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It was just easy and fun to spend a long day of birding with him. I came away from the experience wanting to go back.
Lesley M Custom Tour, 2017
Bali & The Lesser Sundas In 2019 we found 140 Indonesian Endemics on this tour.
The Lesser Sundas is a wonderland for birders. In addition to the usual Oriental families, numerous unusual Australasian species call these islands home, including nearly 90 endemics. This fairly intense tour will be filled with long-days seeking out these highly-sought-after species that are disappearing at a rapid rate!
Leaders: Tim Avery & Local Guides
Itinerary subject to change due to weather, birding conditions, and other factors out of our control.
Day 1 - Arrive in Bali Meet, Greet, and go to Sleep
You will need to arrive in Bali by TBD (at the latest). I will work with everyone to determine your arrival time and help you get from the international terminal to our hotel. In the evening we’ll meet our local guide, Bayu Hendra from Bali Birding Tour and enjoy dinner while we talk about the coming weeks of island hopping and birding!
Night in Bali
Day 2 - Sumba Tanah Daru National Park
In the morning we’ll board a 90-minute flight to the island of Sumba, where despite the majority of native forest being cleared for farming a variety of endemic and highly sought after species are still fairly easy to access in several locations. We’ll board 4WD vehicles for a 4-hour trek into the island's interior to Billa Forest in Manupeu Tanah Daru National Park. Some of the gems we may encounter birding today include the endemic Red-naped Fruit Dove, Sumba Green Pigeon, and Pale-Shouldered Cicadabird. As dusk approaches we’ll listen for and attempt to track down the endemic Mees’s Nightjar, Sumba Boobook, and Little Sumba Boobook.
Night at Billa Post Guard Ranger Station
Day 3 - Sumba Billa Forest & Island Endmeics
There’s nothing quite like the morning chorus in the jungles of Southeast Asia, and Billa Forest is no exception. Our main targets this morning are the incredible Sumba Hornbill and the Sumba subspecies of the Yellow-crested Cockatoo that shows an orange crest and cheeks and is often elevated to species status as the Citron-crested Cockatoo. But this is just the tip of the iceberg as the forest holds a laundry list of desirable birds including the magnificent Eclectus Parrot, the equally impressive Great-billed Parrot, the stunning Marigold Lorikeet, and the often raucous Red-cheeked Parrot. The list goes on and might include: Cinnamon-banded Kingfisher, Black-naped Fruit Dove, Wallacean Cuckooshrike, Wallacean Drongo, Elegant Pitta, Arafura Fantail, Sumba Myzomela, Apricot-breasted Sunbird, Yellow-ringed White-eye, Ashy-bellied White-eye, and 3 endemic flycatchers with the Sumba, Russet-backed Jungle, and Sumba Brown Flycatchers. But it’s not just the specialty birds that make this island worthwhile, some of the more widespread birds are just as incredible, and we may encounter: Brown Goshawk, Spectacled Monarch, Dollarbird, Cinereous Tit, Helmeted Friarbird, Tenggara Whistler, Blyth’s Paradise Flycatcher, Gray-headed Canary Flycatcher, and Sumba Flowerpecker. After lunch, we’ll transfer to Waingapu where we’ll spend the night. If we missed any of the nocturnal birds the previous night tonight will serve as a backup.
Night in Waingapu
Day 4 - Sumba Lewa and Langgaliru Forest
During our previosu tour on Sumba we managed to pick up every island endemic with jsut one full day on the island--but we were pressed for time and could have had better looks at a number of birds. To remedy this we have added another full day on the island to concentrate on many of the highland specialists, as well as any birds that we desired better look of. This will also provide another night for owling if needed.
