Coke & Som Smith Photography & Travelogue

In Search of the Orang Utans, Rhinos & Komodo Dragons


A wild Water Buffalo seen in Rinja (one of the few wild populations of this species left in Asia).

With over 17,000, Indonesia is a travel destination extraordinaire!  I have had the pleasure of traveling to at least ten of these islands over the years. My visits to Indonesia have included the following islands: Java, Sumatra, Bali, Flores, Komodo, Rinja, Ambon, Irian Jaya, Sulawesi, and Kalimantan.  My favorites are Rinja and Sulawesi.  During my visits to the above islands, I have spent time searching for various forms of magnificent wildlife including Sumatran and Bornean Orang Utans (successful), Komodo Dragons (successful), Java Rhinos (unsuccessful), Sumatran Elephants (successful), Sumatran Tigers (successful) and many more.  The birding was great as well. 

A good deal of my time was actually spent designing the below programs for La Selva Expeditions which took me to some amazing places.  Although I was able to assemble only one group for these programs, they were a blast to put together!  Indonesia is truly one of the most amazing countries on the planet.  There are few places that can boast the diversity of habitats and wildlife of Indonesia. 

 

Be sure to visit our Photo Galleries for more spectacular images of our travels! (Pbase Galleries)

 

THE FIVE PEARLS OF INDONESIA

DAY 1: BALI: After arrival from your international flight, the group relaxes in our comfortable Bali hotel where we enjoy a delicious welcome meal. (D)

DAY 2: SULAWESI: MANADO - TANGKOKO: After being met at Manado airport, on the beautiful island of Sulawesi, the group is directly transferred to the Tangkoko Nature reserve. After viewing the spectacular Sulawesi sunset, the group begins to explore the area for the fascinating tarsier monkey (Tarsius spectrum), claimed to be the smallest monkey in the world. The group will be accompanied by local ranger who is an expert on the local flora and fauna. Dinner and overnight at Tangkoko cottage. (B,D)

DAY 3: TANGKOKO: After breakfast the group explores the jungle accompanied by the local ranger. The Tangkoko-Batuangus-Dua Saudara Reserves, encompass 9000 hectares ranging from sea level up to 1100 meters. This spectacular area offers the naturalist the possibility to see not only some of Sulawesi's unique animals and plants, but also a wealth of coral and fish species at Tangkoko beach. Tangkoko is famous for its high density of endemic red-knobbed hornbills as well as many other species. Back to cottage. (B,L,D)

DAY 4: TANKOKO - MANADO - BALIKPAPAN: Free to leisurely relax until transfer to airport for our flight to Balikpapan. Upon arrival at Balikpapan we will be met at the airport and transferred to the hotel. Lunch will be provided at local restaurant. Dinner at hotel. (B,L,D)

DAY 5: BALIKPAPAN - BANJARMASIN: In the morning the group enjoys free time to explore the area at leisure until our transfer to the airport for our flight to Banjarmasin in the afternoon. Upon arrival at Syamsuddin Noor airport, Banjarmasin, the group is met and transferred to our hotel. In the evening there is a chance to see the interesting Banjarmasin nightlife. The afternoon is free to explore the area. (B,L,D)

DAY 6: BANJARMASIN: The group wakes for an early morning walk to boat terminal to join the river tour which visits the famous and interesting floating market of the Kuin village where the group can experience the daily lives of the local people of the area. The cruise continues to Kambang Monkey Island on the Barito River While on our river voyage, the group can witness traditional boat making and coconut oil home industry. After finishing the river tour, the group continues by car to visit Sabilal Muchtadien Grand Mosque, the Rattan carpet factory and Batik Sasirangan cloth industry in the city of Banjarmasin. The group continues for about 40 kilometers to Cempaka village to visit the diamond mining field which is well known in Martapura. (B,L,D)

 

My boat during the week-long cruise to the Komodos for diving and Komodo dragons!

 

DAY 7: BANJARMASIN - PANGKALANBUN - RIMBA LODGE: After breakfast, the group is transferred to airport for our 90 minute flight to Pangkalanbun. Upon arrival at Iskandar airport of Pangkalanbun, the group proceeds to Kumai and begins the adventure cruise on the meandering Sekoyer River to Tanjung arapan. Accommodation at Rimba Lodge. (B,L,D)

DAY 8: RIMBA LODGE - CAMP LEAKY - PANGKALANBUN: After breakfast the group leaves the lodge and begins our cruise on the Sekoyer river where we can feel back to nature and we have a chance to meet various kinds of animals which are protected in world famous Tanjung Puting National Park. Upon reaching Camp Leaky we begin our thrilling trek into the heart of Tanjung Puting National Park. Observing orangutans in their native habitat is truly an experience of a lifetime. There may be opportunities for very close viewing of these fascinating relatives of ours! Afternoon return to Kumai and drive to Pangkalanbun for accommodation. (B,L,D)

DAY 9: PANGKALANBUN - BANJARMASIN - SURABAYA - TRAWAS: The group wakes for our early morning transfer to the airport for our flight back to Banjarmasin with connection to Surabaya. Upon arrival at Surabaya the group is met and transferred with lunch on the way to Trawas. Trawas is located on the slope of Mt. Pananggungan and is shaped like India's mythical Mt. Meru. Here the group will take a short course on the flora and fauna of the tropical rain forest as well as the medicinal plants at the Educational Ecological Institution of Seloliman Trawas. Overnight at Trawas. (B,L,D)

DAY 10: TRAWAS - NGADISARI: Before 7:00 a.m. the group drives to Tumpang where we meet our jeeps which will take us to Gubuk Klalah where we begin our hike to the remote Ngadas village. On the way the group visits the spectacular Pelangi waterfall. After lunch the group continues walking down to the sand sea volcano crater. We continue to drive by jeep to Ngadisari while crossing the sea of sand. Overnight at Ngadisari. (B,L,D)

 

A spectacular Rinja sunset.

