Tangkoko natural reserve is located in the North of Sulawesi, a fertile land of dormant and actives volcanoes, a mix of dense rainforest, untouched volcanic coast, unique plants and endemic animals.
This jungle is still unknown to many travellers. Most of the few tourists that travel to Sulawesi do so to dive in the world top places, as are: Lembeh, Bunaken and Siladen. But so that you know, the variety of fauna and flora that characterised this authentic place is as good and unique on land as it is below the surface. The main attraction of this natural reserve is the opportunity to observe wild endemic animals while they roam free in the forest.
This is home to diverse types of bird including the beautiful red knobbed hornbill, which is endemic to Indonesia. One of the most impressive sounds that you can listen to while walking through the forest is that one produced by hornbills flying above your head beating those enormous wings. You will know that something big is above you! Best time to spot them is early morning (5-8 a.m.) when you can also see them in the nest.
Another animal you definitely want to see roaming free in the forest is the Sulawesi bear Cuscus, an arboreal marsupial only found on this Island of Indonesia. Although a bit difficult to find, the best time to try your luck is in the evenings (5-8 pm), these animals are nocturnal so they start their activity when it gets dark in the evenings. We spotted them in two of our expeditions. Walk very quiet and if you hear movement up on the trees, there is your Cuscus!. They are not very quick animals so once you spot them, you’ll be able to observe them for several minutes.
The real Star of this dense jungle is the remarkable crested black macaque, and they are very different to the naughty macaques you’ve seen in other places in Asia. These social primates with unusual orange-reddish eyes and cheeky-looking crest are very relaxed and not aggressive at all. Feeding wild animals makes them aggressive and as they had never been fed you can easily spend a day following their daily routine ( if you manage to keep up with them). Thanks to researchers at the Tangkoko National park, these animals are not bothered by the human presence. These great people, apart from study their behaviour and collect important scientific data also run a project to protect Tangkoko reserve and its habitants. Sadly the unique crested black macaque is on the list of threatened species. They are hunted both for their meat (sold illegally on the nearby markets for example in Tomohon) and as pests, as they can destroy lands of crops nearby.
To look out for the Black crested macaque, we recommend to go to the beach in the morning/afternoon, there is a large group that love playing and foraging in the area. We spent hours with one of the groups and we had the best time! It was awesome to observe their inquisitive behaviour in their habitat without interfering in their daily routine.
Another adorable animal and for us the cutest and more difficult to find in these forests is the Tarsius Tarsier. Although you can find Tarsiers in other areas of Asia, this one is endemic to Sulawesi. Tarsiers are the smallest primates in the World, not bigger than a hand, this tiny creature of fluffy hair and humongous sweet eyes, will definitely win your heart. These animals are also nocturnal, so best time to find them is in the evenings (5 to 8 p.m.)
We wanted to challenge ourselves and find this tiny animal in the huge jungle, in the dark and with no guide at all. So we took it personally when we struggled to spot them… but in our last evening walk, our efforts finally paid off! We lived a very intense and magical moment when we finally could observe the cutest animal of these tropical forests.
Note: Don’t worry about trying to find them if you go with a guide he/she will know where to see them straight away.
Everyday we spent in Tangkoko was exciting and full of adventure. Apart from trekking in the tropical jungles , we also walked along the volcanic beach, interacting with the locals, and snorkelled in a nearby reef , where we observed beautiful and colourful corals.
How to get there?
From Manado airport, walk to the main road and there are minivans to Pall Dua station (4,500 IDR). In Pall Dua station get a local bus to Bitung (11,000 IDR), then a van to Giria station (4,000 IDR) once there, find local transport to Batu Putih (This is Tangkoko village) (20,000 IDR) which is the fishing village within the national park.
Where to stay?
As usual for us we didn’t book anything in advance until we had compared and made a good deal. There are few guesthouses near the entrance to the park and they generally include meals. We stay in Tarsius guesthouse for 200,000 IDR per day for a double room ensuite toilet all meals included apart from breakfast (as we had some food with us). At the time Tarsius offered 250,000 IDR included Breakfast, lunch an dinner.
Entrance to the park
Entrance fee is 100,000 per day per person. Guide services can be booked at the guesthouse or at the park entrance for around 70,000 IDR per day. It is not mandatory to enter the park with a guide, but we recommend this option as you will ensure to see the main animals and also you’ll be contributing directly to the economy of the village and therefore, the protection of these unique forests.
- It is possible to trek without guides , and although there are selfguided paths, we noticed that they are not perfectly signed and are very confusing to follow . So, to help yourself , always go with someone and make markings on the floor with sticks in form of arrows marking the way you came from.
- In the evening is recommended not to venture into the jungle, stay on the main path, as it is not difficult to get disoriented following the jumps of a Tarsius. It’s not necessary to go deep in the jungle to spot animals as we founded Tarsiers and Cuscus on the main path!!!
- When looking for wild animals in the dark, bring a red light lantern, this does not harm their night vision and they continue to function normally when illuminated with it.
- Do not feed wild animals under any circumstances, this will change their behaviour towards us and they’ll become aggressive, besides their habitat provides all food they need.
- Keep a distance while observing wild animals, respect their space, don’t chase them or stress them.