of a really weirdly-shaped island. Just as we were about to pile into the car we saw a pair of Barred Rails on the lawn, right in the open, so we scoped them and Anne photographed them.
During the morning’s drive we made lots of birding stops, getting good views of a number of aerial species, namely Pacific Swallow, Grey-rumped Treeswift, Uniform Swiftlet, Asian Palm Swift, and lots of Glossy Swiftlets. Some Sultan’s Cuckoo-Doves and Zebra Doves showed pretty well. Sulawesi has some of the world’s strangest starlings and mynas – and we enjoyed getting some Sulawesi (Short-crested) Mynas into the scope view a couple of times. Small flocks of truly bizarre, rather attractive Grosbeak Starlings often landed in dead trees along the way, and at one point when we scoped one of several flocks. A Great (Sulawesi) Hanging Parrot was also present, although most of the time we only saw these little beauts whizzing by in flight. Black-crowned White-eyes, two beautiful, endemic Flowerpeckers (Yellow-sided and Grey-sided), and three Sunbird species (Olive-backed, Black, and Brown-throated) were common in flowering trees along the route. Pairs of oddly-shaped, vocal Slender-billed Crows were prevalent, as were Sooty-headed Bulbuls and, especially around human habitation, Eurasian Tree Sparrows. We saw the occasional Chestnut (Black-headed) Munia along the route as well. This is a great trip for raptors, and we found our first Brahminy Kite today, along with the spectacular Sulawesi Serpent Eagle. There’s an amazing diversity of accipiters (sparrowhawks and goshawks) on these islands, several of them localized endemics, but today we “warmed up” with a widespread one, Chinese Sparrowhawk. Along with more Barred Rails we also located a Buff-banded Rail at one point.
After checking in and having a nice lunch at our lodge less than a kilometer from Tangkoko Nature Reserve we saw a couple of Hair-crested Drongos (this subspecies is split into the attractive White-eyed Spangled Drongo by some). We then took a boat trip, first in the open sea and then into a mangrove-lined inlet, to find some target birds. Our first White-bellied Sea Eagle showed well. Among the fishing structures and boats and along the beach and on rocks along the shore we saw our first Lesser Frigatebirds, a close-up Grey-tailed Tattler, and good numbers of Common Sandpipers. We also enjoyed seeing Blue Rock Thrush on several rocks along the beach and were delighted to find a dead tree that contained a bunch of strikingly-marked Pied Imperial Pigeons.
As we negotiated the shallow channel into the mangroves we found a humongous Great-billed Heron, dwarfing a diminutive Striated Heron standing beside it. We then encountered a magnificent Great-billed (Black-billed) Kingfisher along with a couple of attractive Collared and brightly-colored Common Kingfishers. After quite a lot of trying we eventually found a pair of White-rumped Cuckooshrikes, and finally a nearby tree contained a few Pink-necked Green Pigeons.
In the evening before dinner we did some night birding and saw Sulawesi Scops Owl very well, with Minahassa Masked Owl being heard and glimpsed-only (but seen at close quarters at its day-time roost the next day – hooray!). We heard Sulawesi Nightjar.
Day 2, October 29, 2018. Full day birding Tangkoko Nature Reserve
Today we did our birding in the forest near the beach. What a spectacular day it was, absolutely full of Sulawesi-endemic birds along with some brilliant mammals such as Bear Cuscus and later a couple of primates, Spectral Tarsier along with the more conspicuous Celebes Crested Macaque.
Philippine Megapodes ran along the forest floor, always difficult to get great views of. An amazingly tame, immature Sulawesi Hawk-Eagle allowed a remarkably close approach. Sulawesi Goshawk and Spot-tailed Sparrowhawk both showed very well through the scope, along with another Chinese Sparrowhawk, during the course of today’s birding.
We found our first White-faced Cuckoo-Doves of the trip, one of them sitting in the sun and thus showing off its bright-red eye and the stunning metallic-green sheen on its mantle as we gawked at it through our scope; it’s so many times better-looking than the field guides show! Green Imperial Pigeon, Silver-tipped Imperial Pigeon, and Pied Imperial Pigeon all showed well today. We also enjoyed views of Yellow-billed (Sulawesi) Malkoha several times during the day; again, what a gorgeous-looking bird!
Owls were incredible today, and we found a Minahassa Masked Owl rather close up at its day-time roost (thanks to our excellent local guides, Samuel and Nurlin), along with three Ochre-bellied Boobooks roosting together in a palm. We got brief views of a Brown Hawk-Owl at dusk.
A scoped Purple-winged (Sulawesi) Roller showed off its turquoise crown and much more subtle, purple wings as we stared at it through the scope. This part of the world is also teeming with equally colorful kingfishers, many of them endemic. We enjoyed close views of three of these endemic kingfisher species, Green-backed Kingfisher, Lilac Kingfisher, and Sulawesi Dwarf Kingfisher, but we were equally delighted with the more widespread Ruddy Kingfisher. In addition we found our first Ashy Woodpeckers of the trip and saw our first Ornate Lorikeets and Blue-backed Parrots.
Black-naped Oriole and Pale-blue Monarch were yet more colorful birds we found. Several absolutely stunning Red-backed Thrushes were stumbled across, usually on the forest floor (which does not have much undergrowth here) or on fallen logs.
What a day, full of endemics, so many of them just so spectacular-looking!
