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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Lesser Sundas (Nusa Tengara), 23th July–20th August 2008,
Bali, Sumba, Timor, Flores, Rinca & Komodo
Henk Hendriks – email@example.com
From 23 July to 22 August I made a birding trip to the Lesser Sundas. During the first 12 days I was in the company of my brother Frans. Our intention was to bird the full 4 weeks together but unfortunately Frans had to return home because of serious health problems of his wife.
We followed the more or less “standard” birding trail of the Lesser Sundas. Ever since reading the excellent reports of Philippe Verbelen, back in the nineties I was eager to visit this region. In the past I had birded Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi and Halmahera and so it seems logical to expand my birding activities within this fascinating country to the southeast. So we/I visited Sumba, Timor, Flores, Rinca/Komodo and I also spent a few days on Bali at the end of my trip. According to Birdlife International, Sumba, Flores and Timor are Endemic Bird Areas and together they hold most of the endemics and specialties of the Lesser Sundas.
The main source of information was the excellent report of Mikael Bauer and I mainly visited the same sites, only at a more leisurely pace.
In retrospect our itinerary worked out fine and we generally had sufficient time to find the local specialties.
I recorded a total of 225 species (incl.4 heard only) of which 70 that are endemic to the Lesser Sundas. Highlights were many but some species stand out like Sumba Hornbill, Citron-crested Cockatoo, the 2 endemic Boobooks and the gorgeous Red-naped Fruit-Dove on Sumba, Timor Black Pigeon, Barred-necked Cuckoo-Dove, Timor Imperial Pigeon, Black-banded Flycatcher, Buff-banded Thicket-Warbler and Timor Sparrow on Timor, Flores Hawk-eagle, Elegant Pitta, White-rumped Kingfisher and Chestnut-capped Thrush on Flores and Yellow-crested Cockatoo on Komodo.
On arrival in Denpasar you are issued a 90-day tourist visa for which you have to pay US$ 25.
GETTING THERE – FLIGHT
We flew with KLM from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
We paid for a return ticket € 1250 which was quite expensive. For the same flight in july 2007 I paid € 980
From Kuala Lumpur to Denpasar, Bali we flew with Air Asia and we paid for a return ticket € 164
I flew with Merpati and Trans Nusa between the different islands.
From Denpasar to Waingapu(Sumba), from Waingapu to Kupang (Timor), from Kupang to Ruteng(Flores) and from Labuanbajo(Flores) back to Denpasar.
These 4 flights coast me about €280,-
The currency used in Indonesia is the Rupia.(RP)
During our stay the exchange rate was: 100.000 RP = €7.30
As usual I brought some cash Euros and American Dollars with me and these were easy to change at airports.
As back-up I brought some traveller cheques, which I never used and a credit card which I used a few times for paying tickets.
Nowadays in larger cities on Sumba, Timor and Flores one can easy obtain cash from ATM machines.
I used all kind of transportation on the ground. Often Ojeks (motorbike with driver), taxis, busses and once a car for 3 days. And of course a boat to get to the islands of Rinca & Komodo.
Accommodation varied from basic to good and was cheap. But even the basic accommodation was clean and had mostly attached bathrooms. Only the accommodation at Fatumnasi on Timor was very basic.
FOOD & DRINKS
Generally excellent and very cheap. Breakfast was mainly (banana) pancakes and we had good to excellent food while having lunch and dinner.
Very few people speak English so some basic knowledge of bahasa Indonesia comes in handy. I do not speak bahasa, but with a small phrasebook and English I did not have any real problems in this respect.
HEALTH & SAFETY
During my stay in the Lesser Sundas I was never sick and experienced no food related problems. Malaria occurs on Flores (near Kisol) but I did not take any profilaxis and this was maybe a mistake as local people told me that there is a serious risk in this area.
The Indonesian people on these islands are very friendly and helpful and I had a hassle-free trip, with the exception of the surat (=permit) hassle near Lewa on Sumba at the start of our trip. See note further on.
The weather was excellent during my stay. I had only one short downpour at Labuanbajo on one late afternoon and some foggy drizzle on the evening I was trying for Flores Scops-Owl at Danau Ranamese (Flores) Early morning, late afternoon and especially the nights were rather cold at Fatumnasi (Gunung Mutis on Timor). In the middle of the day it can get hot on Sumba, lowlands of Timor, Flores and Komodo but generally I had nice, sunny days.
Looking back on this trip I can only say that I had an excellent trip and I saw most of the endemics and a whole set of rare and/or range-restricted species. Going through old reports I noticed that certain species, like Yellow-crested Cockatoo, Olive-shouldered Parrot, Iris Lorikeet and Timor Green Pigeon (all on Timor) are becoming more and more difficult to find.
I was also lucky in finding some rare and/or difficult to observe birds like Timor Black Pigeon, Black-banded Flycatcher and Timor Sparrow.
On Sumba I saw all the endemics with the exception of Sumba Brown Flycatcher.
On Timor I failed to find Timor Green Pigeon, which nobody seems to find anymore these days. At least not at the sites visited by me.
On Flores I was unable to locate Flores Green Pigeon and I only heard Flores Scops Owl and Wallace’s Scops Owl.
I can only recommend The Lesser Sundas as a birding destination.
I brought a small Leica telescope with me, which was quite useful when I was doing roadside birding. Further I collected a good selection of vocalisations on an I-pod. I used vocalisations from the CD-Rom of Birds of Tropical Asia which can be ordered at Bird Songs International B.V. – www.birdsongs.nl
Wheatley, N. Where to watch birds in Asia. 1996.
P. Jepson. Birding Indonesia, 1997.
Coates, B.J., Bishop, K.D., Gardner, D. A guide to the birds of Wallacea; Sulawesi, The Moloccas and Lesser Sunda Islands, Indonesia. 1997.
Indonesia Lonely Planet Guide 2007.
Birdlife International Threatened Bird of the World.
Sibley & Monroe Distribution & Taxonomy of Birds of the World.
T.Inskipp,N.Lindsey & W.Duckworth. An Annotated Checklist of Birds of the Oriental region 1996
Trip Report & Articles
Birding in Wallacea July/August 1993 by Filip Verbelen
Birding in Sumba & Flores 20-09.’95 – 10.10.’95 by Filip Verbelen
Flores. A site guide for birdwatchers – Jan Verhoeye
Wallacea Birding Trip Report, 5 October – 17 November 2001, Jon Hornbuckle.
Flores, Indonesia, 26 March – 2 April 2005, Nick Brickle.
Notes on short trip to 3 locations in West-Timor, 21/11/2004 – 23/11/2004, Mark Schellekens.
Notes on short trip to West-Timor, 15-16/9/2005 and 13/11/2005, Mark Schellekens.
Birding Nusa Tengara 2005,Mikael Bauer
Lesser Sundas, Indonesia, 16 – 29 July 2006, James Eaton
The Lesser Sundas 5-24 september 2006, Mark van Beirs
The Lesser Sundas 7-31 august 2007, Sander Lagerveld.
Widodo, W., Cox, J.H., Rasmussen, P.C., Rediscovery of the Flores Scops Owl Otus alfredi on Flores, Indonesia, and reaffirmation of its specific status. Forktail 15 (1999): 15-23.
