Lesser Sundas, Indonesia: Birds plus Dragons in the Endemic Capital of the World

Indonesia is the one of the world’s richest countries in terms of biodiversity, and its birdlife reflects that well. The country holds more than 1500 bird species and (depending on taxonomy), up to 600 of those are endemic to the country. This makes it not only a must-visit nation, but one that any serious world birder needs to return to multiple times, to even get to basic grips with. The Wallacean islands of the Lesser Sundas are filled with endemic species, and this tour visits the best of them to seek out more then 80 species restricted to these particular islands. We visit three major and two minor islands on this 18-day trip through the Lesser Sundas.

Highlights on Sumba could include the eponymous hornbill, buttonquail and green-pigeon, the subtle Apricot-breasted Sunbird, spectacular Red-naped Fruit Dove and sharp Cinnamon-banded Kingfisher, as well as a trio of endemic flycatchers. Flores may reveal the massive Flores Hawk-Eagle, aptly-named Glittering (or White-rumped) Kingfisher, oddly skulking forest-interior Flores Crow, extremely local Flores Monarch, loud Bare-throated Whistler, mini-pitta–like Russet-capped Tesia, and a series of white-eyes only found there. This also offers our best chance at the strident Elegant Pitta, and shy Chestnut-capped Thrush. Timor is the driest of the islands, and here we start to see Aussie influences in the avifauna, like four endemic honeyeaters. Other endemics include, Timor (White-bellied) Bush-chat, Buff-banded Bushbird (Timor Thicketbird), Timor (Warbling-) Blue-Flycatcher, the striking Orange-banded Thrush, handsome Black-banded Flycatcher, and smart Timor Sparrow. Two minor islands will be visited too, first Rote for its three endemic birds, Rote Myzomela (formally entered as a species on to the Clements list in August 2018), Rote Leaf Warbler (due to be recognized very soon) and Rote (Southern) Boobook. That latter island can also be good for “Timor” birds, like Slaty (Black) Cuckoo-Dove, Green (Timor) Figbird and Timor Oriole too. Finally, Komodo will be day-tripped by private boat for its namesake dragon, and also the critically endangered Yellow-crested Cockatoo, as well as a chance to snorkel in the clear blue waters of the Flores Sea.



Night birding is a major feature of this tour, and we will be seeking a rich seam of endemic ones dotted across the different islands – (Great) Sumba and Least (Little Sumba) Boobooks, and Mees’s Nightjar on Sumba, Timor (Large-tailed) Nightjar and Timor (Southern) Boobook on that island, Rote (Southern) Boobook on its namesake island, and then three different scops-owls occur on Flores (Moluccan, Flores and Wallace’s), two of which are regional endemics.

With the release of a new field guide covering this region, that has split many species, we will be keeping a close eye on many endemic taxa that may be raised to full species level in the near future and are highlighted well in the guide.

A delectable male Javan Banded-Pitta on Bali
A delectable male Javan Banded-Pitta on Bali (Keith Barnes)

While the five islands of the main tour lie within the Wallacea region of Indonesia, the islands of Bali and Java sit on the Sundaic shelf, and are therefore part of the Greater Sundas. What this means is that in only a short 5-day extension many extra bird groups, species, (and Sundaic endemic species at that), can be added in this starkly different part of Indonesia. Special attention will be given to try and find the critically endangered Bali and Black-winged Mynas (Starlings), as well as a swathe of more endemics, such as Pink-headed Fruit-Dove, Javan Banded-Pitta, Sunda (Javan) and Ruby-throated Bulbuls and Trilling and Pied Shrike-Babblers.

Small Blue Kingfisher
Small Blue Kingfisher (Ken Behrens)

Day 1: Arrival in Denpasar (Bali). Arrival into Denpasar International Airport, either from the Tropical Birding Bali and Java pre-tour or from your international arrival. Located in the south-west corner of the beautiful island of Bali, we will prepare for our onward journey to the Lesser Sundas. Night in the bustling tourist city of Denpasar, Bali.

*Please Note: On this day, if you have arrived early, we can arrange a half-day or full day’s cultural activities to visit some of the extraordinary temples on Bali, which are markedly different from what will be experienced on the Lesser Sundas tour. Please contact the office should you wish to do so.

