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Sulawesi birding Tour


Sulawesi and Halmahera island lie in eastern Indonesia and are named after the terrific naturalist and traveller Alfred Russel Wallace. In his long visit to the area he acknowledged the distinctive adaptations differences between animals from western and eastern Indonesia, and noted an undetectable line separating Bali to the west from Lombok to the east (later described as "The Wallace Line"), which displays the modification from Asian biota to the Australasian fauna towards east. This has been expanded to acknowledge a general area of shift between these two fantastic biogeographical zones of Asia and Australasia-Wallacea. Long periods of geographical isolation have actually left this region filled with endemics, with some 90 or more discovered on Sulawesi( taxonomy reliant), and more than 40 local endemics found on the "Spice Island" of Halmahera Indonesia, (part of a vibrant group of islands which were the subject of battle and a dispute in between colonial powers such as Portugal and the British Empire throughout the 17th Century, when native spices such as nutmeg, mace and cloves were more valuable than gold). This isolation ensures that any first-time visitor can see over 100 bird species, with some stunning ones like the Purple-bearded Bee-eater, Ivory-breasted Pitta, Wallace's Standard wing, and Lilac-cheeked Kingfisher.

Trip Highlights

  • Witness the unmatched variety of birds of Indonesia
  • Connect with nature in the dense forests, national parks and reserves
  • Spend time spotting indigenous species of birds
  • After a hard day of bird watching, relax in amazing resorts


After your arrival in the capital of South Sulawesi, you will be transferred to a comfortable resort near the harbour, for the night. If you arrive early you may travel to Makassar fishponds for a swathe of Asian shorebirds, like the Javan Plover, and the possibility of Savanna Nightjars hawking over the fish ponds at sunset.

Today you will rise early, to travel right into the forested limestone hills north of the city to start looking for birds of indonesia. Karenta Nature Reserve gives a lovely setting for the first view of the numerous endemics. Specifically, at this location you can see the local Black-ringed White-eye, an endemic that is restricted to South Sulawesi. This forest is also home to the Sulawesi Dwarf Hornbill, Piping Crow, and Sulawesi Goshawk. Inspecting down the slopes we may also discover the recently named (in 2015) Sulawesi Streaked Flycatcher. The area also holds a native to the island, a creature the type of the Moor Macaque. After much of the early morning in this area, we will return to Makassar and take a trip to Palu in Central Sulawesi. From Palu, we will head to Wuasa, which will be our base to explore the montane forests of Lore Lindu National Park in the coming days. The first of four evenings will be spent in a straightforward guesthouse in Wuasa, near the park.

We will now focus on the birds of Lore Lindu forest, which provide a range of elevations, and hence many different species. A few of our birding will centre around Lake Tambing, where we may see Piping Crows visit lake shores early in the mornings; flocks of amazing Fiery-browed Mynas that arrive to rest in the trees on a regular basis; Pygmy and Cerulean Cuckooshrike, Sulawesi Leaf-Warbler, Rusty-flanked Fantail, and the odd Malia. The understory is home to two of the most rarely spotted birds around - the reclusive Maroon-backed Whistler and the timid Great Shortwing.

Today morning we will travel from Palu to Manado (through Makassar) in North Sulawesi, and finally to Tangkoko. Although much of the day will be spent reaching there trip, we will have some time in the afternoon to see a forest search near Tangkoko, where varieties like Silver-tipped and White-bellied Imperial-Pigeons, Yellow-breasted and Golden-mantled Racquet-tails, and White-necked Mynas are found frequently. At sundown, we will make our first pursuit of the commonly complicated Sulawesi Nightjar, and scourge the lodge grounds for Sulawesi Scops-Owl that usually comes here. The next three nights will be spent at a guesthouse in Tangkoko.

