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Birdquest's Lesser Sundas, Indonesia birding tour explores the long chain of islands that form the southern edge of Wallacea, the area to the east of the famous Wallace's Line that marks the limit of the true Oriental faunal region. Our Lesser Sundas tour offers comprehensive coverage of these endemic-rich and scenic islands, rounded off by an exciting optional extension to explore the fascinating island of Bali and adjacent East Java on the other side of Wallace's Line.
Thursday 8th August —
Monday 26th August 2019
Bali & East Java Extension: Monday 26th August — Saturday 31st August (6 days)
Leaders: a Birdquest leader and a local bird guide
Group Size Limit: 8
Tour Category: Easy to moderate walking and mostly comfortable accommodations
Scattered across about 5000 kilometres of tropical ocean, the Indonesian archipelago is remarkable for its cultural and biological diversity. Of all the regions of Indonesia, Nusa Tenggara (meaning ‘Southeast Islands’) is probably the most varied.
Strung out to the east of the popular holiday island of Bali, they contain, in microcosm, a wide range of tropical habitats from the luxuriant cloud forests on the flanks of the volcanoes of Flores to the xerophytic scrub on Komodo, famous for its ‘Dragons’. Better known as the Lesser Sundas, they are relatively undeveloped and thinly populated: only 2% of Indonesia’s huge population live in the islands in contrast to the burgeoning millions inhabiting the fertile plains of adjacent Java and Bali. On the road to nowhere in particular, they are seldom visited and so much remains undiscovered about their birdlife.
Although these small islands hold fewer species than an equivalent area of continental Asia, many are endemic and often confined to a single island. This tour represents an enjoyable and not especially difficult adventure for those who want to see the many exciting and little-known endemics of the Lesser Sundas, some of which are becoming harder and harder to find due to habitat loss. Indeed, we can say that of all the endemic-bird-rich places in the world, the Lesser Sundas is somewhere one should hurry to visit.
The most isolated and least often visited of the Lesser Sundas is Sumba. This dry, infertile island is mostly covered with rough pasture, much of it given over to the horse rearing for which Sumba is famous throughout the archipelago. Flying into Sumba, it is difficult to believe that the endemic species, all but one of them forest birds, could have survived. Fortunately some patches of monsoon forest remain and in these we have an excellent chance to find some of the world’s most critically endangered species such as Citron-crested Cockatoo, Sumba Hornbill and the very attractive Red-naped Fruit-Dove. Other specialities include Sumba Buttonquail, Marigold Lorikeet, Sumba Boobook, Mees’s (or Sunda) Nightjar, Cinnamon-banded Kingfisher, Sumba Green Pigeon, Sumba Flycatcher, Sumba Jungle Flycatcher, Sumba Brown Flycatcher, the gorgeous Apricot-breasted Sunbird and Sumba Myzomela.
To the east of Sumba lies Timor, the largest and geographically most ancient of the Lesser Sundas, which holds the greatest number of endemics, including that inveterate skulker the Buff-banded Thicket-Warbler and the strikingly-marked Orange-sided Thrush. In contrast to the tropical luxuriance of Bali, Timor more closely resembles those parts of northern Australia that lie not far away to the south across the Timor Sea. Over much of the island dry agriculture and scrub predominate, with indigenous eucalyptus adding strongly to the Antipodean feel. The lowland forests of Timor are highly threatened, as the few remaining patches are unprotected, and so woodcutters and bird trappers do as they please. Several species which were common until quite recently have now become decidedly scarce. Their future looks bleak, so now is the time to see such specialities as Olive-headed Lorikeet and Timor Sparrow.
The many other endemics and localized species we will be looking for on this island include the exquisite Banded (or Black-backed) Fruit-Dove, Timor Imperial Pigeon, Streaked (or Timor) Boobook, Greater Wallacean Drongo, Green (or Timor) Figbird, the pretty White-bellied Chat, Chestnut-backed Thrush, the tiny Timor Stubtail, Timor Leaf Warbler, the beautiful Timor Blue Flycatcher, the attractive Black-banded Flycatcher, Fawn-breasted Whistler, Timor Friarbird, Streak-breasted and Flame-eared (or Yellow-eared) Honeyeaters, Black-breasted Myzomela, the dazzling Flame-breasted Sunbird, Red-chested Flowerpecker, Spot-breasted Heleia (or Spot-breasted Dark-eye), Tricoloured Parrot-Finch and Black-faced and Five-coloured Munias.
