JAVA, BALI & KALIMANTAN (BORNEO), INDONESIA BIRDING TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY
Java & Bali: Day 1 Our tour begins this morning at Jakarta on the island of Java.
From Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia, we will travel inland to Gunung Gede-Pangrango National Park, the most famous of the few natural forested areas remaining in western Java, for a three nights stay. (We will spend two nights in total at the Cibodas Botanical Gardens and one night camping on Gunung Gede itself.)
We will arrive in time for some initial exploration this afternoon.
Java & Bali: Days 2-3 Gunung Gede-Pangrango National Park is a tribute to the Indonesian conservation effort, especially in view of the overwhelming human population pressures to which Java and indeed much of Indonesia are exposed. This magnificent reserve harbours virtually all of Java’s endemic birds and most are seen here regularly.
Even to those without an interest in natural history, the beauty and richness of Java’s montane forests are apparent from the moment one enters them. Starting at 1400m we will follow a well-laid trail that winds upwards through the forest to the summit of the Gunung Gede-Pangrango volcanic massif. Fortunately, it is not necessary to climb to the top in order to see Java’s montane specialities and we will concentrate mostly on the lower to middle sections, spending one night camping on the mountain so we can explore the higher areas at the best time of day.
Typically the forest can appear lifeless one moment and the next resound with a cacophony of sound and activity as a mixed-species flock sweeps across our path. Led invariably by the ubiquitous endemic Javan Fulvetta, an overwhelming mass of little birds rushes by. Characteristic species in these flocks include Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, the tiny endemic Pygmy Bushtit, Blue Nuthatch, the near-endemic Javan Scimitar Babbler (which also occurs in Bali), the endemic Spotted Crocias (not as easy here as at Gunung Halimun), the endemic Pied Shrike-babbler, Trilling (or Chestnut-fronted) Shrike-babbler, Sunda Warbler, Mountain Leaf Warbler, Indigo Flycatcher, the endemic Rufous-tailed Fantail, the endemic Mees’s (or Javan Grey-throated) White-eye and the exquisite endemic White-flanked (or Kuhl’s) Sunbird.
If we locate a fruiting tree we may find a gathering of frugivores such as the endemic Flame-fronted (or Orange-fronted) and Brown-throated Barbets, and Orange-spotted and Sunda Bulbuls. The open parts of the trail attract the endemic Javan Whistling Thrush, Sunda (or Sunda Blue) Robin and Snowy-browed Flycatcher, while the endemic Chestnut-bellied Partridge sometimes scratches about in the leaf litter at the margins of the trail.
Needless to say, the forest floor and understorey provides a home for many of the most sought-after species, and we should see Eyebrowed Wren-Babbler, Pygmy Cupwing, the superb White-bibbed and smart endemic Crescent-chested (or Pearl-cheeked) Babblers, Lesser and White-browed Shortwings, and the cheeky endemic Javan Tesia, perhaps the most obliging member of its genus.
Paying attention to what is happening above us should result in at least one sighting of the endemic Javan Hawk-Eagle, and there is a slim chance of seeing the rare Giant (or Waterfall) Swiftlet.
As dusk gathers, we will hope to spot a resting Salvadori’s Nightjar, while other nightbirding sorties will target the elusive endemic Javan Scops Owl, as well as the commoner Sunda Scops Owl, Javan Frogmouth and the endemic Javan (or Javan Barred) Owlet.
We should also see at least one or two of the park’s rarest or most secretive inhabitants, which include Rufous (or Dusky) Woodcock, the colourful but inconspicuous endemic Javan Trogon, the endemic and endangered Rufous-fronted Laughingthrush, the sultry, fruit-loving endemic Javan Cochoa, Sunda Thrush and Tawny-breasted Parrotfinch. Fire-tufted Barbet, a species previously thought to only occur in the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra, has also been seen on recent tours.
Amongst the many other birds we may well see in this splendid part of Indonesia are Sunda and Rusty-breasted Cuckoos, Orange-backed Woodpecker, Banded Broadbill, Sunda and Lesser Cuckooshrikes, Ashy Drongo, Horsfield’s Babbler, Sunda (or Lesser) and Southern White-crowned Forktails, Mountain and Olive-backed Tailorbirds, Little Pied Flycatcher, Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher, Streaky-breasted Spiderhunter, Blood-breasted Flowerpecker and Oriental White-eye.
In addition to a number of squirrels and treeshrews, we also have a good chance of seeing the endemic Grizzled Leaf Monkey and Javan Langur, as well as Javan Ferret-Badger and Sunda Stink Badger.
Java & Bali: Day 4 After some final birding at Gunung Gede we will travel west to Gunung Halimun National Park for a two nights stay. We should arrive in time for some initial exploration.
