SULAWESI & HALMAHERA
2ND AUGUST – 26TH AUGUST 2004
- Flight and visa
- Accomodation and transport
- Health and Safety
Sulawesi and Halmahera are a foremost destination for the international birdwatcher. For two main reasons: Few places in the world are more threatened than these Indonesian Islands and both are part of a totally different avian area that is known as Wallacea.
The uniqueness of the fauna of these Islands was first noticed by Alfred Russel Wallace. Wallace theorized that these Islands must be the most ancient of the Archipelago and have not recently been connected to mainland Asia as the Greater Sunda Islands have. Therefor by consequence of evolution Sulawesi has its own fauna. All mammals are unique and the percentage of endemism of birds is most amazing for Islands in the middle of the Indonesian archipelago. I went well prepared having read lots of trip reports and alarming notes on the internet that the prime birding locations are being destroyed at the moment!
If you’re a birdwatcher and you have not been there yet, then go there within the next few years.
I saw 115 lifers of which 83 were endemics. Highlights were my most wanted bee-eater: Purple Bearded-; 2 Birds of Paradise; 2 Pitta species; 9 Kingfishers (5 endemics), 13 parrotspecies; Maleo and a Diabolic Nightjar at full daylight only inches away.
Flights and visa
You do need a visa for Indonesia since February 2004 regulations have changed so get the latest info at your nearest Indonesian consulate. Arrange this well in time because the consulate needs about 3 weeks to issue a visa. I got a 30 day visa for 30 euro at the recently opened Visa bureau in Amsterdam. It is now also possible to get a 60 day visas for 45 euro.
For the Dutch see website for more info: http://indonesiepagina.nl/visum.php
The flight was expensive. Despite flying the cheapest airline company (Garuda) for the long stretch to Jakarta, the return to Manado via Singapore and Jakarta was 1221 euro including air taxes. Garuda is now pulling out of Amsterdam from November 2004 on so you may not be able to do the same thing.
It may be a good idea to prebook the internal flights like I did. The problem is that there is no possiblity to do this directly from Europe. The way I did it was to contact a local agency (Safari Tours in Manado:firstname.lastname@example.org) and booked by e-mail and money transfer. Safari Tours can also arrange to have you picked up from the airport and book a decent hotel. I did not use their services other than the flights because my friend Rinke Krol arrived a day earlier from Singapore and had everything arranged.
The internal (national) flights we booked were:Manado- Ternate (to get from Sulawesi to Halmahera)
Very few Indonesians speak English enough to be able to communicate the basics. Learning a bit of the Indonesian language is necessary (greetings; time; numbers) as the locals hardly ever go beyond: ‘hello mister!’ which can be heard hundreds of times a day if you’re in a city.
This is easy. On arrival you can use Maestro/Cirrus ATM cards to directly get your money.
Although I have to admit that the ATM that the one I wanted to use at Manado Airport was temporarily out of money. It was working fine the day before.
The only trouble with most ATM machines is that they will not give you more than 600.000 Rp. So you may have to repeat the transaction which may cost you more transaction costs. Some ATM can make you a millionaire instantly (2.000.000 Rp.). Most major towns have banks with ATM’s so no time wasted trying to get money. It is also advisable to change some cash. Cash EURO are also changed in many places. When you change cash it is advisable to get as many small denominations as possible. Indonesia is very cheap and large denominations can take time to change (most places you pay they can not give you the change and have to find people who can). TC’s can also be changed.
Accommodation & Transport
All sites have villages quite near, that have very cheap but sometimes only very basic accommodation which usually has only cold bucket-showers. Transport is also easy and cheap everywhere.