J.O.Gjershaug et all, The taxonomic status of Flores Hawk Eagle – Spizaetus floris. Forktail 20 (2004) 55-62
I like to thank Philippe Verbelen, who pointed out The Lesser Sundas to me already in the nineties as a fine birding destination. Raf Drijvers, Mark van Beirs, Sander Lagerveld, Mikael Bauer and Rob Hutchinson who all one way or another helped me in the planning stage of this trip.
Fery, taxi driver from Waingapu on Sumba. Can be contacted for transport to Lewa and getting around the area. Cell phone number: 08-1339323880
Freddy, bird guide from Waingapu on Sumba. Can be contacted if you need somebody to guide you around Sumba. Can also arrange transport. Phone number: 08-123795355
Ony, guide from Kupang on Timor. Can arrange guiding and transport on Timor. I used him to arrange a car for 3 days for my trip to Fatumnasi. Cell phone number: 08-1339404204
The information in this section is largely based on the info given in the 2005 report of Mikael Bauer with some recent additional info.
To find all but one of the Sumba endemics you have to visit the small village of Lewa.
Directions: Lewa is approximately 50 km west of Waingapu and it takes about 1 hour by car. We arranged a car at the airport and drove straight from the airport to Lewa. (400.000 RP)
We visited three sites near Lewa.
First the forest patch about 10 km west of Lewa, along the main Trans-Sumba Highway which transects the national park. We mainly bird along the main road starting from km 68 to km 72. At 69.5 at a sharp turn right with a crash barrier is a small clearing at the left side of the road. This is a good area to connect with both boobooks and Mees’s Nightjar.
The second site is located east of Lewa. At km 51 along the main highway, a dirt track goes north to some remnant forest patches.
The third site is Watumbela Forest. It takes about an hour by car to reach this forest. This can be organised by the Hary family where you stay. In the village of Watumbela a local guide will guide you for a small fee to the best view point for the Cockatoo and to the “good” forest. Our guide was Yunus
Accommodation: Cornelis and Katy Hary have a small, basic losmen (3 rooms) in Lewa. This is the place to stay as they are used to birders, they can organise transport to the sites and not unimportant, Katy prepares some great food. We had to pay for accommodation and 3 meals a day 200.000 RP per person a day which is not cheap to Indonesian standards.
Target species: Citron-crested Cockatoo, Sumba Hornbill, Little Sumba Boobook, Sumba Boobook, Mees’s Nightjar, Sumba Green Pigeon, Red-naped Fruit-Dove, Cinnamon-banded Kingfisher, Elegant Pitta, Chestnut-backed Thrush, Arafura Fantail, Pale-shouldered Cicadabird, Sumba Flycatcher, Sumba Jungle-Flycatcher, Sumba Brown Flycatcher, Sumba Lorikeet, Sumba Myzomela and Apricot-breasted Sunbird.
Directions: Some 16 km east from Waingapu, just before a bridge, a small dirt road goes left (north) through grasslands toward the coast and mangroves.
Just walk the grasslands to the west until you flush the specialty of the area, the endemic Sumba Buttonquail. Beware, because Red-backed Buttonquail also occurs. At the edge of the mangroves you will find Indonesian Honeyeater.
Accommodation: A hotel in Waingapu. We stayed at hotel Merlin.
Target Species: Sumba Buttonquail
As the forest patches (all 3 sites) near Lewa are situated within the National park of Manupeu Tanadaru, you definitely need a Surat (=permit) to bird these areas, even when birding along the main highway between km 68-72!!
Within 5 minutes of our arrival at km 68 we were ordered to show our permit, which we of course could not. We were threatened to get arrested if we would continue birding. Apparently, also according to Cornelis Hary, the national park officials have become very strict about this.
The problem is that the park office in Waingapu, where you normally arrive by plane, is providing permits for East-Sumba district and the National Park Manupeu Tanadura is situated in West-Sumba. The office of this district is located in the city of Waikabubak, which is another 3 hours by bus to the west from Lewa. Another problem for us was the fact that we arrived in the week-end, which meant that all offices were closed.
I asked the Hary family how future birders could solve this problem, as no birder wants to waste days to travel to the other site of the island to collect a permit.
The best thing to do is to write them in advance and give them details about your date of arrival, length of stay, full name as on your passport, passport number, age, nationality, profession, sex and purpose of your visit. They will then make the arrangements for you.
There is also a young man in the village who speaks excellent English to whom you can e-mail these details and he will inform the Hary family.
Address of Hary family: Address of contact man, called Budi.
Kathy & Cornelis Hary b_Karwelo@yahoo.de
JL Pameti Karata
Lewa – Sumba 87152
We were lucky that we met Joseph Brooks and Uthai Treesucon at Lewa, who had an English speaking guide (Freddy) with them, who put in a lot of effort and phone calls and finally arranged that we could bird these areas when accompanied by a national park official all day.
Camplong is about 1 hour (50 km) west of Kupang, along the main highway from Kupang towards Soe. At the end of this small town, just as the road starts to climb, there is still a good patch of lowland forest.
The forest here is somewhat drier than at Bipolo (site 2), larger, more intact with some really big trees and dense bamboo patches.
Possibilities here include rare birds like Timor Black Pigeon, Black-banded Flycatcher and White-bellied Chat is rather easy at this site. And plenty of other nice birds.
Directions: Camplong forest is situated at the right side of the main highway.
About 100 meter from the seminary (in the direction of Soe) a dirt road goes right and after another 100 meter turns left.
We birded the first 2 km. (to a small settlement) along this road and along the small trails on the left side of the main dirt road. Especially the small dirt track which branches of to the left, just before the small settlement of a few houses.
Accommodation: We stayed at the seminary (Wisma Oemat Honis), which is at the end of Camplong village, at the left side of the road, just before a recreational area. We took a taxi straight from the airport at Kupang to Camplong. (200.000 RP)
We really talked our way into this seminary as they initially were very reluctant to take care of visitors. We later found out that other birders and even bird tour companies failed to get accommodation at this seminary. This is a pity as the seminary is very conveniently located close to the good forest areas. Otherwise you have to travel daily from Kupang to Camplong.
This is another small patch of lowland forest and already very degraded.
But still good species can be found though I found the roadside birding along this dusty road sometimes rather annoying. A few trails branches of from this road and these can also be very productive. The nearby rice paddies and shrimp ponds make this site even more attractive. The forest is more open than at Camplong so you have better views of the canopy and a scope is essential for scoping parrots and pigeons.
Directions: You travel 6 km. back towards Kupang from Camplong (to the small village of Oelmasi) and turn north to Bipolo (another 15 km.)
The main dirt road transects this small forest patch (about 1½ km in length) and at the end of this forest patch a dirt road branches of to the left (west) and after about one km you reach an area of rice paddies and after that shrimp ponds/salt ponds.
Bipolo can be reached from either Kupang or Camplong. The latter is closer.