Night in Waingapu
Day 5 - Sumba and Rote Yumba Grasslands and Transfer to Rote
Our final morning on Sumba will focus on the Yumbu Grassland, where our top target will be the endemic and little-known Sumba Buttonquail—Sumba’s only non-forest endemic species. We will traverse the surrounding grasslands and have a good chance of finding this ground-dwelling game bird. Other grassland species possible include Horsfield’s Bush Lark, Brown Quail, Zebra Finch, and Pied Bush Chat. In the afternoon we’ll take a 1-hour flight to Kupang on the west end of Timor, before boarding a quick 30-minute flight to Rote Island just off the southwest edge of Timor. With time permitting we will bird until dark and work on tracking down the lone endemic nocturnal species—Rote Boobook.
Night in Rote
Day 6 - Rote Island Endemics
Despite its close proximity to Timor, Rote had 4 endemic species, as well as a handful of endemic subspecies (several deserving of species status). Our day here will focus on picking up 3 diurnal endemics with Rote Fantail, Rote Leaf Warbler, and Rote Myzomela. Other targets will include Jonquil Parrot, Pink-headed Imperial Pigeon, Timor Stubtail, Timor Oriole, Timor Warbling-Flycatcher, Black Cuckoo Dove, and Orange-banded Thrush. Aside from the endemics, we will have our hands full at Lake Sotimori as we scope the watebirds here for anything out of the ordinary. In 2019 we found a vagrant Magpie Goose, marking the 1st record for the Lesser Sundas, and just the 3rd for Indoneisa away from West Papua.
Night in Rote
Day 7 - Rote and Timor Bipolo Nature Reserve and Kupang Bay
This morning we’ll take the 30-minute flight back to Timor and head to the Bipolo Nature Reserve for a full day of birding. While the forest is rather small it still holds a remarkable number of birds. We will focus our efforts here on a trio of pigeons and doves: Pink-headed Imperial Pigeon, Black-backed Fruit Dove, and Rose-crowned Fruit Dove. Other birds we might encounter include Cinnamon-banded Kingfisher, Orange-banded Thrush, Timor Figbird, Timor Friarbird, Buff-banded Thicketbird, Timor Stubtail, Fawn-breasted Whistler, Timor Meliphaga, and Timor Myzomela. Birding the nearby shrimp ponds it is possible we may find Royal Spoonbill, Red-capped Plover, Sunda Teal, Australian Pratincole, and Little Curlew. The fields surrounding the ponds are home to various munias and we will look for both Five-colored Munia and Pale-headed Munia while trying to coax out a rare Timor Sparrow. Other possibilities here include Black-faced Cuckooshrike and Black-faced Woodswallow. In the evening we’ll try for another split from the Southern Boobook complex—the Timor Boobook.
Night in Kupang
Day 8 - Timor Camplong, Oelnasi, & Soe
Leaving early in the morning we’ll head to Camplong to look for Spot-breasted Heleia, White-bellied Bush Chat, Black-banded Flycatcher, Timor Leaf Warbler, and the ultra-skulky Buff-banded Thicketbird. Other more widespread species we are likely to find today include Little Bronze-Cuckoo, Spectacled Monarch, Little Pied Flycatcher, and Sunda Bush Warbler. We’ll end the day birding near Oelnasi looking for Timor Cuckoo-Dove and Timor Nightjar.
Night in Soe
Day 9 - Timor Mount Mutis
Heading to higher elevations, today we’ll embark to the mountains in Fatumnasi and Mount Mutis. The #1 target for birders here is the ultra rare Timor Imperial Pigeon, which would be an extremely lucky find if we had one. We’ll focus on the birds we know we can find including Metallic Pigeon, Island Thrush, Yellow-breasted Leaf Warbler, Mountain White-Eye, and the shy and secretive Pygmy Wren-Babbler. In the interior forest we should encounter a few species like Little Cuckoo-Dove and Snowy-browed Flycatcher, and have our best shot at the elusive Chestnut-backed Thrush—a species rapidly declining due to trapping for the cage-bird trade. Overhead we may encounter flocks of Olive-headed Lorikeet and if we are very lucky, the very rare Iris Lorikeet. Two more highly sought after prizes here include the Tricolored Parrotfinch and endemic yet-described Mutis Parrotfinch.