Basically it comes down to minibuses to the villages nearby and then motorcycle taxis (locally called ‘ojeks’) to the very sites. All villages have ‘ojeks’ that can bring you to exactly any place you want. That is if you don’t mind a risky ride on the back without a helmet. They can be ordered in advance (the evening before) with a little effort and a few words in Indonesian starting off with shouting ‘ojek!’ and mentioning a price of about 1 euro. 50 cents is the likely usual fare for a ride of about 10 km but getting them to be ready before sunrise may need a little extra incentive. It was no problem to get in the jungle before sunrise every morning which is of course essential to see the goodies.
When you fly into the small Island of Ternate (which is the most likely way to get to Halmahera) you can take a taxi-ride from the airport to the Fish-market which you should cross to get to the obvious wooden yetty for the Speedboat taxis to Halmahera (10.000 Rp. or 1 Euro).
For visiting Tanah Batu Putih on Halmahera you will have to stay in Sidangoli (the village you arrive in) some 12 km from the site. Some not very recent reports may tell you of resthouses very near to the site. But now there is nothing more left than deserted wooden slums. This is a result of the ‘revolt’ a few years ago and the Bali bombing that made tourism die away almost completely. There are a few better sites on Halmahera (especially for Standardwing) to visit here. So please check in other reports. It is possible to get to Labi Labi via Tobelo and also from Kao to Foli in Wasile bay 7km east of Lolobata which you can see on the following map:http://www.geocities.com/chosye/Charts/Map_Halmahera.htm
Somewhere on that clearing there is a not very obvious trail accross it towards the forest. At the edge of the forest we found a collapsed wooden building which may have been Anu's guesthouse in the past (not very obvious and someway away from the trail). Following the trail into the forest you will hear the Standardwings occasionally. We saw our male at the end of a turnoff to the right which leads to a shelter and was probably a leksite in the past. It is all quite close to the tarmacroad were the Ojek dropped you, just 1 Km or so. We spend ages at this shelter without the birds but one day decided to try to pursue the a little further (seems to be no trail but a very steep climb up a hill) it is on top of that hill that we saw a fantastic male displaying and probably a female dissappearing in a nest.
The base for Tangkoko is the village of Batu Putih which has a hospitable resthouse ‘Mama Roos’ a very short walk from the entrance of the park. It has cold beers! and excellent food. The village is reached via Girian which is merely a bus terminal. Girian is reached by ‘bemo’ or minibus from busstation ‘Paal 2’ (pronounce Paal dua) in Manado. Paal 2 busterminal is reached from anywhere in town very cheap by waving down a bemo which has it written on the front.
This is a superb site for snorkelling or diving. I think it could well be in the top 5 of underwater sites in the world. I have hardly ever seen more lush marine life ever (topped only by some one site at Great Barrier reef and Sipadan Island (near Borneo)). You would be crazy not to go there. If you try to arrange this through a travel agency you pay far to much money. The Safari Tours company that helped us with the flights asked us 1,5 million Rp. for a daytrip. We thought the fare a bit steep for Indonesian standards so we just wandered into the harbour and talked to the first boatsman we saw. He asked 250.000 for a full day chartering a small speedboat which was excellent value. You have to pay a fee for conservation on arrival. I forgot how much, I think it was 50.000 Rp. per person. Then you should hire snorkelling gear on the beach for 30.000 Rp. or so.
Lore Lindu NP.
The best base for Lore Lindu is nowadays the village Wuasa. It is nearest to the best remaining accessible forest and the top site ‘Anaso Track’ and ‘Lake Tambing’. The Anaso track can be reached in half an hour from Wuasa on a motorcycle taxi. A basic place to stay is: Losmen ‘Mona Lisa’ which can help you to arrange motorcycle taxis (no English spoken). You can also obtain a permit in this village which is nice to not have to bother about in Palu.
The permit can be obtained at a house 50 m. from the main road down a small turnoff at a giant cigarette advertisement sign to the left about 100 m back (north) from ‘Mona Lisa’.
