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  • Photograph of Banded Pitta

    Banded Pitta by Roger Wyatt. This is the irena subspecies, the brightest one, which occurs from Southern Thailand to Sumatra.

    SUMATRA

    Photograph of Sumatran Cochoa

    One endemic which is not a forest-floor skulker is the Sumatran Cochoa, here captured by Mark Harper at Gunung Kerinci.


    Best Wildlife in Sumatra

    Mammals
    (Sumatran) Orang-utan, Siamang, White-handed (Agile) Gibbon, Mitred (Banded) (Sumatran Surili), Silvered and Thomas's Leaf Monkeys (Langurs), Long-tailed (Crab-eating) and (Sunda) Pig-tailed Macaques, (Sunda) Slow Loris, Colugo (Sunda Flying Lemur), Pale Giant Squirrel, Red Giant Flying Squirrel, Black and Cream-coloured Giant Squirrels, Prevost's Squirrel, tree shrews including Pen-tailed, Sambar, and Greater and Lesser Mouse Deer. Also a chance of Leopard and Marbled Cats, civets including Otter Civet, and an outside chance of (Sunda) Clouded Leopard, (Asian) Golden Cat, Asian Tapir, Sun Bear, Malayan Porcupine and Sumatran Striped Rabbit.

    Mentawai Islands Endemics (accessible from Padang)
    Mentawai (Kloss) Gibbon, Mentawai and Pig-tailed Langurs, and Mentawai and Siberut Macaques.

    Birds

    (Mainland) Endemics
    Grey-breasted (Roll's), Red-billed and Sumatran (Roll's) Partridges, Salvadori's Pheasant, Bronze-tailed Peacock Pheasant, Sumatran Ground Cuckoo, Sumatran (Collared) Owlet, Short-tailed Frogmouth, Sumatran Trogon, Sumatran (Grey-faced) Woodpecker, Graceful and Schneider's Pittas, Sumatran Drongo, Sumatran (Sunda) Treepie, Blue-masked and Sumatran (Blue-winged) Leafbirds, Shiny and Sumatran (Brown- or Chestnut-winged) Whistling Thrushes, Sumatran Cochoa, Sumatran (Sunda) Forktail, Aceh (Orange-spotted), Cream-striped, Spot-necked and Sumatran (Sunda) Bulbuls, Sumatran Babbler, Rusty-breasted and Sumatran (Long-billed) Wren Babblers, and Sumatran Laughingthrush.

    Mentawai Islands Endemics (accessible from Padang)
    Mentawai Malkoha, Mentawai Scops Owl, Mentawai Drongo and possibly the sipora race of Crested Serpent Eagle.

    Simeulue Islands Endemics (accessible from Medan)
    Simeulue Serpent Eagle and Simeulue Scops Owl. The very rare Silvery (Wood) Pigeon also occurs here.

    Mentawai and Simeulue Islands Endemic
    Barusan Cuckoo Dove.

    Enggano Islands Endemics (accessible from Bengkulu)
    Enggano Imperial Pigeon, Enggano Cuckoo Dove, Enggano Parakeet, Enggano Scops Owl, Enggano Thrush, Enggano Myna and Enggano White-eye.

    (Rueck's Blue Flycatcher is known from just two specimens collected in 1917 and 1918, at Tuntungan and Delitua in the lowlands of northern Sumatra.)

    Other Specialities
    Mountain Peacock Pheasant, Great Argus, White-winged Duck, Cinnamon-headed and Sumatran Green Pigeons, Pink-headed Fruit Dove, Blyth's, Gould's, Large and Sunda Frogmouths, Rajah Scops Owl, Bonaparte's and Salvadori's Nightjars, Waterfall Swift, Fire-tufted Barbet, (Malaysian) Banded (irena) Pitta, Malaysian Honeyguide, Fiery and Sunda Minivets, Sunda Blue Robin, Rufous-vented Niltava, Sunda Warbler, Black Laughingthrush, Black-capped White-eye and Temminck's Sunbird.

    Others
    Helmeted, Rhinoceros, White-crowned and other hornbills, Black-and-red, Black-and-yellow, Green and Long-tailed Broadbills, Diard's, Red-headed, Red-naped and Scarlet-rumped Trogons, Banded and Rufous-collared Kingfishers, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Blue Nuthatch, Red-bearded Bee-eater, Common Green Magpie and Whiskered Treeswift, as well as Red Junglefowl, Oriental Darter, Brahminy Kite, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Black and Rufous-bellied Eagles, Black-thighed Falconet, green pigeons, Blue-rumped Parrot, Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot, malkohas, Oriental Bay Owl, Reddish Scops Owl, Barred Eagle Owl, Large Frogmouth, Malaysian Eared Nightjar, Grey-rumped Treeswift, woodpeckers, minivets, Green Iora, bulbuls, Greater Racket-tailed and Lesser Racket-tailed Drongos, Black-and-crimson Oriole, Crested Jay, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, many babblers including Chestnut-backed Scimitar Babbler and Long-tailed Sibia, Lesser and White-browed Shortwings, White-rumped Shama, tailorbirds, flycatchers, fantails, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Long-tailed Shrike, Hill Myna, spiderhunters and flowerpeckers. Also a chance of Crested Fireback, Storm's Stork, Rail Babbler, Dusky Woodcock, and Gould's and Sunda Frogmouths.

    Other Natural Wonders of Sumatra

    Krakatoa This volcano is famous for one of the most massive eruptions known to man, an explosion which appears to have been heard as far as about 5000 km (3000 miles) away, on the island of Rodrigues near Mauritius, and about 3000 km (2000 miles) away in Perth, Western Australia! It occurred in 1883 and destroyed two-thirds of the island. Eruptions since have built a new island in the same location, already over 300 metres (1000 ft) high.

    Lake Toba This is the largest lake in Indonesia and the largest volcanic lake in the world. It is about 100 kilometres (60 miles) long and 30 kilometres (20 miles) wide, and up to 505 metres (1666 ft) deep, and the result of a supervolcanic eruption that occurred 70,000–80,000 years ago, and which is believed to have been the largest eruption on Earth in the last 25 million years.

    Best Sites for Wildlife in Sumatra

    Best Times for Wildlife in Sumatra

    May to September is normally the driest time of the year and July to September is the peak month to visit in search of most birds. Pittas are of course a different matter and February-March and July are arguably the best times for them.

    Recommended Books etc. for Sumatra

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

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

    A Field Guide to the Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore by A Jeyarajasingam. OUP, 2012. (Second Edition).

    Birds of South-East Asia by C Robson. Helm, 2014. (Second Edition)

    Birds of South-East Asia Concise Edition by C Robson. Helm, 2015.

    A Field Guide to the Mammals of South-East Asia by C M Francis. New Holland Publishers, 2008.

    A Field Guide to the Reptiles of South-East Asia by I Das. Bloomsbury, 2015.

    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 Sumatra

    Many trip reports, some for Sumatra, 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 Sumatra. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Sumatra' below.

    Local Guides and Tours in Sumatra

    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 Sumatra

    Some Organized Tours to Sumatra

    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 run organized tours or can arrange custom tours to Sumatra include the following.