Night in Soe
Day 10 - Timor and Flores Oelnasi and Transfer to Labuan Bajo
Early this morning will serve as a backup for birding near Oelnasi for anything we have missed the past 2 days. We have a 3-hour drive to the airport where we’ll catch a 2-hour flight to Labuan Bajo on Flores—the jump-off point to Komodo National Park. But before we get to dragons, we have a couple days of birding on the island, starting off in the forest just outside of town where we’ll look for Flores Crow, Elegant Pitta, Yellow-spectacled White-eye, Flores Drongo, Spotted Kestrel, Helmeted Friarbird, and Flame-breasted Sunbird. After dark, we’ll set out to look for 2 of the 3 island scops-owls here: the Mollucan Scops-Owl and the Wallace’s Scops-Owl.
Night in Labuan Bajo
Day 11 - Flores Puarlolo to Ruteng Nature Reserve
In the morning we’ll depart Labuan Bajo for the interior of the island, with our first stop being the Puarlolo Nature Reserve. This trail winds through the forest and can turn up some great birds including endemics like the Flores Monarch and the Flores Hawk-Eagle. Other good birds here include Elegant Pitta, Chestnut-capped Thrush, Rufous-chested Flycatcher, Crested Heleia, Little Minivet, Red-Cheeked Parrot, and Leaf Lorikeet. The drive to Ruteng should take a couple hours and we’ll enjoy the gorgeous scenery along the way. In the evening we will try again for Moluccan Scops-Owl if needed and take our first shot at the endemic and near-mythical Flores Scops-Owl.
Night in Ruteng
Day 12 - Flores Ruteng, Ranamese Lake, and Golo Lusang
Today will be a big day of birding in the mountains on Flores, with a huge list of potential targets like the Crested Ibon (a species of White-eye), Black-fronted Flowerpecker, Golden-rumped Flowerpecker, Russet-capped Tesia, Thick-billed Heleia, Variable Goshawk, Black-naped Fruit Dove, Little Minivet, Black-naped Monarch, Flores Green Pigeon, Tenggara Swiftlet, Russet-backed Jungle-Flycatcher, Bare-Throated Whistler, the near-endemic Brown-capped Fantail, Cream-browed White-eye, Scaly-crowned Honeyeater, and Flores Leaf Warbler. Hold on while we catch our breath—the list continues with White-browed Shortwing (often elevated to species status as Flores Shortwing), the nomadic and endemic Flores Hanging Parrot, Barred Cuckoo-Dove, Dark-Backed Imperial Pigeon, Ruddy Cuckoo-Dove, Rusty-breasted Cuckoo, and Sunda Cuckoo. After dark, we’ll have one more shot at the Flores Scops-Owl and Wallace’s Scops-Owl.
Night in Ruteng
Day 13 - Flores Pagal to Labuan Bajo
This morning will serve as a backup for any species we might have missed the past 2 days, with a focus on making sure we track down an endemic Glittering Kingfisher and Flores Hanging Parrot. After lunch, we’ll head back towards Labuan Bajo, birding in Potowangka Forest near town. After dark, we may try again for Wallace’s Scops-Owl and Mees’s Nightjar if they’re still missing for our list!
Night in Labuan Bajo
Day 14 - Komodo Dragons! Komodo National Park
While there will be birds today, we’ll focus on something far more amazing—today we’ll seek out the incredible Komodo Dragon. Boarding a speedboat in the morning we’ll head to Komodo Island where we will likely see Yellow-crested Cockatoo, Helmeted Friarbird, Wallacean Drongo, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Green Junglefowl, Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker, and Green Imperial Pigeon. If we’re lucky we’ll also see Pied Imperial Pigeon and with any luck Flores Hawk Eagle and Nicobar Pigeon. And oh yes, there will be dragons! We should expect to see a couple Komodo Dragons, perhaps even having our photo taken near the giant beasts! The boat ride back to Labuan Bajo will not be without birds either. We’ll keep an eye on the beaches for Beach Thick-Knee and Great-billed Heron. Overhead it’s not uncommon to see Brahminy Kites and White-bellied Sea-Eagles. Various terns, shorebirds, and waders may be present on the sandbars here as well.