Target species at site 1 and 2: Olive-shouldered Parrot, Marigold Lorikeet, Olive-headed Lorikeet, Iris Lorikeet, Black-backed Fruit-Dove, Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove, Pink-headed Imperial Pigeon, Timor Black Pigeon, Barred-necked Cuckoo-Dove, Orange-banded Thrush, Timor Stubtail, Timor Blue Flycatcher, Black-banded Flycatcher, Buff-banded Thicket-Warbler, Fawn-breasted Whistler, White-bellied Chat, Red-chested Flowerpecker, Yellow-eared Honeyeater, Streak-breasted Honeyeater, Black-chested Myzomela, Greater Wallacean Drongo, Wallacean Cuckooshrike, Timor Oriole, Timor Figbird, Timor Friarbird, Flame-breasted Sunbird and Timor Sparrow.
3. GUNUNG MUTIS – FATUMNASI (1500 m. altitude)
This site still has extensive tracts of rather open primary forest and is a reliable area to catch up with the rare Timor Imperial Pigeon.
Island Thrush is common and species of interest include several parrot species (Olive-headed Parakeet, Iris Lorikeet and Olive-shouldered Parrot), Timor Boobook, the distinctive race of Pygmy Wren-Babbler and Chestnut-backed Thrush.
From the small village of Fatumnasi, where there is basic accommodation, you continue on a bad dirt road (4-wheel drive only) towards the village of Nenas. After roughly 4 km. from Fatumnasi the trail to the summit of Gn. Mutis branches of to the right. Along the first km along this track I found Timor Imperial Pigeon and the Wren-Babbler.
I also birded the lower slopes around Fatumnasi. To find your way around here you need to be guided by one of the locals. Plenty of Metallic Pigeons and I was lucky to observe a pair of Iris Lorikeets and a Timor Boobook at his daytime roost.
Timor Leaf-Warbler was common and Tricoloured Parrot-Finch is also present around Fatumnasi but I did not encounter one.
Directions: I hired a car for 3 full days from Kupang. (2.000.000 RP). It took 3 full hours from Camplong to reach Fatumnasi via Soe and Kapan.
Accommodation: I stayed in the basic guesthouse of Mathius Anin in Fatumnasi (50.000 RP incl.3 meals). He also guided me around the area.
4. OEL BUBUK (1000 m. alt.)
This is a tiny forest patch, some 13 km. north of Kapan, along the main road from Kapan to Fatumnasi. I visited this site one morning, when travelling back from Fatumnasi to Kupang. Though degraded it was rather productive.
Best species was a perched Timor Black Pigeon, great views of a pair of Black-banded Flycatcher and several times I bumped into a small flock of Spot-breasted White-eyes.
1. AREAS AROUND RUTENG
1a. LAKE (= DANAU) RANAMESE AREA
The forest around the lake and along the main highway just next to the lake harbours most of the highland species of Flores, including the enigmatic Flores Scops Owl.
I mainly birded the first 4 km. from the HQ area at Lake (= Danau) Ranamese in the direction of Ruteng, along the main highway. The traffic along this road can be annoying, so from time to time I entered the forest along small wood cutters trails, which were also rather productive.
Directions: Danau Ranamese is located roughly 20 km. east of Ruteng along the main highway towards Bajawa. (40 minutes by ojek)
Accommodation: Hotel in Ruteng. Some people used to stay in a dilapidated bungalow at the HQ area but as this site is easily reached from Ruteng, I see no point why you should stay there.
My ojek driver had no problems in driving back to Ruteng in the dark.
1b. GOLO LUSANG
A highland pass, south of Ruteng. I birded mainly the first 3 km. after the pass. Mainly the same species as at Danau Ranamese but the area is more open and is especially famous for its dawn chorus of Bare-throated Whistler. This is indeed spectacular.
Later in the morning the traffic was from time to time disturbing my birding but still productive.
Directions: This site is some 8 km. south of Ruteng along a road leading south out of the city. This roads starts east of the large, obvious cathedral. It is easily reached within 30 minutes from Ruteng.
Accommodation: hotel in Ruteng
1c. POCO RANAKA ROAD.
This was actually the nicest site I visited near Ruteng. It is a small degraded “tarmac” road to the summit of Gn.Ranaka. It has become too small for cars so only by foot or by ojek you can ascend the mountain. During my birding I did not encounter any vehicle or human being on this road, so I thoroughly recommend this site. Large tracts of nice forest along this road and higher up some great views of the valley and the city of Ruteng.
Directions: About 10 km. east of Ruteng along the main highway towards Danau Ranamese and Bajawa you turn south (right) on the small road to the summit.
Accommodation: hotel in Ruteng.
Target species in the highlands around Ruteng: Dark-backed Imperial Pigeon, Black-backed Fruit-Dove, Flores Lorikeet, Flores Scops Owl, Wallace’s Scops Owl, White-rumped Kingfisher, Flores Minivet, Flores Leaf-Warbler, Flores Jungle-Flycatcher, Brown-capped Fantail, Bare-throated Whistler, Yellow-browed Dark-eye, Crested Dark-eye, Thick-billed Dark-eye, Scaly-crowned Honeyeater and Golden-rumped Flowerpecker.
It is not easy to find good stretches of lowland forest in this part of Flores but near the village of Kisol a few small patches can still be found and though the forest is already rather degraded some good species can be found in this area, most notable Elegant Pitta, White-rumped Kingfisher, Flores Green Pigeon, Flores Hawk-Eagle, Flores Crow, Wallace’s Scops Owl, Chestnut-capped Thrush, Thick-billed Dark-eye, Flame-breasted Sunbird and Black-fronted Flowerpecker.
I had some problems in locating the “good” forest as the directions in Bauer’s Report were rather vague. By trial and error I birded 2 different patches near Kisol and found most of the wanted species.
From the entrance of the seminary at the main highway I walked to the right and after 100 meter you cross a small bridge and an ojek stand.
Just after the bridge a tarmac road goes left (south) to a small village (Nangarawa) on the coast (12-13 km). After about 2 km. the tarmac road turns into a cobblestone road and after another km. climbs up a hill. Here I found a nice patch of forest with side trails on my second day. This thanks to the sketch map I found in Philippe Verbelen’s report of 1995. After another couple of kilometres the roads descends and the forest turns into dry secondary scrub/forest.
About 100 meter after the small bridge in the direction of Ruteng I found a small dirt track going left (south). I followed this track through palm plantations and along some houses until the track peters out on a hill. I climbed this hill and followed the ridge on this hill up into an excellent piece of forest.
Directions: Take the bus from Ruteng to Bajawa and get out at the entrance of the seminary at Kisol (about 3 hours)
Accommodation: The seminary at Kisol. I received a warm welcome by the priests of this seminary and they provided me with a nice room and 3 meals a day. After 3 days they asked me for a donation??
There is also a small hotel in the small town just before Kisol (Borong). But then you have to find daily transport to the forest patches.
3. PUARLOLO TELECOM STATION
This is a forest patch on a hill with a huge telecom tower on top of it, east of Labuanbajo and it is a reliable site for the mythical Flores Monarch.
Only discovered in 1975 and confined to sub-montane forest in the western part of Flores it is easily found at Puarlolo and most birders have little problems in finding this species here. I spent an enjoyable morning birding at this site and saw some good species. Most notable Flores Hawk-Eagle, a fine male Rufous-chested Flycatcher and of course Flores Monarch.