Day 3, October 30, 2018. Temboan and roadside birding
We took a picnic breakfast to a lookout over the canopy near Temboan, and by the time we rewarded ourselves with coffee, eggs, and pancakes with honey we had already seen a large array of dazzling endemics that were new for the trip! This was easy birding, as we had benches to sit on, at least when not running to the scope to look at one new species after another. Some of the imperial pigeons we’d seen the previous day showed much better today. We also added some excellent new dove species such as Black-naped Fruit Dove and Grey-cheeked Green Pigeon. The doves were attracted to a large fruiting tree, and the birds ate breakfast before we did, as we were too busy getting excited about all the life-birds to even think about breakfast or even coffee. Several species preferred the bright-orange flowers on a different tree, and these included dazzling Ornate Lorikeets. Golden-mantled Racket-tails (another parrot species) kept flying over, some individuals showing well enough for us to make out their strange and attractive tail streamers.
Sulawesi Hornbills (small hornbills by Asian standards) and a couple of massive Knobbed Hornbills provided lots of excitement. The former was scoped and seen really well, whereas the latter was only seen on our forest walk later in the morning.
Japanese Sparrowhawk added yet another species to our burgeoning list of accipiters. There were also lots of other aerial birds around, a new one being White-breasted Woodswallow.
At one point we also saw two Lesser Coucals. A female Ashy Woodpecker suddenly also put in an appearance. A White-rumped (Sulawesi) Triller allowed prolonged scope views, so we could enjoy its striking pied plumage. There were stacks of Grosbeak Starlings, but we had to be patient before seeing spectacular White-necked Mynas. A Grey-streaked Flycatcher sat atop a dead tree and was seen well through the scope.
After enjoying breakfast and finding that things were quieting down, with new birds coming at us at a slower pace, we drove to a nearby site where we did a walk into the forest. Here we found pairs of Pied Cuckooshrikes and Sulawesi Cicadabirds as well as obtaining much better views of Knobbed Hornbill. We rewarded ourselves with a fascinating visit to some villagers harvesting and “peeling” coconuts – quite an operation! Anne decided to wield a machete and join in, then everyone in the group was offered coconut water and coconut flesh.
We returned to our lodge for another delicious lunch and a rest during the heat of the day before we birded the roadside for the afternoon in search of a handful of species we were still missing in this area. At viewpoints on the road that ascends back towards Manado we struggled a bit with strong wind but nevertheless had some good sightings. These included a Golden-mantled Racket-tail that we briefly saw perched and then was flying close enough to see the rackets on the tail well, a scoped Blue-backed Parrot, spectacular-looking White-bellied Imperial Pigeons, and lots of imperial pigeons of other species we’d seen before.
Today Diana and Michael found a Temple Pit Viper species on a chair on their patio, and when they told us this at lunch time it cleared the restaurant immediately, as everyone wanted to see it. The staff moved the chair with the snake on it, and when it started to move the people carrying it got such a fright that they practically dropped the chair, to an audience of laughter.
Day 4. October 31, 2018. Tangkoko to Tomohon
Consolation for a very early start (4 a.m.) was that we were excited about ascending in altitude to around 1000 meters (3300 feet), where we were to spend the morning birding Mount Mahawu near the flower-filled town of Tomohon. This town is actually famous for all the flowers people plant outside their homes and along the streets. In fact, it hosted the Tomohon International Flower Festival 2018 a few weeks prior back in August. Later in the trip we also stopped to admire Dolom village, a remarkably clean, neat, colorful village with pink, yellow, and green fences and plenty of attractive-looking ceramic trash bins lining the streets to prevent littering.
Birding the extensive forests this morning on Mount Mahawu was highly productive, and we added an array of new Sulawesi endemics to our list pretty effortlessly. We were happy to find the likes of Scaly-breasted Kingfisher, Sulawesi Babbler, Sulawesi Myzomela with its bright-red head, the beautiful Crimson-crowned Flowerpecker, Sulphur-vented Whistler, and Sulawesi Pygmy Woodpecker.
Mountain White-eye was present in smaller numbers compared to the more numerous Black-crowned White-eyes, and a Mountain Tailorbird was seen briefly (but we had to wait until nearer the end of the tour to get really good views of this species). Today we did get excellent views, though, of Citrine Canary-flycatcher, Sulawesi Blue Flycatcher, and Turquoise Flycatcher. A calling Sulawesi Pitta did not allow visuals, so we tried for it again in the afternoon and thankfully had excellent luck then. As usual for this part of the world, spectacular-looking doves and pigeons abounded and included Superb Fruit Dove (an appropriate name!) and White-bellied Imperial Pigeon.
We rewarded ourselves with lunch at a restaurant allowing unobstructed views of Mahawu (an active volcano) before checking into our accommodation and enjoying a “heat of the day” rest. After lunch we found Sulawesi Swiftlet, Paddyfield Pipit, and Grey Wagtail en route back to the forest where we had been earlier to try again for Sulawesi Pitta (one of the many splits off Red-bellied Pitta). While we were walking along the trail a couple of us heard a flutter of wings from near the ground, suspecting it could be the pitta, so we scanned the forest floor. Suddenly a bright-red belly appeared, almost burning a hole in my binoculars – there the pitta was! Everyone in the group managed to see this gorgeous bird. With the afternoon’s main target bird now out of the way we could relax a bit. Mountain Tailorbirds sang nicely but skulked, and getting decent views proved tricky.
A quick check of Indonesian endemics showed that we had already seen 43 of them (many of them endemic just to Sulawesi); this basically meant stacks of life-birds for everyone.
Day 5, November 1, 2018. Flight to Halmahera via Ternate
Most of today was spent traveling, as we had to take a morning flight to the tiny island of Ternate (we enjoyed the volcano and crater-lake views just before landing) and from there to Halmahera in the Moluccas. After collecting luggage from the diminutive airport in Buli we embarked on some birding on this rather more Australasian-type island (in terms of birdlife, compared with Sulawesi), with no woodpeckers, more parrots, the sudden appearance of birds-of-paradise, etc.
