Visit your favourite destinations
Western Europe
North America
Eastern Europe
South America
Middle East
East Indies

A Report from

Short notes on a visit to Flores and Komodo, Indonesia, November 99,


Tim Allwood, Olive Lodge, Stukeley Road, Huntingdon, Cambs, PE29 6HG

Tel: 01480 411718  


During 1999 and 2000 I was resident in Indonesia and in Nov 99 I made a three-week trip with my partner Claire Stephenson to the island of Flores in the Lesser Sundas in order to see some of the endemic birds of the region.

Due to unrest in Indonesia over the last couple of years the number of visitors has declined markedly.  There are however many areas that are perfectly safe to visit at the time of writing and the Lesser Sundas are one of these. The islands are still relatively unknown and there is a real potential to improve ornithological knowledge of the area.

Flores is not so easy to reach but it is easy to get around, very cheap and the people are friendly and helpful and notably restrained when compared to Javans.

The birding is wonderful and reasonably straightforward.

Essential Info

Malaria is present. Doxycycline is the current drug of choice and very cheap in Jakarta but can lead to nasty sunburn if you're not careful. I found an umbrella to be very useful as a sunshield. Otherwise no probs, apart from potential tidal-waves, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes....


The essential refs are Birding Indonesia by Paul Jepson and Birds of Wallacea by Coates and Bishop. Birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java, and Bali may also be of some limited use. Paul's guide has all the site directions you need and other invaluable info to boot.


I managed to get hold of a good tape from some birders who I met in Java but I dont know where it was from. If you're intending to visit drop me a line and  i'll get a copy to you.

Getting there

We caught a ferry from Surabaya in eastern Java, booked in advance in Jakarta. The booking process was incredibly difficult and it was impossible to secure a return ticket - not a problem as you can get back o.k but you'll have to sleep on deck as you'll not be able to get a cabin. We had a cabin on the way and it was very comfortable. The interior of the boats can be very cramped and i'm sure you'd rather sleep on deck after seeing and smelling the conditions. When embarking/disembarking wait until the Indonesians have finished as the melee can be pretty scary with fighting  commonplace, such is the demand for a piece of prime floorspace etc.

The journey was excellent for birds and cetaceans and worth doing in its own right.

Otherwise It's probably easier to fly.

Getting Around

Its possible to hitch more or less everywhere and its polite to offer something such as cigarettes or a small amount of cash. Buses will pick you up from the side of the road and are very cheap. Bemos can be chartered for about Rp50,000 ($6) per half day if you like.

Sites Visited

We concentrated on western Flores as this is where all the endems can be encountered and it also has most of the remaining forests. All the sites are well described in Paul Jepson's book so I won't go over the boring stuff here.

Labuanbajo:  your probable point of arrival and a good base. Lots of cheap places to stay, notably the Gardena in the centre of town; great food and view and nice little cabins. The dirt track that leads to the New Bajo Beach Hotel south of town is a good spot for Elegant Pitta/Moluccan Scops Owl and after c.2kms it leads to a small wetland area that was very productive at the end of the dry season. The scrubby hills around town are also a good area to bird and hold the commoner species.

Road to Rareng:  Get a lift from the road in town on a bemo or bus for c.10 km until you reach this junction on the north side of the road. Cost is minimal or even free if you get a friendly driver as I did. Simply alight here and walk up the road, birding as you go. I did come across one very vicious dog here so watch out! A good site for Green Junglefowl, Wallace's Hanging Parrot, Flores Crow and Great-billed Parrot among others. To return just walk back to the main road and wait for a lift.

Dolat: a couple of wetlands a few km south of 'bajo and best accessed by boat. The guys at the dive shop almost opposite the Gardena took us for about Rp25,000 each.

Puarola: A telecommunications station between 'bajo and Ruteng best known as the site for Flores Monarch. Catch any bus to Ruteng and get off at the entrance road. Bird this road (100 m long) and the trail into the forest at the top off the road. We found this area quiet for passerines but good for raptors. The monarch was very elusive and it took around 7-8 hrs to discover.

