Glen and Keith Valentine worked seamlessly together to make this one of the best Rockjumper trips! The logistics went well, local guides were great, and the boat was quite comfortable and offered good food and variety. Best of all, the birds were plentiful and everyone got lifers galore. The bros Valentine did everything possible to be sure that everyone got onto the birds and they worked tirelessly doing so. I would travel with either or both of them anywhere, thanks guys!
Our Sulawesi & Halmahera – Wallacean Endemics birding tour comprehensively covers much of the region’s available habitats, from the highland mountains and luxuriant lowland rainforest of Sulawesi to the Australasian influenced Halmahera in the Moluccan ‘Spice Islands’, maximizing our chance to find the more than one hundred range-restricted bird species confined to this fabulous region. A colorful host of parrots, fruit-doves and an awesome assortment of endemic kingfishers combine with sought-after avian gems such as Ivory-breasted Pitta, the incredible Maleo, Purple-bearded Bee-eater, the remarkable Knobbed Hornbill, Purple-winged Roller, Hylocitrea (recently placed in its own monotypic family), and an opportunity to watch the extraordinary Standardwing at its display site.
Standardwing, Sulawesi & Ivory-breasted Pittas, Knobbed & Sulawesi Hornbills, Maleo, Geomalia, Hylocitrea, Cinnabar Boobook, Sulawesi & Satanic Nightjars, Purple-bearded Bee-eater, Purple-winged Roller, Moluccan Goshawk, Sulawesi Serpent Eagle, Sulawesi Cuckoo, Dusky Scrubfowl, Yellow-flanked Whistler, Black-faced & Pale-headed Munias, Black‐ringed White‐eye, Sulawesi Ground Dove, Grey-headed & Silver-tipped Imperial Pigeons, Sulawesi Babbler, Fiery-browed Starling, Pale-bellied Myna, Sulawesi Myzomela, Sulawesi Thrush, Crimson-crowned Flowerpecker, Lilac, Scaly-breasted, Green-backed & Sulawesi Dwarf Kingfishers (amongst 12 species of possible kingfishers), Matinan Blue Flycatcher
Sulawesi Crested, Moor and Tonkean Macaques, Spectral Tarsier, Bear Cuscus
montane and lowland forests, volcanic mountains, rice paddies, rivers, islands, beaches
mostly hot to humid with cooler nights and mornings in the highlands
moderate pace with some longer hikes
Day 1: Arrival in Palu, Sulawesi, transfer to Lore Lindu National Park
After arriving in Palu, we will begin our transfer to Lore Lindu National Park with birding stops en route. Our first stop will be at a rather unassuming tract of grassy scrubland, scattered with the odd shrub. While it may not look like much, this is one of the best areas in Sulawesi to find the rare and endemic Pale-bellied Myna! Aside from the myna, we may also find a number of other interesting species, including Savanna Nightjar on their day roosts, Barred Buttonquail, the localised Pale-headed Munia, Spotted Harrier, Blue-tailed Bee-eater and White-shouldered Triller.
As we move deeper into the mountains and closer to Lore Lindu National Park, the habitat changes from dry savanna and grassland to a mixture of virgin forest and exotic plantations. Stops along the way may provide Sulawesi Serpent Eagle soaring high over the forested ridges, migrant Purple Needletails whizzing overhead, pairs of the stunning White-necked Myna and even the very scarce Crimson-crowned Flowerpecker.
Shortly before reaching the village of Wuasa, a final afternoon birding stop on a road cutting may yield a plethora of endemics, including Fiery-browed Starling, Ivory-backed Woodswallow, Golden-mantled Racket-tail or taxonomically confusing Malia. After what promises to be an explosive start to our birding tour of Sulawesi, we shall settle into our guesthouse, home for the next three nights.