Java & Bali: Day 5 Although the forests of the Gunung Halimun massif are the largest tract of true rainforest now remaining on Java, the area’s particular importance for wildlife protection was only acknowledged as recently as 1992, when the national park was established by Indonesia’s government. The wide altitudinal range (600-1927m) contributes to the great diversity of habitats and birdlife. In contrast to Gunung Gede-Pangrango National Park, the 40,000 hectares of Gunung Halimun National Park, which includes seven peaks above 1450m elevation, have been comparatively little researched; the still strong conviction that the mountains are haunted meant that early researchers found it very difficult to employ guides here!
Neatly situated inside the forest is a research station with accommodation for visitors, accessed by a rough unsurfaced road. This track enters one of Java’s few remaining intact tracts of lowland broadleaved evergreen rainforest some 6 kilometres before the research station, and this is where we will enjoy our first taste of the quite superb avifauna of this hidden gem of a national park.
In the early mornings and evenings, Dark-backed Imperial Pigeons can be heard booming from the tree-tops, and we have a good chance of seeing Sumatran Green Pigeons perched high on exposed branches or zooming overhead. Javan Hawk-Eagle occurs here also, and we will try and spot one soaring over the canopy. Groups of the endemic Volcano Swiftlet and of Brown-backed Needletail can sometimes be encountered.
Periodically, as we walk, we will encounter large bird-waves which here often contain several species that are now very hard to find elsewhere in Java, notably the threatened endemic White-breasted Babbler, the endemic White-bellied Fantail and the scintillating endemic Javan Sunbird. Additionally, Sunda Minivet and the garrulous Spotted Crocias are usually much easier to see here than at Gunung Gede.
A network of trails leading from the research station will take us deep inside untouched primary forest, where we can search for some of the park’s more secretive specialities, such as Javan and Orange-breasted Trogons. In the evening we will look for nightbirds including the endemic Javan Scops Owl, Javan Owlet and the bizarre-looking Javan Frogmouth.
Other species that we will be on the lookout for are Crested Serpent Eagle, Crested Goshawk, Chestnut-breasted Malkoha, Brown-backed Needletail, Rufous Piculet, Checker-throated Woodpecker, Malaysian Cuckooshrike, Blue-winged Leafbird, Grey-cheeked Bulbul (the Javan form bres is sometimes split as Melodious Bulbul), Pygmy Bushtit, Blue Whistling Thrush, Yellow-bellied Warbler, Ruby-cheeked Sunbird, Little Spiderhunter and Orange-bellied Flowerpecker, as well as the odd catch-up that we may have missed at Gunung Gede-Pangrango. There is even an outside chance of Javan Cochoa and Rufous-fronted Laughingthrush.
There is a healthy population of the endangered Javan Gibbon in the park and their evocative cries can easily be heard emanating from the forested ridges above the research station. We have a good chance of seeing the species.
Java & Bali: Day 6 After some early morning birding at Gunung Halimun we will skirt the Jakarta metropolis and then head eastwards to the town of Pekalongan, situated on the north coast of Java, for an overnight stay.
We will make a stop along the way to see Volcano Swiftlet.
Java & Bali: Day 7 This morning we will travel into the attractive hill country of Central Java. Here, at a river, we will be wanting to see the beautiful endemic Javan Bluie-banded Kingfisher at one of its most reliable localities.
Afterwards, we will continue to the city of Yogjakarta, situated on Java’s southern coast, for an overnight stay.
Java & Bali: Day 8 Amongst the scrub, swamp, mangroves and open pools in the Yogjakarta area we shall look for a number of interesting species. High on our ‘most wanted’ list will be the rare and endangered endemic Javan (or Sunda) Coucal, which lurks in the undergrowth. Other species of particular interest include Sunda Teal, Sunda Woodpecker, Ruby-throated Bulbul (a species limited to Sumatra and Java that is in rapid decline owing to trapping) and Javan Munia.
Other species we may well encounter include Little Black Cormorant, Oriental Darter, Javan Pond, Black-crowned Night and Purple Herons, Little and Great Egrets, Black-headed and Glossy Ibises, Black-backed Swamphen, Ruddy-breasted and White-browed Crakes, Whiskered Tern, Pink-necked Green Pigeon, Asian Koel, Cave (or Linchi) Swiftlet, Collared Kingfisher, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Long-tailed Shrike, Hair-crested Drongo (the forms on Java and Bali are sometimes split as Javan Spangled Drongo), Black-naped Oriole, Racket-tailed Treepie, Pied Bushchat, Oriental Magpie-Robin, Malaysian Pied Fantail, Bar-winged and Plain Prinias, White-breasted Woodswallow, Javan Myna and Plain-throated Sunbird.
Afterwards, we will travel eastwards to the city of Surabaya for an overnight stay.
Java & Bali: Day 9 In the morning, in the Surabaya area, we will have a good chance of finding Javan Plover and two rare specialities of Indonesia (both of which are near-endemic to Java); Javan White-eye and White-capped Munia.