Getting to Wuasa should be easy from Palu. The airport taxi service asked for our next destination when we made clear we wanted to go to bus terminal Masomba. We told them we wanted to go to Wuasa and because they knew there was no bus the taxi driver arranged another taxi near the bus terminal for the more than 100 km ride. It was not very cheap (250.000 Rp.= 25 euro) but made us reach Wuasa the same day so we did not miss the next morning birdwatching.
The ‘ojek’s’ in Wuasa are a bit more expensive then usual because it takes the utmost of their power to get up the steep slope to the highest area of the forest at the Anaso track. The track itself is not drivable (probably not even with good 4WD). But this is not essential because the lower part of the track seems to be the best for almost all the good birds. I believe it is only Geomalia which is found in the higher regions and requires camping on one of the clearings.
Dumoga Bone (Buga nani wartabone) NP.
A possible base for Dumoga Bone is the village kosingolan about 15 km from the old Toraut guesthouse which is again deserted. From a Manado busstation we tried to get to Kotamobagu. The busstation was fairly empty when we got there and it took us a lot of asking around and a lot of seemingly helpful people that were trying to find out when the next bus was going after one person told me that it was going tomorrow. Another person one offered us a long ride taxi to Kotamobagu where we took a microlet to Doloduo where we met a guide by the name of Icong. With him we took an ojek to Kosingolan. At Kosingolan we met a very friendly family of a few elderly people that have at least two or three rooms and provide meals at any time as well. For the Maleo you need to go to another section of the Park which is quite a long ride by ojek but Icong helped us out there.
Health and Safety
Indonesia is not an affected yellow fever area. There maybe a check on Yellow-fever certificates only when travelling from an infected area. There was no check on my certificate on arrival.As for other immunisations. I would take the Hepatitis A (10-year one available now). Hepatitis B is now prevalent in many parts of the world although only through bloodcontact it is very contagious. It maybe a good idea to get it also. The standard DTP is also a good idea. Immunisation against Japanese encephalitis is recommended as for Typhoid but I wouldn’t bother so much unless there are outbreaks. There was a massive outbreak of Dengue Fever on Java just before I flew there. It should not stop you from going there.
Sulawesi and Halmahera have Malaria (unlike some people will tell you) the risk is somewhat lower if you travel in the dry period but I would not take any chances if I were you. Take antimalarials.
You will probably have a day or two with some stomach problems. I did have 2 days or so and always have a day or two with stomach problems when going to tropical countries. Drink plenty of bottled water.
We encountered no problems and met only friendly, helpful and hospitable people as always when out of Europe (we seem to be the exception I guess).
Mind that Sulawesi has had a tendency of ethnic troubles in certain areas (particularly around Poso not very far from Lore Lindu NP.). There has been a widespread unrest in 2001 (also on Halmahera) but now things seem to have settled down. It is always wise to try and get information before deciding to go or not. But do realise that incidents are often very localised and very brief and hardly ever involve tourists. Even if they reach the headlines of your newspaper this does not mean that you should not go. In my experience even warnings of consulates are sometimes a bit beside the truth (and they should know shouldn’t they?). Try to get informed in as many ways as you can but realise that the risk of dying in your own car on the road in your own country is always far greater than the risk of getting harmed through riots or ethnic clashes abroad. I believe when I was travelling there were still some negative advises by some consulates on travelling to certain parts of Indonesia. Well I doubt if they are even true for the most risky areas.
Some sites that may give you recent information about the situation in Indonesia:
http://thorntree.lonelyplanet.com (there is a thread for even the safety on Sulawesi and a hige one about Indonesia).
News and useful information:http://www.alertnet.org/thefacts/countryprofiles/216540.htm
Brian J.Coates and David Bishop; Dove Publications 1997.