On the drive between the airport and our accommodation in Wasile we stopped along the road to bird the stunning forest. One of the highlights was when six gigantic Blyth’s Hornbills winged their way across the road over our heads with their loud wingbeats, setting a rather prehistoric atmosphere. We then scoped a pair of these absolutely magnificent birds. In the same forest we also found some beautiful doves and pigeons that were new trip birds. These included Cinnamon-bellied Imperial Pigeon, Spectacled Imperial Pigeon, Scarlet-breasted Fruit Dove, and the more eastern (Moluccan and New Guinean) form of Sultan’s Cuckoo-Dove (as opposed to the “Sulawesi” cuckoo-doves we’d been seeing earlier).
A majestic Gurney’s Eagle also flew across the forested hillside but did not allow very good views.
Day 6, November 2, 2018. Full day of birding Foli Forest and the Buli roadside
A horribly early start (4 a.m. in Halmahera, but 3 a.m. in Sulawesi, where we’d just come from and were thus used to) got us into the forest in time for some owling, but sadly to no avail. We then hiked down to a Standardwing lek, where we had acceptable views of a few individuals (luckily we stumbled across a more cooperative one the next day). We also found our first Dusky Megapode (all too briefly, though, and with only some trip participants seeing it), Grey-headed Fruit-Dove, Goliath Coucal (a species of which we also had fantastic scope views in the late afternoon at the end of the day’s birding session), Northern Golden Bulbul, White-naped Monarch, and various others. Common Paradise Kingfisher and Sombre Kingfisher were also added to our burgeoning list.
We’d been hearing the calls of the unusual, fabulously stunning Ivory-breasted Pitta a lot the previous afternoon and this morning, but we finally heard a pair we thought might be “chase-able”, and after a lot of effort we eventually saw one member of the pair moving quickly down the trail. Views were acceptable but not brilliant. What a beaut, though! In this area some of the participants also briefly saw Azure Dollarbird.
The afternoon birding session was equally exciting. We stopped at some rice paddies, where we saw Buff-banded Rail and Barred Rail along with various egret species to pad the list and Willie Wagtail, Paddyfield Pipit, and Eastern Yellow Wagtail, and where a couple of participants saw White-browed Crake (but everyone got great views of this small crake the next day when we tried for it again at the same site after lunch).
Ascending toward the forest we found Moluccan (Brush) Cuckoo. Moluccan Goshawk, Spotted (Indonesian) Kestrel, Moustached Treeswift, and the unusual Cream-throated White-eye.
Day 7, November 3, 2018. Birding the Buli roadside
After breakfast we headed back to do some forest birding from the roadside, finding Blue-capped Fruit Dove, Blue-and-white Kingfisher, and a beautiful White Cockatoo, which raised its crest a couple of times for people looking at it through the scope and then showed off yellow underwings in flight. Indeed this was a fantastic day for parrots, and we also saw Violet-necked Lory, Chattering Lory (several flybys and, in the afternoon, some scoped birds), Moluccan Hanging Parrot, lots of Red-cheeked Parrots, etc. Dusky Friarbird didn’t give very good views, but Halmahera Cuckooshrike (Cicadabird) and Dusky-brown Oriole did. “Halmahera Spangled” Drongos (or Hair-crested Drongos to most, as the proposed split has not been accepted by major authorities), with their red eyes unlike the white-eyed subspecies/species we’d seen on Sulawesi, were often in evidence. We worked quite hard for our second bird-of-paradise of the trip, Paradise-crow (sadly nothing to write home about if you’ve been to West Papua or Papua New Guinea: it’s just a black bird with chestnut wings, unlike a lot of its dazzling relatives).
We got better views of Cream-throated White-eye this morning and also saw Moluccan Starling. Ashy Flowerpecker showed really well and close up.
After our customary lunch-time break we went back to the paddy fields at which we had stopped briefly the day before. There we again found some good birds, the star of the show being White-browed Crake. We also saw good numbers of Common Greenshank, White-winged Tern, and many egrets.
Heading back up into the forest as the temperatures cooled down in the later afternoon we were pleased to get better views of some of the previously-mentioned parrots, and those who happened to be looking in the right direction at exactly the right time were lucky enough to be treated to a spectacular fly-by Great Cuckoo-Dove.
We headed back to the paddy fields yet again to get there by dusk, so we could see Large-tailed Nightjar. Before heading back to our accommodation for supper we tried for, but only heard, Moluccan Owlet-nightjar and Moluccan Scops Owl – everyone in the group was tired, and we also had to compete with the loud chanting from the mosques, so granted that we did give up fairly quickly.
Day 8, November 4, 2018. Foli to Binagara to Sofifi, ferry to Ternate
We had a three-hour drive (including stops, some of them nicely productive) today. Variable Goshawk was seen at one such stop, and Paradise-crows were very much in evidence. We also saw adult Common Paradise Kingfishers rather than the immatures from an earlier day during the trip. The adults have beautiful long tails and luminous colors. A Black-chinned Whistler showed itself extremely well. At one point we had three Ivory-breasted Pittas calling from near the road, but, after a bit of trying for visuals, the consensus from the group was that the previous sighting was good enough. A couple of tour participants did get good views of this very large and spectacular pitta, but most opted to focus on trying to find new trip birds.
Moluccan Monarch and Shining Flycatcher were both quite tricky to get proper views of, but with some patience we were rewarded.
We stopped to see some Javan dancing en route. That’s right, folks from Java now living in Halmahera! It’s always good to include a fun cultural stop from time to time.
In the late afternoon we tried for Beach Kingfisher, but this species was nowhere to be found. We did see some other new trip birds, such as Halmahera Swiftlet, Little Pied Cormorant, Greater Crested Tern, and Spotted Dove. Nearby we also saw an Azure Kingfisher flying down, then up the river, really low over the water as they like to do, and a couple of us also saw a Common Emerald Dove doing the same (most trip participants saw this species during the tour at one stage or another).
