Five Essential Indonesian Destinations For Birdwatching

When it comes to wildlife-based ecotourism, it’s tough to find a better destination than Indonesia. From the northern reaches of Sumatra to the remote interior of Papua, the megadiverse archipelago is rife with fascinating native flora and fauna—and for any seasoned birders out there, there’s no shortage of incredible destinations just waiting to be explored. For anyone hoping to lengthen their life list next year, be sure to pay a visit to one of these stunning nature preserves.

Mount Gede Pangrango National Park

Located in the province of West Java, Mount Gede Pangrango National Park provides a scenic escape for visitors without having to stray too far from Jakarta. The preserve’s vast montane forests play host to fascinating creatures like the Javan leopard, Java mouse-deer, and Malayan porcupine, but for birders in particular, more than 200 different species can be spotted throughout the park. Endemic Indonesian birds abound ranging from the Sunda minivet to the Javan scimitar babbler, making Mount Gede Pangrango a particularly suitable destination for anyone trying to increase their life list without making a trip to Sumatra, Borneo, or one of Indonesia’s other more remote islands.

Mount Leuser National Park

A crucial haven for Sumatra’s indigenous wildlife, Mount Leuser National Park is home to some of the island’s last remaining orangutans, tigers, and rhinoceroses—but there’s a lot more life to discover around here than just mammals. In North Sumatra’s share of the park, the tiny village of Bukit Lawang is a particularly popular destination for multi-day treks, with local companies offering guided tours in search of the island’s native birdlife. Visiting birders can expect to spot common species like the golden babbler, ruddy kingfisher, or great argus during a visit, while the more fortunate may catch a glimpse of a rhinoceros hornbill or Wallace’s hawk-eagle.

Kutai National Park

The sprawling Kalimantan region of Borneo is renowned worldwide for its high concentration of wildlife, and in the eastern reaches of the landmass, Kutai National Park offers a particularly fascinating array of native avian species. Several hundred different varieties of bird can be found thriving within the lowland tropical rainforest, with particularly dazzling individuals including the whiskered treeswift, scarlet-rumped trogon, and barred eagle-owl. In addition to this vast array of forest-dwelling birds, the park is also noted for its many iconic mammals. During a visit, explorers will have an opportunity to spot endemic maroon leaf monkeys, Borean orangutans, and even the endangered Müller’s gibbon.

Tangkoko Nature Reserve

In the northernmost reaches of Sulawesi, Tangkoko Nature Reserve serves as a particularly popular destination for ecotourism thanks to its many primate and avian species. Though the preserve’s main attraction is the Celebes crested macaque—a critically endangered monkey that’s endemic to the region—birds can be found in abundance as well, with Sulawesi hornbills, ornate lorikeets, and other Indonesian endemics populating the area. As an added bonus, Tangkoko is located just a few hours east of North Sulawesi’s capital city Manado, allowing visitors to spend the day searching for wildlife then return by late afternoon to explore the rich culinary heritage of this sprawling city.

West Bali National Park

Though Bali is best known for its high-end resorts and vibrant party scene, there’s one particularly sought-after lifer awaiting birders on the island’s westernmost coast. Known as the Bali myna, this eye-catching creature was driven to the brink of extinction due to habitat loss and the illegal pet trade, with the final stronghold for the species existing in the form of West Bali National Park. Equipped with both savannah and vast swathes of mangrove and montane forest, the preserve is Bali’s top destination for finding the aforementioned bird as well as other Indonesian species including the scarlet-headed flowerpecker, little spiderhunter, and Javan flameback.

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