Directions: Puarlolo is 36 km. east of Labuanbajo along the main highway from Labuanbajo to Ruteng. It takes 1 hour by ojek to get to the site. If you reach the turn-of to the Telecom tower you go back towards Labuanbajo along the main road for about 300 meter. A nice trail goes down into the forest and I found all the good stuff along the first 500 – 600 meter along this trail.
Accommodation: hotel in Labuanbajo
4. POTAWANGKA ROAD.
Along this road one is able to find some patches of intact lowland forest. But despite the fact that the best parts of the forest are situated away from the road and the forest just next to the road is rather degraded, it is still possible to find some good birds here but the specialty is the rare Wallace’s Hanging-Parrot. The area also hold goodies like White-rumped Kingfisher, Flores Crow and Golden-rumped Flowerpecker.
Directions: Take the road out of Labuanbajo towards Ruteng and after about 10 km, just after the bus station, turn left/north on a tarmac road towards Terang/Potawangka. After about 3 km on this road I started my birding. I can get very hot during the day along this road.
RINCA & KOMODO
These islands are world famous for its Komodo Dragons. Besides the dragons birders have an excellent opportunity to observe Yellow-crested Cockatoo on Komodo. This species is severely threatened elsewhere but as Komodo NP is very well protected the species thrives on this island.
Directions: I hired a boat for 2 days/one night to visit these islands. The boat trip was again a highlight of this trip. Besides the dragons, the Cockatoo and other birds/animals I had some excellent snorkelling near the islands and all in all a very relaxed boat trip. I had to pay 2.000.000 RP for the boat including all meals. I slept on deck under a starlit sky, which was a wonderful experience.
I asked some other tourists to join me but most budget travellers only go on day trips to Rinca for the Dragon and some snorkelling.
In this section I include 6 maps which hopefully give you a better impression of the different sites visited by me and might increase your chances to find some of the more difficult species.
Though I have tried to be as accurate as possible there will be no doubt some (hopefully small) discrepancies in the drawings.
Day 1: Wednesday July 23 Geldrop – Amsterdam – Kuala Lumpur
At 16.00 pm we took the train from Eindhoven to Schiphol Airport. With a small delay we left Schiphol Airport at 21.30 and at 14.30 pm. we arrived at Kuala Lumpur. (next day)
Day 2: Thursday July 24 Kuala Lumpur.
We arrived at 14.30 pm at Kuala Lumpur. Took the free shuttle bus to the Concorde Inn Airport Hotel, which I had pre-booked through the internet. €37 for a double room. Just relaxed in the late afternoon at the hotel grounds.
Day 3: Friday July 25 Kuala Lumpur – Denpasar.
After breakfast we took a taxi to the domestic airport (LCCT) for our Air Asia flight to Denpasar. This flight was unfortunately delayed and instead of 11.00 am we left 3 hours later at 14.00 pm. So no late afternoon birding at Sanur mudflats unfortunately.
We arrived at Denpasar at 17.00. Picked up our tickets at the Merpati office for our flight to Waingapu (Sumba) the next day. I had pre-booked these through their website.
We also purchased 2 tickets for our flight from Waingapu to Kupang (Timor)
Took a taxi to Hotel Barud Beach which was situated conveniently close to the airport. We booked this hotel at the arrival hall (US$ 50 for a double room) In the evening I bought a Indonesian simm card for my cell phone which gave me the possibility to phone around in Indonesia cheaply.
Day 4: Saturday July 26 Denpasar – Waingapu – Lewa.
After a small delay we left at 11.30 am for our short flight to Waingapu on Sumba where we arrived at 12.30 am.
After collecting our luggage we negotiated a price with a taxi driver to take us straight to Lewa, as we were eager to start birding after all this travelling. We paid RP 400.000
At 15.00 pm we arrived at the losmen of Cornelis and Katy Hary in Lewa, only to find out that the 2 available rooms were occupied by 2 other birders Uthai Treesucon and Joseph Brooks.
They were out birding and we had to wait for their return to sort things out. After a late lunch we arranged 2 ojeks to bring us to km. 69 some 12 km west of Lewa for some late afternoon birding.
As soon as we arrived at the site and we had scored our first new birds, Ashy-bellied White-eye and Yellow-spectacled White-eye we were asked by a passing National Park official to show our Surat(=permit) to bird the area. Of course we did not have one and we did not take things very seriously, but he insisted that we stopped birding and if not he would phone the police.
This was of course not our intended start of a successful birding trip and a bit frustrated we decided to return to Lewa to solve the problem.
Back at the losmen we met Joseph and Uthai and sorted things out with our rooms. They were accompanied by a local guide, Freddy who spoke excellent English and Freddy and Cornelis Hary put in a lot of effort to solve the permit problem. After a lot of discussion with the local park official and phone calls to the HQ in Wakabakuk we finely got special permission from the boss himself to bird the next 3 days in the forest patches around Lewa. They would somehow send the permit to Lewa after the week-end. A national park guide (100.000 RP a day) would be escorting us for the entire period.
Quite relieved we went to bed.
Day 5: Sunday July 27 Forest west of Lewa – Km 68 – 72
From dawn (6.00 am) to 13.00 we birded this 4 km. stretch along the main road from Waingapu to Wakabakuk.
This was our first introduction to the Sumba avifauna and we had a very productive morning. On our way in we saw a ♂ Green Junglefowl just next to the road.
Several times we observed a soaring Short-toed Eagle and a fruiting tree held several Black-naped Fruit-Doves. We were also fortunate to have great views of a pair of the endemic Sunda Hornbill nearby. When we continued along the road we discovered a Chestnut-backed Thrush feeding just next to the road, which gave excellent views in the scope.
Other new birds seen that morning include several Arafura Fantails, some gorgeous
♂♂ of Asian Paradise Flycatcher, here of the distinctive white form, Wallacean Drongo, a few Spectacled Monarchs, Golden Whistler and at least 6 Apricot-breasted Sunbirds, including some ♂♂.
On our way back up the road we were lucky to find a foraging Elegant Pitta, in the forest just next to the road.
After a lunch break we returned to this site and birded until well after dark.15.30 – 20.30
Other new birds in the afternoon included twice a Sumba Jungle Flycatcher, a pair of Pale-shouldered Cicadabirds, Blood-breasted Flowerpecker and a fine ♂ Sumba Myzomela .
At dusk we taped in a Mees’s Nightjar, which even perched briefly in the spotlight on a bare branch in full view. But it took some time before we eventually spotlighted a very responsive Little Sumba Boobook.
Sumba Boobook was also briefly heard.
So satisfied with the results of our first full day in the field we returned to our losmen. In the evening we talked to Uthai and Joseph who were following the same route as we did but in a shorter period of time. They had seen most of the Sumba endemics near Lewa but no Cockatoo, Mees’s Nightjar and they could not find Sumba Brown Flycatcher. It turned out later that the latter was also our nemesis species on Sumba.
Day 6: Monday July 28 Watumbela Forest
Well before dawn we left Lewa for the 45 min. drive to Watumbela. The night before we had arranged a car through Cornelis to take us there. During the drive we observed several Savanna Nightjars on the road.
As soon as we arrived at the village, Sosi our guide from the national park, quickly arranged a local guide (his name was Yunus) to take us to the best stake-out for the Citron-crested Cockatoo. Together we walked through scrub, grassland and secondary forest and after another 45 minutes we arrived at a grassy ridge which provided great views of the surrounding valleys.