We will also visit the small island of Roti to the south of Timor in search of Olive-shouldered Parrot and Roti Boobook (which is surely a good species rather than a subspecies of Southern Boobook), as well as some other interesting endemic forms.
North of Timor, Flores could hardly be more different. This long narrow island is one of the most beautiful in Indonesia. Its complex mountainous relief is bisected by deep V-shaped valleys and surmounted by many volcanoes, 14 of them still active. Only the very much larger islands of Java and Sumatra are more volcanically active. Many of the rugged mountains of Flores are still covered with humid rainforest, where we will look for specialities like Flores Hawk-Eagle, Leaf (or Flores) Lorikeet, Wallace’s Hanging Parrot, Wallace’s Scops Owl, the striking Glittering (or White-rumped) Kingfisher, Elegant Pitta, the little known Flores Crow, the diminutive Russet-capped Tesia, Flores Leaf Warbler, Flores Jungle Flycatcher, Brown-capped Fantail, the very rare Flores Monarch, Bare-throated Whistler, Scaly-crowned Honeyeater, Black-fronted and Golden-rumped Flowerpeckers, and Yellow-browed, Crested and Thick-billed Dark-eyes.
West of Flores, in the strait separating it from Sumbawa, lies another strikingly different island, Komodo. Here among parched hills and dry gullies live the most important surviving populations of the Yellow-crested Cockatoo and of the much more famous Komodo Dragon, a huge monitor lizard otherwise known only from adjacent Rinca and a small part of Flores. The sight of these unique and decidedly antediluvian reptiles in so remote and inhospitable a setting is quite unforgettable. As if to accentuate the barrenness of the land, the surrounding seas are rich in beautiful coral reefs, dolphins, turtles and seabirds.
During the optional extension there will be an opportunity to explore the fascinating emerald isle of Bali, where Hindu influences are still highly pervasive and the island’s rich culture still vigorous. Here we will search for the beautiful but sadly extremely endangered Bali Myna, as well as Javan Kingfisher and the endangered Black-winged Myna.
Afterwards we will take the ferry across the narrow Bali Strait to east Java, where we will begin with a visit to Baluran National Park. Here, with the extinct Baluran volcano looming over us, we will explore the dry savanna and open woodland which, with its several species of large grazing mammals, seems strangely out of place on this tropical Asian island. Highlights here include the magnificent but endangered Green Peafowl, Green Junglefowl, Javan Flameback, Javan Banded Pitta and the rather less dramatic Grey-cheeked Tit-Babbler.
From Baluran we will travel a short distance to the south-west, and spend a couple of days exploring the wonderful forests flanking the eastern slope of the Ijen Plateau, famed for its sulphur production. Here we will be looking for the highly distinctive White-faced Partridge, which is only found in east Java, along with the beautiful Pink-headed Fruit-Dove, Yellow-throated Hanging Parrot and Black-banded Barbet.
Birdquest has operated tours to the Lesser Sundas since 2004 (and Bali and Java since 1984).
Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels/lodges are mostly of good to medium standard, but typically the latter. The hotels at Waingapu and Soe are fairly simple, but all rooms have private bathrooms. The guesthouse at Lewa is fairly basic, with shared bathroom facilities. The guesthouses at Roti and Kisol are basic, with shared and quite primitive bathroom facilities. Road transport is by small coach, minibus or car.
Walking: The walking ranges from easy to moderate, with some more difficult terrain to negotiate over relatively short distances.
Climate: Most days in the lowlands will be hot, dry and sunny, but overcast conditions are fairly frequent and some rain can be expected. In montane areas it will be cool or warm and at the highest altitudes it can be decidedly cold at times. The humidity is often rather high.
Bird Photography: Opportunities are worthwhile.
These are provisional prices
Tour Price: £4890, €5770, $6410 Denpasar/Denpasar. Bali & East Java Extension: £1490, €1760, $1950.
Price includes all transportation (including specified flights inside Indonesia), all accommodations, all meals, bottled water, some drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees, all tips for local drivers/guides and for accommodations/restaurants, leader services.
Single Room Supplement: £540, €637, $707. Extension: £215, €254, $282.
Deposit: £600, €720, $780. Extension: £200, €240, $260.
Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency can arrange your air travel in connection with the tour from a departure point anywhere in the world, or you may arrange your own air travel if you prefer. We can tailor-make your itinerary to your personal requirements, so if you would like to travel in advance of the tour (and spend a night in an hotel so you will feel fresh when the tour starts), or return later than the end of the tour, or make a side trip to some other destination, or travel business class rather than economy, we will be happy to assist. Please contact us about your air travel requirements.
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