Days 2 & 3: Lore Lindu National Park
This superb reserve, the largest of the islands’ national parks, supports most of Sulawesi’s montane species and we can look forward to some really fabulous birding! Our accommodation at Wuasa is located in the mid-elevations where, although degraded by agriculture and logging, we have a better chance of finding the lovely Ivory-backed Woodswallow, White‐bellied Imperial Pigeon with its unique booming call, Black-billed Koel, Sulawesi Myzomela, Lemon‐bellied White‐eye, Barred Buttonquail, Sulawesi Blue Flycatcher and the outrageous Sulawesi Myna. The furtive Rufous‐throated Flycatcher sings from dense vegetation, often near watercourses, and we can also watch out for Great Hanging Parrot possibly visiting a fruiting tree, Sulawesi Cicadabird and the colourful Purple-winged Roller, plus chances for Speckled Boobook in the daytime.
Lore Lindu National Park is also the only accessible site for the rare and frustratingly difficult Hylocitrea. This is a highland speciality that is quiet and reclusive in the moss-laden montane forest. It is not a bird that can be coaxed into view, but rather needs to be found while it is relaxed or feeding; the problem, apart from being so scarce, is its lethargic habits. Nonetheless, we do stand a reasonably good chance of success during our Indonesia birding tour.
At twilight one morning, we will start birding in the montane forest for the scarce Cinnabar Boobook; and although uncommon, one of the first songs at dawn might be the vocal but secretive Great Shortwing that lurks in the thick understory. Near Lake Tambing we will search for feeding flocks given away by the sharp calls of Malia, a unique species of bulbul that forages on the moss-covered branches along with attending species such as Pygmy and Cerulean Cuckooshrikes, Sulawesi Drongo, Sulphur-vented Whistler, Rusty-bellied Fantail, Mountain and Black-crowned White-eyes, Turquoise Flycatcher, Citrine Canary-flycatcher and Sulawesi Leaf Warbler. Further searching should produce loose groups of Streak-headed White-eye, the brightly coloured Blue-fronted Blue Flycatcher singing from vine tangles, our first Fiery-browed Starlings, Sulawesi Myzomela and Dark-eared Myza.
The extensive upper montane forest inside the reserve is mostly inaccessible due to the area’s ruggedness, but the Anaso track climbs the slopes of Gunung Rorekatimbu, the highest peak in the park at just over 2,500 meters, allowing us to search for high montane specialities. Before dawn we will drive as far as possible up this bumpy track, likely finding Satanic Nightjar hawking insects along the way; although we have a fair chance of locating this richly patterned species later in the day at one of its roosting sites. Because of heavy rains in recent years, the bridge here has completely washed out so we will need to hike the remainder of the track to reach the highest elevations possible. Red-eared Fruit Dove and Grey-headed Imperial Pigeon sometimes sit out in the early morning, and our first Purple-bearded Bee-eater is likely to be found near its breeding areas along exposed earthen embankments. We will undoubtedly be constantly serenaded by the timid Chestnut-backed Bush Warbler, although it may take a few tries to be sure everyone sees this surprisingly attractive species. Other species to keep an eye out for here include White-eared Myza and the flighty Mountain Serin. It will take a bit of luck, but we will keep our eyes peeled to the trail for subtle movements in the hope of finding the bizarre Geomalia that can sometimes be found hopping along the path, a large disproportionate bird somewhat reminiscent of Madagascar’s ground rollers!
Overhead in Lore Lindu National Park, we can watch for Citrine and Ornate Lorikeets, while noisy Golden-mantled Racket-tails shoot by overhead and, with time in this habitat, we have a good chance of finding this species perched on flowering trees. Vibrant Grosbeak Starlings can also be found nesting colonially in tower-block fashion in the trunks of dead trees. As the days warm up we can also watch for raptors such as Sulawesi Serpent Eagle, Barred Honey Buzzard and Sulawesi Hawk-Eagle soaring above the forest.
Day 4: Morning in Lore Lindu National Park and return to Palu
This morning on our Indonesia birding tour, we will continue birding through Lore Lindu National Park.