Night in Labuan Bajo
Day 15 - Bali Transfer to Bali and Birding en route to Bali Handara Golf Course
After breakfast, we’ll board a flight back to Bali where we’ll see a more luxurious side of things. Bali is a jewel and has become a major tourist destination for Westerners due to its beautiful beaches, incredible scenery, and fabulous food. While the first portion of our tour focused on endemics on far-flung and little talked about islands, the next few days will focus on the birds of Bali. We could add up to 125 species in our final days of the tour, while we enjoy fantastic food and posh hotels. Getting in and out of Denpasar can prove time-consuming, and passing through Ubud into the mountains could take several hours. But the scenery makes up for the slow moving. We will make our way to Batu Karu jungle temple, a hot spot for Javan Forktail, Little Barbet, Javan Owlet, Crescent-chested Babbler, Javan Flameback, Mees's White-eye, Javan Whistling Thrush, and more.
Night at Bali Handara Kosaido Golf Course
Day 16 - Bali Bali Highlands
We'll start the day off birding at Bedugul Botanical Garden for Javan Flowerpecker, Indonesian Honeyeater, Javan Hawk-Eagle, Ruddy Cuckoo-Dove, Sunda Warbler, Javan Bush Warbler, Black-backed Fruit-Dove, Javan Hanging Parrot, Chesnut-backed Schimitiar-Babbler, and the elusive Sunda Thrush. With some luck we may also track down Dark-backed Imperial Pigeon and Gray-cheecked Green-Pigeon. After lunch we will visit Buyan Lake for Striated Grassbird, Yellow Bittern, Cinamon Bittern, and White-browed Crake. As our birding comes to a slow we’ll change scenery, dropping out of the mountains to the north coast and heading west, where the monsoon forest looks more like the lowlands the Lesser Sundas, than the interior of Bali we’ve experienced the past two days. After dark, we’ll set our sights on the talkative but often hard to see Sunda Scops Owl.
Night at The Menjangan
Day 17 - Bali West Bali National Park
Today will be a bird packed day. Starting the morning off in a canopy tower we’ll hope for looks at the rare Bali Myna and its cousin the Javan Myna. The Bali Myna is an incredible sight in the wild and one that won’t be soon forgotten. If we’re lucky we might be treated to one of the rarest birds in the world in the critically endangered Black-winged Starling. The illegal cage-bird trade has decimated this species population and West Bali may be the last places this bird exists in the wild in very small numbers. Other birds we hope to see from the tower include Black-thighed Falconet and several species of Green Pigeon. In the forest below we’ll take a short walk in hopes of seeing several birds common to the forest here. Yellow-throated Hanging-Parrot, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, and Coppersmith Barbet are possible. A quick stop near the mangroves and we might pick up Bar-winged Prinia and if lucky Mangrove Whistler. Moving along to the interior forest we’ll hope for great looks at Javan Banded Pitta, Horsfield’s Babbler, and Crested Serpent-Eagle. The habitat quickly turns lusher as we work our way inland and look for birds like Javan Kingfisher, Black-naped Monarch, Hair-crested Drongo, Little Barbet, and a variety of Bulbuls. In the afternoon we’ll turn to the lowlands and the coast around Gillamanuk where we’ll hope for looks at Lesser Adjutant, Blue-tailed Bee-Eater, Zebra Dove, Savanna Nightjar, and Small Minivet. If we’re lucky we might see Red-Breasted Parakeet and Dollarbird as well. Afterward we’ll head to the salt pans northeast of the park to hunt down some shorebirds and other waterbirds. Our main targets will be Javan Plover and Malaysian Plover, but we could easily turn up 10-15 more species of shorebirds with a little effort. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Collared, Sacred, and Small Blue Kingfisher here as well. In the evening we’ll try again for the elusive Sunda Scops-Owl.