A Sumba specialty, the beautiful Red-naped Fruit-Dove
A Sumba specialty, the beautiful Red-naped Fruit-Dove (Sam Woods)

Day 2: Bali to Sumba. We take a morning flight to the town of Waingapu on the island of Sumba before driving straight to the grassy scrublands of Yambo, to look for our first Lesser Sundas endemic, the tiny Sumba Buttonquail. On the journey to Lewa, our base for the next three nights, we may also find Malaysian Plover, Ashy-bellied and Yellow-spectacled White-eyes (Wallace’s Heleia), Apricot-breasted Sunbird or even Olive-backed (or Javan) Tailorbird, the only of the tailorbirds to be found east of Wallace’s Line. We will stay three nights in a simple homestay in Lewa, where it is the only place to stay.

One of the major targets on Sumba, the aptly-named Sumba Hornbill
One of the major targets on Sumba, the aptly-named Sumba Hornbill (Keith Barnes)

Days 3-4: Lewa and Manupeu Tanah Daru National Park (Sumba): Two full days will be spent on Sumba seeking out its key species; namely the superb Red-naped Fruit-Dove, inconspicuous Sumba Green-Pigeon, Apricot-breasted Sunbird, Sumba (Blood-breasted) Flowerpecker, Sumba Myzomela, and three brown flycatchers, invitingly named Sumba Flycatcher, Sumba Brown Flycatcher, and Sumba Jungle (Warbling) Flycatcher. Orange-crested (Yellow-crested) Cockatoo will also be a major target, if they persist on the island, as their populations are becoming critically low. Elegant Pittas will be heard repeatedly, and tried for too, and they are also possible again on the island of Flores. The night birding will be equally important, as three different nightbirds will be sought over several nights and mornings if necessary; Mees’s Nightjar is best sought at dusk, while pre-dawn can sometimes be better for either of the brace of endemic boobooks, (Great) Sumba and Least (Little Sumba) Boobooks. These two nights will be spent, like the first, in a very simple homestay that is close to the birding areas.

Chestnut-backed Thrush, an attractive endemic of this island group
Chestnut-backed Thrush, an attractive endemic of this island group (Keith Barnes)

Day 5: Sumba to Timor. Early in the morning we shall leave leave Lewa returning to Waingapu, where we will take a short flight east to Kupang on the island of Timor. This modern capital is surrounded by Eucalyptus woodland and between the habitat and birds one can sense the presence of the nearby continent of Australia. We first head to a local patch of woodland and mangroves where we might encounter our first Timor endemics such as Timor Meliphaga (Streak-breasted Honeyeater) and Timor Friarbird, while in the grassy verges we might see Brown Quail or Red-backed Buttonquail. Depending on flights, we may have some time in the afternoon to make our first visit to Bipolo, where forest patches, paddies and coastal ponds may produce our first forest endemics like Plain (Timor) Gerygone, Timor (Northern) Fantail, as well as the chance at wetland and open country birds like the rare Timor Sparrow, handsome Five-colored Munia, Oriental Plover, Australian Pratincole, Pied Heron, or White-browed Crake. We also intend to make our first try for Timor (Southern) Boobook on this night too.

Cinnamon-banded Kingfisher is an easy endemic
Cinnamon-banded Kingfisher is an easy endemic (Sam Woods)

Day 6: Kupang (Timor) to Rote. Just to the southwest of Timor lies the small island of Rote, which can be easily accessed by way of a passenger ferry. On the journey over, we will keep an eye out for petrels or boobies, but as soon as we get on the island we will be seeking our first endemics with a full afternoon and the following morning likely to be available to us there (dependent on final ferry schedules). There are three island endemics, Rote Myzomela (just added as a species on the Clements list in August 2018), Rote (Timor) Leaf Warbler (a noticeably big-billed form that is also due for imminent recognition as a distinct species), and the (Southern) Rote Boobook. However, there is far more besides these three on offer on Rote; while there we will also seek to get some of the other local specialties, like Timor (White-bellied) Bushchat, the inconspicuous Jonquil (Olive-shouldered) Parrot, the striking Orange-banded Thrush, the tiny Timor Stubtail, and Slaty (Black) Cuckoo-Dove, which is usually easier than on Timor. More widespread wetland species may be found along the way on paddies and on a nearby lake; species like Australian Pelican, Red-capped Plover, and Royal Spoonbill may give this a distinctly Australian flavor. A single night will be spent in a simple resort on the little visited island of Rote. The night and morning (if necessary) will be our only chance at the local Rote (Southern) Boobook.

