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BEST OF SULAWESI & HALMAHERA

Indonesia Birding Tours: our Best of Sulawesi birding tour, which includes Halmahera, is the very best shorter Indonesia bird watching holiday you can take. With more endemic birds than any other equivalent area in this sprawling island nation, our Best of Sulawesi & Halmahera birding tour offers a wonderful experience, with a rich bird list and an extraordinary number of specialities.

Sunday 5th August — Saturday 18th August 2018
(14 days)


Leader: Dave Farrow

Group Size Limit: 8

Tour Category: Easy to moderate walking for the most part and accommodations that range from comfortable to basic

Sulawesi and Halmahera are home to a large number of stunning species, many of which are endemic, such as this Wallace's Standardwing. Sadly, the forests in this part of the world are perhaps more threatened than anywhere else on our planet and many of the species are becoming harder and harder to find. (Pete Morris)

Sulawesi and Halmahera are home to a large number of stunning species, many of which are endemic, such as this Wallace's Standardwing. Sadly, the forests in this part of the world are perhaps more threatened than anywhere else on our planet and many of the species are becoming harder and harder to find. (Pete Morris)

This is a special itinerary for those who want to see as many as possible of the exciting endemics of Sulawesi and Halmahera in a two-week time frame. Sulawesi is now an obligatory destination for those wanting to see all the world’s bird families as it is the home of the Hylocitrea or Yellow-flanked Whistler, which is now considered to be a monotypic family.

While Charles Darwin was formulating his theories on evolution by natural selection another pioneering but much less well known Victorian naturalist was independently developing similar concepts on the other side of the world. He was Alfred Russel Wallace and during his eight years exploration of the Malay Archipelago (most of which is now known as Indonesia) he became the first European to visit many of the islands in this vast region. His book of his travels, The Malay Archipelago, is one of the great travel classics and thousands of species of animals and plants were first described by Wallace himself or by others using his specimens. Wallace is best remembered, however, for first discovering that the fauna and flora of the western islands in the archipelago were essentially Malaysian while in the east they were primarily of Australasian origin.

Even more surprising was his discovery that a clear division exists in the centre of the archipelago and to this day this boundary between these two very different faunal regions, which are separated by just a short distance between Borneo and Sulawesi and by as little as a few kilometres of deep water between Bali and Lombok, is known as Wallace’s Line. During our journey we will be birding on the far side of Wallace’s Line and will be able to see for ourselves the extraordinary avifauna of ‘Wallacea’, which is so very different from that of mainland Southeast Asia and the adjacent Greater Sundas.

Until recently the magical islands of Indonesia were only visited by a few intrepid travellers and even today not too many visitors penetrate beyond Java and Bali. The very inaccessibility of much of Indonesia has led to the country being largely neglected by birdwatchers, yet Indonesia provides the adventurous with some of the richest ornithological experiences to be found anywhere in the world, for this is one of the most biologically diverse and endemic-rich areas on earth.

Our exciting journey begins in earnest at Makassar in southern Sulawesi, an island formerly known as the Celebes and shaped rather like a four-legged starfish. During our time on this island of lofty mountains, cool mossy highland forests, misty lakes, fertile valleys with lush green rice paddies, and luxuriant lowland rainforests, we will visit two of Sulawesi’s finest forest reserves, Lore Lindu and Tangkoko, finding a large proportion of Sulawesi’s 70 or so endemic birds.

Beginning close to Makassar we will see our first exciting endemics which will include the highly-localized and unusual Black-ringed White-eye as well as the splendid Sulawesi Dwarf Hornbill and the strange and highly-vocal Piping Crow.

We will travel next to the vast endemic-rich montane forests of Lore Lindu, where endemics will come thick and fast, including Small Sparrowhawk, Cinnabar Boobook, the brilliantly-named Satanic (or Diabolical) Nightjar, Red-eared Fruit-Dove, the amazing Knobbed Hornbill, the superb Purple-bearded Bee-eater and Purple-winged Roller, the strange Malia, Maroon-backed Whistler, Hylocitrea, the unique Sulawesi Thrush, superb Fiery-browed and Sulawesi Crested Mynas and many more! With luck, we’ll even find the elusive Geomalia.

At Tangkoko (which will be the finale to the tour), we will explore the wonderful lowland forest where Great-billed, Green-backed, Lilac and Sulawesi Dwarf Kingfishers will be high on our want lists. Here we’ll have a great chance for a number of other endemics or specialities including Yellow-breasted Racquet-tail, Ochre-bellied Boobook, Red-bellied Pitta (the local form is sometimes split as Sulawesi Pitta) and the splendid Red-backed Thrush and we’ll also take some time out to look at weird Spectral Tarsiers and Crested Black Macaques!

