I spent a week with some friends in May in the area around Manado, which is towards the end of the North-Eastern arm of this wierd shaped Island.
Things got off to a bad start when our plane from Singapore to Manado was delayed for 2 1/2 hours. To make matters worse, whilst going through immigration at Manado, I could see my things going round waiting to be collected. When I say my things, I mean my suitcase contents! My suitcase had been ripped in two some time between check-in and arrival. I have still to be recompensed, as I had to buy an emergency ruck-sack to keep everything in. SILK AIR, YOUR CUSTOMER SERVICE IS CRAP!!!!!
Now to the better part, we had a seven hour ‘road’ trip to make from the airport to our first location, Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park, and we arrived just after midnight. I will never complain about the roads on Samui again! Our accomodation, just outside the park was described as basic, and it was…..very. However, the charming lady of the house proved to be a wonderful cook, and I had glorious local food there.
Our first morning saw us taken to the Park, which, apparently does not get many visitors, the last being at least one month beforehand. Our arrival gave us our first view of a species which can only be found on Sulawesi (endemic), Papilio gigon gigon . This is part of the demolion group of swallowtails and was quite similar to that found on Samui, but much larger.
Our path into the forest involved us taking a very short ferry trip acorss a river. This ferry was made of few bamboo trunks, tied together, with a board on top to kneel down on. Having safely made our way across, we entered the jungle. The path was narrow, and we had to keep to it and follow our park ranger, who really did not know what we were looking for, or how to react when seeing a butterfly, he is more used to leading bird-watching expeditions.
The walk was rather disappointing, in that we did not see as many species as we had expected, but there were still enough new ones, usualy endemic species, for us to photograph.
The afternoon was also scheduled to be in the Park, but we asked our guide for the first 1/2 of the trip if he knew of any areas which might have been more profitable for us. After a couple of tries, we finaly arrived at an area, outside the park, that was eminently suitable, with a small stream, open areas and forest all in a small area and we spent a very enjoyable afternoon, and the next morning there. Marcus, our dragonfly fan, in particular, had a great time there, finding many species, most of which we are still having difficulty in identifying.
The afternoon was to be spent driving to a non-descript city where we were to stay the night before completing our return to Manado, where we were to change guide and drivers. We asked if it would be possible to change the schedule so that we would go all the way to Manado that afternoon and evening, allowing us an extra morning looking for butterflies, suggesting the nearby Kali waterfall. To our guide’s credit, he agreed, and he hastily rearranged our night’s accomodation.
The next morning, after a long-awaited, and much-needed hot shower, we set off to Kali. It is not far from the City, and, looking at the websites is considered a tourist attraction. Unfortunately, the local authorities are not maintining this facility, and the walk down to the waterfall is steep and dangerous owing to the slippery path. Owing to this, I decided to stay on a more level area of the path, whilst the others carried on. They confirmed the danger, though admitted that the waterfall is very pretty.
On returning to Manado, we changed our drivers and guide for the remaining visits to Tangkoko Nature Reserve and Minahasa Highlands. At this point I must thank both Roy, our guide and Albert, my driver, who both did their utmost to ensure the first part of our trip was as successful as possible.
Tangkoko Nature Reserve is an estuarine forest, next to the world famous Lembeh Strait, known for its exceptional diving possibilites. The reserve is most famous for its Spectral Tarsiers, which are endemic to this part of the Island. They are very strictly protected, but dusk visits to their ‘nests’ are available if accompanied by a ranger. They were sooooooo cute!
The reserve and our nearby lodge proved to be excellent hunting grounds for us, with many species seen there which we had not come across before.
The final part of our trip was to the Minahasa Highlands, which stand at arround 1000km above sea level. We were looking forward to this for two reasons. Firstly, we hoped to see some more montane species, and secondly, the Highlands are Volcano territory, and one, Mt. Lokon, had erupted only a couple of weeks before our visit, though it does this on average 10 times a year and is not considered one of the more dangerous ones in the region. It was only about 5km away from the resort where we stayed, but unfortunately, or should it be fortunately, it only spouted small plumes of smoke whilst we were there.
At the resort, the most prominent species visible were 2 Delias species, which I, as a Delias fanatic, was delighted to see. Unfortunately, both species, Delias rosenbergi rosenbergi and D. zebuda, proved to be very difficult to photograph as they never stayed still, only stopping to feed for abour 1 0r 2 seconds, and also they tended to stay up at the tops of the flowering bushes.
Our guide took us up a mountain where we ,again, saw many species, none of which we had found at lower elevations.
Sulawesi has proved itself to be a fascinating island, and despite the various inconveniences we suffered, we will definitely be returning, but perhaps trying the southern arm of the Island.
To see all the species I photographed on my trip please visit the ‘Expeditions’ section of the website and click on ‘Sulawesi’.