I took some copies of reports with me. They can be found at the following website:
Itinerarymo 2-8 manado (arrival in evening)
Birds seen on sites:
Yellow-billed Malkoha; Finch-billed Myna; Rainbow Bee-eater; Grey-rumped Treeswift; Emerald Dove; Slender-billed Crow; Ornate Lorikeet; Pink-necked Green Pigeon; Red-collared Dove; Grey-sided Flowerpecker; Sooty-headed Bulbul; Olive-backed Sunbird; Fork-tailed Swift; Uniform Swift; Moluccan Swift; Brown-throated Sunbird; Blue-backed Parrot; Collared Kingfisher; Black-naped Monarch; Hairy-crested Drongo; Lesser Coucal; Pacific Swallow; Sulawesi Triller; White-necked Myna; White-rumped Cuckooshrike; White-breasted Woodswallow; Green-backed Kingfisher; Lilac-cheeked Kingfisher; White-bellied Sea-eagle; Fregatebirds (spec.); Yellow-mantled Racquet-tail; Green Imperial Pigeon; Philippine Scrubfowl; Knobbed Hornbill; Black-naped Oriole; Ashy Woodpecker; Crimson-crowned Flowerpecker; Spot-tailed Hawk; Stephan’s Dove; Black-fronted White-eye; Sulawesi Babbler; Purple-winged Roller; Silver-tipped Imperial Pigeon; Black-naped Fruitdove; Superb Fruit-dove; Chestnut Munia; Grey-cheeked Green Pigeon.
Eclectus Parrot (fairly common); Rainbow Beeeater; Brahminy Kite; Golden Bulbul (common); Metallic Starling; Torresian Crow; Dusky-brown Oriole; Cinnamon-bellied Imperial Pigeon; Red-cheeked Parrot; Brown Cuckoo-dove; Olive-backed Sunbird; Gurney’s Eagle; Grey-headed Fruitdove; Black Sunbird; Willie Wagtail; Blyth’s Hornbill; Glossy Swiftlet; Dusky Scrubfowl; Ivory Breasted Pitta (common and easily seen as for pitta standards); Paradise Crow (once a few flying low and nearby); Goliath Coucal (fairly common); Shining Flycatcher; Spangled Drongo; Wallace’s Standardwing (1 male seen displaying only after 3 days searching and hearing them once in a while); Blue-capped Fruit-dove; White-breasted Wood-swallow; Sombre Kingfisher (1); White Cockatoo; Black-faced Munia; Spotted Kestrel; Rufous-bellied Triller; Violet-necked Lory; Moluccan Hanging Parrot; Great-billed Parrot; Moustached Treeswift; Long-billed Crow; Chestnut Munia; Spotted Dove; Sacred Kingfisher; Tree Martin; Barn swallow; Pacific Swallow; White-streaked Friarbird.
Mangroves near Sidangoli:
Striated Heron; Little Black Cormorant; Beach Kingfisher (2); Common Dollarbird
Lesser Fregatebird; Dabchick; Spotted Whistling Duck; Common Kingfisher (ssp hispaniola); Great-billed Parrot;
No birding; Snorkelling at spectacular lush coral-gardens; notably where: very large balloonfish (up to 70-80 cm!); lots of Flute fish and many Butterfly fishes of quite a few species and very beautiful sea anemones with clown fishes and very good visibility.