Ruteng : Four hours give or take a puncture or two from 'bajo. Best place to stay is probably the Hotal Dahlia. There's a good restuarant a few doors up with mainly Chinese food. You could eat at one of the basic Padang places in town but they're not the best intro to this excellent food. There are several sites in the area; the hills to the south of town are excellent for many of the endemics. The forest here is being hacked to death and the trail described by Jepson has now been totally cleared, as has the north side of the mountain. There is already some quite bad erosion to be seen. Pong Toda is worth a half day but note that it is west, not east of Ruteng as in Jepson's book. The track that he mentions leading into Casuarina forest is a little tricky to find and a couple of hundred metres further than stated. This was the only place I saw Black-backed Fruit-dove.

Lake Ranamese is an excellent place, very picturesque and peaceful. We had all the Dark-eyes here as well as White-backed Kingfisher and Bare-throated Whistler.

Gunung Ranaka is another essential stop. The access road is now virtually impossible to pass. We cajoled our driver into reaching km 6 of 8 but it was such difficult going we'd have been better to walk. Good for Chestnut-backed Thrush but we had more luck with them south of Ruteng.

Komodo and Rinca: Well, you have to go and see the dragons don't you? Small islands, so not many species but quality rather than quantity. Komodo is probably the best place in the world now to catch up with Yellow crested Cockatoo and you should see Great-billed Heron in the vicinity. Our guide, who was a good birder despite not having any bins claimed Timor Black Pigeon occurs?

Other islands: There are several very small islands to visit for snorkelling etc which is absolutely fantastic here. Ask at the dive shop in 'bajo.

List of birds observed (follows Coates and Bishop 1997)

Endemics to Flores/Sumbawa in bold

1           Bulwer's Petrel                           1 north of Komodo

2           Streaked Shearwater                Small groups in Flores Sea

3           Wedge-tailed Shearwater         Small groups in Flores Sea

4          Red-throated Little Grebe          2 Ranamese, 2 Dolat

5          Red-tailed Tropicbird                  1 north of Sumbawa

6          Great Frigatebird                         1 positive ID off 'bajo

7          Lesser Frigatebird                       Frequently encountered

8          Little Pied Cormorant                  1 Ranamese, a few south of 'bajo

9          Red-footed Booby                       Frequently encountered in Flores Sea

10        Brown Booby                                Frequently encountered in Flores Sea

11        Abbotts'Booby                              1 north of Flores appeared to be this sp.

12        Great-billed Heron                        c.6 between 'bajo and Rinca, 1 Komodo

13        Purple Heron                                  A few around 'bajo and Dolat

14        Intermediate Egret                        A few around 'bajo and Dolat

15        White-faced Heron                        1 Dolat

16        Little Egret                                       Frequently encountered

17        Pacific Reef Egret                          Common around islands

18        Cattle Egret                                     Max. 50 near Dolat

19        Javan Pond-Heron                          2 near Dolat

20        Little Heron                                      A few here and there

21        Rufous Night Heron                       3 ads and 2 imms at Dolat; only a couple of  previous recs and none of breeding

