The province of Sulawesi in Indonesia is an oddly-shaped four-legged island lying to the east of Borneo and west of New Guinea. More importantly it is east of the famous Wallace's line, an imaginary boundary between distinct faunal regions and is the largest of the Wallacean islands with an avifauna totally distinct from the Greater Sundas to the west. Sulawesi has the largest number of endemics bird species of any Indonesian island with up to 70 currently recognised. Halmahera is the largest of the Moluccas or fabled Spice Islands and lies just a short distance to the east. It has a totally different avifauna with 24 endemics and has affinities more with the Australasian region and is home to the fabulous Wallace's Standardwing, one of the most bizarre Birds-of-Paradise. Join us on this endemic rich and fun-filled ZOOTHERA tour that will leave you longing to return!
Sulawesi Masked Owl
Days 1 - 2 Jakarta (Java) to Palu – Lore Lindu NP (Sulawesi)
Upon arrival in Jakarta you will be picked up at the airport and transferred to a nearby hotel for an overnight stay. From Jakarta we will take a morning flight to Palu in western Sulawesi and then drive across the lowlands to Lore Lindu and along the way we can see some typical lowland birds such as White-shoulder Triller, Sooty-headed and perhaps Yellow-vented Bulbul, Gerygone, Olive-backed Sunbird, Grey-sided Flowerpecker, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, and maybe Savanna Nightjar, Black-faced and Pale-headed Munias amongst others. Eventually we will arrive in the late afternoon at Lore Lindu National Park where we will check in to our lodge for a 4 night stay.
Days 3 - 6 Lore Lindu National Park (Sulawesi)
Lore Lindu is not only the largest but undoubtedly the most productive of all the national parks in Sulawesi. There are a diverse range of habitats here from tranquil lowland rainforest to densely forested, rugged mountains up to 2509m, which makes this particular area so rich in birdlife, with a large number of Sulawesi's endemics present. We will concentrate on the upper reaches of the mountains to begin with, where the forest is mostly intact and where we will look for some localised endemics which usually associate in large, mixed flocks. The rather strange Malia is usually quite conspicuous, along with Sulawesi Leaf-warbler, Caerulean and Pygmy Cuckooshrikes, Sulawesi Drongo and Piping Crow. We'll also search for Citrine and Blue-fronted Flycatchers, Island Verditer, Yellow-flanked and Yellow-vented Whistlers, Rusty-bellied Fantail, Crimson-crowned Flowerpecker, Mountain White-eye, Streak-headed Dark-eye and possibly Blue-faced Parrotfinch, all of which can be caught up in these roving flocks. We can also find Small Sparrowhawk in these higher areas, along with Yellow-and-Green and Ornate Lorikeets, Ivory-backed Woodswallow, Sulawesi Blue Flycatcher, Scarlet Honeyeater (sometimes treated as a distinct species, Sulawesi Myzomela), Fiery-browed Myna, and Mountain Serin. Patches of lowland forest hold a number of specialities such as Jerdon's Baza, Sulawesi Serpent-eagle, Sulawesi Cicadabird, Sulawesi Triller, Short-tailed Starling, Sulawesi Crested Myna and Lemon-bellied White-eye. On the lower slopes we will also search for Barred Honey-buzzard, the incredible Purple-bearded Bee-eater and Golden-mantled Racquet-tail. Flowering and fruiting trees are usually very productive and give us our best chance of seeing both Lesser and Greater Sulawesi Honeyeaters, as well as White-bellied and Grey-headed Imperial-pigeons, Superb and Red-eared Fruit-doves and Brown Cuckoo-dove. Of course we will also look for the secretive, skulking and hard-to-see species such as the shy Sulawesi Mountain Thrush, Great Shortwing and Chestnut-backed Bush-warbler. Other species possible during our stay include Cinnamon Bittern, Platen's Rail, Spot-tailed Goshawk, Spotted Kestrel, Sulawesi Ground-dove, Sulawesi Hawk-cuckoo, Rusty-breasted Cuckoo, Gould's Bronze-cuckoo, Purple Needletail, Moluccan Swiftlet, Sulawesi Pygmy Woodpecker, Knobbed Hornbill, Geomalia, Pygmy Cuckooshrike, Blue-fronted, Island and Rufous-throated Flycatchers, Sulawesi Blue-flycatcher, Mountain Tailorbird, Olive-backed, Black and Crimson Sunbirds, Greater Streaked Honeyeater, Maroon-backed Whistler, Asian Glossy Starling, and both Sulawesi and Fiery-browed Mynas. Night birding can be productive with some real quality species to find such as Sulawesi Scops-owl, Speckled and Cinnabar Boobooks, Sulawesi Masked Owl, and the poorly known Satanic Nightjar. On Day 6 we will return to Palu for the night.