The
The "Rote" (Southern) Boobook is still waiting formal description (Sam Woods)

Day 7: Rote to Kupang (Timor). The morning will be spent mopping up any endemic or ‘local’ target birds, before we travel back to Kupang. If we have time (dependent on ferry schedules) we may continue to explore mainland Timor this day too during the afternoon. The night will be spent in a modern business hotel on the city of Kupang.

Rote Myzomela was first listed as a distinct species in 2018
Rote Myzomela was first listed as a distinct species in 2018 (Sam Woods)

Day 8: Biopolo to Oelnasi (Timor). We will start out early and visit a new area of Biopolo, where wooded deciduous forest holds Pink-headed Imperial-Pigeons in the tall trees overhead, and the strident calls of Timor Thicketbird (Buff-banded Bushbird) are likely to be heard below, though seeing the latter species can be tricky at times! Other species that may feature in this area include Cinnamon-banded Kingfisher, and Rose-crowned and Black-banded Fruit-Doves. The latter part of the morning will be spent driving northeast to the town of Soe, where the next two nights will be spent. In the afternoon we shall make our first visit to nearby Oelnasi, where we will seek out the elusive Black-banded Flycatcher, as well as Timor (Dusky) Cuckoo-Dove and bustling flocks of Timor Heleias (Spot-breasted White-eyes). We will linger until dark to look for the scarce Timor (Large-tailed) Nightjar. Timor (Southern) Boobook also occurs in this area too.

Orange-banded Thrush, a Timor specialty
Orange-banded Thrush, a Timor specialty (Sam Woods)

Day 9: Gunung Mutis (Timor). A busy day lies ahead as we spend the entirety of it on Mount Mutis, accessed by way of a bumpy drive using 4WD vehicles. The higher elevations of this site relative to the others visited by this stage on Timor will open up a swathe of other endemics to us. In the early morning we will focus on the summit trail (not anywhere near as difficult as it sounds), and be on the lookout for Olive-headed Parakeets as they fly out from their roosts. Trickier species found in this particular area include the extremely shy Timor Imperial-Pigeon (only very rarely seen), Eucalypt (Little) Cuckoo-Dove, and Iris Lorikeet, which is challenging to find perched! More regular fare in this area are likely to be Island Thrush, and with the use of playback we will try and tempt one of the local Pygmy Cupwings out to scramble around one of their boulder-strewn hiding places. This part of the mountain may also produce the endemic Timor (Black-fronted) Myzomela, Metallic Pigeon, Sunda Bush-Warbler, or Sunda Cuckoo. Another area of the mountain will also be visited to look for the rare and only recently discovered Mount Mutis Parrotfinch among its more regular brethren, Tricolored Parrotfinch. This site also holds Timor (Blood-breasted) Flowerpecker, Timor Blue (Warbling) Flycatcher, and Yellow-eared Honeyeater. After a lengthy day up on the mountain we will return to our hotel in Soe for a second and final night.

"Timor" Fantail looks nothing like Northern Fantail, under which it is currently listed! (Sam Woods)

Day 10: Lowlands of Timor. This day is largely a Timor “flexi-day”, where we will need to return to one or both of the main lowland sites of Oelnasi and Bipolo, in order to track down some of the remaining Timor specialties. The exact plan for this day will be outlined the evening before, once the continuing targets are known. At the end of the day we will return to the town of Kupang, where we will stay in a business hotel again, in readiness for our jump to Flores the following morning.

