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A Report from

Sumatra and Java – 27th July – 16th August 2008,

Martin Wootton


The Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java are two of the primary birding destinations in south-east Asia with a wide variety of endemics, regional specialities and pan-Asian species. It remains a major destination for all serious world birders (of which I’m not one !)

Birdtour Asia’s reputation in leading tours to the region is rising year-on-year and it was on this basis that I chose them over other tour companies (see notes later)

Just over 300 species were seen (+ many others heard) on this fantastic 3 week trip that included 2 Cochas, 3 Pittas, 4 Trogons, 14 night birds (seen)  and a shed load of endemics. This was actually my first proper visit to SE Asia so the trip was an absolute tick-fest for me !!


The itinerary followed a fairly standard Sumatra/Java circuit.;-

The Sumatra sites (Way Kambas area, Mount Kerinci & Tapan Road) were visited on the standard Birdtour Asia tour.

Jonty Denton and I then did various sites on Java (Gede, Halimun and the shrimp ponds at Pamanukan) on our own using information provided by James Eaton of Birdtour Asia. Ground support (primarily transport and accommodation) for our Java leg was also arranged by Birdtour Asia

Sites / locations

26th July – Travel day. Early morning flight from Heathrow to Jakarta via Abu Dhabi
27th July – Arrived in Jakarta at approx 14.00. Collected by James Eaton at airport and went immediately to Maura Angke reserve until dusk. Night at Sanno Hotel.
28th July - Flew to Sumatra (Lampung) and drove to Way Kambas. Night at Satwa Ecolodge
29th July – first of several very early morning night-birding expeditions. Birded from 0445 – 2100 in Way Kambas including a boat trip to Rawa Kariburu (Blue River Swamp) Night at Satwa Ecolodge
30th July - all day in Way Kambas / Way Kanan. Night at Satwa Ecolodge
31st July - all day in Way Kambas including boat trip to Rawagajah (Elephant Swamp). Night at Satwa Ecolodge
1st August – short (0430 – 0730) session at Way Kambas. Flew from Lampung back to Jakarta, couple of hours at the airport balancing pools and then flew back to Sumatra (Padang). Night in the very posh, but amusingly named, Bumininang Hotel
2nd August – drove from Padang to Kersik Tuo (village at the base of Mount Kerinci) and spent six hours birding the lower slopes of Kerinci. Night at homestay (mega food)
3rd August – clearly James thought we had been slacking over the past two travel days so we spent 14 hours (0430 – 1830) in the field doing the trail between 1800 & 2250 metres. Night at homestay
4th August - the quest for fantastic night birds continues. Another long day (0430 – 2045) but very productive day up and down the mountain between 1800 & 2150 metres. Night at homestay
5th August – big day. Right up to 2500 metres to finally nail the Cochoa. Well worth the effort. Night at homestay
6th August – morning on the lower slopes of Kerinci and then short journey to Sungei Penum (Tapan road accommodation). Afternoon birding along Tapan road between 1250 & 1300 metres. Night in Sungei Penum
7th August – Tapan road (900 to 1200 metres) Night in Sungei Penum
8th August – Tapan road (650 to 1000 metres) Night in Sungei Penum
9th August – morning session along Tapan road (480 to 650 metres) and then looooong drive back to Padang. Night at the Bumininang Hotel
10th August – flight back to Jakarta and the end of main tour. JD and I continued to Gede, checked into Freddy’s homestay and spent a few hours in the Cibodos Botanical Gardens (with several thousand locals)
11th August – Monday morning and the trails on Gede were blissfully quiet. All the way up to the Hot Springs and Rhino cage. Amazingly managed to nail the Cochoa on our first full day. Night at Freddy’s
12th August – accompanied by Freddy’s son Eddy (you couldn’t make it up !) who proved to be a great guy and managed to whistle in a pair of Javan Trogons. Night at Freddy’s
13th August – travel day to Halimun with a few hours along the access upon arrival. Night at the very nice lodge at Halimun
14th August – all day along the trails and access road at Halimun
15th August – our original plan was to bird Halimun at lunchtime and get back to Jakarta late afternoon. We were then going to do the shrimp ponds on the 16th which would be very tight to get our flight back to Blighty. A cunning replan was required. At 0500 we left Halimun, drove to Pamanukan in one hit, saw everything and drove back to the Jakarta in time for tea. Big tip for driver and big lie-in tomorrow morning !! Night at Sanno Hotel.
16th August – bit of dude birding at the balancing pools by Jakarta airport and then mid-afternoon flight back to Abu Dhabi. Late evening flight out of Abu Dhabi.
17th August – arrived back in UK. Nice drive from Heathrow to Cheshire to complete an epic journey