We saw no birds on our half-hour ferry crossing to Ternate, but when we got to this tiny volcanic island we visited two homes where the famous biologist Alfred Russel Wallace had lived.
Day 9, November 5, 2018. Ternate to Makassar and then to Rammang-Rammang
In the morning we flew from Ternate back to Sulawesi, more specifically to Makassar in the far south of this unusually-shaped island. We then drove about an hour to the picturesque Rammang-Rammang village area, where we stayed at the ecolodge of the same name for one night. En route we saw a few new birds, such as our first of very many Javan Pond Herons and White-shouldered Trillers.
A late-morning birding session at Rammang-Rammang was highly productive. The unusual Black-ringed White-eye was one of the specials we saw well at the start of our walk. This is a real anomaly of a white-eye; it actually has a black eye ring instead of the white eye ring after which the group is named. The scientific name acknowledges this, as the species is called Zosterops anomalus. We also had brief views of both Sulawesi Cuckoo and Oriental Cuckoo. A Little Bronze Cuckoo was one of an amazing number of new species that pitched up in a dead tree as we waited beside it for about half an hour. Other good birds in this tree were Great (Sulawesi) Hanging Parrot, Pygmy Hanging Parrot, Sulawesi Cicadabird, and various others.
Blue-tailed Bee-eater, a different subspecies of Sulawesi Hornbill, and Sulawesi Pygmy Woodpecker were enjoyed by all of us. A group of five White-breasted Woodswallows, huddling together allopreening, were great to see, but we only got poor views of a couple of Ivory-backed Woodswallows. Luckily, though, we were rewarded with spectacular views of this stunning bird later in the trip.
Red Junglefowl was seen just before it got dark as several of these birds ventured into open areas.
Perhaps the highlight of the whole day might have been the emergence from nearby caves of perhaps a million bats, hunted by opportunistic Black Kites and Spotted Kestrels.
After dark we saw Great Eared Nightjar and heard Sulawesi Masked Owl and Speckled Boobook.
Day 10, November 6, 2018. Karaenta Forest and Bontoa, back to Makassar
We started the day with a transfer up the river by boat, during which we saw Common Kingfisher, White-breasted Waterhen, Common Emerald Dove, Sunda Teal, Purple Heron, and other nice birds.
We then met up with the vehicles and went to the Karaenta Forest. This generated some amazing birds, such as the rather large Black-capped Kingfisher, the minuscule Sulawesi Dwarf Kingfisher, Piping Crow, White-necked Myna, an amazing interaction between a Sulawesi Serpent Eagle and an immature Sulawesi Hawk-Eagle, a scoped Barred (Sulawesi) Honey Buzzard, Yellow-billed Malkoha, Ashy Woodpecker, and various others. Wow!
After checking in at our hotel near the Makassar airport we went to the Bontoa fish ponds, where we saw our first Pacific Reef Heron, Pied Stilt, Whiskered Tern (a couple of them in breeding plumage), and various others. Chris’s restroom visit led to the discovery of large numbers of Clamorous Reed Warblers, which were then seen by the whole group. Our first Lemon-bellied White-eyes also put in an appearance in this area.
Day 11, November 7, 2018. A full day in the Makassar area (the airport and Battene)
We started the day at the rather birdy airport. Here we saw lots of Munias – a couple of times we saw all three species (Pale-headed, Chestnut, and Scaly-breasted) really well in the same scope view. Golden-bellied Gerygones with their attractive calls were much in evidence. Common Kingfisher as well as Collared Kingfisher both provided bright splashes of color. We saw several Barred Buttonquails, both the more brightly-colored females and the drabber males (unusual, of course, in birds). We scoped an attractive-looking Golden-headed Cisticola along with cooperative Clamorous Reed Warblers.
An afternoon visit to the Battene area generated Javan Myna, Zitting Cisticola, White-breasted Waterhen, Little Ringed Plover and good numbers of other shorebird species, about 40 Sunda Teals, Yellow-vented Bulbul, and more.
At dusk we had extremely close flybys of a calling Savanna Nightjar.
Today we also encountered several Common Water Monitors, including one high up in a tree as well as one that belly-flopped into the water.
Day 12, November 8, 2018. Flight to Luwuk and four-hour drive to Taima
This was a long travel day, but we managed to get to Taima just in time to see the Endangered (IUCN) megapode, the pink-breasted Maleo, on a white sand beach next to our accommodation. We opted to stay at a rustic accommodation for one night in order to practically guarantee close encounters with this charismatic bird. We certainly weren’t disappointed.
Day 13, November 9, 2018. Taima, drive back to Luwuk, birding en route
We started the day birding around Taima, getting amazing views of several Purple-winged Rollers, about 50 Maleos, good views of Bay Coucal (which we previously had only heard near the beginning of the trip at Tangkoko), and various others. We finally managed to find Sulawesi Streaked Flycatcher along with a couple of Little Pied Flycatchers.
Driving back toward Luwuk we stopped at various sites to do roadside birding, locating Wandering Whistling Duck, Tricolored Grebe, Oriental Darter, Isabelline Bush-hen, Oberholser’s Fruit Dove, Purple Needletail, Knobbed Hornbill, Blue-backed Parrot, Pygmy Hanging Parrot, and spectacular Ivory-backed Woodswallows (finally we had amazing views of this species!).
We spent the night in luxury at the Santika Hotel in Luwuk, which provided spectacular sea views, after our very basic accommodation for one night in Taima (which was necessary, however, in order to virtually guarantee close encounters with Maleo).
Day 14, November 10, 2018. Flight to Palu and transfer to Lore Lindu National Park
While this was largely a travel day it was very exciting, as we were heading toward one of Indonesia’s most famous protected areas, crawling with endemics, Lore Lindu National Park. En route we found our first Red Turtle (Red Collared) Dove. After arrival in the park we had a little time for initial birding in the montane forest, finding some exciting species such as Citrine Lorikeet, Sulawesi Leaf Warbler, and Fiery-browed Starling.