Day 7 Palu - Luwuk (Sulawesi)
In the morning we will drive the short distance to the local airport and fly to Luwuk and head to a very special site our guide has found for the bizarre Maleo. The local villagers are being encouraged to help protect these bizarre megapodes and by staying with them in their homes for the night or at some simple beach huts nearby we will greatly aid their awareness and the overall conservation effort. This is undoubtedly the best site to see Maleo in Sulawesi, a species which lay their eggs in colonies in the ground where they are left to incubate themselves because the ground is heated volcanically!This site is seldom visited by other tour companies and we have special access thanks to our excellent ground agents.
Day 8 Luwuk – Makassar – Karaenta Forest (Sulawesi)
The best time to see the Maleos is early in the morning so we will spend several hours watching and waiting for these secretive birds to appear. Later we will return to Luwuk to catch our flight to Makassar in southern Sulawesi and go to Karaenta Forest which is a series of remnant forest patches on limestone outcrops. This is a very good area for the rare endemic Black-ringed White-eye, a species confined to southern Sulawesi. Other species here include Red-backed Buttonquail, Sulawesi Woodpecker, Sooty-headed Bulbul, Sulawesi Babbler, Pale-blue Monarch, Black Sunbird, and both Yellow-sided and Grey-sided Flowerpeckers. Afterwards we can visit an area of fish ponds and wet paddies that is productive for a number of wetland species including Javan Pond-heron, Sunda Teal, White-headed Stilt, Terek Sandpiper, Long-toed and Red-necked Stints, Pacific Golden Plover, Australian Pratincole, and there is always the chance of finding a rarer wader or two. Night in Makassar.
Day 9 Makassar – Halmahera – Sidangoli Village
After checking out a site for Yellow-bellied White-eye we will take a flight to the small island of Ternate, which is located just off the west coast of Halmahera. Dominated by a smoking volcano which rises to 1700m, we will jump aboard a speedboat to take us across the bay to Sidangoli in the north of Halmahera. During the short crossing we need to keep our eyes open for a few seabirds which could include Lesser Frigatebird, Brown Booby, and Great Crested and Bridled Terns. Halmahera is the largest of the famous ‘Spice Islands' and its position far to the east of the Wallace Line means there is a rather Australasian influence to the avifauna. Our base for the next 3 nights will be Sidangoli.
Days 10-11 Sidangoli Forest (Halmahera)
As in many areas of south-east Asia the habitat is becomingly increasingly degraded, yet Sidangoli is still teeming with birdlife. Very early on our first morning we will visit the display area of Wallace's Standardwing, an extraordinary bird of paradise and not only is this endemic but is exceedingly rare and only found in a few special forests. We will need to be in position before sunrise to witness the spectacular courtship display where several males call loudly, sticking out their brilliant white standards in the hope of attracting a female. We will also target the stunning Ivory-breasted Pitta, the bizarre Moluccan Owlet-nightjar, and our second bird of paradise, Paradise Crow.
The rest of our time here will be spent in search of Pacific Baza, Moluccan Goshawk, Variable Goshawk, Gurney's Eagle, Dusky Scrubfowl, Nicobar Pigeon, Blue-capped and Grey-headed Fruit-Doves, Cinnamon-bellied Imperial-pigeon, White Cockatoo, Chattering Lory, Red-flanked Lorikeet, Red-cheeked, Great-billed and Eclectus Parrots, Moluccan Hanging-parrot, Goliath Coucal, Moluccan Scops-owl, Moluccan Hawk-owl, Halmahera Swiftlet, Moustached Treeswift, Blue-and-White, Sombre and Beach Kingfishers, Common Paradise-Kingfisher, Rainbow Bee-eater, Purple Roller, Blyth's Hornbill, Moluccan Cuckoo-shrike, Rufous-bellied Triller, Golden Bulbul, Slaty and Spectacled Monarchs, Shining Flycatcher, Golden and Drab Whistlers, Flame-breasted Flowerpecker, Cream-throated White-eye, White-streaked and Dusky Friarbirds, Halmahera Oriole, and Metallic and Moluccan Starlings amongst others.
Day 12Sidangoli – Tobelo (Halmahera)
After spending a few hours chasing any species we may still need, we will head north to Tobelo. After checking in to our hotel we will visit a nearby beach for our target species, the rare Moluccan Scrubfowl. These globally-threatened and shy birds come to the beach at night to lay their eggs but numbers vary and a certain amount of luck is needed to spotlight one!