The Group

A fine mix of well-balanced, humorous human beings!! One British leader, one Swedish participant, two American gods of world birding and three Brits. Sadly the British contingent included 2 Derby County fans but I guess that all trips have a downside !  I must note that I was the relative Asian novice on this trip and I must extend my gratitude to the other participants for their patience while I looked at “commoner” birds. Hope you all got home ok – it was a real pleasure.

The Leader

Birdtour Asia were superb throughout  - advance information and help was excellent and the field arrangements were spot-on

James Eaton led the tour and really couldn’t have done any more to improve the trip. Days in the field were long (often 0400 – 2100) to enable fantastic night-birding to take place but as a group we all felt relaxed and in the end we basically cleared up in Sumatra (Sunda Frogmouth, Salvadori’s Pheasant and Sumatran Peacock-Pheasant were the only real misses).


Really good throughout – it was obvious that the best accommodation, with regards to comfort and location, was provided at all the sites

Food & Drink

Fantastic ! All tastes were catered for and at no stage did any of the participants get any stomach upsets. Even the large veggie was happy.

Other tour companies please take note – Birdtour Asia provide snacks and unlimited access to water out in the field. It’s not a difficult concept to understand !


I flew from Heathrow to Jakarta via Abu Dhabi using Etihad. This was a good service but unfortunately involved a 6 hours lay-over in Abu Dhabi in both directions. Heathrow Terminal 3 remains a shit-hole & national disgrace. 

The internal carriers that we used (between Sumatra and Java) have a fairly poor reputation with regards to service and safety but in practice they were punctual and the planes appeared to have the engines, etc in approximately the right places.

The trip involved some long drives but the standard of roads in Indonesia was relatively good and the vehicles used by Birdtour Asia were spacious, comfortable and the a/c worked at all times

Health & Safety

No stomach upsets, very few mosquitoes, not many leeches.

Due to the generally dry conditions ticks seemed to be more abundant that usual. On the plus side they didn’t get me !

We saw various snakes, scorpions and spiders. All out in the field, none in the accommodations

Large, potentially dangerous animals are still present in the Sumatran parks. The night birding experience is always enhanced by the knowledge that there are tigers and elephants in the immediate vicinity!

The Indonesian people are absolutely fantastic. We never felt threatened in any way and people were invariably helpful, polite and courteous at all times. When it comes to driving they are all absolutely barking mad but in a strangely polite and non-confrontational way


Surprisingly, very little sun. The only rain on the trip was a late afternoon downpour at Gede


In all the parks there was surprisingly little evidence that the areas were under threat (ie no chain-saws, occupation by locals, etc) . The forest along the Tapan road in particular is absolutely magnificent

Outside the parks it is a different story. Java is an absolute environmental disaster. On long journeys just go to sleep - there are no birds other than the odd sparrow or swiftlet


There is really only one field guide that covers the Sumatra/Java area – MacKinnon & Phillipps’ “A Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Bali”. It’s probably fair to say that it needs an update and that the plates have certain failings. The Robson guide “Birds of South-East Asia” is definitely useful for sussing out what the birds actually look like but it doesn’t cover many of the endemics or range-restricted species

Nomenclature and taxonomy in my list below tries to follow Clement (2007)

In a few cases, where I believe a split to be valid (or not valid), I’ve followed my own rules. I’m not a taxonomic expert and I’ve not outlined why I’ve overruled Clements, Robson or any other birding luminary. Suffice to say that it’s my list and trip report so I can !

Note that this is a list of birds seen by me and not by the group and/or the leader. I am quite conservative about ticking birds on tour and would rather leave stuff for another day than include a bird seen very poorly.

Birds (92kB .pdf)

Martin Wootton, Cheshire, UK, September 2008

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