A number of scarcer species are possible during our visit and we will make concerted efforts to catch up with the sluggish Hylocitrea, a species that has been elevated to monotypic family status. Fruiting trees sometimes produce views of the shy Sulawesi Thrush as well as the uncommon Crimson-crowned Flowerpecker, and we should be on the lookout for the gigantic Sombre Pigeon, Blue-faced and Tawny-breasted Parrotfinches and the distinctive song of Maroon-backed Whistler. Sulawesi Cuckoo is also a poorly-known resident in this forest, but even rarer is the near-mythical Sulawesi Woodcock. In the afternoon, we will take the return journey to Palu, stopping en route to bird a few open country sites before checking into our comfortable hotel.
Day 5: Fly to Manado and transfer to Dumoga-Bone National Park
Today on our Indonesia birding tour, we fly to the city of Manado in northern Sulawesi and take the lengthy drive onwards to Dumoga-Bone National Park, stopping along the way if conditions look favourable for birding. If time allows upon our arrival, we can cross the stream behind our accommodation and enter the lowland forest adjacent the park where we have our first opportunity to find White-faced Dove, Yellow‐breasted Racket‐tail, Bay Coucal retiring in the thickets, scarce Sulawesi Hornbill and even Red‐bellied Pitta, which is often quite vocally common in this area. Spotlighting at night can be very rewarding with Sulawesi Scops Owl, Great Eared Nightjar and Ochre‐bellied Boobook all recorded in the vicinity.
Days 6 & 7: Dumoga‐Bone National Park
We have two days of our Indonesia birding tour to explore the primarily lowland forest of Dumoga‐Bone, though there is also some montane forest on the slopes of the surrounding mountains that we will access as well. Human exploitation of the area’s habitat, unfortunately, continues to create challenges here, but the forest still supports a wide variety of our target birds, including further chances for many of the lower elevation species that are now rare or absent from Lore Lindu National Park.
One of our primary targets is the increasingly difficult Maleo, a surprisingly attractive megapode that, like its cousin, the Melanesian Megapode of the Bismarck Archipelago and Solomon Islands, digs a hole in the ground to lay its eggs so as to take advantage of the volcanic heat for brooding, rather than building the more traditional vegetation-covered mound.
A colonial nester, the Maleo’s eggs are then often left unattended since the eggs are incubated by the natural warmth of the ground. Unfortunately, however, this fact is well known amongst the locals, so human collections continue to wreak havoc on the native population, which in turn makes the species increasingly difficult to find. Regardless, with patience here we stand a good chance of locating this unique and interesting bird.
During our time in the forest on the other side of the river at Toraut, we will be looking for the localised Pied Cuckooshrike, Yellow-breasted Racket-tail (that are often heard before seen), and the beautifully patterned Oberholser’s Fruit Dove. Sulawesi is simply brilliant for kingfishers and two species we will be searching for here are the exquisite Lilac Kingfisher and tiny, jewel-like Sulawesi Dwarf Kingfisher that darts rapidly through the forest. Although mammals are not conspicuous in Dumoga-Bone, we should find several possible species of squirrels and perhaps a Bear Cuscus or Tonkean Macaque. With luck, we might even stumble upon the rarely-seen Sulawesi Ground Dove or encounter the elusive Red‐backed Thrush foraging along the edge of the trail.
Day 8: Morning at Gunung Ambang and continue to Tangkoko Nature Reserve
We will set out very early this morning to the higher elevations of Gunung Ambang once again for some nocturnal birding in case there are species we may still need to catch up with. At dawn we will be listening for calls from the elusive Scaly‐breasted Kingfisher that we hope to pinpoint, as well as the localised Matinan Blue Flycatcher only found in this region of Sulawesi.
After some final highland birding, we will undertake the return drive to Manado and continue to Tangkoko Nature Reserve, where the coastal and lowland forest supports a good range of Wallacean birds.
Day 9: Tangkoko Nature Reserve
Sulawesi Nightjar can sometimes be found hawking insects over the forest here before dawn, and as the sun illuminates the forest, we will be watching for the secretive Green-backed Kingfisher that often reveals its presence by its distinctive whistled call.