Days 13 - 16Ternate - Manado (Sulawesi) - Tangkoko
This morning we return to Ternate by speedboat again, giving us another chance of some seabirds en-route before flying to Manado in northern Sulawesi. From here we proceed to Tangkoko National Park for a 4 night stay. This is a special place, with much of the lowland forest remaining intact and we will explore the whole area on foot following a network of trails in search of a number of Sulawesi endemics and specialities. This is THE place to find a number of highly sought-after kingfishers, with Ruddy, Lilac-cheeked, Green-backed and Sulawesi Dwarf Kingfishers all possible. We will need to take a local palmboat into the mangroves to have any chance of the huge Black-billed Kingfisher, and there is also the added bonus of a day-roosting Sulawesi Masked Owl as well. Amongst a large list of very special birds we will search for Isabelline Bush-hen, Sulawesi Hawk-eagle, Sulawesi Black Pigeon, Maroon-chinned and Black-naped Fruit-doves, Grey-cheeked Green-pigeon, White and Silver-tipped Imperial-pigeons, White-faced Cuckoo-dove, Yellow-crested Cockatoo, Yellow-breasted and Golden-mantled Racquet-tails, Ornate Lorikeet, Blue-backed Parrot, Large Sulawesi Hanging-parrot, Black-billed Koel, Bay Coucal, Yellow-billed Malkoha, Purple-winged Roller, Sulawesi Dwarf and Knobbed Hornbills, Ashy Woodpecker, Elegant Pitta, White-rumped Cuckooshrike, Red-backed Thrush, Pale-blue Monarch, Sulawesi Babbler, Grosbeak Starling, and White-necked Myna. This bird-rich area is also home to a huge variety of more widespread species such as Great-billed Heron, Pacific Reef-egret, Osprey, Brahminy Kite, White-bellied Sea-eagle, Sulawesi Goshawk, Vinous-breasted Sparrowhawk, Tabon Scrubfowl, Black-naped Tern, Azure-rumped Parrot, Pygmy Hanging-parrot, Lesser Coucal, Stephan's Dove, Glossy and Uniform Swiftlets, Grey-rumped Treeswifts, Red-bellied and Hooded Pittas, White-breasted Woodswallow, Pied Cuckooshrike, Cicadabird, Sooty-headed Bulbul, Black-naped Oriole, Flyeater, Plain-throated Sunbird, Hair-crested Drongo, Slender-billed Crow, and both White-necked and Finch-billed Mynas. Once the sun has set we will have the opportunity to search for Sulawesi Nightjar, Ochre-bellied Boobook and Sulawesi Scops-owl. Nights at Tangkoko.
Days 17-18 Kota Mobagu – Gunung Ambang (Sulawesi)
After breakfast we will drive to Kota Mobagu from where we can visit the montane forest of Gunung Ambang National Park in search of some of Sulawesi's least known and rarest species. Our primary target is the localised Matinan Flycatcher, which only inhabits the Minahasa Peninsular here in northeast Sulawesi. If we are lucky, then we may have an encounter with the elusive Scaly Kingfisher, Cinnabar Hawk-owl or the seldom-seen Sombre Pigeon. Other possibilities here include Grey-cheeked Pigeon, Superb Fruit-dove, White-bellied Imperial-pigeon, Yellow-and-green Lorikeet, Purple-bearded Bee-eater, Citrine Canary-flycatcher and Rusty-flanked Fantail. Nights at Kota Mobagu.
Days 19-21 Tambun – Dumoga Bone NP – Manado (Sulawesi)
An early start will see us head to Tambun and if necessary, we have another chance to watch Maleos again before reaching the core area of Dumoga Bone National Park where we will stay at the lodge beside the park headquarters for 2 nights. The habitat is primarily lowland rainforest but is surrounded by mountains with some good montane forest cloaking the lower slopes. From our conveniently situated guest house close to the national park we will look for Rufous Night-heron, Wandering Whistling-duck, Sunda Teal, Comb-crested Jacana, Lesser Fish-eagle, Spotted Harrier, Buff-banded and Barred Rails, White-browed Crake, Yellow-breasted Racquet-tail, White-faced Cuckoo-dove, Sulawesi Ground-dove, Maroon-chinned Fruit-dove, both Large and Small Sulawesi Hanging-parrots,Sulawesi Triller, green-backed Kingfisher, Pied Cuckooshrike, White-backed Woodswallow and Black-faced Munia amongst others. This is also our last chance of catching up with Sulawesi Owl, Sulawesi Scops-owl and Speckled Hawk-owl. On Day 21 we will leave in the afternoon and return to Manado for an overnight stay.
Days 22-23 Manado – Jakarta (Java) and end of tour
Unfortunately, we will have to leave Sulawesi and fly to Jakarta in order to connect with our international flights and the end of a spectacular bird-filled tour.
Group size: Minimum for tour to go ahead 4 and maximum 8 with 2 leaders
Included in cost: Accommodation in twin rooms mostly en-suite, all meals including picnic lunches where necessary, all entrance fees to National Parks, transport throughout in air-conditioned vehicles, boat trips, and services of leaders.
Not included: International airfare, insurance, visa fee upon arrival, departure taxes, excess luggage charges, drinks, tips and items of a personal nature.
Accommodation: Ranges from very good to quite basic. We will stay in the best available lodge/guest house close to the birding sites we visit to cut-out the necessity of any long drives before reaching the best birding areas each day.
Tour Code: This is a relatively adventurous tour whereearly starts and some late finishes when owling, can be expected. Usually there is some time off during the middle of the day to relax. Most of our birding walks will be of a usual slow pace and relatively easy, apart from one excursion at Lore Lindu and when visiting the standardwing lek at Sidangoli. Expect a typically tropical climate with most days being hot and humid, with the montane areas being much cooler and some rain can be expected.
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