A quick dash through Tangkoko Nature Reserve (Sulawesi) and around Jakarta, June 2023

Small Sulawesi Cuscus (Strigocuscus celebensis), Tangkoko

At the end of our West Papua trip, Carlos Bocos and I took the slow route back to Jakarta via a stop off in Sulawesi. We had not planned the trip in advance in case we decided to head to another destination in West Papua. But given the success of our Papuan haul of mammals we decided – at the very last moment – to visit Tangkoko Forest near Manado, a reserve Carlos knows very well and which I had visited back in 2012. From there we planned to continue to Makassar, where Carlos had seen a bunch of mammals that would be new for me, and then back to Jakarta for flights home.

Long-tailed Taeromys (Taeromys celebensis)

Our 36 hours in Tangkoko was excellent. Unfortunately the second half of the trip unravelled a bit: we left booking the Manado-Makassar flights too late, not knowing it was a public holiday in Sulawesi, and there were no seats available. A few hours later I got food poisoning in Tangkoko and was wiped out for a couple of days. So in the end we spent just 36 hours mammalwatching in Tangkoko and a few hours aroumd Jakarta.

Tangkoko Forest, Sulawesi

Gursky’s Spectral Tarsier (Tarsius spectrumgurskyae)

I remembered Bobby Lambaihang‘s guest house in Tangkoko in 2012 as a “basic Asian rest house”. Things had changed. It was now a comfortable set of motel rooms with AC and wifi. Partly built on the proceeds of mammalwatching visits given the enthusiasm with which Bobby greeted me, thanking me for all the business that my 2012 trip report had sent his way. I had no idea but it was good to know!

Carlos and I headed into the forest soon after dark in search of some of the bats and rodents that Carlos thought we ought to be able to find and which I had missed last time. But our main goal was Small Sulawesi (or Dwarf) Cuscus. This species is rare in Tangkoko. I had not even looked for it here in 2012 but had taken a hike from hell up and down Manado Tua – an island just off shore – in a fruitless search for one. I had a score to settle. Although it is rare here – Carlos had never seen one despite many visits to the park – one had been seen a week earlier near the parking area at the start of the forest trail. It took me less than 60 seconds to find one in a thermal scope after we got out of the car.

We spent the next four hours wandering the trails deeper into the forest, spotting numerous rodents which were generally on the ground and much less obliging than those in West Papua. We also found plenty of bats which were usually a bit easier to photograph.

The following morning we returned to the park to search mainly for bats (I had seen the Black Macaque, Spectral Tarsier and Bear Cuscus – Tangkoko’s three specialties – in 2012). We returned to the park that night though I was starting to feel ill, and Carlos had spent the afternoon drinking evil moonshine with the locals. In other words the night could have been more productive.

The Mammals

Small Sulawesi Cuscus (Strigocuscus celebensis) – lifer

One seen within seconds of getting out of the car at the trail head car park an hour or so after sunset.

Whitish Dwarf Squirrel (Prosciurillus leucomus)

One seen in the mid-morning but difficult to photograph. We heard it calling before we found it.

Celebes Dwarf Squirrel (P.murinus) – lifer

This dwarf squirrel is not uncommon in the park and was a key target for our morning walk. We were listening for their calls but bumped into this one – it literally landed on Carlos – after he squeezed into a hollow tree to look for bats. It hid at the base of the trunk before we could get our cameras onto it, with just it’s tail peeking out.

Hoffmann’s Sulawesi Rat (Rattus hoffmanni) – lifer

We saw several of these at night deeper into the forest though none posed for photographs. Identified – by Carlos – from its all dark tail, when compared Rattus xanthurus – the other large rattus in the forest – the tail of which is white along the terminal third.

Northeastern Xanthurus Rat (R.xanthurus) – lifer

We saw one of these at night deeper into the forest but couldn’t get any photos. This large rattus’s tail is white along it’s terminal third.

Hellwald’s Sulawesi Maxomys (Maxomys hellwaldii) – lifer

A terrible photo of one of the many skittish animals we saw: this one took shelter in a hollow log. Again ID’s be Carlos: this species is larger than M. musschenbroekii and with a less obvious dark mask around the eyes.