Sulawesi Hawk-eagle; White-breasted Woodswallows; Mountain Tailorbird; Fiery-browed Starling (fairly common at higher regions (lower part Anaso and Lake Tambing)); Sulawesi Myzomela; Cerulean Cuckooshrike (common); Black-naped Oriole; Piping Crow (fairly common); Brown Cuckoo-dove; Oriental Hobby; Rufous Bellied Eagle; Black-fronted White-eye; Ivory Backed Woodswallow (only few! at lower regions that are degraded); Javan Pond Heron; Yellow-sided Flowerpecker; Sulawesi Leafwarbler; Rusty-bellied Fantail; Malia; Mountain White-eye; Pied Chat; Little Pied Flycatcher; Island Verditer Flycatcher; Great Shortwing (incredibly hard to see); Greater Sulawesi Honey-eater (2); Mangrove Flycatcher; Blue-fronted Flycatcher; Lesser Sulawesi Honey-eater (common); Purple-bearded Bee-eater (easy but not common); Streak-headed Darkeye; Sulawesi Drongo; Sulawesi Grounddove (1); Yellow-vented Whistler; Sulawesi Black Pigeon; Crimson crowned Flowerpecker; Sulawesi Thrush (fairly common); Yellow-and-green Lorikeet; Small Sparrowhawk (surprisingly we never saw Vinous-breasted for certain and saw this species it should be the other way round); Citrine Flycatcher; Sulawesi Flycatcher Spec. (new Muscicapa sp. not in fieldguides yet, exactly as pictures on site:http://www.warbler.phytoconsult.nl/SulaFC.htm it is not common but has been seen at least 3 different times in forest flocks); White-bellied Imperial Pigeon; Chestnut Munia; Purple Needletail; Grey-headed Imperial Pigeon; Flyeater; Maroon-backed Whistler; Yellow-billed Malkoa; Ashy Woodpecker; Pygmy Cuckooshrike (2); Sulawesi Pygmy Woodpecker; Sulawesi Serpent Eagle; Black Eagle; Collared Kingfisher; Snowy-browed Flycatcher; Red-eared Fruit-dove; Sombre Pigeon; Barred Honey-buzzard; Yellow-flanked Whistler (a pair at the higher regions of Anaso track); Diabolic Nightjar (one bird on ground in full daylight in good condition but threatening rather than moving when approached); Black-naped Fruit-dove; Sulawesi Cicadabird; Crimson Sunbird; Sulawesi Crested Myna (1); Knobbed Hornbill; Yellow-bellied White-eye; Purple Heron; Moluccan Swiftlet; Ornate Lorikeet; Grey-sided Flowerpecker; Yellow-sided Flowerpecker.
Sulawesi Hornbill (1); Brahminy Kite; Sulawesi Dwarf Kingfisher (quite common); Hair-crested Drongo; Black-naped Monarch; Grey-cheeked Green Pigeon; Red-bellied Pitta (1 juv.); Knobbed Hornbill; Philippine Scrubfowl; Sulawesi Babbler; Finch-billed Myna; Blue-backed Parrot; Sunda Teal; Common Kingfisher; Collared Kingfisher; Speckled Boobook (2 inside the Guesthouse); Grey-rumped Treeswift; Bay Coucal; Barred Rail; Ornate Lorikeet; Maroon-chinned Fruit-dove; Black-naped Fruit-dove; Green Imperial Pigeon; Sulawesi Black Pigeon; Golden-mantled Racquet-tail; Yellowish-breasted Racquet-tail; White-necked Myna; Black Eagle; Sulawesi Cicadabird; Lilac-cheeked Kingfisher; Wandering Whistling Duck; Peregrine; Sulawesi Hawk-eagle; Large Sulawesi Hanging-parrot; Small Sulawesi Hanging-parrot; Great-billed Kingfisher (1 along the river near the village of kosingolan); Isabelline Waterhen (1 along the river near the village of kosingolan); Chestnut Munia; White-breasted Waterhen; Uniform Swiftlet; Purple Needletail; Sulawesi Nightjar; Large-tailed Nightjar (1 flushed); Ashy Woodpecker; Blue-breasted Quail; Black-billed Koel; Rufous-throated Flycatcher.
Silver-tipped Imperial Pigeon; Barred Rail; White-browed Crake; Buff-banded Rail (1); Javan Pond Heron; Spotted Harrier; Maleo (4 sitting in trees early morning); Oriental Darter; Purple Heron; Little Egret; Bay Coucal; Lesser Coucal; Stephan’s Dove; Black-faced Munia; White-shouldered Triller (1! It could not be identified otherwise, this bird is reported to expand northwards); Large Sulawesi Hanging-parrot; Small Sulawesi Hanging-parrot.