The striking Elegant Pitta will be looked for on Flores
The striking Elegant Pitta will be looked for on Flores (Keith Barnes)

Day 11: Timor to Lake Ranamese and Kisol (Flores). A morning flight will be taken from Kupang on Timor to Ruteng on the western side of the island of Flores. From there we will immediately start driving towards Kisol, where we will spend the next two nights in a nearby town (Borong). However, the journey takes us right past Lake Ranamese, a lake that often hosts Tricolored (Little) Grebe on the lake, but more importantly a series of endemics in the surrounding forest. We may well pick up our first Flores (Little) Minivets, Eyebrowed Heleias (White-browed White-eyes), Flores (Timor) Leaf Warblers, Trumpeting (Brown-capped) Fantails, Flores Spangled (Wallacean) Drongos, and Golden-rumped Flowerpeckers in the area. Flores Hawk-Eagle is also found there, although is very rare, with Rufous-bellied Eagle considerably more likely! We should arrive in the Kisol area by lunchtime, allowing us time in the afternoon for our first birding there, and also to linger for nightbirds too; Moluccan Scops-Owl is abundant there, and Wallace’s Scops-Owl and Mees’s Nightjar also occur. Two nights will be spent in a hotel within a town near to Kisol (Borong).

Pale-shouldered Cicadabird is endemic to the Lesser Sundas
Pale-shouldered Cicadabird is endemic to the Lesser Sundas (Sam Woods)

Day 12: Kisol (Flores). An entire day will be spent in the lowland and hill forests of Kisol, which can boast some of the island’s most wanted birds. The loud calls of White-rumped (Glittering) Kingfishers betray the fact they are relatively common. However, it is a forest interior species, and while most of the birding at Kisol can be done by road, it is quite normal to have to go into the forest to find this inconspicuous, bright orange-billed kingfisher. Another loud but elusive species, the Elegant Pitta is likely to be another major target at the site. The early morning and afternoon we will focus on the forest birds, and particularly the forest interior birds, while spending the middle portion of the day at a lookout, surveying the forested slopes for large raptors, most importantly, the critically endangered Flores Hawk-Eagle, for which this is the best site, but it is still rare. The forest birds we will seek include the scarce Flores Green-Pigeon, and we will be hoping for some fruiting trees to aid in this search. Also of interest will be the forested-dwelling Flores Crow; while not spectacular looking, its calls are entertaining, and quite uncrow-like. Pale-shouldered Cicadabird can also be encountered in this area too. On this day, either in the morning or evening, we have another chance to try for both Wallace’s and Moluccan Scops-Owls. A second night will be spent at a hotel in a town near Kisol.

Flores Scops-Owl; 8 owls are possible on the main tour; 6 of them endemics!
Flores Scops-Owl; 8 owls are possible on the main tour; 6 of them endemics! (Sam Woods)

Day 13: Kisol to Ruteng (Flores). Depending on how we have done by this stage, we may either spend another morning in Kisol, or push forward, birding again near Lake Ranamese on the way towards Ruteng, where the next three nights will be spent in a business hotel. The rise in altitude in this area, will bring us in touching distance of some high dwelling endemics, like the extremely shy Flores (White-browed) Shortwing and Russet-capped Tesia. We will arrive in Ruteng in time to spend the late afternoon (and evening), at Golo Lusang, an area of hillforest that is home to the rare Flores Scops-Owl, which will be targeted during our nights and pre-dawns there.

Flame-breasted Sunbird is endemic to the Lesser Sundas
Flame-breasted Sunbird is endemic to the Lesser Sundas (Keith Barnes)

Days 14-15: Golo Lusang and the Pagal Road (Flores). These two areas comprise forested hills, and are the main spots to try and find higher elevation Flores specialties, but also possesses some of the lower species too, should we have missed them earlier. Of particular interest will be Crested Heleia (Dark-crowned White-eye), the tiny, emerald green Wallace’s Hanging-Parrot, the equally bright green Leaf (Rainbow) Lorikeet, the master songster, Bare-throated Whistler, Flores (Blood-breasted) Flowerpecker, Flores (Jungle) Warbling-Flycatcher, and a rich yellow-bellied form of Sunda (Oriental) White-eye. Other possibilities on these days include the gorgeous Flame-breasted Sunbird, Dark-backed Imperial-Pigeon, and Yellow-breasted (Sunda) Warbler. These two nights will also be spent in a business hotel in the city of Ruteng.