Musschenbroek’s Sulawesi Maxomys (M.musschenbroekii) – lifer

Several seen but only this terrible photo. This is smaller than M. hellwalldi and has black around the eyes.

Long-tailed Taeromys (Taeromys celebensis) – lifer

One of the most exciting animals of the evening, this large arboreal rat posed wonderfully for pictures and is apparently rarely seen.

Gursky’s Spectral Tarsier (Tarsius spectrumgurskyae)

These are easy to see in Tangkoko as the guides know several roost trees. We made no particular effort but bumped into this group sheltering in a palm tree while we search for bats.

Celebes Crested Macaque (Macaca nigra)

Easy to see in Tangkoko. We saw a few just minutes after starting the trail.

Peters’s Fruit Bat (Cynopterus luzoniensis) – lifer

Several at night found with thermal scopes roosting under leaves. Much grey than the other Cynopterus (C. minutus) in the park.

Forest Short-nosed Fruit Bat (C.minutus)

We saw several at night hanging from leaves as well as animals in the day and night roosting under shelters along the trail.

Sulawesi Rousette (Pilonycteris celebensis)

Checking out hollow trees in Tangkoko is a productive way to find bats: many held small colonies of this species.

Sulawesi Naked-backed Fruit Bat (Dobsonia exoleta) – lifer

I found one very distant dobsonia in the car park shortly after sunset. Another terrible photo.

Sulawesi Fruit Bat (Acerodon celebensis) – lifer

Several seen feeding in fruiting fig trees during the night.

Lesser False Vampire (Megaderma spasma)

A cluster in one of the many hollow trees we checked in the day time.

Sulawesi Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus celebensis) – lifer

Carlos knew a roost site for this species in an abandoned building along the trail.

Nepalese Whiskered Bat (Myotis muricola)

One roosting in a building along the trail.

18 species with 11 lifers.

Stuff We Missed

Bobby’s place in Tangkoko

Bear Cuscus are pretty easy to find in Tangkoko in the day time. We didn’t make an effort to look for them but fruiting trees would be the best bet. After dark we hoped to see a beautiful Stripe-faced Fruit Bat which is not uncommon here as well as the very cool Sulawesi Spiny Rat (Echiothrix leucura) which were very common in 2019 in the park, though perhaps that was atypical. See Carlos’s report from 2019. We also hoped we might have seen a Giant Sulawesi Rat (Taeromys dominator).


Javan Slit-faced Bat (Nycteris javanica), Bogor

With my stomach still refusing to cooperate wiith the rest of my body, and after a very long pair of flights to Jakarta, we went in search of two more species.

Carlos’s zoologist friends at the IPB University in Bogor had studied the local bats and found a colony of Javan Slit-faced Bats in a culvert on campus. Easy to see but hard to photograph well. A lifer too for Carlos. The bats move around frequently so your best bet would be to try to get onto the large campus and check every culvert you can.

Lesser Large-footed Myotis (Myotis hasseltii)

An hour before I left for Jakarta airport we visited the Kawasan Arboretum Mangrove iWalk, in the middle of the city. The sun had set an hour earlier and we were searching for Greater Nectar Bats (Macroglossus sobrinus) in the mangroves. There were few flowering trees and no nectar bats. We did see some Short-nosed Fruit Bats and Black Rats and plenty of fishermen.

Walking back along the road from the boardwalk entrance I spotted a small bat high in a tree through my thermal scope that Carlos identified as Lesser Large-footed Myotis (Myotis hasseltii): my 13th and final lifer of this short trip.

Javan Slit-faced Bat (Nycteris javanica), Bogor

Many thanks to Carlos for his company and help, and for putting up with me while I moaned about my guts. And a big thank you to his friends in Bogor for finding us those Javan Slit-faced Bats.

Post author

Jon Hall


  • Warren Gilson

    Well done Jon, especially soldiering on with a crook tum.
    I’m overnighting in Jakarta in a few weeks’ time before joining a tour to Sumatra, and I was ready to do a day tour of Jakarta to see the sights just to fill in the time, but now I’m thinking I should check out any nearby culverts 🙂

  • Jon Hall

    Haha you do indeed! Let me know if you decide to go to Bogor. You can rent a car and a driver for several hours on an app and I can try to connect you with Carlos’s friends at the uni.

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