To the east of the tropical island paradise of Bali lie the Lesser Sundas, the most varied island group along the 5000km Indonesian chain. We will concentrate on just four of the islands (though we visit six!) which, although relatively small, show an amazing degree of endemism. During the tour we hope to see at least 70 species endemic to these islands including some of Indonesia’s rarest and least known species.
Starting on the dry, arid island of Sumba, we will concentrate on remaining patches of monsoon forest searching for the rare Sumba Hornbill, Sumba Myzomela and the spectacular Red-naped Fruit Dove among the 13 endemics. A short flight brings us to Timor, where a remarkably varied endemic avifauna awaits us as we bird from coastal grazing fields to montane forest in search of mouth-watering specialties such as Timor Sparrow, Black-banded Flycatcher and Orange-banded Thrush. We were the first tour company to visit the fascinating island of Rote, with four endemics on our radar.
The elongated island of Flores, dotted by rumbling volcanos, is an impressive site and boosts an array of little-known endemics, including Flores Scops Owl, Flores Monarch and White-rumped Kingfisher. The tour finishes off with an exhilarating visit to the idyllic Komodo Island, home to the infamous Komodo Dragons and, most importantly for us, the Critically Endangered Yellow-crested Cockatoo.
Arrival into Denpasar International Airport, situated in the south-west corner of the beautiful island of Bali in preparation for our onward journey to the Lesser Sundas. Night in Kuta, Bali.
We take a morning flight to Waingapu on Sumba before driving to our base in the small, charming village of Lewa. After unpacking our bags at our friendly, comfortable homestay we shall begin birding in the nearby forest at Langgiluru National Park. Our first Sumba endemics will soon appear; Apricot-breasted Sunbird, Sumba Warbling-flycatcher and with luck, some of the widespread Lesser Sunda endemics such as Cinnamon-banded Kingfisher and Mees's Nightjar as dusk approaches. Waiting in the fading light we hope to hear and track down the distinctive calls of Sumba's two endemic Ninox owls, the gorgeous Greater Sumba Boobook and the recently described Little Sumba Boobook. Night in Lewa.
Two days will be spent in the forest patches to the east and west of Lewa. Birding along the quiet road through forest patches in search of Sumba's rare endemics, including the endangered Sumba Hornbill, Sumba Green Pigeon, spectacular Red-naped Fruit Dove, Sumba Myzomela and the three endemic flycatchers; Sumba, Sumba Brown and Sumba Warbling Flycatchers. Other species that inhabit these bird-rich forests include a variety of spectacular parrots including Marigold's Lorikeet, Red-cheeked, Great-billed and Eclectus Parrots and, with luck, the endemic race of the critically endangered Orange-crested Cockatoo. Chestnut-backed Thrush, Elegant Pitta, Green Junglefowl and Orange-footed Scrubfowl are just a few of the species lurking in the undergrowth Nights in Lewa.
An early morning birding in the grasslands of Yumbu in search of the elusive Sumba Buttonquail. Searching for this bird can be a frustrating experience as we hope for more than just a fleeting glimpse. Other species occurring in the grasslands include Brown Quail, Indonesian Honeyeater, Timor Zebra Finch and Five-coloured Munia.
We then take the short flight to Kupang, situated on the west coast of Timor. The avifauna of this island is noticeably Australasian in this markedly dry landscape. We can hope for migrant Australasian Pratincoles hawking over the runway as we wait for our connecting flight across to Rote, just a short hop away. Night on Rote.
Despite its close proximity to Timor it holds several endemic subspecies and four endemics - Rote Boobook, Rote Fantail and the recently described Rote Leaf Warbler and Rote Myzomela. Birding the nearby forest we also search for a species that is becoming very difficult on Timor now, Jonquil Parrot, along with Pink-headed Imperial Pigeon. Several other near-Timor endemics occur here and are represented by endemic subspecies, Timor Stubtail, Timor Oriole, Timor Warbling-flycatcher, Black Cuckoo-dove and Orange-banded Thrush being the most notable. As dusk approaches we hope to find the soon-to-be-split Rote Boobook. Night on Rote.
Early to mid-morning birding once again on Rote before taking the ferry, or flight, back to Timor.
Our afternoon will be spent at a wooded area close to Kupang. Though small, this forest patch still holds a remarkable number of birds. We will search for several species of pigeon, including Pink-headed Imperial Pigeon, Black-backed and Rose-crowned Fruit Doves. The forest is also home to Cinnamon-banded Kingfisher, Orange-banded Thrush, Timor Figbird and Timor Friarbird.
The nearby shrimp ponds can hold Royal Spoonbill, Red-capped Plover and Sunda Teal, while the fields leading up to the ponds hold large numbers of munias, including small numbers of Five-coloured and Pale-headed along with the rare Timor Sparrow, migrant Black-faced Cuckooshrike and Black-faced Woodswallow. In the evening we shall listen for Timor Boobook, a split from the Southern Boobook complex. Night in Kupang.
The early morning we head inland to Camplong. Camplong holds one the few remaining pockets of lowland forest in West Timor and fortunately many of the endemics can still be found here. Orange-banded Thrush, Fawn-breasted Whistler, Timor Stubtail and Timor Thickbird, Timor Heleia, Timor Warbling-flycatcher, Timor Oriole and Timor Friarbird all occur here, and with luck we can hope to see the elusive Black-banded Flycatcher in the bamboo thickets.
After our arrival in Soe and lunch we bird a small forest patch in the afternoon looking for two of Timor's hardest species; Black Cuckoo Dove and Timor Cuckoo Dove. This site also gives us a nice back-up for Black-banded Flycatcher, Timor Sparrow, Black-banded Fruit Dove and Timor Bushchat. We have another chance of Timor Boobook, and even the undescribed nightjar endemic to Timor and Wetar, ‘Timor Nightjar’. Night in Soe.