Near the viewpoint we observed some Broad-billed Flycatchers.
After a short wait we suddenly heard the distinctive calls of Cockatoos and sure enough we located 2 birds flying towards us and they landed very conveniently on top of some bare branches, just opposite our view point, giving excellent views in the scope. Later another bird joined them and after 10 minutes they all flew of. With our target species under our belt we walked further to a very nice patch of undisturbed forest, where we birded until noon.
Frans briefly saw a Cinnamon-banded Kingfisher which flew of before I could locate the bird, but fortunately we later found another one which gave great and lengthy views.
Other new birds include a very cooperative Sumba Flycatcher, which showed well in the understory and a single Wallacean Cuckoo-Shrike.
After our lunch in the field we walked back to the village in the scoring heath. We gave our local guide Yunus some money for his assistance and drove back to our losmen. Late afternoon we just relaxed a bit.
Day 7: Tuesday July 29 Forest west of Lewa km 68 – 72, Forest east of Lewa km 51
Again well before dawn we drove to km. 68.
Just before we got to km 68 (we drove very slowly uphill in a very old pick-up) I saw a Sumba Boobook sitting just next to the road, only 2 meters above the ground. Unfortunately the bird flew of when the car came to an abrupt hold.
We tried for an hour or so to tape in Sumba Boobook and though one bird was very responsive and we came very close, no further views.
Our main target was the endemic Red-naped Fruit-dove which we did not find but instead we observed a couple of Sumba Green Pigeons, another Sumba endemic, which can be tricky. Again good views of Chestnut-backed Thrush and Sumba Hornbill.
We birded this stretch until noon and then returned to our losmen for another excellent lunch. In the afternoon we decided to have a change of territory and to visit the forest patches east of Lewa.
At km.51 a dirt road branches of to the right and after following this track for about one km, we reached some isolated forest patches. We birded the area until 20.00 pm. so well after dusk, but be careful not to get lost in the dark. And it gets very dark.
We did not ad any new birds to our list but saw more Sumba Green Pigeons, twice a Brown Goshawk and at dusk we heard Mees’sNightjar and Little Sumba Boobook.
Day 8: Wednesday July 30 Forest west of Lewa- Lewa to Waingapu – Yumbu grasslands
Another early start for our last morning at Lewa. Again close to the Boobook but it did not show.
The highlight this morning was the absolutely fantastic observation of the endemic Red-naped Fruit-Dove in the scope. This was also the 6000th species on my world list.!! After that we mainly tried to find our last endemic, the Sumba Brown Flycatcher but we failed.
At 10.00 we went back to Lewa, said goodbye to the Hary family and drove from Lewa to Waingapu with the same car and driver as we used on the way in. At Waingapu we took a room in hotel Merlin.(150.000 RP for a double).
In the afternoon we went to Yumbu grasslands which is a reliable stake-out for the endemic Sumba Button-Quail. We read in other reports that normally it is very difficult to get views of this species on the ground. And this is quite true. We arrived at the site at 15.30 and we birded the area until 18.00 pm. We first found a roosting Savana Nightjar which gave excellent and close views and after 5 minutes of walking, we flushed a Button-Quail which gave brief but good views in flight: A Sumba Button-Quail. I saw where it landed but never saw it again.
Australian Bushlark was common and we saw several Indonesian Honeyeaters at the edge of the mangroves. It took us another 1½ hour of walking through the grasslands before we flushed a second button quail. This time we had even better views in flight and it was again a Sumba Button-quail. We never saw Brown Quail and/or Red-backed Button-Quail which also occur in the same area.
Other species seen include: A hunting Spotted Harriër, a White-shouldered Triller and some Zebra Finches.
After dinner we made some phone calls to home. Everything seemed fine.
Day 9: Thursday July 31 Waingapu – Kupang (Timor)
Kupang – Camplong – Camplong forest
After a lazy morning and a late breakfast we visited a travel agency to inform about flights from Kupang to Ruteng (Flores). They told us it is best to book them in Kupang.
Our flight To Kupang left on time (12.40 am) and one hour later we landed at Kupang airport. We immediately went to the Transnusa booking office and booked a flight to Ruteng in 5 days.
Then we arranged a taxi to drive us straight from the airport to the seminary in Camplong. (220.000 RP)
It took about one hour and at 15.00 pm we arrived unexpected at the entrance of the seminary. Nobody spoke any English and the sisters (3 older nuns) were sound asleep. We both had the impression that they were not very eager to take care of anybody. When we finally spoke to one of the sisters it took us some persuasion to convince her to cater for us for the next 3 nights. They gave us a nice room and assured us that they would provide 3 simple meals for us daily. We later heard that also the bird tour companies are not welcome anymore at their place and so they have to drive daily from a hotel in Kupang to the birding sites near Camplong. This is a pity as within a couple of hundred meters from the seminary the good birding starts.
After dropping our gear we immediately went to the forest and we birded from 16.00 to 18.00 the first part of the forest.
We quickly added some nice species to our list, including the endemic White-bellied Chat. While looking for a singing Orange-banded Thrush, Frans was lucky enough to put his bins on a ♂ Black-banded Flycatcher. Unfortunately the bird disappeared quickly and could not be relocated.
Just before dusk we bumped again into Uthai and Joseph and we exchanged some info. They stayed at a hotel in Kupang.
We also observed a Parrot-Finch which puzzled us and we later found out that it was in fact an immature plumaged Tricolored Parrot-Finch.
We walked back to the seminary and found our meal ready on the table just outside our room. Some owling nearby in the evening proved futile.
Day 10: Friday August1 Camplong Forest – Bipolo
After a very early breakfast we started birding at dawn in Camplong Forest. We birded all morning at the area just before the small settlement. Not much bird activity but slowly we started to find the specialties one by one. We had good views of several Orange-banded Thrushes, brief views of Buff-banded Thicket-Warbler, Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove, Wallacean Cuckoo-Shrike, Timor Blue Flycatcher, Fawn-breasted Whistler, Plain Gerygone, Streak-breasted Honey-eater,Yellow-eared Honey-eater, Black-chested Honey-eater, Helmeted Friarbird and Timor Friarbird. Mid morning we met Joseph in the forest and he told us that they had seen Timor Black Pigeon yesterday nearby.
He intended to visit Bipolo in the afternoon and Uthai and he were willing to give us a lift in the afternoon to this site. So after lunch we went in their car (with local guide and driver) to Bipolo. It was quite hot when we arrived at Bipolo but some fruiting trees along the main road proved to be rather productive.
Many Black-backed Fruit-doves, Rose-crowned Fruit-doves, Timor Figbirds, a single Timor Oriole and some Marigold Lorikeets. At one time a couple of Olive-headed Parakeets passed overhead and Frans and Joseph were able to identify an Iris Lorikeet which accompanied them.
During our walk we also briefly saw a distant Pink-headed Imperial Pigeon perched in a tree.
At 16.00 Frans and I walked to the rice fields where Joseph and Uthai had seen a pair of Timor Sparrows a couple of days earlier. It took us 45 minutes of brisk walking to get to the site but we failed to find the sparrow but instead large flocks of Five-coloured and Pale-headed Munias.