Afterwards, we will head for Baluran National Park in far eastern Java for an overnight stay, arriving in time for some initial exploration.
Java & Bali: Day 10 Baluran National Park is one of Java’s oldest national parks and contains a variety of mainly dry savanna-like habitats, dominated by the extinct Baluran Volcano.
At dusk and dawn, we should hear the loud and unmistakable bugling of Green Peafowl as they venture out of the forest into more open areas. This is probably the most easily accessible site in the world for this spectacular and endangered bird, and we are sure to enjoy some wonderful views. Another speciality of the park is Green Junglefowl, which here occurs alongside the less common Red Junglefowl.
Javan Flameback, a species endemic to East Java and Bali, is quite easy to find here. In patches of broadleaf evergreen forest, we will have more chances to find the endemic Javan Banded Pitta and endemic Grey-cheeked Tit-Babbler. In open areas with waterholes, we will have a good chance of coming across the endangered Black-winged Myna, here of a different form to that found on Bali.
Not surprisingly many of the birds in Baluran are similar to those of Bali Barat National Park, but additional species we may well find include Brahminy Kite, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Spotted Kestrel, Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Green Imperial Pigeon, Plaintive Cuckoo, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Blue-eared and Coppersmith Barbets, Freckle-breasted (or Spot-breasted) Woodpecker, the impressive White-bellied Woodpecker, Common Flameback, Striated Swallow, Small and Scarlet Minivets, Sooty-headed and Olive-winged Bulbuls, Common Tailorbird and Hill Blue Flycatcher (the Javan forms of the latter are sometimes split as Javan Blue Flycatcher). After dark, we will look for Spotted Wood Owl, which is usually straightforward to find.
Much of the park comprises dry woodland and savanna which is more reminiscent of Africa than Indonesia, and there were formerly large areas of grassland that attracted herds of Banteng, a shy species of wild cattle. Unfortunately, Nile Acacia (Acacia nilotica), a native of Africa, originally planted in 1969 as a firebreak, has now invaded as much as 70% of the savanna area in the park, to the detriment of the grasslands. It is a very fast-growing species, ironically dispersed in the faeces of herbivores, and can spread at the frightening rate of 100-200 hectares per year! The authorities are currently looking at ways to control it with herbicide and other methods. In the meantime, Banteng is difficult to observe.
Fortunately, this sad state of affairs has yet to have any major impact on most bird and mammal life. We should come across Javan Langur, Eurasian Wild Boar, Rusa (or Timor) Deer and Indian Muntjac, and there is an outside chance of seeing a small pack of Dhole (or Asian Wild Dog).
Later in the day, we will drive to the outskirts of Banyuwangi for a two nights stay.
Java & Bali: Day 11 The principal focus of our attention will be the Ijen Plateau, which lies to the northwest of Banyuwangi and is situated in the centre of the Ijen-Merapi Maelang Reserve. The reserve protects much of the mountainous region directly west of Banyuwangi and borders on Baluran National Park in the northeast.
The principal touristic attraction at Ijen is the large, sulphurous crater lake at about 2300m elevation and the tough local men that transport baskets full of sulphur blocks entirely on foot. The mine yields 9-12 tons of sulphur per day, and individual loads of up to 70kg are carried the 17 kilometres down the mountain to a factory near Banyuwangi.
Fortunately for birders, the entire eastern slopes of the volcanoes, above about 1000 metres (3281ft), are still clothed in superb montane forests, through which runs the narrow road up to the plateau. We will spend the whole day birding along this road and its side trails.
Our prime target species will be the restricted-range and highly distinctive White-faced Partridge (endemic to east Java), Javan Bush Warbler (endemic to East Java and Bali) and Yellow-throated Hanging Parrot (a Javan endemic that is hard to see elsewhere).
Other important specialities include such Javan endemics as the gorgeous Javan Banded Pitta, Black-banded Barbet, Yellow-eared Barbet and Grey-cheeked Tit-babbler. We also have another chance for Javan Barred Owlet and Javan Frogmouth and will be on the lookout for such interesting species as Black-naped Fruit Dove, Grey-cheeked Green Pigeon, Banded Kingfisher, Black-capped Babbler and Fulvous-chested Jungle Flycatcher.
This is a remote and very birdy area, where we will have a good chance of seeing Ruddy Cuckoo-Dove, as well as more chances for Pink-headed Fruit Dove and the endemic Black-banded Barbet.
Sunda Bush Warblers haunt the roadside scrub and tangles and Horsfield’s Thrushes feed along shady sections of the road at dawn and dusk.
Other species that we may see here include Besra, Black Eagle, Little Cuckoo-Dove, Red-billed Malkoha, Wreathed Hornbill, Crimson-winged and Grey-and-buff Woodpeckers, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo and Mountain White-eye.