The outrageous Knobbed Hornbill seems to be especially common here, while Black‐naped Fruit Dove, the unusual Blue-backed Parrot, Yellow‐billed Malkoha, Pygmy Hanging Parrot and Sulawesi Pygmy Woodpecker are all possibilities; we’ll also be seeking out views of White-rumped Cuckooshrike and the robust Ashy Woodpecker. Spending time in the various habitats throughout Sulawesi maximises our chances of coming across low-density accipiters such as Spot-tailed, Vinous-breasted and Dwarf Sparrowhawks.
Mammals are also a great feature of this reserve and we will almost certainly locate the wacky and endearing Sulawesi Crested Macaque, as we wait for the darling Spectral Tarsier to emerge from its fig tree roost in the early evening. During our Indonesia birding tour, we also have the opportunity to take a boat trip up Lembeh Strait to maximise our chances of seeing the monstrous Great‐billed Kingfisher in the mangrove forests, and potentially find Sulawesi Masked Owl on its cliff-side day roost.
Day 10: Manado to Buli via Ternate and transfer to Subaim
Departing in the morning, we will transfer to the airport in Manado to catch a flight to the island of Halmahera, landing first at Ternate, before a second short flight to the town of Buli. The flights are rather spectacular since Ternate is located on an imposing cone-shaped volcanic island, rising over 1,700m above the surrounding sea.
The largest island of the Moluccan Archipelago, Halmahera was once a vital part of the historical trade of cloves, nutmeg and mace that gave this region the nickname ‘Spice Islands’. Today, expanding human populations and agricultural pressure for coconut and sago palm plantations have sadly destroyed much of the pristine rainforest that once cloaked the hillsides.
After arriving in Buli, we will drive northwards to Subaim making several birding stops en route. At one of our stops, we’ll search for Northern Golden Bulbul and the beautiful Common Paradise Kingfisher. Other possibilities include Cream-throated White-eye, Scarlet-breasted Fruit Dove and we may even be lucky to see the elusive Ivory-breasted Pitta. Continuing, we’ll also keep a look out for Azure Dollarbird, an increasingly rare find in this area.
Day 11: Foli
Halmahera lies further to the east of Wallace’s Line than Sulawesi, and consequently its avifauna contains a higher proportion of Australasian elements such as the sprightly Willie Wagtail, Shining Flycatcher and Spangled Drongo. Parrots occur in abundance, with possibilities including Violet-necked and Chattering Lory, Red-flanked Lorikeet, Red‐cheeked, Eclectus and the extremely handsome Great‐billed Parrots, and White Cockatoo, which still remains fairly common despite the ongoing forest clearance. Pigeons are in close competition and during our Indonesia birding tour we will be searching for Scarlet‐breasted, Blue‐capped and Grey‐headed Fruit Doves, Spectacled and Pied Imperial Pigeons, as well as very small chances of Great Cuckoo-Dove and Nicobar Pigeon.
Perhaps the most remarkable bird on Halmahera is the magnificent Standardwing, an exceptional bird-of-paradise that performs a whimsical canopy display in the early morning. Setting out well before dawn, we will be in position under the display tree by first light and will likely hear the harsh calls of this species even before it becomes completely visible. As the light improves, the male’s flamboyant white standards and metallic green epaulettes become brighter, and if a female arrives to check out the lek site we will be in for a real exhibition of spectacular leaps and wing folding!
Another very exciting species we will be targeting in the surroundings is the sensational Ivory‐breasted Pitta that is encountered in these forests. Its distinctive call will hopefully allow us to track down this most impressive species decorated with red, black, white and turquoise. Rustling in the undergrowth might reveal the presence of the scarce Dusky Megapode and, with luck, we may bump into the rare Moluccan Goshawk, Dusky Friarbird, or the almost unknown and aptly named Invisible Rail.
