Our first Sulawesi trip took us, among other places, to Tangkoko National Park. Tangkoko National Park is located in the northernmost tip of the fourth largest island of the archipelago and is best reached by approaching the metropolis of Manado. We also took this approach.
From Manado’s Sam Ratulangi Airport it takes about 2 hours to reach Tangkoko National Park, for which we had unfortunately only planned half a day. Since various animals there tend to be active around dusk, we had organised our tour for later in the afternoon. To get there without unnecessary detours, we had hired a tour guide who not only took us to the park entrance, but also waited for us to bring us to our accommodation afterwards.
At the park entrance, you first pay your entrance fee – as for almost all sights in Indonesia – and are then assigned a park guide/ ranger. Before the actual jungle tour started, it was important for our ranger to find out which animals we really wanted to see. Since we couldn’t communicate very well, he obviously had a picture book with him, which made it easy for us to express our wishes. And then we were off.
In search of the little monkeys in the Tangkoko Jungle
A short walk and then into the jungle thicket, through impassable terrain first in search of the black crested monkey native to Tangkoko. The monkey, also known as Macaca Nigra, is one of Sulawesi’s endemic species and can only be found in the northern tip of this island and a few other small islands. Although the rangers are familiar with the habits of the animals in the park, their activity cannot be predicted. Our hikes in search of our first photo motif were correspondingly extensive and also somewhat strenuous due to the impassable terrain. Finally, we were lucky and a family of monkeys crossed our path. However, it was not easy to get the agile climbers in front of the camera, because the obviously somewhat photo-shy troop kept disappearing between the treetops. On our ‘chase’ we got in the way of another photo candidate, the Sulawesi cuscus. Although less fast, but sitting high in the trees, a good photo requires some skill and a good camera.
Mysterious helmet hornbills at dusk
As dusk was approaching and we had not yet made much progress with our wish list, we said goodbye to the monkey family and next went in search of the impressive Sulawesi helmeted hornbills, which with their size of 70-80 cm and their loud wing beat and specific call are hard to miss and hear. We were lucky; a pair of birds let themselves be seen between the treetops and showed themselves ready for a few pictures.
Encounters with Tarsier Monkeys and Tarantulas
But then we moved on, because the real highlight was still to come: we wanted to see the smallest monkeys in the world – the Sulawesi Tarsier. Hidden in small tree hollows during the day, the incredibly agile mini monkeys become really active at dusk. It was not difficult to find the little tarsiers, getting a sharp picture of them was. In contrast, there was a large tarantula sitting on a tree trunk in the immediate vicinity – like a statue – that seemed to be waiting for something (hopefully not us) with some persistence.
All in all, we can say that we actually got to see our most important highlights. However, everything felt a bit tight. We would have liked to have had a bit more time at one point or another, not only because of the limited photo options…oh well. Next time we would at least plan an overnight stay to get rid of the feeling of being in a hurry and enjoy pure jungle feeling.