Java & Bali: Day 12 Today we will catch the ferry across the narrow strait from Banyuwangi to Gilimanuk in Bali. From Gilimanuk, at the western tip of the island, we will drive to Labuan Lalang, situated close to Bali Barat National Park, where we will spend the night.
Bali Barat National Park is clothed in open dry woodland with wetter broadleaved evergreen patches and holds some interesting birds.
Our primary objective here will be to see the endemic Bali Myna (or Bali Starling), surely one of the most beautiful birds in the world. Although it is kept widely in captivity, the number of individuals actually living in the wild in the park (its only home) is currently thought to be fewer than 30 individuals. There is a captive breeding centre here, from where small numbers are annually released into the forest. Unfortunately, a combination of high mortality rate (due to being bred in captivity) and ongoing illegal capture for the cage-bird trade is making it difficult for the species to build up its numbers again. Ideally, we will hope to see wild-born offspring from the reintroduced birds.
Another speciality we are likely to find at Bali Barat is the Indonesian-endemic Lemon-bellied White-eye.
More widespread birds include the handsome Black-thighed Falconet, Barred Buttonquail, Zebra and Common Emerald Doves, Asian Palm Swift, Edible-nest Swiftlet, Grey-rumped Treeswift, Chestnut-headed and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, Lineated Barbet, Australasian Bushlark, Common Iora, Black Drongo, Cinereous Tit, Black-naped Monarch and Mangrove Whistler. We also have another chance for the uncommon Fulvous-chested Jungle Flycatcher.
Along the coast, we may also see Great-billed Heron, Pacific Reef Egret, Lesser Adjutant (and perhaps also Woolly-necked Stork), White-bellied Sea Eagle, Beach Thick-knee and Black-naped and Greater Crested Terns.
Java & Bali: Day 13 After some final birding in west Bali we will drive to the Denpasar area for an overnight stay. Our journey will take us through emerald-green rice paddies dotted with exotic Hindu temples, the most evident aspect of Bali’s rich cultural heritage. This exquisite island is everything that has been written about it and far more besides.
Along the way, we will look out for the magnificent Javan Kingfisher (endemic to Java and Bali).
This afternoon we will have the opportunity to do some birding in the nearby Benoa Harbour area. At low tide, the mudflats here attract a variety of shorebirds, including the restricted range Javan Plover and near-threatened Far Eastern Curlew. Other shorebirds that we may find include Grey (or Black-bellied), Pacific Golden, Greater Sand and Mongolian Plovers, Eurasian Curlew, Eurasian Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Common Redshank, Common Greenshank, Common and Terek Sandpipers, Grey-tailed Tattler, Terek Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint and Curlew Sandpiper. If we are fortunate, we will encounter one of the rarer migrant shorebird species, such as Great Knot.
Large numbers of Javan Pond Herons dot the mudflats, flocks of Sunda Teal are usually much in evidence in the backwaters, and the attractive Cerulean Kingfisher can often be seen perching on posts around the margins of the wetlands. The resident Collared Kingfishers are very conspicuous and are often joined by a migrant Sacred Kingfisher. Other waterbirds at Benoa typically include Little Pied Cormorant, Grey and Striated Herons, and Little and Gull-billed Terns.
The coastal scrub and mangrove patches harbour a range of landbirds, including Island Collared and Spotted Doves, Savanna Nightjar, Pacific Swallow, White-shouldered Triller, Golden-bellied Gerygone, Olive-backed Sunbird, the glowing Scarlet-headed Flowerpecker, Eurasian Tree Sparrow and Scaly-breasted Munia all likely. With luck, we will see Racket-tailed Treepie or White-headed Munia.
Java & Bali: Day 14 Morning tour end at Denpasar.
Kalimantan: Day 1 Our tour starts this evening at Banjarmasin in Kalimantan, the section of the island of Borneo that is administered by Indonesia, where we will stay overnight.
(An airport transfer will be provided.)
Kalimantan: Day 2 Today we head southwards and eastwards to the Tanah Bumbu region of southern Kalimantan for a two nights stay.
Most of the journey is through agricultural areas, especially palm oil plantations, and cutover peat forest. We should arrive in time for a first look for Black-browed Babbler.
Kalimantan: Day 3 The rare Black-browed Babbler was ‘lost to science’ for some 170 years after its original discovery in the mid-19th century. An inhabitant of forested areas amidst karst limestone, the species was only rediscovered in Tanah Bumbu region in 2020! With the help of our skilled local guides we can expect to see this star bird during our visit.
Most of the other species of the area are widespread Bornean species or more widespread Greater Sunda species.
Kalimantan: Day 4 Today we will return to Banjarmasin and take a flight to Jakarta for an overnight stay.
Kalimantan: Day 5 This morning the main tour begins.