Sulawesi and Halmahera
Birding the edge of Wallace's Line
The Indonesian province of Sulawesi, formerly known as the Celebes, lies to the east of Borneo and is a large, rather oddly-shaped island, variously described as spider-like or orchid-shaped. With its multitude of islands, Indonesia has the highest rate of endemism of any country, and Sulawesi has the highest number of endemic birds of any of the Indonesian islands. More than 70 birds are found nowhere else, and many are gob-smackingly spectacular: think Wallace’s Standardwing, Ivory-breasted Pitta, Knobbed Hornbill, Maleo, Satanic Nightjar, and Purple-bearded Bee-eater! Added to the mix is a whole suite of endemic mammals and plants. Sulawesi is famous for its amazing endemic primates, notably the Black Crested-Macaque and the amazing Spectral Tarsier, both of which are readily seen.
The exact tour itinerary will depend on internal flight schedules that are not available until closer to departure. Please contact us for the latest information.
Travel in Sulawesi and Halmahera is a real adventure and, although not especially difficult, certainly off the beaten track. Unfortunately, habitat loss remains a major problem, and it’s safe to say that Indonesia falls into the category of “see it while you can”. We will visit three national parks on Sulawesi: Tangkoko, Lore Lindu, and Dumoga-Bone. From the cool mossy cloudforests to the luxuriant lowland rainforests, our targets will include the extraordinary Maleo, a number of fabulous endemic raptors, some cracking kingfishers (at Tangkoko NP alone we regularly encounter up to seven kingfishers), the improbable Purple-bearded Bee-eater, the strikingly colourful Knobbed Hornbill, some tricky forest-dwellers like Geomalia and Great Shortwing, and some amazing endemic starlings including Finch-billed Myna and Sulawesi Crested Starling. We start our exploration in the southern city of Makassar, exploring the Karaenta forests in search of the restricted-range Black-ringed White-eye. One of our main targets on this tour will undoubtedly be the newly split Olive-flanked Whistler, now in a monotypic family and found in the montane forest of Lore Lindu. The superb Tangkoko N.P. is small but very rich and often holds the best birding of the tour. Other standout birds include the stunning Red-backed Thrush, as well as Sulawesi Black Pigeon, Lilac-cheeked Kingfisher, and the appropriately named Ornate Lorikeet.
A short hop to the east is Halmahera, the largest of the Moluccas (known as the Spice Islands during the age of Portuguese exploration, when ounce for ounce nutmeg was worth more than gold). From Ternate, dominated by a gently smoking volcano, we will transfer by boat to the quiet little village of Sidangoli on Halmahera. Halmahera has a similar shape to the much wetter Sulawesi, but biogeographically it is more aligned with the Australasian region. The avifauna is vastly different, with a remarkable 22 endemic birds, including the famous Wallace’s Standardwing, which will be our main focus here along with the huge and stunning Ivory-breasted Pitta as well as other endemics such as White Cockatoo, Goliath Coucal, Moluccan Owlet-Nightjar, and the rare Moluccan Scrubfowl. Around Sidangoli we hope to catch up with Halmahera Cuckoo-shrike, Halmahera Oriole, Gurney’s Eagle, and Cream-throated White-eye. Moving further north we transfer to Tobelo. Some of the areas of remnant forest patches may reward us with views of more endemics such as Paradise Crow, White-streaked Friarbird, Grey-headed Fruit-Dove, Sombre Kingfisher, and Moluccan Starling.
Day 1: Arrival in Makassar, Sulawesi.
Day 2: Arrival in Makassar, Sulawesi.
Day 3: Karaenta Forest to Lore Lindu via Palu.
Days 4: Lore Lindu N.P.
Days 5: Lore Lindu N.P.
Days 6: Lore Lindu N.P.
Days 7: Lore Lindu N.P.
Day 8: Lore Lindu N.P. to Manado via Palu.
Day 9: Fly to Ternate; boat to Sidangoli, Halmahera.
Days 10: Drive to Tobelo; boat to Foli.
Day 11: Foli.
Day 12: Morning at Foli; return to Tobelo.
Days 13: Tobelo to Sidangoli.
Days 14: Tobelo to Sidangoli.
Days 15: Boat to Ternate; fly to Manado; drive to Tangkoko N.P.
Days 16: Boat to Ternate; fly to Manado; drive to Tangkoko N.P.
Day 17: Tangkoko to Dumoga-Bone N.P.
Days 18: Dumoga-Bone N.P.
Days 19: Dumoga-Bone N.P.
Day 20: Dumoga-Bone N.P. to Manado.
Day 21: Departure.
CLIMATE: Hot and usually dry, though there is chance of rain at any time.
DIFFICULTY: Moderate, a fair amount of walking is required, though it is not particularly strenuous.
ACCOMMODATION: Ranges to fairly basic to excellent, though private bathrooms are available everywhere.