Two days will be spent on Gunung Mutis in search of the endemic Timor Imperial Pigeon, a difficult and rare species restricted to montane regions on Timor (and lowlands of Wetar). Island Thrush, Metallic Pigeon, Timor Leaf Warbler, Timor Meliphaga and Yellow-eared Honeyeaters and Olive-headed Lorikeet are all common, while rarer species include Jonquil Parrot, Iris Lorikeet and Chestnut-backed Thrush. We will pay particular attention to the timorensis Pygmy Cupwing, with its markedly different song. On top of that, in 2012 on our tour we made the exciting discovery of an undescribed species of parrotfinch - 'Mount Mutis Parrotfinch' that is still only known from this one mountain so we will put in plenty of time to find this engima. Night in Soe.
Today we bird wherever required, depending on what species we're still missing from the previous days before winding our way back down to Kupang. Night in Kupang.
The short flight from Kupang to Ruteng, in the highlands of Western Flores, is scheduled for early morning but this often changes time, or even airport! After arrival we will spend the rest of the morning birding at nearby Lake Ranamese or Golo Lusang. Birding along the road will introduce us to some of the more common Flores endemics, and perhaps the first of the trickier species. Possibilities include Flores Warbling-flycatcher, Flores Leaf Warbler, Russet-capped Tesia and both Crested and Eyebrowed Heleia.
We then wind our way down to the coastal lowlands, in time for a late lunch. The afternoon will be spent searching for the endemics such as White-rumped Kingfisher, Flores Crow, Thick-billed Heleia, Black-fronted Flowerpecker and Flores Green Pigeon along with a host of other scarce species. With luck we might find Chestnut-capped Thrush, a species being driven to extinction on the island by capture bird-trade. After dusk, Mees's Nightjar and both Moluccan and Wallace's Scops Owls are possible. Night in Kisol.
Morning birding near to Kisol, a coastal village that still has some easily accessible intact lowland forest. The morning will be spent searching for the lowland endemics such as White-rumped Kingfisher, Flores Crow, Thick-billed Dark-eye, Black-fronted Flowerpecker and Flores Hawk Eagle along with a host of other scarce species. With luck we might find Chestnut-capped Thrush, a species being driven to extinction on the island by capture bird-trade.
In the afternoon we head back up into highlands for birding. Night in Ruteng.
Two days birding in the highlands. We birding the upper montane forest with possibilities include Flores Warbling Flycatcher, Flores Leaf Warbler, Flores Flowerpecker, Russet-capped Tesia, both Crested and Eyebrowed Heleia, Flores Shortwing, Tawny-breasted Parrotfinch, Scaly-crowned Honeyeater, Black-backed Fruit Dove, Dark-backed Imperial Pigeon, Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker, Parzudaki's Cuckoo-dove and even the Critically Endangered Flores Hawk Eagle is possible. Night-birding around Ruteng could reveal Wallace's and Flores Scops Owls. The vocalisations of the latter were unknown until Birdtour Asia refound the species here in 2005.
Visiting mid-altitude forest near to Ruteng will provide us with the opportunity to search for two of the most difficult of near-Flores endemics; Flores Green Pigeon and Wallace's Hanging Parrot, with both species being frustratingly nomadic their appearances are difficult to predict. Russet-capped Tesia, Rufous-chested Flycatcher, Pale-shouldered Cicadabird, Leaf Lorikeet, all three endemic heleia and Bonelli's Eagle are also possible. Night in Ruteng.
The itinerary today will be flexible depending on our previous successes but en-route to the picturesque coastal town of Labuanbajo we shall make at least one stop for the enigmatic Flores Monarch, a species restricted to sub-montane forest in West Flores. Night in Labuanbajo.
Today we take a speedboat to Komodo Island, home of the legendary Komodo Dragons. Obviously this beast, which can reach over three metres in length, is high on the agenda, as is Yellow-crested Cockatoo, a Critically Endangered species at one of its last remaining strongholds. Birds are noticeably confiding on the island, especially the Orange-footed Scrubfowls and Green Junglefowls. Other species include Wallace's Heleia, Lemon-bellied White-eye, Sunda Collared Dove, Black-naped Tern and Beach Thick-knee. Night in Labuanbajo.
Our final morning will be spent birding the degraded forest along the road to Potawangka village in search of the nomadic Wallace's Hanging Parrot. A variety of other species favour the fruiting trees in this area, including Black-fronted and Golden-rumped Flowerpeckers, Great-billed and Red-cheeked Parrots and Elegant Pitta.
Our flight from Labuanbajo back to Bali is expected to depart at lunchtime, allowing us to arrive back in time to relax in the comfortable surroundings of our hotel. Night in Kuta, Bali.
International departures from Denpasar International Airport.
Deposit: £ 500 or $ 700
Single room supplement: £470/$620
Maximum group size: 8
Tour cost includes: all accommodation, main meals, internal flights, overland transport, entrance fees, drinking water, tips to local drivers and guides, and guide fees.
Tour cost excludes: international flights, visa, travel insurance, drinks, tips to tour guides, and other items of a personal nature.
Accommodation: comfortable twin, and single, rooms with private facilities with the exception of Sumba where facilities are shared.
Walking difficulty: easy to moderate throughout.
Maximum elevation on the tour is 1,900m.
Expected number of species: 210 - 250 species
Number of endemics and range-restricted species: Between 70-80 Lesser Sunda endemics are possible, with at least another 30 Indonesian Archipelago endemics.