Flores Monarch is very local on that island
Flores Monarch is very local on that island (Sam Woods)

Day 16: Puarlolo to Labuan Bajo (Flores). Before dawn, we will leave our Ruteng hotel for the last time, traveling to the extreme northwest of Flores, and the port of Labuan Bajo. However, on the way there we will stop at a very special forest indeed, Puarlolo, where the extremely localized Flores Monarch can be found. While searching for that striking endemic, we will also be on the lookout for the shy Chestnut-capped Thrush and Rufous-chested Flycatcher. After much of the morning at this coastal forest site, we shall either visit some coastal flats for shorebirds like Javan Plover, or visit another forest site, the Potawangka Road, where Rufous-backed (Oriental Dwarf) Kingfisher can be found among other forest birds. The next two nights will be spent at an excellent hotel in Labuan Bajo, the town from which all boats to Komodo depart. It therefore has a healthy tourist trade, unlike most of the places visited on this tour!

Green Junglefowl is easily found on Bali
Green Junglefowl is easily found on Bali (Keith Barnes)

Day 17: Komodo and Labuan Bajo (Flores). On this day we will take a very comfortable private boat trip to the island of Komodo, located off of the western end of Flores. One of the major reasons for our visit is the reason that so many other tourists come too, to see the largest living reptile, the gargantuan Komodo Dragon. Those tourists too rave about the snorkeling off of there, and we will have time to sample that too, once we have finished with the dragons and birds of Komodo. Also, of significance on Komodo is one of the only remaining populations of the critically endangered Yellow-crested Cockatoo, which will hope to encounter during a short walk on the island. Other species that may feature then include Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Green Junglefowl (arguably easier here than in any other part of their range), White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Barred and Island (Sunda) Collared Doves, Variable (Varied) Goshawk, Flame-breasted Sunbird, and Lemon-bellied White-eye. Going to and from the island is not only scenic and absorbing, but may also produce a Great-billed Heron clinging to rocks on the shores of some of the smaller islands between Komodo and Flores. If we are lucky a Beach Thick-knee might be spied too. This will be a very relaxed day following the frenetic pace of much of tour, with little walking, snorkeling available and generally easy birding. If we arrive back in Labuan Bajo with enough time, those who wish to do so can visit a nearby shoreline for shorebirds as well as frigatebirds, and perhaps a Stork-billed or Small Blue (Cerulean) Kingfisher. The final night of the tour will be spent in Labuan Bajo.

On the last day of the trip we take a boat ride to see Komodo Dragon
On the last day of the trip we take a boat ride to see Komodo Dragon (Sam Woods)

Day 18: Departure from Labuan Bajo (Flores). The final birding of the tour will have been done on the afternoon before; this is merely a departure day, with transfers from the hotel to the well-served airport of Labuan Bajo bringing the tour to a close.

A statue in Bedugal, Bali
A statue in Bedugal, Bali (Keith Barnes)

BALI and EASTERN JAVA EXTENSION (5 Days)

Bali is one of those places whose very mention evokes a tropical island paradise. This island does indeed have wonderful beaches, snorkeling, diving, and hospitable people. But in combination with eastern Java, just the other side of a narrow strait, it also offers some excellent birding. Although Bali lies in close proximity to the Lesser Sundas, it is on the other side of Wallace’s Line, which coincides with a deep oceanic trench. This means that in periods of low sea levels, it was connected with Java, Sumatra, Borneo, and the Asian mainland, rather than to the Lesser Sundas and Moluccas. This has resulted in an avifauna with strong Asian/Oriental tropical affinities (“Sundaic”), including a rich set of endemics. This short and easy extension offers chances to see many of these. These include some wonderful birds like Javan Kingfisher, Javan Banded-Pitta, Black-banded Barbet, and the critically endangered Bali Myna (Starling).

Bali Myna in Bali Barat NP, on the extension
Bali Myna in Bali Barat NP, on the extension (Ken Behrens)

Day 1: Arrival in Denpasar; transfer to Pemuteran. After arrival in the modern Denpasar Airport, we drive about three hours to the northeast coast, where we’ll be based in the chilled-out little beach town of Pemuteran. Time permitting (depending on flight arrivals), there may be some time on this day on Bali to look for Javan Kingfisher, Flame-fronted and Little (Blue-eared) Barbets, Olive-backed (Javan) Tailorbird, Gray-cheeked (Melodious) Bulbul, Javan (Heleia) Graythroated (Mees’s) White-eye, and White-headed Munia. The next two nights will be spent in Permuteran, the traditional place for people to stay for exploring the wonderful Bali Barat National Park.

