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Sangihe, Talaud, Togian, Banggai, Sula & Tanahjampea

Indonesia Birding Tours: our Beyond Sulawesi birding tour is a pioneering bird watching holiday to islands that are almost completely off the birding tour map, including the archipelagos of Sangihe, Talaud, Togian, Banggai and Sula, and the island of Tanahjampea. These remote, under-explored localities hold a considerable number of little-known endemics.

Saturday 12th September — Saturday 3rd October 2020
(22 days)

Leader: Craig Robson

Group Size Limit: 6

Tour Category: Easy to moderate walking for the most part and mostly basic accommodations

The huge archipelago of Indonesia has the richest avifauna in the old world (over 1530 species!) and holds more endemic birds (no fewer than 381 at the present time) than any other country. Birdquest offers seven different exciting tours to this magical but still relatively under-birded country, and on this thrilling venture we will explore several rarely visited island groups, flirting with Weber’s biogeographical line in some very remote corners of the Celebes and Molucca Seas.

The Sangihe and Talaud archipelagos are a chain of 77 islands stretching north from the well-known island of Sulawesi in the direction of the Philippines. They are situated at the northern limit of the fascinating Wallacean biogeographical region and are renowned for their white sandy beaches, amazing coral gardens and rich vanilla, nutmeg and clove plantations growing on the very fertile volcanic soil. The region is regularly rocked by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, as the Molucca Sea Plate is being consumed from both sides. Sangihe is quite mountainous, with tops rising to 1320m, but is sadly largely deforested. Talaud, in contrast, is relatively low and still has some fairly extensive patches of undisturbed rainforest.

The almost unknown Banggai archipelago is a group of 120 islands located off the far eastern end of central Sulawesi. The numerous large reefs support a very rich marine life with an incredible biodiversity, which were categorized by the famous naturalist and explorer Alfred Russell Wallace as “the mother of all living coral reefs". The archipelago consists of two major islands at the entrance to the Tolo Gulf. Peleng, the largest of the Banggai Islands, is well forested and mountainous. Very recent ornithological work has shown the occurrence of several new taxa and others probably still remain to be discovered!

The Sula islands form a prolongation of the eastern peninsula of Sulawesi and the Banggai archipelago and comprise the westernmost island group in the Moluccas. The three main islands of Taliabu, Mangoli and Mangala are long, narrow, mountainous, thickly forested, and thinly populated. Taliabu has mountains rising to 1650 metres. The resemblance between the birds of the Sulas and those of the island of Buru to the southeast have suggested to naturalists that a land bridge existed at one time.

The small Togian (or Togean) archipelago consists of 35 islands, which are spread over a 90 kilometre stretch in the middle of the Gulf of Tomini, off the east coast of central Sulawesi. The islands are situated in a deep water basin and are protected on all sides by the spidery arms of Sulawesi. Its calm and clear waters are full of marine life which attract a growing number of adventurous scuba divers. The islands were formed by volcanic activity and are covered by lush monsoon and evergreen forest where wide-eyed and appealing Tarsiers and enormous Coconut Crabs thrive. The Togians are surrounded by ancient coral reef formations, which provide habitat and breeding areas for turtles. Few people live here and the fabled uniqueness of the Togians still holds true.

We will commence our island hopping at the city of Manado, situated near the extreme northeastern tip of Sulawesi, from where we will travel north to the small island of Sangihe. The tiny forest remnants that survive on its steep, limestone soils hold six endemic species. The most inspiring of these is the smart, critically endangered Cerulean Paradise-Flycatcher, a dusky-blue creature that has only been seen a handful of times by western birders. Multicoloured Elegant Sunbirds are still quite common, but the recently-described Sangihe Shrike-Thrush and the inconspicuous Sangihe Hanging Parrot will require some more effort, while it would take exceptional luck to find the very rare Sangihe White-eye. At night we will go out in search of the little known Sangihe Scops Owl.

On the islands of Talaud four more endemics occur, including two very secretive, recently-described members of the rail family: the Talaud Bush-hen and the Talaud Rail. The Talaud Kingfisher is a fairly common relative of Collared Kingfisher and along forest edges we should encounter parties of endangered Red-and-blue Lories.

On the island of Peleng in the Banggai islands, we will concentrate on finding the very recently rediscovered Banggai Crow together with other very localized species like the secretive Sula Scrubfowl, Banggai Fruit-Dove, Sula Hanging Parrot, Banggai Scops Owl, Sula Pitta, Slaty Cuckoo-Shrike, ‘Banggai or Peleng Leaf Warbler’, the smart Red-and-black Thrush and the cracking Helmeted Myna. These islands are an excellent place to get to grips with the unobtrusive Henna-tailed Jungle-Flycatcher (endemic to the Sulawesi subregion) and the interesting local subspecies of Black-billed Kingfisher.

Next, on the island of Taliabu in the Sula Islands, which we will reach by our own private charter boat (in order to avoid delays of up to a week getting on or off Taliabu by public transport!), we should locate Sula Fruit-Dove, Sula Scops Owl, the modestly-plumaged Sula Cicadabird and the more extravagant, black-and-white Bare-eyed Myna. We will also be looking for two as-yet-undescribed species, ‘Taliabu Bush Warbler’ and ‘Taliabu Leaf Warbler’. If we are really lucky we will encounter the virtually unknown Taliabu Masked Owl on one of our nocturnal forays.

Finally, we will make our way to the Togian Islands, where we will be looking for the Togian Boobook, discovered in 1999, and the recently discovered Togian White-eye.

There will also be the option for a visit to the remote island of Tanahjampea, which is situated to the south of Sulawesi, home to the endemic White-tipped (or Tanahjampea) Monarch, the near-endemic Tanahjampea Blue Flycatcher and the very restricted-range Flores Sea Cuckoo-Dove.

Tanahjampea Extension Option: If there are sufficient participants interested in exploring this remote island we will lay on an extension after the end of the main tour in Makassar. Price and duration will depend on both the number of participants and the available transport links to and from the island at the time.

Important: The Birdquest tour includes the costly hire of private charter boats, including from Peleng in the Banggai archipelago to Taliabu in the Sula archipelago, and then back to Luwuk. The reason for this large extra cost, which is reflected in the tour price, is simple: while it is possible to visit these islands by public ferry, Taliabu in particular is notorious for waits of up to a week for the ferry, so we feel it is better to enjoy smooth logistics!

Accommodation & Road Transport: Some nights will be spent in hotels of good or medium standard, but most will be spent in basic or very basic losmen (guesthouses). Road transport will be by minibus, cars and 4x4s. Roads range from good to poor.

Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy to moderate, occasionally fairly demanding.

Climate: At this season it should be mostly dry and often sunny, but there will likely be some rain. It will be humid or fairly humid throughout.

Bird Photography: Opportunities are worthwhile.


Birdquest Inclusions: our tour prices include all flights and all tipping, including tips for local guides and drivers. Some bird tour operators do not do this, yet for participants these costs are an unavoidable part of the tour. The value of these inclusions on this Birdquest tour amounts to approximately $810.

Price is provisional

£5040, €5760, $6800 Manado/Makassar. Deposit: 10%.

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

Also includes these flights: Manado-Karakelong (Talaud)-Manado, Manado-Luwuk-Manado.

Single Room Supplement: £411, €470, $555.

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

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

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.

Many of the 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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