Night at The Menjangan
Day 18 - End of Tour Ubud and Flights Home
This morning everyone will be able to relax at the resort, eat a leisurely breakfast, go snorkeling if so inclined, and start packing to head home. We’ll head back towards Denpasar around lunch, stopping in Ubud for some souvenir shopping, before making it to the airport in the evening. Here our trip comes to an end as we depart home or wherever your next adventure may take you!
End of Tour!
What's Included & What to Expect
What to Expect on Your Tour
For most of the tour, you will have 3-guides leading the way. Tim Avery from Pitta Tours, Bayu Hendra our local Indonesian expert from Bali Birding Tour, and local guides Heri on Sumba, Martinus on Rote & Timor, and Samuel on Flores. The key to the success we had running this tour in 2019 was the incredible local guides. Their up-to-the-date knowledge of the local endemics is an absolute must, and their willingness to go above and beyond to keep looking for birds is top notch!
Due to the number of guides, porters, and participants, we will typically be traveling in a 3-car convoy with a guide in each car with trip participants. Throughout the tour, we will switch up which vehicles we ride in so everyone gets opportunities to spend time with the local guides as well as Tim and Bayu. On Sumba, we travel a long distance on a rough road in 4WD trucks. The road is bumpy and the ride can be quite jostling--but the reward at the end is incredible birding. On Timor, we will travel in 4WD vehicles to reach our hiking area near Mount Mutis and to later travel deeper into the mountains. On the rest of the islands, we travel in small SUVs mostly on paved roads with some dirt roads to get to specific birds
As this is a remote part of the world the accommodations on this tour are highly variable, with good to excellent accommodations available in some areas, but basic in others. At all sites, we use the best accommodations available. In the cities of Denpasar, Kupang, Soe, Ruteng, and Labuan Bajo good to excellent, modern hotels are used with private bathrooms, 24-hour electricity, full-time hot water, air conditioning, and internet. On Sumba, we will be staying 1-night at the simplest accommodation on the tour, a Guard Ranger Station with shared bathrooms. Our local guides provide comfortable beds and clean sheets here for a relatively comfortable night! In Bali, the hotels are very comfortable on all nights with private bathrooms, full-time electricity, and internet.
Breakfasts are typically Nasi Goreng in the field (fried rice with egg)--although in Bali we will eat several sit-down breakfasts. Lunches are mixed in the field (simple local meals, peanut butter, and bread, fruit, etc) with sitdown lunches in Bali and elsewhere as permitted. All dinners are at local favorite restaurants, and are generally very delicious! Filtered water and soft drinks are included with all meals. Alcohol IS NOT included and is limited in most places to the local lager (beware of the non-alcoholic version in some places!).
This is a birding tour, with the focus on getting as many birds as possible, although casual photographers in the group will find some birds for photography. There are no feeders on this tour, so any photography is on the fly as it and will always take second place to making sure everyone sees the bird. The best photography will be on Komodo (with the dragons especially), in West Bali National Park, and on Sumba, where the easiest birding of the tour is typically found. Elsewhere photography is much more limited (especially on Timor, where the birding is the toughest of the tour). None-the-less there will be plenty of photo opportunities on this tour.
While physically, this is for the most part, not a challenging tour (i.e. the walking is largely not difficult), the very early starts and long days (necessitated to look for the many endemic nightbirds), make this more intense than many tours. The Lesser Sundas are a remote part of Indonesia, and therefore accommodations are usually limited, so there is the need to travel a short distance to get to many of the birding sites, meaning earlier rises. Starts of 4 AM to 5 AM are common on this tour, especially at the early end of this time frame. As it gets light early, there may also be even earlier starts, as an optional activity, before rejoining the rest of the group, if some of the nightbirds require this.