A blind will be visited for the Javan Banded-Pitta on the extension
A blind will be visited for the Javan Banded-Pitta on the extension (Keith Barnes)

Day 2: Bali Barat National Park. Bali Barat protects the largest and wildest tract of land left on Bali. It includes a fat peninsula, which is covered in dry forest, while it grades into rainforest as you move inland. In combination with a coastline of sandy beaches, mudflats, and mangroves, it’s no surprise that this park supports a diverse mix of birds. It’s the last refuge of the spectacular, crested, white, critically endangered Bali Myna (Starling), and also holds the slightly more widespread but also critically endangered Black-winged Starling (Myna). Some of Bali Barat’s other most sought-after birds include Cerulean (Small Blue) Kingfisher, Rufous-backed (Oriental) Dwarf and Blue-eared Kingfishers, Freckle-breasted and Laced Woodpeckers, Little (Blue-eared) Barbet, Bar-winged Prinia, Ruby-throated Bulbul, Scarlet-headed Flowerpecker, Racket-tailed Treepie, and the gorgeous Javan Banded-Pitta. If we don’t get lucky and find them on day roosts, we may end the day with a nocturnal excursion to search for Sunda Scops-Owl and Savannah Nightjar. As you can probably tell, this is likely to be an action-packed day, producing many excellent birds that are not possible on the main tour, and some very special ones among them. A second night will be spent in Pemuteran.

Green Peafowls have never looked better!
Green Peafowls have never looked better! (Keith Barnes)

Day 3: To Java (Alas Perwo NP). We will take an early ferry out of Bali to the eastern side of Java and continue on to Alas Perwo National Park, our main destination for the day. Our hope there is to find the rare Javan Hawk-Eagle for which this is a traditional site. However, there is plenty more on offer even if we do not come across that rare raptor. It is also home to a rare mammal in the form of Banteng. The other birds that we will be on the lookout for on another busy day will include Green Peafowl, Javan (Yellow-throated) Hanging-Parrot, Black-banded Barbet, Javan Cuckooshrike, Ruby-throated Bulbul, Javan (Gray-cheeked) Tit-Babbler, Bar-winged Prinia, and Javan (Streaky-breasted) Spiderhunter. At the end of the day we will travel to a hotel in Banyuwangi for the night. If time (and weather) permits, we may go for Javan Frogmouth on this night, or early the following morning.

Blue Nuthatch will be a major target in the mountains of Java
Blue Nuthatch will be a major target in the mountains of Java (Keith Barnes)

Day 4: Mount Ijen (Java). This park holds a mix of drier, savannah-like habitat, and true rainforest. It’s a good place for some of the lower-elevation endemic birds, but also holds many of Java’s montane endemic species. Although it lacks some of the montane birds of western Java, it offers easy road access to the forest, rather than long walks on steep trails. This is also likely to be a huge day, as we pack in both lower and higher elevation parts of the park, and so our target list will be long: Pink-headed Fruit-Dove, Gray-and-buff Woodpecker, Javan Yellownape, Banded Broadbill, Sunda Minivet, Sunda Cuckooshrike, Blue Nuthatch, White-bellied Fantail, Sunda Warbler, Orange-spotted and Javan (Sunda) Bulbuls, Pied and Trilling Shrike-Babblers, Large Wren-Babbler, Pygmy Cupwing, Crescent-chested and White-bibbed Babblers, Javan (Chestnut-backed) Scimitar-Babbler, Javan (Blue-winged) Leafbird, Javan (Blood-breasted) Flowerpecker, and White-flanked Sunbird are all possible among many more! A purpose-built blind will be visited too for the chance at the endemic Gray-breasted (White-faced) Partridge and Scaly (Horsfield’s) Thrush. This night will be spent again in the same hotel in Banyuwangi.

