The Ultimate In Birding Tours



Monday 1st June – Tuesday 23rd June 2020

Leader: Pete Morris.

23 Days Group Size Limit 7

Birdquest’s Remote Sumatra, Indonesia birding tours explore parts of Sumatra’s mainland and offshore islands that are visited by very few birdwatchers, yet between them they have numerous endemic birds!

The vast country that is Indonesia, has a huge but very threatened avifauna including an unbelievably high number of endemics. One of the reasons there are so many endemics is the complex nature of the country, with literally thousands of islands, leading to a highly complicated biogeography. Here at Birdquest we have gradually been growing our repertoire of tours to find these endemics, leading to us visiting more and more remote areas, and we have now found a vast majority of the endemics on our tours.

Sumatra mirrors Indonesia in its complexity, with isolated mountain ranges and numerous offshore islands. We have now offered a series of tours seeking out the island’s tricky suite of endemics, but without attempting to find those in the most out of the way areas. In recent years we have often added extensions to the main Sumatra tour that visit Enggano Island and an area in the south to look for the difficult Sumatran Ground Cuckoo, but there is still more, and this special tour will give us a great opportunities to find the remaining endemics.

The itinerary for our Remote Sumatra, Indonesia birding tour includes the Mentawai islands (where we will look for Barusan Cuckoo-Dove, Mentawai Malkoha, Mentawai Scops Owl and Mentawai Drongo, numerous endemic subspecies and endemic primates), the Simeulue islands (Simeuleu Scops Owl, Silvery Woodpigeon and numerous endemic subspecies) and Aceh province in the far north of the Sumatran mainland (for the endemic Sumatran Laughingthrush, Roll’s Hill Partridge and the recently-split Aceh Bulbul.

We will also cover the Enggano Islands (for Enggano Imperial Pigeon, Enggano Cuckoo-Dove, Enggano Parakeet, Enggano Scops Owl, Enggano Thrush, Enggano Myna and Enggano White-eye) and visit the best area in southwestern Sumatra for the rare Sumatran Ground Cuckoo.

Birdquest has operated Indonesia birding tours to Sumatra since 1984.

In 2020 this tour can be taken together with: SUMATRA & JAVA

Accommodation & Road Transport: Outside of Padang, Medan and Bandar Lampung (where the hotels will be of a good quality) we must stay in simple hotels (although all rooms have private bathrooms) and basic or very basic guesthouses. Road transport will be by minibus/passenger van. Nowadays roads in this region are good, or at least of reasonable quality, but we will still have to use rough roads in some places.

Walking: The walking effort during our Remote Sumatra tour is mostly easy to moderate though a few optional walks are likely to be fairly strenuous.

Climate: Generally the weather will be warm or hot and regular late afternoon/evening rain is to be expected in this part of Indonesia. Higher up, the weather will be cooler. It is often largely dry, though afternoon showers are a common feature.

Bird Photography: Opportunities during our Remote Sumatra tour are worthwhile.


Birdquest Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.

We also include all tipping for local guides, drivers, boatmen and accommodation/restaurant staff.

We also include these flights: Padang-Mentawai-Padang, Padang-Jakarta, Jakarta-Bandar Lampung-Jakarta and Jakarta-Bengkulu-Jakarta.

Deposit: £620, $800, €700.

TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates and deposit amount)

2020: £5400, $7250, €6450. Padang/Jakarta.

Single Supplement: 2020: £460, $630, €560.

The single supplement will not apply if you indicate on booking that you prefer to share a room and there is a room-mate of the same sex available.

Single rooms may not be available at everywhere for all those requesting them, as some guesthouses only have a limited number of rooms. Anyone having to share unexpectedly will be given 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.


Remote Sumatra: Day 1  Our Remote Sumatra, Indonesia birding tour begins in Padang on the west coast of central Sumatra where we will stay overnight. (There are good international flight connections to Padang from Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Jakarta.)

Remote Sumatra: Days 2-12  Due to the unpredictable nature of the logistics for this section of the tour (the infrequent flight schedules change regularly), it is not possible to give a precise day to day itinerary during this period. The following is a summary of what we will be doing.

From Padang we will travel to the Mentawai Islands, situated around 150km across the Mentawai straits off the west coast of Sumatra. We aim to spend two or three days on these large, little-known and seldom explored islands. Here we have an excellent chance of finding such endemics and near-endemics, Barusan Cuckoo-Dove (which also occurs on the Simeulue islands), Mentawai Malkoha, Mentawai Scops Owl and Mentawai Drongo. There are another fifteen or more endemic subspecies (depending on taxonomy followed) including the distinctive sipora subspecies of Crested Serpent-Eagle, a potential split. There are also a number of endemic mammals including three squirrels and five endemic primates: the Mentawai or Kloss Gibbon, Mentawai Macaque, Siberut Macaque, Mentawai Langur and Pig-tailed Langur. These are highly endangered due to logging and unsustainable hunting, but we will do our best to find some of them.

From the Mentawai Islands we will head back to Padang and travel to Medan and on to the remote northern province of Aceh. We will explore this area for around three days. Here we will make a particular effort to track down the increasingly rare (due to trapping for the bird trade) Sumatran (or Black-and-white) Laughingthrush and the recently-split Aceh Bulbul. We also have a good chance of finding the rare and shy Roll’s Hill Partridge.