We did not have enough time to do the site any justice but we did see several species of heron, Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike and Australian Pratincole.
We walked back to the car and drove to the junction of Oelmasi. Then we said goodbye to Joseph and Uthai but before that I made an arrangement with their guide to contact us in 2 days in Kupang as we wanted to hire the car with driver (no guide) for 3 days to travel and bird the Fatumnasi area.
With 2 ojeks we travelled back to Camplong.
Day 11: Saturday August 2 Camplong Forest
We birded Camplong Forest all day. Highlight was the observation of 2 Timor Black Pigeons who were flushed and seen well in flight.
We also had better views of a very obliging Buff-banded Thicket-Warbler who hopped on the ground in full view and twice we observed a Timor Stubtail. But still not a sniff of Black-banded Flycatcher.
When we walked back to the seminary at 17.00 pm. I got a phone call from my wife with some bad news of the health condition of Frans’s wife. It was obvious that he had to return home as soon as possible.
Rather depressed we discussed all options during the evening, made phone calls and arranged a taxi for the next morning. We explained to the sisters that we had to leave early next day and paid our bill. I phoned to the Trans Nusa office and they could book a flight with Merpati to Denpasar for the next day.
Day 12: Sunday August 3 Kupang
Early next morning we drove straight to the airport where we confirmed a flight from Kupang to Denpasar. A 16.30 pm flight.
We also tried to arrange a flight from Denpasar to Kuala Lumpur but no success. We drove back to Kupang and took a room in hotel Maya Beach.
We had lunch in Kupang and relaxed a bit in our room.
At 15.00 we were back at the airport and I said goodbye to Frans. He had to get home in the middle of the tourist season as soon as possible. It took him 2 more days to get home.
Suddenly on my own I travelled back to Kupang and had a couple of beers at a nearby pub with a nice view over the sea. In the evening I arranged a car with driver for the next 3 days and went to bed early.
Day 13: Monday August 4 Kupang – Bipolo – Fatumnasi
At exactly 4.30 am I was picked up by Sius, my driver for the next 3 days.
We drove straight to Bipolo and on to the rice fields. Within 5 minutes of my arrival a Timor Sparrow flew in and landed within 20 meters on a small pole. 2 days earlier I searched in vain with Frans for this species at the same site and here it was. It did not give me the satisfaction it normally gives me when observing a rare, endemic species. After a couple of minutes the bird flew of, never to be seen again. The next hour I birded the dry rice fields and the first shrimp ponds. Later we drove back to the small forest patch of Bipolo and I spent another 2 hours here.
I observed 4 Olive-shouldered Parrots in flight but failed to relocate them.
We continued to Soe where we had an early lunch. We then drove straight to Kapan and on to Fatumnasi. At 13.00 we arrived at the simple losmen of Matheus Anin. After dropping our gear and some coffee we drove with Matheus up the mountain to the start of the trail going up Gunung Mutis. It was a very bad road and you really need a 4-wheel drive car on this road. We first checked a site where a couple of days earlier Joseph and Uthai had seen Timor Boobook. But no luck.
Decided to bird the first stretch of the trail. It was rather chilly which I had not anticipated as I had not brought a sweather with me, this afternoon.
Birding was slow but we had great views of perched Olive-headed Parakeets. The very distinctive local race of Pygmy Wren-Babbler was easily observed and on our way down Matheus found a perched Timor Imperial Pigeon which was observed at eye-level at close range. Later it flew of and was also seen well in flight. This really was a stroke of fortune. With my target species in the pocket we travelled back to Fatumnasi.
After a rather basic dinner in a smoke-filled hut we did some spotlighting. We heard the boobook but it did not respond to the tape.
It was very cold at night but under a layer of blankets I felt really comfortable.
Day 14: Tuesday August 5 Gunung Mutis – Fatumnasi
Together with Matheus and another local guy I birded all morning the lower slopes around Fatumnasi. We walked up and down several ridges and had a rather productive morning. Great views of Metallic Pigeons, a pair of Iris Lorikeets perched briefly, Timor Oriole, another Cinnamon-banded Kingfisher etc.
Meanwhile Sius drove to Kapan to fix some problems with a tyre. He was supposed to be back around noon. I had planned to go up the mountain again in the afternoon. But after lunch he still has not arrived which I really did not like. So instead I decided to bird again another area, close to Fatumnasi. It later turned out that Sius was involved in an accident with a motorbike and that was the reason for his late return at 16.00 pm.
Meanwhile the local guy who was with me discovered a roosting Timor Boobook. The bird was partly obscured by leaves and eager to show me the bird from a better angle the guy moved forward to brisk and as a result he flushed the owl. The next 10 minutes we flushed the bird again twice but no more perched views. I did have very good views of Sunda Cuckoo.
At 16.30 pm we drove up the mountain but it was too late for any good birding.
After dinner again some spotlighting near the village and I had excellent views of a pair of Barn Owls.
Matheus had some conference the next day at Kapan with some officials and he asked me if he could come with me in the car the next day. That was ok with me but I told him that I intend to leave very early to bird a small patch of forest near Kapan (Oel Bubuk) from dawn onwards.
Day 15: Wednesday August 6 Fatumnasi – Oel Bubuk – Bipolo – Kupang
Got up at 3.30 am and I was surprised to find 6 people in the house, all dressed up in the traditional, local outfit. It turned out that they were 6 elders from the local community, going with Matheus to this meeting in Kapan. So with a full car we left at 4.00 am. Sius dropped me at the edge of this small forest patch, where I said goodbye to Matheus.
While I was birding, Sius was driving them to Kapan and this time he returned within the hour. At dawn I heard the distinctive call of Large-tailed Nightjar, very different from that of Mees’s Nightjar of Sumba and Flores.
The first hours were very productive and I found some very good species in this small degraded remnant forest patch. Highlight was the unexpected observation of a perched Timor Black Pigeon just above my head which gave astonishing views. Also a pair of Black-banded Flycatcher which showed well in the understory was very welcome as I had failed to find it at Camplong forest. Several times I bumped into a small flock of Spot-breasted White-eyes.
At 10.00 am we left this site and drove back to Camplong, where we had lunch. I spent another full afternoon at Bipolo.
The fruiting trees along the main road were again very productive.
Highlight was the discovery of a single Pink-headed Imperial Pigeon foraging in the canopy of a fruiting tree and which gave great views in the scope and when observing this bird I saw a cuckoo-dove flying in, in the same tree, below the Imperial Pigeon. When I put the scope on this bird I had a Barred-necked Cuckoo-Dove in it!! How lucky can you get.
At 17.30 pm. we left and drove back to Kupang (hotel Maya Beach) After a good shower and some food at the night warungs I met the guy who I had to pay for renting the car for 3 days. I refused to pay for the full amount as I did not have the car for most of the second day at Fatumnasi. After some negotiating we agreed on a discount.
Day 16: Thursday August 7 Kupang – Ruteng (Flores) – Danu Ranamese
Early morning flight from Kupang to Ruteng. Arrival at 7.30 am.