Day 12: Gunung Uni-uni
The air whooshing through the mighty wings of Blyth’s Hornbill will be a regular sound as we continue searching through the forest patches for Dusky-brown Oriole, Rufous-bellied Triller, Spectacled and White-naped Monarchs and the furtive Paradise-crow, which, despite its English name, is actually a bird-of-paradise! The booming sound of Goliath Coucal will eventually give away its presence, while we will also scan through the treetops for several cuckooshrike species, including Moluccan, White‐bellied and the endemic Halmahera Cuckooshrikes. It will likely take some coaxing to produce the exquisite Common Paradise Kingfisher that tends to stay in thicker forested areas, and we will also be targeting the Variable Dwarf and Blue‐and‐white Kingfishers during our Indonesia birding tour. Other possibilities during our time here include Northern Golden Bulbul, Variable Goshawk, the delightful Long‐billed Crow, Moustached Treeswift, Moluccan Starling among the more numerous White-streaked Friarbird, Drab Whistler, Cream-throated White-eye, Halmahera Flowerpecker and Gurney’s Eagle soaring overhead. If we are very fortunate, we may even see the scarce Moluccan King Parrot, which we have been fortunate to find on past tours.
Day 13: Subaim to Ternate via Sofifi
Today on our Indonesia birding tour, we will have further chances to search for any species we may not yet have seen near Subaim before transferring to Sofifi and onwards to Ternate. From the mainland town of Sofifi, we will ferry across the strait to the volcanic island of Ternate. During our crossing, we have chances of seeing Great and Lesser Frigatebirds, Bridled and Greater Crested Terns and, if we are very fortunate, perhaps a Bulwer’s Petrel. Time permitting, we shall spend the late afternoon birding the nearby mangroves for various species of cuckoos, pigeons and the strikingly coloured Beach Kingfisher.
Day 14: Flight to Jakarta and final departure
After breakfast, we shall take a flight to Jakarta where our tour of Sulawesi and Halmahera will conclude.
What our clients say about tours to Indonesia
- RB, Remote West Papuan Islands 2017
David was notable in his high level of enthusiasm, how careful he is with identifications and how quick he is at spotting things. Our group was quite mixed in age and skills, and David was patient with members whose eyesight was not so good, and quick to get a spotting scope onto even difficult forest birds. I’d happily travel elsewhere with him and is every bit of what I could hope for in a guide. The overall group felt well run and there was always a plan B if one was needed. David’s knowledge and sense of humor also made him fun to travel with.MH, Lesser Sundas
David Ertrius is above all patient, with the birds, with the participants and the local guides. He very modestly shares his incredible knowledge of the birds.LG, Sulawessi & Halmehera
I have been on birding trips for many years, but this is the first time with Rockjumper. The trip was easily the best birding trip I have ever been on. In particular, both David and Glen made life so easy and their birding knowledge was remarkable. Other members of the group were very easy to get on with. The birding was quite remarkable and it is difficult to pick out a highlight from the Birds of Paradise, the Chinese Crested Tern or the Madanga. There is no doubt that I will travel with Rockjumper again.NH, Indonesia – West Papua Cruise 2016
As expected, I had a fabulous time on the Sulawesi and Halmahera trip. It was everything I wanted – amazing birds, fantastic guide, great tour participants, highly organised logistics and wonderful forests. I particularly appreciated that for one morning the group was split into two so some participants had the chance to head part-way back up the Anaso track while the others birded less strenuous areas.SL, Sulawesi & Halmahera 2017
David Erterius is an excellent birder and a great tour leader. Unfailing enthusiasm while birding, and a great manner during non-birding time. The combination of the birders and the guides made this probably the most enjoyable trip I have been on.BB, Sulawessi & Halmahera
David Erterius was a really fantastic guide, like all the Rockjumper guides have been. He certainly maintained the high bar set by all my Rockjumper guides. He was organised and friendly and was onto birds in near-mythical speed. I didn’t have any problems on the tour, but if I did, I would be confident that he would be able to assist.SL, Sulawesi & Halmahera 2017
My thanks to Keith and Glen Valentine for taking so much time in getting me on the birds. They are so patient and really nice.MM, Remote Indonesian Islands Cruise 2017
The ultimate birding trip: stunning destinations, endemics galore, cruising through the Raja Ampats and Maluku on a lovely wooden boat with wonderful crew and great food, gorgeous sunsets, awesome snorkelling and two of the best Rockjumper guides – Keith and Glen Valentine. And to top it off, Wilson’s Bird-of-Paradise!!!!!!!!!SL, Remote Indonesian Islands Cruise 2017