Pink-headed Fruit-Dove, a stunning target on the extension
Pink-headed Fruit-Dove, a stunning target on the extension (Keith Barnes)

Day 5: Mount Ijen (Java) to Denpasar (Bali). After a final morning birding session, we retrace our steps, and head back to Bali. If we haven’t seen it already, we’ll watch for Javan Kingfisher in rice paddies and other wetlands along the way. We’ll spend the night in a comfortable modern hotel in Denpasar. This is also day 1 of the main tour (the arrival day).

Bali offers a vibrant culture alongside the birding
Bali offers a vibrant culture alongside the birding (Keith Barnes)

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TRIP CONSIDERATIONS

PACE: Intense. While physically, this is for the most part, not a challenging tour (i.e. the walking is largely not difficult), the very early starts and long days (necessitated to look for the many endemic nightbirds), make this more intense than many of our other tours. The Lesser Sundas are a remote part of Indonesia, and therefore accommodations are usually limited, so there is the need to travel a short distance to get to many of the birding sites, meaning earlier rises. Starts of 4am-5am are common on this tour, especially at the early end of this time frame. As it get light early, there may also be even earlier starts, as an optional activity, before rejoining the rest of the group, if some of the nightbirds require this. For example, in 2018, we needed to get up at 3am in order to get the (Great) Sumba Boobook, as it would not show at night! This was optional though and could be opted out of. There are many packed breakfasts taken in the field (on around half of the days), and some packed lunches (around 4 on the main tour). There may be the odd packed breakfast and lunch on the extension too. Often the packed food in this part of the world is better than it sounds, comprising a cooked fried rice meal with egg or the like, and coffee is usually provided too!

DIFFICULTY: Moderate (Main tour). A fair amount of walking is required, although much of it on wide tracks and in fairly easy terrain. There is one, optional, strenuous walk on Timor’s Gunung Mutis, where we trek on a difficult track for three hours to search for Iris Lorikeet, parrotfinches and Timor Imperial-Pigeon. This track is taken slowly, and while uneven the gradient is not that great, only gradually ascending. The toughest aspect of this trip are the very long days, made longer by the pursuit of the many endemic night birds available on this tour. Many of these are usually, with effort, seen, by taking long days in the field. The extension is easy.

ACCOMMODATION: As this is a remote part of the world the accommodations on this tour are highly variable, with good to excellent accommodations available in some areas, but basic in others. At all sites we use the best accommodations available. In the cities of Denpasar (1 night on the main tour), Kupang (2 nights), Soe (1 night), Ruteng (3 nights) and Labuan Bajo (2 nights) good to excellent, modern hotels are used with private bathrooms, 24-hour electricity, full time hot water, air conditioning and Internet. In Lewa (3 nights) we will be staying at the simplest accommodation on the tour, a simple guesthouse. This means shared bathrooms (1 western and 1 nonwestern between the group), and only bucket showers – hot water is provided for this. However, there is usually 24 hour electricity here, but no Internet, unless you have a cell signal to connect with a local network. There are places to charge electrical items, but they are limited. On Rote (1 night) we will stay in a resort with air conditioning, full time electricity, and private bathrooms, but the bathrooms comprise of only a bucket shower with cold water. At Kisol, we have upgraded for the next tour to a hotel in town, where private bathrooms and electricity are both present, although showers are bucket showers, with hot water usually available for this. So, the toughest nights of the tour are the 3 nights in Sumba and 1 night on Rote.

The extension to Bali and Java is very comfortable on all nights, with modern hotels, including private bathrooms, full time electricity and Internet.

PHOTOGRAPHY: This is a birding tour, with the focus on getting as many birds as possible, although casual and patient photographers in the group are likely to find some birds good subjects for photography. There are no feeders on this tour, so any photography is on the fly as it were, and will always take second place to making sure everyone sees the bird. On this tour the best photography is on Komodo (with the dragons especially), and on Sumba, where the easiest birding of the tour is typically found. Elsewhere photography is much more limited (especially on Timor, where the birding is the toughest of the tour).

