Friday, June 25, 2010

The Strange Denizens of Tangkoko

We hired a boat to take us deep into the jungle to the Tangkoko Nature Reserve.  North Sulawesi is a very wild place, and perhaps no place embodies this characteristic more than Tangkoko, a last refuge for several endemic creatures.  On the way, the ocean batted our boat around like a plaything. Eventually, we skidded up on the shell and coral shore of Tangkoko, taking deep steps across the unique beach, attempting to get a foothold.

We met up with a local guide to show us around, his name was Atene and he was from Batu Puti.  Immediately upon entering the park we were surrounded by Black Crested Macaques, which are sort of a strange black coiffed monkey with an interesting brow ridge and a bit of a mohawk.  We met a student from Manado that studies the macaques from 5am to 5pm daily.  His name was Deidy, and his job was to take a census of the animals while also naming each and logging their daily behavior and interactions.  Every 2 minutes, an alarm would go off, and he would have to record something about one of the animals.  Sounds like a long day.  Tangkoko is sort of a last refuge for the Black Crested Macaque, and they are only found in Sulawesi.  It is critically endangered due to hunting for bushmeat and destruction of habitat. 

After watching the macaques for a while, we moved on to search for Tarsiers, which are the smallest, and probably strangest looking monkey.  They look like Gremlins before you feed them at midnight, and they live 6 to a family in large hollowed out trees.  They are the only carnivorous primates, and they feed in a ravenous display of agility that seems a bit out of place for such a wide eyed little guy.  We fed one a few grasshoppers, and he would jump out of his tree, tear them apart and quickly jump back.  These things are very surreal.

Strangely, after seeing two of the most unique and amazing beasts in the world, both were upstaged by a bird.  I had never seen or heard anything quite like a Hornbill in my entire life.  As we walked along a very dense portion of the rainforest where you could hardly make out the sky beyond the trees reaching up towards the clouds, we heard an insane noise.  We both looked at our guide like,  "Pterodactyl?"  If airplanes could flap their wings, then it would probably sound like a male hornbill on his way home from dinner.  Whoosh Whoosh Whoosh.  I had never heard anything quite like it.  And beyond the sound it makes, the bird has a colorful palette to match its grand entrances.  It is hard to gauge by the picture below, but these birds are huge.

Unfortunately, we could not find a bear kuskus, which is like a Koala Bear mixed with an opossum.  We also struck out trying to locate a very strange local owl.  We were told that it sleeps all day, but aimlessly waddles around the forest floor at night like a drunk man, bullying all who cross its path.

 Ex-furmonster of the day, Foxy, enjoying the beach with a friend

 Such understanding eyes 

 This bird sort of just majestied the place up
 Coming back from a dive empty handed and 


 This was our room in Pulisan.

 It is pretty basic 

 Our beach from the water 

 Taking a boat ride to Tangkoko Nature Reserve, a refuge for many endemic creatures

 We had a pretty rocky boat ride on the way to Tangkoko, which is directly ahead here.  

 The sand was a mix between ash, shells, and coral.  It felt crazy underfoot.

Entering the rainforest

 A Black Tailed Macaque goes in for a snack.

 These things have very human mannerisms 

 This fat one looked like he was getting a massage.

 We saw about 50 of these macaques

 We caught them right before they climb up into a huge tree to sleep.  They seemed to be cleaning up before bed.  It is a group effort.

This guy looks like a big deal

 They seemed to be indifferent to our presence.  Deidy, the student, told us that there are 3 groups of about 30.  The shy group that you do not see, the content group pictured here, and the crazies that will steal your camera and like having flash bulbs blown in their direction.  We only met the content, but we could hear the Crazies.

 This guy looked like he was on the verge of tears.

 Emo Macaque 

 The babies have white faces and stay with mom.

 This one ventures a little out 

 They have really weird butts 

Kristin and the student, Deidy

 As we moved up the hill, the forest began to close in on us 

 A gecko just crapped on my keyboard from the ceiling 

 The trees here are very large and very old 

 Our guide was in flip flops.  We had to spray all sorts of repellent on our naked feet, wear thick socks, and than tuck our pants into the socks. 

 A tree spirals towards the canopy 

 We were told this little fella was a rare sight that birders fawn over 

 A King Fisher of some kind that rarely comes down from the mountain 

 A sense of scale 

 It was difficult to photograph because I never use flash and so little sunlight reaches through the canopy and to the ground level 

 Some sort of vine that looks like a trap 

 Kristin's tree of the day - a short lived feature

 This is the type of tree that Tarsiers live inside, about 6 will live inside the tree
 We found one peeking out. They are very small, and their eyes are literally bigger than their stomach.

 The only completely carnivorous primate 
 Catching a grasshopper 

 About to bring it home.  They are remarkably quick.

 We were very lucky to find two hornbills roosting so close to the ground 

 A male and a female.  The one at left is male.

 I have never seen anything like this in my life.
 The Female 

The sound of their flight is one of the most impressive things that I have ever heard.

 Taking off shoes to wade to our boat 

 The Tangkoko shoreline 
 Fishing house 

 That is a serious fisherman 

 We got to ride home at sunset, and the sea had calmed down

 The wild hills 

 Tangkoko Nature Reserve and a fishing hut

 We finally made it home, where I stuck to my rice and peanut butter sandwich diet.

 Furmonster of the Day - Birdie.  The next day, Katrin captured him for a bath and we saw him race out onto the beach to dirty himself up again directly afterward.



  1. Cute furmonster and interesting birds and little animals. The monkeys look like some people I know. Hope you are still feeling good. Stay with the peanut butter! Gabs says "hi". We are having a great time; but miss your Mom.


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