Other Sumatran endemics possible here include the shy Sumatran Peacock-Pheasant, the elusive Salvadori’s Pheasant, the rare and little known Sumatran (split from Grey-faced) Woodpecker, Sumatran (split from Collared) Owlet, the elusive Graceful Pitta, the attractive Blue-masked and Sumatran (Blue-winged) Leafbirds and the little-known Sumatran Babbler. The montane and submontane forests will be birdy and we’ll encounter a large number of other species. Some of the more interesting species we may encounter include the sneaky Ferruginous Partridge, Black-thighed Falconet, Little Cuckoo-Dove, Silver-rumped Swift, Wreathed, Oriental Pied, Rhinoceros, Great and Helmeted Hornbills, Orange-backed Woodpecker, Red-headed Trogon, Black-and-yellow Broadbill, Ruby-throated Bulbul, Sunda and Chestnut-capped Laughingthrushes, Lesser and attractive Chestnut-naped Forktails, Large Niltava, Blue Nuthatch and Spectacled and Grey-breasted Spiderhunters to name but a few.

The next leg of our journey will see us returning to Medan from where we will travel to another island group off the west coast of Sumatra, this time the remote Simeulue Islands, which lies around 140km off the west coast of Sumatra. We aim to spend a couple of days here, and our main target will once again be an endemic owl, the poorly-known Simeulue Scops Owl, and we have an excellent chance of tracking down this little-known bird. We should also see the distinctive (and sometimes split) Simeulue Serpent Eagle, and we have a realistic chance of finding the rare Silvery Woodpigeon which was only rediscovered here in 2010. We’ll also see a selection of more common and widespread species here.

Remote Sumatra: Day 13  This morning we will take a flight back from Medan to Jakarta and then an onward flight to Bandar Lampung in southwestern Sumatra for an overnight stay.

Remote Sumatra: Day 14  Today we shall drive to the town of Liwa and then trek into the remote forest of Way Titias in Bukit Barasan Selatan National Park where we will camp for three nights. The trek takes about six hours, with a few stops along the way, and takes us first through rolling coffee plantations, then down into a small stream bed which we will follow for a few kilometres before climbing up into primary forest. We will arrive in time for some initial exploration.

Remote Sumatra: Days 15-16  Way Titias is one of those areas of accessible foothill forest where the steepness of the terrain has preserved the habitat from clearance for agriculture. Fortunately, once inside this beautiful primary rainforest, the trails are good and pleasant to bird from. He we will surely hear the far-carrying all of the elusive endemic Sumatran Ground-Cuckoo, a species that was lost for a century before being rediscovered here in 2007! This is surely one of Southeast Asia’s rarest and most sought-after birds, but seeing (as opposed to hearing) this remarkable creature certainly requires some luck as well as persistence. There are plenty of other birds in this forest and amongst these we have a good chance of finding a number that are not usually seen on the main tour, including Blue-banded Kingfisher, Chestnut-naped Forktail, Spotted Fantail, Fulvous-chested Jungle-Flycatcher, Maroon-breasted Philentoma and Yellow-eared Spiderhunter. The scarce Sumatran Trogon is surprisingly common in the forest around our camp and it is a delight to see such a bird on a regular basis. We also have extra chances here for some difficult-to-see species such as Ferruginous Partridge, Bronze-tailed Peacock-Pheasant, Salvadori’s Pheasant, Graceful Pitta and Blue-masked Leafbird.

Remote Sumatra: Day 17  After a last morning at Way Titias we will return to Liwa for an overnight stay. On our way back we will be looking for some special birds of the forest edge and secondary scrub amongst the paddyfields such as the little-known endemic Buettikofer’s Babbler and White-capped Munia (a species thought to be endemic to Java until it was discovered here in southern Sumatra). Other species of this habitat which are not seen on the main tour include Ruby-throated Bulbul (split from Black-crested) and Baya Weaver.

Remote Sumatra: Day 18  After some birding around Liwa we will drive back to Bandar Lampung for an overnight stay.

Remote Sumatra: Day 19  This morning we will catch a flight to Jakarta and an onward flight to Bengkulu on the west coast of central Sumatra. From here we take an overnight boat to remote and little-visited Enggano Island. (Alternatively, we will fly to Enggano if the infrequent air schedule allows.)

Remote Sumatra: Day 20  We will arrive in Enggano this morning for a two nights stay. We will have most of the day to explore the island.

Remote Sumatra: Day 21  The island of Enggano lies approximately 100 kilometres (60 miles) southwest of the mainland and is about 35 kilometres (22 miles) long and about 16 kilometres (10 miles) wide. This Indian Ocean island has an area of roughly 500 square kilometres, yet the highest point is only 281m above sea-level. This remarkable but rarely visited place has several types of forest habitat, some of which are still intact. Our prime targets here will be the seven endemics; Enggano Imperial Pigeon, Enggano Cuckoo-Dove, Enggano Parakeet, Enggano Scops Owl, Enggano Thrush, Enggano Myna and Enggano White-eye. Other interesting birds on the island include Red-legged Crake and Sunda Thrush. If weather conditions are suitable we also have a chance for Christmas Island Frigatebird.

Remote Sumatra: Day 22  After some final birding on Enggano we will catch an overnight boat back to Bengkulu. (Alternatively, we will fly to Enggano if the infrequent air schedule allows.)

Remote Sumatra: Day 23  Morning arrival at Bengkulu from where we will take a flight back to Jakarta, where our Remote Sumatra, Indonesia birding tour ends around midday.


by Pete Morris

View Report


by Pete Morris

View Report

Other remote islands of Asia birding tours by Birdquest include: