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Sulawesi: In search of mythical beasts

Sulawesi: Tangkoko - sinister-looking bear cuscus.

With a goal of splitting our time between marine and terrestrial diversity, we headed inland from Bunaken to the forests of Tangkoko National Park (famous for Celebes crested macaques and spectral tarsiers). We stayed in a simple homestay close to the park entrance and watched hopeful street dogs and locals passing their time.

Sulawesi: Tangkoko - friendly neighbourhood vegetableman.

Guides are required to enter the park, and ours happened to be remarkably unenthusiastic, but nevertheless was exceptional at spotting birds, mammals and other wildlife in the dense forest. We spent our morning surrounded by indifferent Sulawesi macaques (much to Oliver's dismay, though it turns out these are nowhere near as fierce or devious as Thai macaques), before heading deeper into the jungle.

Over the rest of the day, previously-mythical beasts turned to living, breathing animals in front of us; the number and diversity of wildlife we spotted would have been hard to believe before we'd arrived. We encountered tiny flying dragons, sleepy bear cuscuses, red-knobbed hornbills (like colourful tree dinosaurs), multicoloured tropical pigeons (pied and green imperial pigeons, brown cuckoo-dove), ashy woodpeckers, tropical kingfishers (ruddy, green-backed and lilac-cheeked), Sulawesi scops owls, fireflies, puddles full of tropical frogs, and a huge (and fast!) tarantula. And tarsiers - a treeful of tiny, wide-eyed spectral tarsiers, who slowly left their tree-hole nest and dispersed off into the forest to hunt for insects as dusk turned to night.

Returning from the rainforest darkness, dehydrated from all the sweating in yet another incredible hot and humid day, our nightlife experience continued as we walked right into a communal birthday party, filled with local food and spectacularly amplified electronic music.

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