Day 15, November 11, 2018. Birding Lore Lindu National Park and other sites
This was one of the most exciting and productive days of the trip, comparable to the first few days of the tour at Tangkoko in terms of numbers of new species (including Sulawesi endemics) that we managed to add to our burgeoning list. In the montane forest we found beauts such as Cerulean Cuckooshrike, the pied-looking Pygmy Cuckooshrike, Sulawesi Thrush, Blue-fronted Blue Flycatcher (although seen a whole lot better the next day), Red-eared Fruit Dove (which Bill learned to imitate pretty well), Sulawesi Drongo, and our first (Sulawesi) Brush Cuckoo. Maroon-backed Whistler worked us very hard but eventually gave good views. Sulphur-vented Whistler was much more cooperative and quite numerous. Sulawesi (Rusty-bellied) Fantail was voted one of the most attractive birds by several group members. White-eyes abounded (they’ve speciated wildly in this part of the world), and we found our first Streak-headed White-eye (also known as Sulawesi Heleia) and Mountain White-eye along with two other species we’d seen on previous days of the tour.
In the afternoon we birded farmland, which was highly productive, not to mention rather relaxing in contrast to the more difficult forest birding that was a feature of this tour. There were so many great species around, and we enjoyed seeing Glossy Ibis, Black-winged Kite, the beautiful Rufous-winged Buzzard (a couple of perched birds scoped and a couple of them seen flying, showing off their gorgeous red wings), Short-tailed Starling, Pied Bush Chat, Common Moorhen, and others. One of our main targets, Eastern Grass Owl, was seen without problems, we enjoyed watching three of these fabulous birds quartering like harriers low over the grassland as they hunted in broad daylight. Red-backed Buttonquail was the last new addition of the day as we saw a couple of these birds scurrying through a corn field.
Day 16, November 12, 2018. Birding Lore Lindu National Park: Anaso Track
This was the only day that was a bit strenuous, as we walked up the Anaso Track, previously an old logging road that has in more recent years deteriorated into a narrow, quite steep, and eroded trail in many places. But we found some of the best birds of the trip this morning. Spectacular Purple-bearded Bee-eaters cooperated well, as did several Cerulean Cuckooshrikes. Hylocitrea (one of the most important birds, as it is the only representative of a whole family, endemic to Sulawesi) showed up right near the start of today’s walk. We finally caught up with the last imperial pigeon species we “needed”, Grey-headed Imperial Pigeon. Some of the group saw Dark-eared Myza, but we had to find this species along the roadside the next day for those who had missed it today. A tiny Snowy-browed Flycatcher darted around near the ground at one point along the trail. A couple of participants were lucky enough to get views of a Blue-faced Parrotfinch that never sat still. But we all had stupendously good views of Mountain Tailorbird and Sulphur-vented Whistler.
Relaxed late-afternoon birding by some group members generated a couple of new trip birds in the form of Black-backed Swamphen and Oriental Reed Warbler. Other group members tried some owling, but only heard a couple of species.
Day 17, November 13, 2018. Final birding at Lore Lindu, drive to Palu, birding en route
Final birding in the mountain forest of Lore Lindu National Park allowed us to see a spectacular Rufous-bellied Eagle along with four Sombre Pigeons that flew over (poor views of the latter species, though).
A stop en route generated Savanna Nightjar as well as superb views of four different munia species, the best one (since it was new to everyone on the trip) being the endemic Black-faced Munia. Despite this stop being during the heat of the day we were able to scope these already-close birds as they came in to drink at a stream.
Near the Palu airport at Biromaru, before we checked into our hotel, we managed to find some great species such as Cinnamon Bittern, what must have been Pin-tailed Snipes (although we were unable to confirm with photos) and, more importantly, being a Sulawesi endemic, Pale-bellied (Makassar) Myna, sitting atop a cow.
Entering Palu it was sobering to see the horrible damage caused by the big earthquake and tsunami a few weeks back. So many of the survivors had lost homes or, worse, family members. We were privileged to be able to have dinner with some of Nurlin’s family and a bunch of children (including some recent orphans because of the earthquake) – this was one of the most memorable nights of the trip.
Day 18, November 14, 2018. Shorebirds and more around Palu, departure
Again we were able to see the huge damage caused by the September earthquake and tsunami as we birded close to the shore, finding quite a good number of waders, including our main target, Javan Plover, along with Little Curlew, Pacific Golden Plover, Red-necked Stint, etc. Many of these species were right at the tsunami site along the shore, near the damaged mosque pictured below.
Post trip day for three participants, Jakarta, Java
A lucky three of us had a full day in Jakarta on our ways back home. A boat trip through the mangroves here was amazing, as we saw a ridiculously-close Yellow Bittern, loads of Javan Pond Herons and numerous other heron species, a cooperative Sunda Coucal, Island Collared Dove, Cave Swiftlet, Edible-nest Swiftlet, and other birds that were seen from the boat. Once we got back to land we quickly found Freckle-breasted Woodpecker and Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker also in the mangroves. Malaysian Pied Fantail was restless, never stopping for more than a millisecond.
Another boat trip, this time out to sea, was amazing for Christmas Frigatebird, Lesser Frigatebird, thousands of Little Black Cormorants, egrets, etc.
A late-afternoon walk on a rather dodgy boardwalk in a different mangrove area from the morning was, from a birding point of view, very exciting. Cerulean Kingfishers were scoped, and Racket-tailed Treepies perched well for quick but good views. Small flocks of Daurian Starlings flew over. Milky Storks and various other water-associated birds were also present.