Quite a tricky landing because of heavy turbulence. Some trouble when checking in as they officially allow only 10 kg. of luggage, and of course I exceeded that. Took a taxi from the airport to hotel Rima in Ruteng. Double room for 150.000 RP.
After a late breakfast I hired an ojek to visit a local mangarai festival. I spent some time there, taking a lot of pictures and it turned out that I was a curiosity myself at this site. After that we travelled to the crater lake of Danau Ranamese where we had our take-away lunch.
Near the HQ I found some Flores Minivets and a single Flores Jungle-Flycatcher.
I birded all afternoon along the main road from Danau Ranamese back to Ruteng (roughly 4 km.) Not much bird activity and from time to time too much traffic which hindered my birding. Twice flight views of a Dark-backed Imperial Pigeon. I had more success when I entered the forest along some of the wood cutter trails.
Within minutes I scored an unexpected Bare-throated Whistler, a Russet-capped Tesia, behaving like a foliage-gleaner, foraging high above the ground in a palm tree, Yellow-browed Dark-eye, Thick-billed Dark-eye and a few Brown-capped Fantails.
At dusk I travelled back to Ruteng but in retrospect I should have tried for the owls that evening as it was a bright clear sky. Night at hotel Rima.
Day 17: Wednesday August 8 Golo Lusang – Danau Ranamese
With the same ojek driver I drove to the nearby pass of Golo Lusang (8 km). This site is famous for its dawn chorus of Bare-throated Whistler. And it sure was a fantastic experience and I had some wonderful views of this extraordinary species. When in full song the male pumps up its throat like a ♂ frigatebird.
I birded the first 3 km. on the other side of the pass until 10.30 am. Best species were: Scaly-crowned Honey-eater and a rather uninspiring Golden-rumped Flowerpecker.
Back at the hotel I arranged a bus ticket to Kisol for the next day. After lunch I returned to the Danau Ranamese area and waited until dusk to try for Flores Scops Owl and Wallace’s Scops Owl. Unfortunately the fog rolled in and I experienced a nasty drizzle. Decided to leave and try another night. Night at hotel Rima
Day 18: Thursday August 9 Ruteng – Kisol
After breakfast I was picked up by a small minibus (private company) for the 3 hour drive to Kisol. I was dropped at the entrance of the seminary at Kisol. I received a warm welcome by the priests and was giving a nice room for the next couple of days.
At 11.00 am I walked out of the seminary towards the small patch of lowland forest, which hold all the specialities. But as the directions in Mikael Bauer’s report were rather vague I was initially unable to locate this patch and in fact I am still in doubt if I have ever found it. After walking around at the edge of the village for an hour or so, without finding the dirt track, mentioned in Mikael’s report I just decided to take a small track towards the remnant patch, visible on the hill, south of the village. With trial and error and going along small fields and isolated houses I finally reached the forest edge. Meanwhile it was midday and pretty hot and despite these unfavourable conditions I quickly found a very responsive White-rumped Kingfisher, which showed well.
I decided to have a late lunch at the seminary and to return to this site in the afternoon. In the afternoon I heard several calling Elegant Pitta’s and when exploring further on the ridge I accidently found a very nice trail, going up the ridge through a much better patch of forest. At one time I played the song of Chestnut-capped Thrush and got an immediate response and twice a bird with large obvious, white wing patches crossed the trail but remained out of sight. The third time I was able to locate the bird and had good views of this often elusive species. Another good species seen were some very obliging Flores Crows.
In the evening I tried to locate Wallace’s Scops Owl near the seminary but no luck. In the evening I consulted the map Philippe Verbelen had drawn, back in ’95 and decided that I would try for another patch of forest on the road to the village of Nangarawa tomorrow.
Day 19: Friday August 10 Kisol
Well before dawn I walked to the same forest patch I birded yesterday and tried for Owls. No response.
I birded all morning (until 11.00 am) at this site. I was lucky to observe another (same) Chestnut-capped Thrush, foraging in full view on the forest floor. After early lunch I followed the tarmac/cobblestone road out of the village towards the coast/south and after a couple of kilometres this road traverses another small patch of good forest. Could this be the forest patch mentioned in Mikael’s report ?? I tried to find the view point which is supposed to be reliable for Flores Hawk-Eagle but I am not sure that I found the proper one. Birded until 17.00 pm and hitched back to Kisol.
Decided to return early next morning for owls.
Day 20: Saturday August 11 Kisol – Ruteng – Danau Ranamese
Today was my birthday and normally I observe something good on this day but not this year. At 4.00 am I walked to the start of forest patch to try for owls. I tried at several spots and finally, just before dawn, I got a response. Within a couple of minutes both Moluccan Scops Owl and Wallace’s Scops Owl responded to the tape. Though both species called from close range it was simply too late. Non tickable flight views of the latter when it glided away from me into the forest.
Most of the morning I was trying for 2 species, Flores Hawk-Eagle and Flores Green Pigeon. But every time I found a pigeon it turned out to be a Black-naped Fruit-Dove. I also spent some time at an obvious vantage point for raptors but no luck either.
At 10.00 am I walked back to the seminary, collected my stuff and said goodbye to the priests. I walked to the road but it took more than 1 hour before I was finally able to board a public bus going to Ruteng. The bus was extremely full and overloaded and the first part was no fun. Later I was able to occupy a seat. At 14.00 I arrived at hotel Rima, Ruteng. I immediately arranged an ojek to travel to Danau Ranamese in the late afternoon.
At 16.00 I drove to Danau Ranamese and birded along the main road until dusk. At dusk I heard both Wallace’s Scops Owl and Flores Scops Owl close to the picnic area, along the main road. The Wallace’s Scops never was close enough but after some trying I got the Flores Scops Owl very close to the road. Unfortunately the bird remained out of sight and the vegetation was too dense to get in. So after another hour of trying I gave up and a bit disappointed I returned to Ruteng. I was so close to this enigmatic species.
Day 21: Sunday August 12 Poco Ranaka – Ruteng to Pagal
At dawn I drove with my ojek driver the short distance to the start of the small degraded tarmac road up to Poco Ranaka. I guess in the past this was a nice, drivable tarmac road going up to the top but it has been neglected for years. The good thing is that nobody seems to travel this road anymore and as a result I had some of the best birding in the Ruteng area along this road, without being hindered by traffic. The road goes up the mountain, traverses some good patches of forest and offers great scenery. I did not encounter any person during my birding. The first 3 km. I drove up and then I started to walk. Probably heard White-browed Shortwing but no views.( I did not have a recording of this vocally different (sub)species). Black-backed Fruit-Dove was regularly encountered as well as a pair of White-breasted Wood-Swallows and most of the highland specialties of the Ruteng area.
After lunch back at my hotel, I decided to bird along the road from Ruteng to Pagal as several reports mention Wallace’s Hanging-Parrot along this road. But I did not find any suitable forest along this road and highlight was a visit to a local football match at Pagal.
I considered another visit to Danau Ranamese to try again for Flores Scops Owl but decided against it. Well I guess no Flores Scops Owl in this life!
In the evening I met a guide from a travel agency in Labuanbajo. He told me that boats to Rinca and Komodo were filling up fast and that I had to act quickly to book one. That turned out later to be false info as there were plenty of possibilities to travel to these islands when I arrived at Labuanbajo. But anyway I booked a boat from his company for a 2 day-one night trip to Rinca & Komodo. Cost 2.000.000 RP which was too much as I later found out that you book this trip for 1.500.000 RP.
