March trip to North Sulawesi started with meeting my girlfriend Neja who was volunteering at Tasikoki Animal Rescue Centre. She could only get a few days off so we decided to visit a nearby Tangkoko nature reserve.
Since the distance was small we hired two ojek taxis (motorcycles) which turned to be a memorable drive through numerous coconut plantations and small villages. We decided to stay at Mama Roos homestay which is a friendly place located just opposite of the entrance to Tangkoko reserve.
It is not allowed to walk around the reserve by yourself. It is therefore obligatory to arrange a licenced guide which is a good idea cause they know where are the best chances to spot wildlife. Tangkoko is fairly small place and the animals are used of human presence and there close encounters are almost guaranteed.
The endangered Black Crested Macaque or Celebes Crested Macaque (Macaca nigra) and the nocturnal Spectral Tarsier Monkey (Tarsius tarsier) are the highlights of the reserve but the other wildlife is plenty and sightings of Hornbills, Kingfishers, Tarantulas and Cuscuses are often and rewarding.
A good idea is to make at least two walks. One in the morning and one in the afternoon. You should start the morning one well before sunrise in order to get to a place where the Black Macaques overnight. Soon after the sun is up they will start to make noise and come down the trees slowly one after another. Its a wonderful experience to be so close to them and watch how they interact between themselves. A knowledgeable guide can explain their behaviour and habits so talk to a guide before you make a commitment.
In the afternoon you can also track some Macaques but the main objective should be the Tarsiers. Local guides know exactly where they sleep and there is a reasonable chance to see this tiny primate when they wake up and start their night crusade. Seeing Tarsiers was awesome! They are even small than I imagined and their funny big eyes and funny fingers…
Run for your life – a Tsunami wave is coming!
Also the tiny fishing village close to the reserve was a nice experience. We went for an evening walk there and I ended up photographing local children who were competing who will entertain us better.
A female Black Crested Macaque.
Tangkoko beach with distinctive volcanic black sands. A wonderful place for a swim. Too bad it is littered with plastic bottles and bags.
Inquisitive juvenile Macaque.
Bad hair day – every day
Each Macaque family is carefully studied by a scientist who research their behaviour. We spoke with this young French scientist who explained us a lot of interesting facts about the monkeys and the forest.
Hmmm, this doesn’t taste like I expected…
There was a heavy rain at night and Macaques headed to the beach to dry and to find some seafood delights.
Spectral Tarsier just after the nightfall.
Tarsiers are funny but cute creatures. Nothing on them seems to fit – their huge eyes, extra long tail, frog-like legs or Gecko-like fingertips.
On the way back to our homestay we found this giant Tarantula spider. Surprisingly shy and gentle creature!
We spent Three nights at Tangkoko Nature Reserve and it was well worth it. most of the visitors make a half day trip from Manado – usually enough to see the animals, but not enough to experience the forest and its life! So take my advice and spend at least one night there – you won’t regret it!
Update: Almost forgot to say something about photography… The forest itself is pretty much dark so you will need to use high ISO setting most of the time. The Macaques and the Tarsiers will let you get close and sometimes Macaques will approach you themselves. Do not make any sudden moves. I used 70-200 and 17-55 lenses and a macro lens for a Tarantula shot. Since there is frequent rain and the humidity is around 100% you should take a good care of your equipment. It happened to me that my 70-200 lens got foggy from the inside! I had to take it of and put to the sun to dry for half an hour.