Tangkoko: Tarsier Territory

The Tangkoko Nature Reserve in Sulawesi, Indonesia, is one of the most amazing jungle experiences I have had! Whilst my experiences in Sumatra and Komodo were more ‘in-your-face-and-then-back-home’ kind of adventures, here at Tangkoko I was fully immersed for a good while, and I can compare this immersive experience to maybe listening to one of those 8 hour videos on YouTube of raw jungle sounds, with the rainfall and the cries of nature in the background.

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It will cost you 80,000 Rupiah per person to enter Tangkoko Nature Reserve, but when you factor in all the transport and accommodation needed in addition to this, it is more advisable to book yourself a package tour like I did, and the details of that can be found at the bottom of this article.

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I am not really a keen birdwatcher, but I do like the tropical birds and hornbills and lorikeets that you get in this part of the world. Here at Tangkoko, the birds are even more colourful than cockatoos! In particular, the hornbills were amazing. Previously I had only seen them in captivity, such as at Singapore Zoo, but when you see them frolicking around in the wild, flying from tree to tree before your eyes, then they become all the more impressive!

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Monkeys, too, were also prevalent at Tangkoko Nature Reserve. Crested Black Macaques are all over the place here, and while I don’t usually enjoy being in the company of monkeys, I was nevertheless impressed with their social gatherings and complex social structures. This was part of my tour where I got the most out of the guide accompanying us. The price of the guide is included as part of the package tour I booked, and his constant ad hoc information whenever we stumbled upon something new was very interesting to hear.

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It wasn’t just in the trees that I saw wildlife in Tangkoko, I spotted this snake pictured above – which I was told was venomous – rustling over the dead leaves of the jungle floor. Luckily, it did not seem to mind a small group of 7 tourists, most of whom (including me) were snapping away at it with their cameras!

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For me, the main reason to come to Tangkoko Nature Reserve was to try and get a glimpse of the tarsier, which only lives here in Sulawesi. These small primates – the smallest primates on Earth, I believe – are no bigger than my outstretched hand, and they have huge eyes. I don’t know if they’re as cute as the slow loris, but they are definitely still cute enough. Being nocturnal, part of my adventure here was to spend the night trying to find these well-hidden tarsiers. My guide, a bulky man who had apparently served in the military, was not the kind of guy you wanted to disagree with, so when he “knew” a tarsier would be in that tree over there behind impenetrable jungle reeds, then you just did what he said and followed his lead. More often than not, however, he was wrong! Yet we did see tarsiers on a couple of occasions, and it was well worth the effort to spot them!

Tangkoko borders the ocean
Tangkoko borders the ocean

Some final thoughts:

My overnight trip was done with Manado Safaris, who were the most enthusiastic of a handful of tour companies I enquired with – even before I landed in Sulawesi. I really recommend them, as their overnight trips seem the best-planned of all the tour companies out here. They can also arrange additional overnight trips for you to other areas in North Sulawesi, such as Bunaken Marine Park, and the Minahasa Highlands. I stayed at the Tangkoko Dove Villa for one night. It was basic accommodation, but had everything you could want for an overnight stay in the jungle, including hot water, and very friendly owners and staff.

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