Day 22: Monday August 13 Ruteng – Labuanbajo
Left Ruteng at 7.30 and arrived at Labuanbajo at 11.00. Had some problems in finding accommodation as many travellers/tourists visit Labuanbajo from Bali/Lombok. Took the last room in hotel Mata Hari (100.000 RP) which was basic but with a great location, right above the harbour area.
Visited the travel agency to confirm my boat trip to Rinca & Komodo and asked them to find other persons to join me on this trip to share the costs. But it turned out that most budget travellers only make day trips from Labuanbajo to Rinca to observe Komodo Dragons. And I definitely wanted to visit Komodo for the Yellow-crested Cockatoo and also the experience to stay overnight on the boat.
In the afternoon I walked out of Labuanbajo to some mudflats and ponds but this was rather unproductive.
Good meal and some beers with travellers from Poland, Japan and Slovenia at Mata Hari restaurant.
Day 23: Tuesday August 14 Labuanbajo – Rinca Island
At 7.30 am I boarded “my” ship. I had the whole boat for myself and besides the captain there were 2 young crew members on board.
Positioned myself and really enjoyed the boat trip to Rinca. Though I constantly scanned the sea for birds I did not see much besides some terns. Around noon we reached Rinca and anchored in a small bay.
There were 2 more boats present. From the cay I walked the short distance to the HQ where I had to pay the entrance fee for the national park. With a guide I made a nice 1½ hour walk and during this walk we visited 2 nest sides of Komodo Dragons which were guarded by female dragons. Orange-footed Scrubfowl was common but as it was the hottest time of the day not much bird activity. When we walked back to the ranger station we saw several impressive male dragons and also a young animal which had climbed into a tree. They often do to escape from the cannibalistic adult dragons.
Back at the boat I was served an excellent lunch and then we sailed to a nice reef where I spent several hours snorkelling.
Late afternoon we anchored at a secluded bay, close to Komodo and at dusk I witnessed the impressive spectacle of thousands of flying foxes, leaving their roost site. After another good dinner they prepared my mattress etc and under a bright star-lit sky I fell asleep.
Day 24: Wednesday August 15 Komodo Island – Labuanbajo
I got up at dawn and after a hasty breakfast we left for Komodo island. I had asked the captain to start early as I knew that it would be soon scoring hot on Komodo. After a short boat ride we arrived at Komodo but unfortunately the people of the national park took their time. After a 40-minute wait they came with a dinghy to our boat to bring me ashore.
I was appointed a guide and with him I started my walk. Highlight was the excellent and close observations of Yellow-crested Cockatoo. Komodo is without doubt the easiest place to find this species as Komodo NP is a very well protected area.
Again I observed some very impressive Komodo Dragons. What struck me most on Komodo was the lack of large numbers of tourists. I expected that many tourists come to Komodo and Rinca to observe Komodo Dragons but during my visit only 10-12 people were present.
After returning to the boat we travelled to another island for some snorkelling and then we sailed back to Labuanbajo.
This time I took a room in hotel Bajo Beach, close to Mata Hari but of a higher standard. (120.000 RP) In the evening I arranged an Ojek for early next morning to drive to Puarlolo.
Day 25: Thursday August 16 Puarlolo – Pocowangka Road
At 5.30 am I met my ojek driver just outside my hotel. He was on time.
It took one hour (38 km) to reach Puarlolo (telecom tower site). Thanks to Sander Lagerveld I knew that 300 meters before the entrance road to the telecom tower a nice track starts to go down into the good forest.
I spent 3 hours along the first 500 – 700 meters of this trail and had a productive morning. Target species was of course the Flores Monarch, which I observed several times. Other goodies include a ♂ Rufous-chested Flycatcher and several Thick-billed Dark-eyes.
When I left the forest I noticed a large raptor with unmarked whitish underparts and an obvious white head, which was perched right next to the road. I could not believe my eyes: A Flores Hawk-Eagle which I had failed to find at Kisol. After some careful manoeuvring I got great views of the bird before it flew of down the slope.
Drove back to Labuanbajo and arranged to visit the Pokowangka Road in the afternoon.
With the same Ojek driver I birded the Pokowangka road from 14.30 – 17.00 pm. I walked from km. 3 to km 7 from the start of this road. The forest along this road is seriously degraded and my target species was the rare Wallace’s Hanging-Parrot. It was also very hot and not a sniff of the Hanging-Parrot. I decided to give it another try early next morning.
Day 26: Friday August 17 Pocowangka Road - Labuanbajo
I birded from dawn to 10.00 am again along the same stretch of the Pocowanka Road. It was quite birdy and twice I had a Wallace’s Hanging Parrot crossing the road at full speed. Once close and at eye-level but I never saw one perched. At 10.00 activity ceased and I decided to call it a day. Afternoon I walked again out of Labuanbajo for some casual birding which did not add anything to my list.
A last meal at Mata Hari restaurant, watching the sun go down.
Day 27: Saturday August 18 Labuanbajo – Denpasar – Sanur
After a lazy morning with a late breakfast I went to the airport and at 11.30 am I flew to Denpasar where I arrived at 13.00 pm.
At the arrival hall I made some enquiries for accommodation and decided to book a chalet at Hotel Swastika in the Sanur area. (300.000 RP) This turned out to be a good decision as it was indeed a very nice and spacious room and conveniently located near the Sanur Mudflats and mangroves.
Late afternoon was spent at the Sanur Mudflats, near the Mertasari temple. I quickly found some very obliging Small Blue Kingfishers, a species missed on my last visit to Java. Another welcome addition to my list was a few pairs of Javan Plovers which could be studied well in the scope. And of course a lot of other wader species, including a few Grey-tailed Tattlers.
In the evening I arranged a car for a visit to the Ulu Watu temple in the afternoon, the next day.
Day 28: Sunday August 19 Sanur Mudflats – Ulu Watu
After an early breakfast I visited again the Sanur mudflats and mangroves.
After lunch I was picked up by my prearranged car and drove to the Ulu Watu temple. A single White-tailed Tropicbird gave satisfying views when flying out to the sea.
Day 29: Monday August 20 Sanur Mudflats – Denpasar – KL
After a late breakfast I birded some scrubby habitat at Sanur.
Did some shopping and at 17.00 took a taxi to the airport. Air Asia flight from Denpasar to Kuala Lumpur. Departure 20.30 and I arrived at 23.30 pm. Taxi to Concord Inn Airport Hotel.
Day 30: Tuesday August 21 Kuala Lumpur – Amsterdam
Early morning shuttle to International Airport. Took the KL express to the centre of Kuala Lumpur. Shopping at some of the big malls in KL.
Afternoon express bus back to Airport, on to my hotel and packed my gear. After a last dinner I left again for the airport and just before midnight KLM flight to Amsterdam.
Day 31: Wednesday August 22 Amsterdam – Geldrop
Arrived at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam at 6.45 am. Took the train home, to Geldrop, where I arrived at 9.30 am.
Henk Hendriks , Geldrop October 2008
A total of 225 species observed (click above for list)