In between our Sulawesi birding sites, our island-hopping will bring us to the small island of Ternate, dominated by its gently smoking volcano, and to Halmahera, the largest island of the Moluccas, the fabled ‘Spice Islands’. Situated between Sulawesi and Irian Jaya (the Indonesian part of New Guinea), Halmahera has a much greater Australasian element in its avifauna than Sulawesi and an equally rich selection of endemics, including the famous Wallace’s Standardwing, one of the most exotic of the birds of paradise. We will even be able to watch this fabulous bird at a display site, as well as seeing a host of other little known birds, including the stunning Ivory-breasted Pitta, the weird Moluccan Owlet-Nightjar, Dusky Megapode, Sombre Kingfisher and a colourful collection of pigeons (including Blue-capped, Scarlet-breasted and Grey-headed Fruit-Doves) and parrots (including Chattering and Violet-necked Lorys, Great-billed Parrot and White Cockatoo), as well as many more.

By the end of the tour we shall all be reluctant to leave these wonderful, far away islands behind us.

Birdquest has operated tours to Sulawesi & Halmahera since 1990.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotel at Makassar is of good standard. Elsewhere we will be staying in medium quality or basic guesthouses with ‘tropical temperature’ water. Road transport is by small coach, minibus or cars. Roads are variable in quality.

Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy to moderate, but there will be at least one harder day in Lore Lindu (where a two or three hour walk is now required to reach some of the birding areas owing to the road no longer being passable to vehicles).

Climate: Most days in the lowlands will be hot, dry and sunny, but overcast conditions are fairly frequent and some rain, heavy at times, can be expected. In montane areas it will range from very cool to warm. The humidity is often rather high.

Bird Photography: Opportunities are worthwhile.

Tour Price: £3790, €4310, $4960 Makassar (Ujung Pandang)/Manado. Single Room Supplement: £260, €297, $341. Deposit: £450, €540, $590.

Includes surface transportation, accommodations, meals, water, entrance fees and tips/gratuities.

Also includes these flights: Makassar-Palu-Makassar, Makassar-Manado, Manado-Ternate.

Some of the smaller guesthouses have limited rooms. Anyone having to share unexpectedly at any of these will receive an appropriate refund.

Base prices for this tour are in US Dollars. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.150.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

This gorgeous Blue-breasted (or Red-bellied) Pitta was photographed at Tangkoko on Sulawesi. Although not endemic, this tour is a very good one for catching up with this elusive species (Pete Morris)

This gorgeous Blue-breasted (or Red-bellied) Pitta was photographed at Tangkoko on Sulawesi. Although not endemic, this tour is a very good one for catching up with this elusive species (Pete Morris)

The amazing Knobbed Hornbill is a Celebes endemic, and is always a firm favourite (Dave Farrow)

The amazing Knobbed Hornbill is a Celebes endemic, and is always a firm favourite (Dave Farrow)

The wonderfiul Moluccan Owlet-Nightjar (Pete Morris)

The wonderfiul Moluccan Owlet-Nightjar (Pete Morris)

This cryptically patterned Satanic (or Diabolical) Nightjar was photographed during the daytime in Lore Lindu National Park (Pete Morris)

This cryptically patterned Satanic (or Diabolical) Nightjar was photographed during the daytime in Lore Lindu National Park (Pete Morris)

If we are fortunate we will find the elusive Ochre-bellied Boobook at its daytime roost (Dave Farrow)

If we are fortunate we will find the elusive Ochre-bellied Boobook at its daytime roost (Dave Farrow)

This is a great tour for kingfishers! This is a Lilac Kingfisher, endemic to Sulawesi (Dave Farrow)

This is a great tour for kingfishers! This is a Lilac Kingfisher, endemic to Sulawesi (Dave Farrow)

More colour is added by the splendid Green-backed Kingfisher (Pete Morris)

More colour is added by the splendid Green-backed Kingfisher (Pete Morris)

... and a Sulawesi Dwarf Kingfisher (Pete Morris)

... and a Sulawesi Dwarf Kingfisher (Pete Morris)

The Geomalia is a rare and poorly-known species from Sulawesi's highlands and is of unknown taxonomic affinities (Pete Morris)

The Geomalia is a rare and poorly-known species from Sulawesi's highlands and is of unknown taxonomic affinities (Pete Morris)

The unusual Sulawesi Thrush is an unusual-looking montane endemic. Taxonomists seem unable to decide whether it's a thrush or a babbler! (Pete Morris)

The unusual Sulawesi Thrush is an unusual-looking montane endemic. Taxonomists seem unable to decide whether it's a thrush or a babbler! (Pete Morris)

The delightful Purple-bearded Bee-eater is another highlight from Sulawesi's highlands (Pete Morris)

The delightful Purple-bearded Bee-eater is another highlight from Sulawesi's highlands (Pete Morris)

An essential bird on Halmahera is the magnificent Ivory-breasted Pitta! (Mike Watson)

An essential bird on Halmahera is the magnificent Ivory-breasted Pitta! (Mike Watson)

... as is the Scarlet-breasted Fruit-Dove (Pete Morris)

... as is the Scarlet-breasted Fruit-Dove (Pete Morris)

It's a great tour for nightbirds. This is a Moluccan Boobook (Andrew Moon)

It's a great tour for nightbirds. This is a Moluccan Boobook (Andrew Moon)

... and this a Moluccan Scops-Owl (Dave Farrow)

... and this a Moluccan Scops-Owl (Dave Farrow)

Mammals are not common but include the fabulous little Spectral Tarsier (Mike Watson)

Mammals are not common but include the fabulous little Spectral Tarsier (Mike Watson)

Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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