This reserve located on the Minahassa Peninsula’s eastern tip is just one of Sulawesi's front runner parks, the outstanding lowland forest and mangrove forest providing exceptional birding, and excellent mammal-watching possibilities. The reserve is especially famous for a variety of kingfishers, and through the help of knowledgeable regional park guides, we can spot many bird species like the Sulawesi Dwarf, Green-backed, Lilac-cheeked, Great-billed, and Ruddy Kingfishers. The forest being open-kind also offers exceptional opportunities to discover and see well, several other usually tricky forest species as well, such as the handsome Rusty-backed Thrush and the lately split Sulawesi Pitta (from Red-bellied).

After a final short session around Tangkoko, we will leave for another lowland site, Dumoga-Bone National Park, (currently renamed as Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park). After a last couple of hours in Tangkoko, looking for big, multicoloured Knobbed Hornbills, or striking White-rumped Trillers, we will take the long drive west along the Minahassa Peninsula. En-route we also stop occasionally at paddy fields, checking for Spotted Harriers, Sunda Teals, Black-faced Munias, and examining the sloppy edges for rails and shorebirds. The next three evenings will be spent in a city hotel in the community of Kotamobagu, Sulawesi.

The next two days will be spent in the lowland forests within this vast national park, visiting three primary areas of forest - the park-Tambun (the renowned Maleo reproducing website), Toraut, and the Molibagu Road. We will go to Tambun for at least one day to see the transcendent Maleo, a weird megapode, which lays its eggs in the cosy volcanic soils in the park. With good luck, we will see some pink-flushed grownups digging in the clearing to prepare for laying their eggs, and on some days it is possible to assist in releasing chicks right into the wild. After spending time looking for Maleos, we will stroll in this little forest patch, searching for a local endemic, Maroon-chinned Fruit-Dove, and also Sulawesi Pitta. We may also see the Yellow-billed Malkoha, the weird white-eyed race of Hair-crested Drongo (a proven split?!), Black-billed Koel and Bay Coucal. These forests also hold White-faced Cuckoo-Dove.

The earliest rise of the tour is in order on today to get ourselves ready on the lower slopes of Gunung Ambang for the chance at 2 exceptional birds: Before dawn the Cinnabar Boobook (only discovered, from this mountain, as lately as 1999), and post-dawn Scaly-breasted Kingfisher, the toughest of the several kingfishers to spot on this scenic tour. We need to start early to take into account the travel time and time taken hiking to the birding area. After dawn, our emphasis will turn to locate the low-profile and very local Matinan Flycatcher, which is presently only known from four areas, all in North Sulawesi, with this being the only currently accessible one. In the afternoon we will drive back east towards Manado, dropping in a hotel in Tomohon, near Gunung (Mount) Mahawu. Tomohon is also a popular weekend getaway for people of Indonesia. If we haven't spotted on Speckled Boobook yet, this is an additional opportunity to do so.

A short drive from the hotel brings us to perhaps the most useful site in Sulawesi for the difficult Scaly-breasted Kingfisher. It is especially hard, as it descends right around dawn, and rarely for long after, therefore we will certainly ensure we get on-site pre-dawn when the whistles might aid us to track it down. This site also provides a high chance to spot the native Crimson-crowned Flowerpecker, which is found here with a wide range of other endemic nectar feeders like the Yellow-sided and Grey-sided Flowerpeckers, and Sulawesi Myzomela. Deep inside the forest, it is also possible to find the Sulawesi Blue Flycatcher and the ultra-rare Rufous-throated Flycatcher. The mountain is also suitable for rails, like Barred Rail and Isabelline Bush-hen. In the mid-day, we will return to Manado for night departures out (for those NOT joining the extension), or to stay in Manado for those signing up with the Moluccan Extension. For those joining the extended tour, we will appreciate some rare luxury in a seaside hotel overlooking mangroves, which can produce the endemic White-rumped Cuckooshrike, terns, and petrels offshore, or Asian shorebirds like Terek Sandpiper and Lesser Sand-Plover shirking on the resort jetty.


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