A fair amount of walking is required, although much of it on wide tracks and in fairly easy terrain. There is one, optional, strenuous walk on Timor’s Gunung Mutis. This track is taken slowly, and while uneven the gradient is not that great, only gradually ascending. The toughest aspect of this trip is the very long days, made longer by the pursuit of the many endemic night birds available on this tour. With great effort, many of these are seen by taking long days in the field.
Weather and Temperature
Even with the mostly hot temps on Bali, Timor, and Flores, we go up to higher elevations where rain and mist, and cooler (but not cold) temperatures are more likely. November is between the end of the dry season and the beginning of the wet season in this part of the world. While rain is not expected daily, it could rain daily, and there will likely be some precipitation on a number of days. Tropical downpours are possible at any time in Indonesia. This is especially true of the higher elevation sites like Mutis on Timor. Rain gear should be brought at least in the vehicle for each outing. Here are some expected conditions where we'll be birding: On Sumba temperatures average between 70-78F. On Timor temperatures average between 77-87F. Rote is the same as Timor, but low lying so lacking the threat of wetter mountain weather. Flores averages between 67-82F. There is also more chance of rain on Flores mostly in the afternoons and evenings. Komodo averages between 77-88F. Bali average between 74-88F.
You will need a passport with at least two blank pages valid for at least six months beyond the date of your arrival in Indonesia. If your passport does not meet these requirements, you will be denied entry into Indonesia. If you traveling on a limited validity passport, such as an emergency passport, you should obtain a visa prior to arriving in Indonesia.
You will not need a Visa if you are a U.S. citizen and are staying less than 30 days in Indonesia. You must have a return or onward ticket to another country and have not been previously refused entry or blacklisted.
If you are planning on staying longer than 30 days, you will need to purchase a $35 USD visa issued upon arrival valid for up to 30 days for tourism, family visitation, and other purposes. See the Indonesian Immigration’s website for more information. You may extend a Visa-on-Arrival only once for a maximum of 30 days, for another $35 USD. Diplomatic or official passport holders cannot apply for Visa-on-Arrival.
Entry requirements are subject to change at the sole discretion of Indonesian immigration authorities. If you overstay your visa, you are subject to a fine of 250,000 Indonesian rupiah (about $20 USD) per day and maybe detained and deported. U.S. citizens have been jailed for visa overstays or obtaining the wrong visa class for their purpose of travel.
While you are in Indonesia, always carry your passport, valid visa, and work or resident permit, if applicable. Travelers have been detained for questioning for not having their passports with them.
- KOMODO DRAGONS!!!
- The Flores Sea
- Amazing Scenery
- Macaques and Langurs
- Fresh Fruits & Fruit Drinks
- Kind and Generous Local People
- Rich and Vibrant Culture
- Professional Local Guides
- All in-country Flights & Luggage
- Ground Transportation
- Boat to Komodo National Park
- Admission to Komodo National Park
- Admission to Bali Barat National Park
- Admission to Tanah Daru National Park
- 17-nights Accomodations
- 2 to 3 meals per day
- Spotting Scope while Birding
- Water for Refreshment
- Birds—we’ll find some birds
- Some Flammtastic Tour Swag
- Delightful Conversation about Birds
- A Thoroughly Enjoyable Time!
- Tips to local landowners & villagers
We also include SFW dad jokes, witty bird puns, and the occasional commentary on things non-bird related!
What's Not Included
- Flights to and from Tour
- Alcoholic Drinks
- Room Service & Additional Food
- Phone Calls
- Tips to Guides & Porters
- Anything not mentioned
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Past Bali & The Lesser Sundas Tours
March 14, 2020
2019 Bali & The Lesser Sundas Recap
Read the Recap
2020 Trip Advisor Travelers' Choice Award Consistently earning great reviews from birders!
Top Rated Wildlife Tour in Salt Lake City
Tim was passionate about the birds, enthusiastic about getting everyone on every bird, professional with planning and guiding, and extremely knowledgeable about the birds. We got all of our targets...
Becky L Most Wanted , 2019
Recent Photos from this Tour
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