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  • Photograph of Purple-bearded Bee-eater

    The superb Purple-bearded Bee-eater by Mark Harper.

    SULAWESI and HALMAHERA

    Photograph of Ivory-breasted Pitta

    A male Ivory-breasted Pitta by Mark Harper.

    Best Wildlife in Sulawesi and Halmahera

    Mammals
    Dian’s and Spectral (Sulawesi) Tarsiers, Babirusa, Sulawesi Wild Pig, Bear Cuscus, and macaques including Heck's, Moor, Sulawesi Crested and Tonkean. Also a chance of Anoa, Bottlenose and Spinner (May-Nov) Dolphins, and Short-finned Pilot Whale (May-Nov).

    Birds
    Hylocitreas (Olive (Yellow)-flanked Whistler), Wallace’s Standardwing, Paradise Crow, Blyth’s, Knobbed and Sulawesi Dwarf Hornbills, Maleo, White Cockatoo, Moluccan Owlet Nightjar, Ivory-breasted and Red-bellied Pittas, Purple-bearded Bee-eater, Purple-winged Roller, Beach, Blue-and-white, Great-billed, Green-backed, Lilac-cheeked, Ruddy, Scaly, Sombre and Sulawesi Dwarf Kingfishers, Common Paradise Kingfisher, fruit doves, Fiery-browed, Finch-billed, Sulawesi Crested and White-necked Mynas, Lesser Frigatebird, White-bellied Sea Eagle and Moustached Treeswift, as well as Dusky, Moluccan and Philippine Scrubfowls, Oriental Darter, Javan Pond Heron, Cinnamon and Yellow Bitterns, Pacific Baza, Barred Honey Buzzard, Brahminy Kite, Sulawesi Serpent Eagle, accipiters, Black, Gurney’s and Rufous-bellied Eagles, Buff-banded and Barred Rails, White-browed Crake, Isabelline and Rufous-tailed Bush Hens, Javan Plover, White-headed (Black-winged) Stilt, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Grey-tailed Tattler, Long-toed and Red-necked Stints, Great Crested and Whiskered Terns, imperial pigeons, Chattering and Violet-necked Lories, Ornate, Red-flanked and Yellow-and-green Lorikeets, parrots including Eclectus, Golden-mantled and Yellow-breasted Racquet-tails, Yellow-billed Malkoha, coucals including Goliath, Sulawesi Masked Owl, scops owls, hawk owls, Great Eared and Satanic (Diabolical/Heinrich's) Nightjars, swiftlets, Purple Needletail, Grey-rumped Treeswift, Blue-tailed and Rainbow Bee-eaters, (Common) Dollarbird, Ashy and Sulawesi Pygmy Woodpeckers, Sulawesi Myzomela (Scarlet Honeyeater), White-streaked Friarbird, Golden-bellied Gerygone, Ivory-backed and White-breasted Woodswallows, cuckoo shrikes, trillers, Common Golden Whistler, Black-naped Oriole, monarchs, Rusty-bellied Fantail, Piping Crow, Golden Bulbul, Mountain Tailorbird, Gray’s Grasshopper Warbler (mostly Nov-Mar), Great Shortwing, flycatchers, Red-backed and Sulawesi Thrushes, Malia, white-eyes, flowerpeckers and Black Sunbird. Also a chance of Invisible Rail, Purple Dollarbird, Moluccan King Parrot, Spotted Harrier, Geomalia, Blue-faced Parrotfinch, Mountain Serin, Great-billed Heron, Australian Pratincole, Great Knot, Far Eastern Curlew and seabirds such as Great Frigatebird, Brown Booby, Bridled Tern and Bulwer’s Petrel.

    Reptiles, Amphibians and Fish
    The seas around Sulawesi, especially those to the east of the main island, are believed to be the richest in the world. Over 3000 fish species have been recorded, mostly around some of the richest and most pristine coral reefs on Earth, as well as Green and Hawksbill Turtles, and Bumble-Bee, Harlequin and Tiger Shrimps.

    Best Sites for Wildlife in Sulawesi and Halmahera

    Photograph of Knobbed Hornbill

    Knobbed Hornbill by Coke & Som Smith.

    Best Times for Wildlife in Sulawesi and Halmahera

    Although the rainy season may last into August the best time to visit these islands to look for birds is mid-July to October, especially August-September. Wallace's Standardwings usually display the most at the start of the dry season, which is usually August to early September. The climate is equatorial and the temperature in the lowlands is usually 25°C–28°C throughout the year. Most days in the lowlands are hot, humid and sunny, with spells of cloud and rain at times. In montane areas it can be much cooler.

    Recommended Books etc. for Sulawesi and Halmahera

    Birds of the Indonesian Archipelago by J Eaton et al. Lynx Edicions, due March 2016.

    A Guide to the Birds of Wallacea by B Coates and K Bishop. Dove Publications, 1997.

    A Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Bali by J MacKinnon. OUP, 1993.

    Birding Indonesia edited by P Jepson and R Ounsted. Periplus Editions, 1997.

    Where to watch birds in Asia by N Wheatley. Helm, 1996.

    Don’t know which country/countries/regions to visit in Asia? Then it may be worth considering taking a look at this book, written by this website’s author. It is many years old of course but it still provides a starting point, an overview and a guiding light to the best birds and the best places to look for them in the region, and could save hours of searching for similar information on the internet. However, it is important to check more up-to-date sources for sites which have been opened up, sites and species which have been discovered, lodges that have been built etc. since the book was published.

    Trip Reports for Sulawesi and Halmahera

    Many trip reports, some for Sulawesi and Halmahera, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to Sulawesi and Halmahera. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Sulawesi and Halmahera' below.

    Local Guides and Tours in Sulawesi and Halmahera

    The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.

    Accommodation in Sulawesi and Halmahera

    Some Organized Tours to Sulawesi and Halmahera

    There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.

    While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.

    Tour companies who are running organized tours to Sulawesi and Halmahera in the next couple of years include the following. Many of these also offer custom tours.