22         Cinnamon Bittern                        1 flushed near Dolat

23         Woolly-necked Stork               2 near Dolat

24        Oriental Honey-buzzard                 11 in off the sea from west

25        Black-winged Kite                            2 south of 'bajo

26        Brahminy Kite                                   Several encountered

27        White-bellied Sea-Eagle              7 around Rinca, 2 Komodo

28        Chinese Goshawk                           A pair at Puarolo (first island rec?)

29        Variable Goshawk                           A few; Rareng road, Komodo

30        Brown Goshawk                               Poss 1 at Ranamese

31        Japanese Sparrowhawk                  2 south of 'bajo, 1 road to Rareng

32        Bonelli's Eagle                                  1 near Ruteng

33        Rufous-bellied Eagle                        2 at Puarolo

34        Changeable Hawk-eagle              1 stunner at c,2200 m on Gunung Ranaka

35        Spotted Kestrel                                 Scaterred individuals, 1 Rinca

36        Wandering Whistling Duck               c.400 south of 'bajo, 100 Dolat

37        Lesser Whistling Duck               c.200 south of 'bajo, 50 Dolat

38        Sunda Teal                                         c.20 south of 'bajo, 20 Dolat

39        Pacific Black Duck                            c.20 south of 'bajo, 30 Dolat

40        Orange-footed Scrubfowl                   A few Komodo

41        Green Junglefowl                              c.6 Komodo, 4 Road to Rareng

42        Buff-banded Rail                           1 south of 'bajo

43        White-browed Crake             1 south of 'bajo

44        White-breasted Waterhen                   Few Ranamese

45        Common Moorhen                            Few Ranamese, few south of 'bajo

46        Black-winged Stilt                            9 south of 'bajo (sub. sp. Leoucocephalus)

47        Pacific Golden Plover             2 south of 'bajo

48        Kentish (Javan) Plover             9 south of 'bajo (first island rec)

49        Greater Sand-Plover                        2 south of 'bajo

50        Whimbrel                                          4 Sumbawa, 1 Rinca

51        Common Redshank                         Few south of 'bajo

52        Common Greenshank               Few south of 'bajo

53        Marsh Sandpiper                              up to 15 south of 'bajo on two days (second island rec?)

54        Wood Sandpiper                              Several south of 'bajo

55        Red-necked Stint                           2 south of 'bajo

56        Broad-billed Sandpiper                  1 south of 'bajo (first island rec)

57        Red-necked Phalarope                  1000s recorded at sea/between islands

58        Pomarine Jaeger                              1 north of Lombok, 1 north of Komodo

59        Whiskered Tern                               Few north of Lombok and Bali

60        White-winged Black Tern                Only 1 positive ID near Surabaya

61        Gull-billed Tern                              Few north of Lombok and Bali

62        Sterna .sp                                        3 north of Bali (Common/Roseate)

63        Black-naped Tern                           Numerous at sea and on islets

64        Sooty Tern                                        2 north of Komodo

65        Greater Crested Tern                Common offshore

66        Lesser Crested Tern             Several at sea between 'bajo and Komodo

67        Brown Noddy                         1 between 'bajo and Komodo

68        White-throated Pigeon                        1 on Komodo (first island record)

69        Island Collared Dove               A few Komodo

70        Spotted Dove                                    Common Flores, also Rinca and Komodo

71        Ruddy Cuckoo-dove             Several Ranamese

72        Barred Dove                                       Common Flores, also Rinca and Komodo

73        Black-backed Fruit-dove                3 Pong Toda

74        Black-naped Fruit-dove                Several on road to Rareng

75        Green Imperial Pigeon                   Several on road to Rareng, also Komodo

76        Rainbow Lorikeet                            Several around Ruteng

77        Yellow-crested Cockatoo                c.15 on Komodo - all small groups

78        Great-billed Parrot                           c.18 on Road to Rareng - low elevation

79        Rusty-breasted Cuckoo                       1 prob imm above Ruteng

80        Oriental Cuckoo                               Common in montane forest

81        Common Koel                                   Common by voice - don't sound like the Australian subspecies

82        Lesser Coucal                                    Few seen on road to Rareng

83        Moluccan Scops-ow       l                 1 spotlighted south of 'bajo ,several heard

84        Large-tailed Nightjar                        1 above 'bajo

85        Edible-nest Swiftlet                          Common

86        Glossy Swiftlet                                    Common

87        Fork-tailed Swift                             4 Komodo (first island record)

88        White-rumped Kingfisher         1 Ranamese

89        Stork-billed Kingfisher                   1 Dolat

90        Collared Kingfisher                         Common around the coast

91        Blue-tailed Bee-eater               Common around the coast

92        Common Dollarbird                          4 road to Rareng

93        Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker            A few here and there

94        Elegant Pitta                                     Many heard, 2 seen south of 'bajo. Almost crepuscular in behaviour.