At dusk we headed back to the hotel in preparation for our flights home – a Savanna Nightjar flew over the car as we negotiated the busy Jakarta streets, the last bird of the trip.
Excluding the day in Jakarta we saw over 100 Indonesian endemics, most of them found only in Sulawesi and Halmahera. What a phenomenal trip!
Please see the downloadable PDF above with the full species lists included. This is a sample trip report. Please email us ([email protected]) for more trip reports from this destination.
Indonesia: Sulawesi and Halmahera – Spectacular Endemic Birding
GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT INDONESIA CAN BE READ HERE
This is an absolutely thrilling endemic-packed birding tour covering the two Indonesian provinces of Sulawesi and Halmahera. This tour starts and ends in Makassar, South Sulawesi and visits some of the best birdwatching sites in the whole of Indonesia. The list of possible birds on this tour is extraordinary and includes Maleo, (Wallace’s) Standardwing (a stunning bird-of-paradise), Ivory-breasted Pitta, Hylocitrea (a monotypic family), Satanic Nightjar, Moluccan Owlet-nightjar, Purple-bearded Bee-eater, Knobbed Hornbill, and a plethora of fruit doves, pigeons, parrots, owls, kingfishers, and more (see the detailed itinerary for a mouthwatering read!). The habitats we cover are varied and loads of the birds will give excellent views and good incidental photos of many will be possible. The landscapes we will see from land, water, and the sky are spectacular, particularly if you like staggering volcanoes cloaked in rainforests and palm-fringed coastlines with beautiful beaches and mangroves.
DAILY ACTIVITIES, PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS, AND TOUR PACE
This Sulawesi and Halmahera birding tour needs reasonable fitness and agility as the tour, by its nature, covering such a large area, goes at a fairly quick pace with the focus on finding as many of the endemic birds and regional specials as possible.
Some of the areas we are birding in are fairly remote, even by Indonesian standards, Halmahera more so than Sulawesi. It will be important to remember that you are visiting a developing country and will be staying in remote areas, where there are limited sanitation facilities. Expect many things to be very different from home, or even other parts of Indonesia. Notwithstanding the above, we have tried to make this tour as comfortable as possible by staying in trusted accommodation that is of the highest standard in the local area, so that the free time between birding sessions is as comfortable and relaxing as possible.
The nature of travel in this part of Indonesia requires multiple internal flights and/or long drives to get to the different birding spots. This can be rather tiring at times. 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. 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).
While the majority of the birding is carried out on roads and flat tracks, some of these occur at elevation and some are interspersed with steep inclines and declines. Several of the trails can be swampy and wet (even in the dry season) and can be slippery. One hike, along the famed Anaso Track in the spectacular Lore Lindu National Park, is considered difficult. It’s not particularly steep (as like some of the trails on our West Papua tour), but it is long and tiring (c. three miles / five kilometers each way). Walking sticks or hiking poles are a great idea as they provide added stability to help with balance and are compulsory for anyone who is not steady at walking. On some occasions we have need to venture “off-piste”, for example if we need to look for a roosting owl, a hornbill nest, a bird-of-paradise lek, or a pitta – the sort of birds unlikely to be seen right from the trail. We have local guides and other support staff with us, so if at any time anyone in the group wants to opt out of an activity that will be possible.
The weather is likely to be hot and humid for most of the tour (except for time at elevation, but even here it shouldn’t feel particularly cold), this can make the birding tiring.
TRANSPORTATION AND SEAT ROTATION
We use several forms of transport on the tour. In Sulawesi we will likely use a range of minibuses of varying sizes, and sometimes 4×4 vehicles. In Halmahera we will use 4×4 vehicles throughout, the number dictated by the final group size. The common 4×4 in this part of the world is the Toyota Hilux, so we are likely to use those, or similar. We require that you are fit and flexible and can maneuver yourself into these high-clearance vehicles.
During our time in vehicles, we operate a rotation policy so that everyone has the same opportunities with seating positions. All participants will be expected to honor this. Issues such as suffering from motion sickness will not excuse you from this policy, so please bring medication if you think this could be an issue for you. Some of the roads we will be driving along will be windy and are rough in places. We also ask everyone to please be aware of the amount of extra equipment they bring into the seating area of the vehicles as there will not be much extra space. Some of the drives between cities/airports and our accommodation/birding sites will be up to four or five hours. Typically, we will drive to an area, stay there for a few nights and thoroughly explore it before moving to the next place, so there are limited one-night stays in our itinerary, though occasionally these are needed to work with domestic flights, of which there are six of on this tour (see “Domestic Flights” below, for specifics).
We will use a speedboat to get between Ternate (after a flight from Sulawesi) and Halmahera and we will take a smaller outrigger boat for a mangrove boat trip in Sulawesi. The speedboat between the two islands involves proper harbors but might include climbing up or down a ladder or walking across other boats, and so a bit of agility might be required, though boat crews and local guides will be able to help here. This trip can last between 30-60 minutes depending on the tide/weather and there are no opportunities for birding off the speedboat (there is little to be expected from the crossing really). The boat trip to the mangroves is a birding trip. It may result in wet/sandy feet as we enter and exit the boat on the beach at the start and end of the trip, which usually lasts a couple of hours. We ride the boat from the beach along the coastline before turning into a river mouth where we spend most of the time looking for birds in the mangroves.
This Indonesian birding tour starts and ends in Makassar, however there are multiple (six) domestic flights required. See the tour map tab for a better understanding of the tour route. The costs for these domestic flights are included in the tour cost. The domestic flights are as follows: Makassar – Manado, Manado – Ternate, Ternate – Makassar, Makassar – Palu, Palu – Luwuk, and Luwuk – Makassar. Domestic flights in Indonesia usually have a hold luggage weight limit of 44 pounds (20 kilograms) with a hand luggage allowance of 15 pounds (7 kilograms). Overweight baggage will likely incur additional costs and will be the responsibility of the individual to pay, these costs will need to be paid for in cash to the airline while at the airport, and often take some time, so adhering to the baggage allowance is best for everyone in the group.
