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North Sulawesi

"The town of Manado", wrote the well-known English zoologist Alfred Russel Wallace after a visit to the area in 1859, "is one of the most beautiful places in the East. It looks like a big garden in which rows of villas are built. Wide paths in between are streets, which are usually squared. Good roads split up in several directions to the hinterlands, with some rural houses, nice little gardens and rich plantations, jungle and fruit trees. In the west and south the area is mountainous, with groups of volcanic peaks with a height between 1800 and 2100 meters, which form high and picturesque backgrounds in the landscape... I had heard a lot about the beauty of this country, but reality has surpassed my expectations by far."

Parks in the north
Secrets of the rainforest

Sulawesi houses an unprecedented variety of fauna and flora which can only be discovered by travellers which have time and want to do some effort to visit the national parks. Ten meter long pythons, flying dragons, babirousa, anoa, dwarf buffalos and tree ducks are just a few examples of the wealth of odd animals which inhabit the reserves. The fact that about 60 percent of Sulawesi's mamals and almost 90 spiecies of birds can only be found on Sulawesi. They offer the visitor a nice view east of Wallace's Line.
North Sulawesi's remote national parks conclude 13 per cent of the land and also protect the unique flora and fauna of this area in one way or another. Park rangers are obstructed in their work by lack of funding and low wages. Above all they fight a desparate battle against poachers, while meat of these protected animals is told in public at markets.
The most shocking example of recent poaching originates from Tangkoko-Batuangus-Dua Saudara reserve. In 1979, a popular group of monkeys was estimated at about 20,000 and groups of them were easy to find during short trips from the headquarters. In 1992, this number had dropped to only 2,000 and recent surveys show that this number is still dropping.
The headquarters of the reserve is more easy to reach than back in the 1970's. The earlier bad road from Girian to Tangkoko was paved until Batuputih, which makes the reserve accessible even during the wet season. Another paved road, via Likupang, Maen and Rondor, runs close to the headquarters. But there is not enough public transport to bridge the last few kilometers, so a jeep is needed. Tangkoko has good paths, Dumoga-Bone doesn't.
Maleo's are very hard to find in the Tangkoko reserve; but many other animals are very easy to find. You won't find babirousa here, as well as in Dumoga-Bone. In Dumoga-Bone there is a chanc to spot an anoa, maybe even a maleo. You can easy look for animals with the help of a pair of binoculars or a big lense.
The 45,000 hectares Panua reserve is probably the best location to spot an anoa, babirousa and maleo. There is no accomodation however and it's hard to reach. Go to Marisa first, a remote place along the southern coast of North Sulawesi. From Marisa it's a trip per jeep and then several hours upstream in a boat on Sungai Randangan.
Two little islands off the northern coast, Pulau Mas, also named Pulau Diyonumo, and Pulau Popaya, are breeding areas for the green water turtle and sometimes also for other turtles. These two islands and Panua, east of the border with Central Sulawesi, have to be visited with a good dose of initiative and will to visit them. Travellers can gain information from the PHPA office in Manado or in the harbor of Kwadang.
The entrance to Gunung Ambang national park is more easy. A view on the Malay civet-cat can be a pleasure for those who missed the anoa; there are also tree ferns, Pigafetta palms and sulphur fumaroles.

Tangkoko reserve

The entire tip of the peninsula east of Gunung Klabat is vegetated with green, tropical rainforest and was named nature reserve. The Tangkoko-Batuangus-Dua Saudara Reserve, the name refers to the three summits in the area, constists of 9,000 hectares and reaches from sealevel to 1,100 meters. In this spectacular area you will not only discover Sulawesi's unique fauna and flora b ut also a huge wealth of corals and fish.
Special in this reserve is the endemic maleo. Alfred Russel Wallace collected a number of them along coasts with black sand. The maleo's have gone from this area today, mainly because of exploitation of the eggs after the village of Batuputih was founded here in 1913. The remaining maleo's, seven to ten pairs in 1994, lay their eggs in two open spaces in the reserve.
In rare cases you can also meet the bear couscous. This marsupial lives in trees and only feeds with leaves from special kinds of trees. Makakes and wild pigs are common here. The anao can still be found, but at higher altitudes; the babiroussa is probably gone. Three groups of makakes are in focus for a scientific project and they are trusted with humans. You can easily approach them and make pictures. But they are still wild animals, you can't feed of chase them. Think about it: in the nature, the animals make the law, not humans.
Tangkoko is known for it's big number of endemic rhinocerosbirds. When the favorite fruit - figs - for these birds are ripe, over 80 of these birds can gather in one sq. km: the highest recorded density in the world. The breeding season is from Juli until January; guides in the reserve can guide the travellers to one of the dozens of monitored breeding trees.