CLIMATE: The Lesser Sundas are hot and humid for the most part (the entire time on Sumba, Komodo, and Rote; and most of the time on Timor and Flores). However, on Timor (1-2 days) and Flores (3 days) we go up to higher elevations where rain and mist, and cooler (but not cold) temperatures are more likely. Similarly, on the extension, the lowlands of Java and Bali are hot and humid like most of the main tour, but our trip in to the mountains will be cooler with a higher chance of rain. Although this is generally a dry time of year for this region as a whole, tropical downpours are possible at any time. This is especially true of the higher elevation sites like Gunung Mutis on Timor, Golo Lusang on Flores, and on Mt. Ijen on Java on the extension. However, with weather changes being pronounced globally, rain could be experienced at any time and rain gear should be brought at least in the vehicle for each outing. Here are some temperatures to help you understand the conditions; Wainpagu (Sumba) averages around 70F/20C, and no rain at this time of year; Kupang (Timor) averages between 72-91F/22-33C in September with little or no rain; Rote is the same as Timor, but low lying so lacking the threat of wet mountain weather; Ruteng, Flores averages 57-79F/14 – 26C at this time of year, being higher in elevation. There is also more chance of rain on Flores, but it is still at the lowest precipitation levels of the year. This tends to occur mostly in the afternoons and evening. Komodo averages between 66 – 80F/19 – 27C at this time, with a small chance of rain.

WHEN TO GO: The Lesser Sundas are at their driest at this time of year (May-September), and so this is often considered the best time to go. This is a decent time for birding on all the islands. Most tours try and plan their trips in particular in the August-September time frame.

OTHER INFO:

TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS: A valid passport is required; the passport must be valid for at least six months past your intended stay. Visas on arrival in Indonesia can be obtained for tourists from the US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and most European countries for stays of under 30 days. There is a fee for this, payable in cash on arrival. If you are planning to combine several of Tropical Birding’s Indonesian offerings, or would like to explore Indonesia further on your own, you will need to get a 60-day tourist visa in advance if your time extends beyond the standard 30 days.

Travel requirements are subject to change (particularly in Indonesia, where there has been much recent changes); we recommend double-checking entry requirements six weeks prior to the tour, or ask our office staff for help.

WHAT’S INCLUDED?: Tips to drivers, local guides, and lodge staff; accommodation from night of day 1 through to night of day 17 (if not joining the extension); if joining the extension, accommodation from night of day 1 through to night of day 17 of the main tour, and nights of day 1 through to night of day 4 on the extension (night of day 5 is included in the main tour); meals from dinner on day 1 through to breakfast on day 18 (if not joining the extension); on extension meals are included from lunch on day 1 of the extension to lunch on day 5 (dinner on the night of day 5 is included as part of the main tour); domestic flights are included on the main tour (i.e. Denpasar to Waingapu, Sumba on day 2; Waingapu to Kupang, Timor on day 5; and Kupang, Timor to Ruteng, Flores on day 11). No domestic flights are required on the extension. Ferry crossings to and from Bali and Java are included on the extension (days 3 and 5). There are ferry crossings also included on the main tour, between Timor and Rote (days 6 and day 7), and a private boat trip to and from Komodo Island on day 17. Safe drinking water throughout (please do not drink the local water out of the tap/faucet). Tropical Birding tour leader with scope and audio gear from the afternoon of day 1 to the evening of day 17 (on the main tour), from lunchtime of day 1 to evening of day 5 on the extension, if joining that too; local guides throughout the Lesser Sundas, Bali and Java; one arrival and one departure airport transfer per person (transfers may be shared with other participants of the same tour if they are on the same flight); ground transport for the group to all sites in the itinerary; entrance fees to all birding sites mentioned in the itinerary; a printed and bound checklist to keep track of your sightings (given to you at the start of the tour – only electronic copies can be provided in advance).

WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED?: Optional tips to the Tropical Birding tour leader (one throughout); tips for optional luggage porters in city hotels on the main tour and extension; international flights; snacks; additional drinks apart from those included; alcoholic beverages; visa fees (payable on arrival in Indonesia/before if getting a longer, 60-day visa); departure tax when leaving Indonesia (this is usually now included within tickets for most airlines – please check this with your individual carrier); travel insurance; excursions not included in the tour itinerary; extras in hotels such as laundry service, minibar, room service, telephone calls, and personal items; medical fees; other items or services not specifically mentioned as being included.