Please note the expected maximum weight allowances for the domestic flights. Due to the route we take, all luggage will need to be carried for the duration of the tour and luggage cannot be left somewhere to be picked up later, so should not exceed this weight. 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 include minibuses, 4×4 vehicles, 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 acceptable to fit in the overhead luggage compartments in planes too.
Your safety is our paramount concern on all our tours, that’s why we try and provide you with as much thorough general and tour-specific information as possible ahead of the tour, which visits remote areas in Indonesia.
The political situation in Central Sulawesi (where we visit when birding Lore Lindu National Park) is considered “unsettled” by the United Kingdom government (and see also US government information here), and includes Palu, Poso, and Tentena. These areas have the potential for politically motivated violence. We will keep clear of all protests, demonstrations, and political rallies as they can turn violent without warning. There is ongoing conflict between Indonesian security forces and terrorists in the vicinity of Lore Lindu National Park. The conflict is predominantly concentrated in the Sigi, Parigi Moutong, and Poso Regions. From time-to-time areas of the national park can be closed totally or restricted and possible only with armed guards. We keep in frequent contact with our local guides who live in the area for the latest news. When birding in this area, our activities will be based on the current situation. From time to time the Anaso Track can be closed by the police and obviously if that happens it is beyond our control.
Care should be taken when in cities, airports, and ports where petty theft (e.g. pickpockets etc.) can be a concern. If you want to go walking around outside the city hotels when in Makassar or Palu (such as for going to a shop to purchase a SIM card or some snacks), please be aware of your surroundings. The pavements are often dangerous with uncovered drains.
Trips and falls when on trails, tracks/roads, 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 boggy or slippery in the forest, which can occur even during the dry season. A walking stick or 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.
Natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, and flooding are frequent across Indonesia, the country sits on the “Ring of Fire”. We will be monitoring the situation in the lead up to, 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. Sulawesi and Halmahera have a low malaria risk (consult your doctor or travel clinic), but prevention of bites is recommended. DEET insect spray can also keep chiggers and leeches away. Chiggers, especially prevalent at Tangkoko National Park, can lead to Scrub (Bush) Typhus and can be incredibly irritating as well as potentially leading to medical complications. Leeches do not spread diseases, but they are rather unsettling, and can cause blood loss. Rubber boots can help with reducing issues with chiggers and leeches.
Care should be taken when swimming and snorkeling off Halmahera, should you choose to do so (it might be possible to take a diving/snorkeling trip here if you want a break from the birding at some point). While the underwater life is impressive, it does come with serious dangers, in the form of creatures such as Australian Box Jellyfish (Sea Wasp) and “Blue-ringed Octopus”. Please consult with the dive resort experts prior to taking a swim and follow any local health and safety advice provided. When in Tangkoko National Park we will (hopefully) enjoy seeing and photographing the (Sulawesi) Celebes (Black-) Crested Macaque. Although these monkeys sometimes allow a close approach, they are totally wild animals and should be treated as such. When viewing monkeys, let them approach you on their own terms. If you stoop down and avoid looking directly in their eyes, they will be less aggressive. Do not chase or pursue monkeys and never feed them. No matter how innocent they may look, wild monkeys bite and can carry dangerous diseases.
While in the lowlands of Sulawesi we can expect average daytime highs of around 85–95 °F (30–35 °C) and average nighttime lows of 70–75 °F (21–24 °C), it could be a touch hotter when in Halmahera. Although there is often a lot of cloud cover at this time of year, the sun is strong, and care should be taken to remain hydrated and use sun protection to reduce the chance of sunburn. It can be very humid in both Sulawesi and Halmahera.
In the mountains (e.g. at Lore Lindu National Park in Sulawesi) it is cooler than the lowland temperatures and we can expect average daytime highs of around 68–77 °F (20–25 °C) and average nighttime lows of 50–59 °F (10–15 °C). Note we don’t actually stay overnight in the mountain, we stay in the nearby valley so nighttime temperatures at the accommodation are not as cold as in the mountains, but cooler than other locations we stay overnight.
Rain is possible at any time, at any location so rain gear and an umbrella will be useful. A dry bag is also recommended for protecting optics, electrical equipment/cameras, and important documents (see the “What to Bring: Clothing and Other Items” section below) in the case of an unexpected thunderstorm and downpour.
All accommodation has been chosen for its proximity to excellent birding locations while still providing an adequate level of comfort. While in Sulawesi we stay in accommodation ranging from good hotels in the towns and cities, such as in Makassar, Tomohon, and Luwuk, to more basic yet comfortable lodges catering for birders when at Tangkoko National Park, the countryside outside of Makassar, and at Lore Lindu National Park.
All accommodation in Sulawesi, apart from that at Lore Lindu National Park (where it is not necessary) has air conditioning. All accommodation has western style toilets and en suite bathrooms (these are basic at Lore Lindu National Park) and are clean and comfortable. Hotels in the cities have Wi-Fi and there is phone signal. There is no Wi-Fi and very limited phone signal when we stay near Tangkoko National Park. There is no Wi-Fi or phone signal when we stay near Lore Lindu National Park and the electricity might go off here during the daytime. Most of the city hotels have swimming pools.
In Halmahera we stay in a comfortable dive resort for the duration of our stay on the island. This accommodation is right on the beach and there is ample opportunity to swim in a sheltered sea bay. Diving or snorkeling can usually be arranged with (and paid directly to, in cash) the resort. The rooms here are of a good standard, especially when considering the remoteness of the location. Rooms have a mosquito net and a ceiling fan. All rooms have private ensuite facilities.