Several good paths lead into the forest, to the breeding places of the maleo and the summit of Gunung Tangkoko, which is vegetated with mosses.
Gunung Batuango is a pretty recent addition to the landscape, caughed up by a vulcanic eruption in 1836 and worth while a visit. The slopes at the sea side are still black and bald. When you are near, you can snorkle in the creek. An inlet from the sea goes inland for about half a kilometer and houses very beautiful coral formations. You can also make a six-hour trekking from the headquarters to Dua Saudara. The path is good and the trip pleasurable but exhausting.
The Tangkoko reserve is clearly maintained by a good team. A project was developped in which the local population was pointed at the importance of nature and, for raising the needed funds, shirts and pictures of animals are sols. Buy them! For a trip through the reserve you will need a guide, which can be hired. Some of them speak English, some know the scientific names of much flora. Wild animals are best watched at five in the morning, during a trip with a guide.
Tangkoko offers the sea as something extra. You can go snorkling in the Batuangus creek and there is a three kilometer black beach in the neighborhood of Batuputih. There are nice underwater gardens and it's a good place to look at the small boats in the distance. Avoid snorkling from January through March, when waves can be heavy. From May through August, water turtles come ashore to lay their eggs, followed by a batle by the park rangers and the local population to get these eggs. Losmen in Batuputih rent rooms including breakfast.

National park Dumoga-Bone

The gemstone of the valley is Dumoga-Bone National Park, a big and fascinating reserve, which deserves a stay of at least a couple of days. Nature lovers from Indonesia and other countries often have their survays here; so you can also have interesting conversations outside enjoying the natural beauty.
The park consists of 300,000 hectares of rainforest, located between Gorontalo and Kotamobagu. It's main function is protecting the water reservoir for the new irrigation project. It was named national park in 1984. This happened after deforestation of the surrounding hills, which resulted in erosion; floodings disrupted the irrigation plans. The unique flora and fauna in this area have also been conserved.
Some parts of the park are over 2,000 meters high. Most areas are impenetrable because of thick vegetation and steep hills. There are different types of forest, each with their own characteristic vegetation. In the low rainforests, with it's lower vegetation of rattan and huge livistona-leafs, the visibility is usually less than ten meters. At 800 to 1,000 meters the landscape gradually changes to a more open mountain rainforest with pandanus trees. At about 1,500 meters this is replaced again for rainforest covered in clouds, of which the soil is covered in thich, green mosses. The trees are overgrown with mosses, which gives the forest a strange atmosphere.

The inside of the park is very rich with flora and fauna. Most of the 80 endemic spiecies of birds of the island can be found here. The best place for taking a look at the birds is at the edge of the forest.
There are wild pigs, makakes. You can see an anoa and babiroussa, but these are fairly timid and normally live in the higher parts of the reserve. Insect life is abundant and fascinating. Butterflies, moths and dragon flies appear here in all kinds of colors. The sky is full with the humming of cicades and it appears that there are beetles in all sizes and colors everywhere.
However there is little to worry about for wild fauna, some animals and plants can be annoying. At bigger altitudes there are more leeches, which come with you without asking. Almost invisible mites which dig in under your skin and cause a tremendous ich. A 'medicine' with dibuthylphtalate (5%) and benzylbenzoate (5%), sprinkled on clothes, offers enough protection against these plages, evben after you have been in water. Luckily, musquitos aren't a big problem.
The many snakes are rarely seen. Pythons can reach lengths of upto 10 meters. The poisonous snakes won't hurt you as long as they aren't interrupted.
Rattan, a natural product with great economical value for the furniture industry, is covered in spikes which can tear clothes. Good shoes and proper clothing is required. When you want to spend the night in the forest, it's advised to bring a hammat instead of a tent. At higher altitudes, where the nights can be very cold, you will need a sleeping bag as well.
The headquarters of the park is located along the eastern entrance, near the village of Dolodua, 50 kilometers west of Kotamobagu (one hour by car or minibus). The park rangers can guide traveller. There is accomodation, which remains from the so-called Wallace Project: the biggest international entomologist expedition ever, in which over 200 scientists participated in 1985. Their base camp and a laboratory is now available for tourists and students. Near the entrance there are several small restaurants with good food.
Several different daytrips can be made; the office will give you information about which routes are best. Tambung and Tumokang, two important breeding places of the maleo, are closeby. Kosinggolan, an artificial swamp, has a big variety of birds as well.
Gunung Mogogonipa, a mountain with an altitude of 1008 meters, has a beautiful forest with pandanus trees and tree ferns; the summit is covered with mosses. June, July and August are the best months for a visit to this side of the park, because it's the most dry period.

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