95        Australasian Bushlark                     Komodo, also near Dolat

96        Barn Swallow                                  Common

97        Pacific Swallow                                Common

98       Striated Swallow                               Several encountered

99        Grey Wagtail                                     1 at c.2000 m on Gunung Ranaka

100      Richards Pipit                                   A few on Rinca

101      Wallacean Cuckoo-Shrike             4 on Rinca

102     Pale-shouldered Cicadabird    4 Pong Toda, 5 Ranamese

103     White-shouldered Triller               1 Sumbawa

104     Little Minivet                             Several Pong Toda, road to Rareng

105     Wallacean Drongo                            Common

106     Black-naped Oriole                          Common

107     Flores Crow                             5 seen, others heard, road to Rareng

108     Large-billed Crow                             4 south of 'bajo

109     Great Tit                                            Several

110     Pygmy Wren-Babbler                      common in montane areas

111     White-browed Shortwing                   Only heard high on Gunung Ranaka

112     Chestnut-capped Thrush             Only 3 seen in a cage in 'bajo

113     Chestnut-backed Thrush             1 on Gunung Ranaka, 3 in cages in Ruteng

114     Flyeater                                             Common in coastal areas

115     Mountain Tailorbird                         Common in coastal areas

116     Arctic Warbler                                  Just a single, road to Rareng

117     Timor Leaf-Warbler                         Common in montane areas

118     Russet-capped Tesia              Common

119     Yellow-breasted Warbler                 Several in montane areas

120     Golden-headed Cisticola                 Many around Pong Toda

121     Zitting Cisticola                                 Common

122     Little Pied Flycatcher                  2 Ranamese

123     Black-naped Monarch                     Several

124     Asian Paradise Flycatcher                 1 road to Rareng

125     Flores Monarch                          2 Puarolo telecom station

126     Brown-capped Fantail                Common in montane areas

127      Common Golden Whistler                  Several, especially at Puarolo

128     Bare-throated Whistler                     Common south of Ruteng, also Ranamese

129     White-breasted Wood-swallow            Several around 'bajo and Rinca

130     Hill Myna                                       4 road to Rareng, common in cages

131     Helmeted Friarbird                           Common, also on Komodo

132     Scaly-crowned Honeyeater      Common in montane areas

133     Brown-throated Sunbird                  A few

134     Olive-backed Sunbird                       A few

135     Flame-breasted Sunbird                       Common

136     Golden-rumped Flowerpecker     1 road to Rareng

137     Black-fronted Flowerpecker        Common

138     Blood-breasted Flowerpecker            1 Gunung Ranaka

139     Oriental White-eye                           Several

140     Mountain White-eye                        Common at Ranamese with above sp.

141     Yellow-spectacled White-eye     Common in lowlands

142      Lemon-bellied White-eye                   Common around 'bajo and Komodo

143      Yellow-browed Dark-eye            Several in montane areas

144     Crested Dark-eye                        Only at Ranamese c.6

145     Thick-billed Dark-eye                 1 south of Ruteng, 1 Ranamese and 1 at Puarolo

146     Tree Sparrow                                 Common

147     Zebra Finch                                       Many on Komodo

148     Black-faced Munia                           Common in lowlands

149     Scaly-breasted Munia              Lots above Ruteng/Pong Toda

150     Five Coloured Munia              1 above Ruteng

151    Possible Red Avadavat                    Above Ruteng


1          Brydes Whale                                  2 very close to shore near Java

2          Sperm  Whale                                 1 north of Bali

3          Dolphin spp                                    1000s

4          False Killer Whale                           3 thought to be this sp north of Komodo

5          Minke Whale                                   1 thought to be this sp north of Lombok     

Species missed:

Wallace's Hanging Parrot:            I didn't get a sniff of these on the road to Rareng where they have been observed. Richard Grimmett did encounter some shortly afterwards. This was my big miss.

Flores Green Pigeon: Very rarely observed lowland species usually recorded from lowland sites east of Ruteng. See Kukila (1998/99)

Flores Scops Owl: Virtually unknown; 3 specimens from the 19th Century and I think there is a recent record too?.

Wallace's Scops Owl: Can be recorded on the road to Rareng but I didn't get out there at night

Russet-backed Jungle-Flycatcher: The only bird I missed that I could really have expected to see. Supposed to be reasonably common around Ranamese.


Why not send us a report, or an update to one of your current reports?