The electricity is likely to go off at our accommodation at Lore Lindu National Park during the middle of the day, but we should not have issues elsewhere, unless something unexpected happens, such as a thunderstorm taking out the supply somewhere.
Phone signal is limited (or absent) for some of the tour route, particularly when we are in Tangkoko National Park, Lore Lindu National Park, and when on Halmahera. You may be able to use an international phone roaming package while in Indonesia, but it may be expensive. You can purchase a local SIM card for use in Indonesia when at the airport, however it can be a complex process. If you purchase a SIM card on a different island it might not work on other islands, without adding specific “local” credit, this needs to be done at a convenience store in cash. If you are going to need phone signal – where there is some – during the tour, please let us know as we might be able to purchase SIM cards in advance depending on the current rules in place, which do change without warning. It might be simpler to rely on Wi-Fi when we are passing through airports and staying in city hotels, such as in Makassar, Tomohon, Luwuk, etc., or using your international SIM with a suitable roaming package.
FOOD AND MEALS
Food is of local Indonesian style in most places. Some of the larger hotels in the towns and cities may have more western style food (or a local take on what that should be) but this is not necessarily to be expected. Bringing energy/cereal bars might be advantageous for during early morning hikes. When we are in remote parts of Sulawesi, such as Lore Lindu National Park food will be quite basic. The food in Halmahera (at our accommodation) is often extremely good and a real treat, especially considering the remoteness of the location.
Please remember to give us your dietary preferences. Are you vegetarian? Can you eat spicy foods, etc.?
We will have quite a few early starts on this tour and so breakfasts in hotels are likely to be early as a consequence, though on some occasions we might have a boxed breakfast. Most of the time we will have lunch back at our accommodation or a nearby restaurant, though we might also have a picnic-style boxed lunch on some occasions. Many of the meals in hotels and restaurants will entail an assortment of meat (chicken and fish) and vegetable dishes being supplemented with rice and noodles, these will be shared amongst the group. Evening mealtimes will vary day to day due to the nature of the birding. We have several evenings of night-birding to fit in and on these occasions, we might have an evening meal later (or earlier) than usual. If you have to eat meals at certain times, such as for medication purposes, please bring a supply of snacks to do so.
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. We will pass through Makassar airport several times during the tour, and this will be one of the better opportunities to get cash out of ATMs as there is usually some choice of banks/ATMs to use. Other cities we pass through, such as Manado, Tomohon, Palu, and Luwuk could allow for money to be withdrawn but it is not uncommon to have difficulties in some of the more remote areas and small towns. Not all banks/ATMs accept all foreign cards. We are unlikely to be able to draw cash while in Halmahera, though as we drive from the airport to the harbor in Ternate, we might be able to get some cash.
Most extra purchases/personal expenses are likely to require payment in cash, with the exception of hotels in major cities where cards are likely to be accepted.
WHAT TO BRING: CLOTHING AND OTHER ITEMS
The following is a list of useful items to bring on this Sulawesi and Halmahera birding tour and should be read in conjunction with the Indonesia general information document.
- A field guide to the region. We recommend the following book for this tour: Birds of the Indonesian Archipelago: Greater Sundas and Wallacea – James A Eaton et al. (2021), Lynx Edicions. 2nd Edition. We recommend the Flexibound version of the 2nd edition of this book, rather than the hardback or 1st edition versions that are also available.
- Hiking pole or walking stick to help on the tracks and trails. A walking stick is compulsory for anyone who is unsteady walking, as we feel this is a safety issue; we don’t want anyone slipping on the trails or anywhere else. Please discuss with us if you are unsure whether you will need one or not.
- Torch (flashlight) and/or headlamp is essential kit. Needed for owling (so you can see where you are walking) and when we set off on our birding in darkness (e.g. when we head up the Anaso Track in Lore Lindu National Park or when we hike to the (Wallace’s) Standardwing Headlamp is best to keep hands free for hiking pole/walking stick.
- Insect repellant with a high DEET concentration.
- Leech socks – can be useful, if it is unseasonably wet.
- A small personal first aid kit. See the items recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), here. There are pharmacies in the cities we pass through, but we will only have limited access to these, so it is best to be prepared. When we are in remote Sulawesi or Halmahera there is very little (or nothing at all) available in terms of medical supplies.
- Although footwear is a matter of personal preference, rubber boots can be extremely helpful, particularly in muddy/swampy conditions, they are also very good for keeping chiggers away from your skin, a very useful trait, particularly at Tangkoko National Park. A negative aspect to rubber boots is that they often lack suitable ankle support provided by walking/hiking boots (especially useful on the hike up the Anaso Track) and can make your feet/legs rather sweaty in the heat to be expected. If you don’t mind getting dirty (and potentially bitten by chiggers), in favor of better ankle support, go with walking boots and a good covering of DEET. It may be possible to purchase rubber boots on arrival in Makassar ahead of the tour starting should you wish, assuming they have your size (not a certainty here).
- Quick-drying clothes are the best for this tour and a minimum of a fleece/jacket should be carried for time at the higher elevations such as at Lore Lindu National Park, where it can be cooler in the early mornings and evening/overnight.
- Rain jacket (and small umbrella).
- Swimwear, mask, and snorkel for optional swimming during free time (note that it might be possible to hire equipment from the dive resort, so you don’t need to bring your own if you don’t want to – there is likely to be a charge for hiring any equipment and this should be paid in cash).
- We find that a small hand towel or wash cloth can be handy for cleaning and drying items when in the rainforest.
- A dry bag to keep valuable documents in such as passports, cell phones, wallets etc., as well as cameras if it rains.
- Power bank – useful to keep items such as cell phones fully charged, but we should have electricity for most of the time on this tour.