Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Manado region, Sulawesi, Indonesia


We arrived in Sulawesi after transiting through the domestic terminal in Jakarta.   It sounds funny saying it but Indonesia felt very 'foreign' to us from the food to pretty much everything else.

Anyway we stayed in Manado on arrival in a decent airport hotel and tried the local vegetarian specialities including Gado Gado.  The beer was eye-wateringly expensive, but when in Rome...

Anyway it was rainy season and it was raining:


We were picked up by our guide, and the contrast with our previous trip was immediate and indeed sustained throughout our visit to Sulawesi.  Monal from Sultan Tours was considerate, friendly and helpful for the duration of the trip, our thanks to him.

The first day we drove to Tangkoko, birding at the top of the hills, in the rain:


Helen had a migraine, a post-stress one, at the airport hotel so we needed to keep it gentle.   That afternoon therefore i went into the forest/jungle with the guides while she rested.

The Celebes Macaques are present in Tangkoko in healthy numbers though the adjacent village has people setting off fireworks and occasionally killing the monkeys to deter them from their houses.

During the pause in the explosions one of the younger members of a family group looked confused:


Along the path I saw Green-backed Kingfisher:


Yellow-billed Malkoha:


And a good number of other species, though we did at one point have to shelter from a bit of a storm.   That passed, so enjoying the attentions of the biting ants and mosquitoes we waited until dusk to see a Celestial Tarsier emerge from its sleep tree:


The next day was much brighter, this is the shore in the jungle park and you can see the beach is volcanic sand, remnants from the explosion of Tangkoko volcano in 1995:


Omnipresent after the rain were these millipedes, they are the great recyclers of the forest, covering everything, turning fallen logs to mush, trying to bore into solid trees and reaching along the ground, literally everywhere:


One afternoon after a forest walk to find some key species (we did so-so at this) we took a boat across the open sea (much to Helen's delight) then entered a river channel, to see this, the Giant-billed Kingfisher:


From Tangkoko we headed back to the edge of Manado and then up to Tomahon.   This was the view from the restaurant at lunch,. another enormous volcano:


Apparently of all the various cones thereabouts only 11 are actually active, a huge relief as you can imagine!

The first afternoon in Tomahon we visited Lake Tondano which was very pleasant and good birding too.   Most tourists visit to eat fish from the lake, we skipped that and concentrated on the wildlife. 

Breeding plumage Cattle Egrets flew past:


An enterprising local was growing Lotus flowers, presumably for the seed pods:


The following morning we drove from our accommodation to the forest above Tomahon.  I'd feel nervous with a smoking volcano overlooking my town, just staying:


The forest fragment was very productive, we saw lots and lots of birds including this Citrine Canary Flycatcher:


At one point on a bit of a jungle slog, i put a hand on a tree to steady myself while crossing a river and this tree frog landed on my hand.  I persuaded it onto my lens hood, whipped out my other camera and managed a snap.   The guides were oblivious, but understanding of the delay, especially when i showed them the picture later:


Another morning in the forest was equally rewarding with a dramatic sunrise and landscape:


Our last birding morning was spent in a hide overlooking a communal nesting site of the endangered Maleo


We probably saw a dozen of these birds, in pairs, including some egg-laying.   There was major drama after a few hours when a monitor lizard ran in and grabbed a freshly-laid egg.   We told the ranger who ran out, grabbed the lizard and rescued the egg.   We thought it was an iguana and coined  the phrase 'iguana drama'.  Monitor lizard mishap has less of a ring to it.   Anyway the egg was safe and added to the hatching programme they have which is making a big difference to the breeding success of this iconic species.

From there it was back to Manado and the 'volcano view' hotel:



We really enjoyed Sulawesi, the guide and his team were great, the food was survivable and the accommodation significantly better than The Philippines.  It also didn't have the 'edgy' feel of Rhe Philippines either, so we relaxed and enjoyed it the more.  Sulawesi doesn't get many visitors and all of the other tourists we encountered were there for diving, they are really missing out!

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