DAY 11: JAVA: NGADISARI - BANYUWANGI: The group wakes early to enjoy the spectacular views and sunrise at the summit of Mt. Pananjakan. The view is breath taking! View across the entire volcanic caldera to smoking Gunung Semeru will make memories of a lifetime. The group then heads back to the hotel for our late breakfast. The group then drives to Baluran National Park, a 250 square km reserve in the northeast corner of Java. As the driest part of Java, the Baluran region receives an average of less than 1000 mm of rain each year. The dry savanah-like atmosphere gives this area the name, Indonesia's "little Africa!" The region is also a mountainous area which gives way to vast open forests, scrublands and eventually white sandy beaches washed by the currents of the Bali straits. Baluran features coastal marshes, open rolling savanna, mangrove swamps with large populations of crab-eating monkey, and grasslands with huge wild Javanese oxen. Lunch will be provide on the way to Situbondo. Here the group treks to the observation tower for wildlife observation. The group continues short trekking to several interesting areas. Late afternoon transfer to hotel in Banyuwangi. (B,L,D)

DAY 12: BANYUWANGI - BALI: Six o'clock in the morning the group starts off for Jambu village to visit the Ijen Crater with in the Ijen - Maelang - Raung Nature Reserve Area. We start from the east side by jeep to the end of the road where we continue by hiking the old road. This is about a one and one-half hour walk to the crater. The Ijen plateau is dominated by savanna landscapes, ruggedly beautiful panoramas and a placid, bright yellow crater. We will observe traditional sulfur mining activities at high slope around the crater. Lunch will be provided on the way back to Banyuwangi. The group proceeds for an afternoon crossing of the Bali strait where we drive to Denpasar. Overnight at Denpasar. (B,L,D)

DAY 13: DENPASAR - BIMA - KOMODO: After breakfast the group transfers to airport for our flight to Bima. Upon arrival at Bima airport we will be transferred to Sape harbor where we will board our boat to cross the Sape Strait to Komodo island. Dinner and overnight at ranger's house, or in simple cabin on board. (B,L,D)

DAY 14: KOMODO - RINJA: After breakfast, the Komodo safari starts by half a brief, easy 30 minute walk (around 2 km) to Banunggulung to see the Komodo dragons up close! The dragons were scientifically described in 1912 as Varanus komodoensis, the largest monitor lizard in the world. These giants can grow up to 3 meters long! It is estimated that there are 2000 lizards on Komodo island. The island is also a good place for birdwatching with such birds as cockatoos and gosong birds (Megapodious reinwardti) among hundreds of other species. In the afternoon the group sails to Rinja island. Breakfast, Lunch and dinner on board. (B,L,D)

DAY 15: RINJA: The group experiences a full day of exploration of the island where the Komodo dragons are to be found in more natural conditions. The island also boasts healthy populations of Timor deer as well as water buffalo and wild horses as well as many other species of animals and birds. The landscapes of Rinja are some of the most spectacular in the entire region. (B,L,D)

DAY 16: RINJA, SAPE, BIMA: The group departs in the morning for Sape harbor where continue to Bima for dinner and accommodation. (B,L,D)

DAY 17: BIMA - DENPASAR: After breakfast, the group is transferred to the airport for our return flight to Denpasar. Upon our arrival in Denpasar we are transferred to our hotel for accommodation. Lunch enroute. (B,L,D)

DAY 18: DENPASAR: Early in the morning at 02.00AM the group departs with our guide to climb the oldest and highest crater in Bali to catch the early morning sight of spectacular red skies during the wonderful sunrise view. Afterwards, the group walks the rim of volcanic cone. The group then continues to the second crater (erupted 1926), and eventually to the third crater (1963!) and ultimately to the youngest crater (1974 and 1994!) The group then climbs down and crosses the hilly lava flow fields which resembles a sea of black sand. Afternoon back to hotel. (B,L,D)

DAY 19: DENPASAR : Tour concludes. Arrange for flight home or for onward destinations.(B)

Be sure to visit our Photo Galleries for more spectacular images of our travels! (Pbase Galleries)

 

Here are some images of my visits to some of the islands of Indonesia:

 

 

 

There is little doubt that my time with the Komodo Dragons ranks as my pinnacle of my herp-watching career!

 

 

We watched these two beasts for the better part of an hour, waiting for a brawl that never came.  But I was still impressed with the amazing size of the one on the left - he was well over nine feet in length!


 

 

 

Another lazy giant cooling off in the shade.  Notice how large he is next to my mere six foot-size.


 

 

Some people thrown in for size comparison...

 

 

We finally got a chance to see some aggression.


 

 

A Saltwater Croc basking in the sun in Sulawesi.


 

Although these chaps are semi-wild Sumatran Orang Utans (Pongo abelii) seen in the Bohorok Orang Utan center in Sumatra, we did catch some glimpses of wild ones in Gunung Leuser.

 

 


 

 

These curious Long-tailed Macaques were seen in Bali Barat National Park in west Bali.  Although this is very ravaged island, environmentally speaking, there is a sense of what Bali used to be in Bali Barat.  We saw lots of wildlife there! 

 

 

I enjoyed my stay in Komodo Village.  The people were genuinely friendly and we shared our culture through playing soccer and volleyball on the beach. 


 

 

 

Some Komodo Village children checking out the "Bule" strolling their remote village. 

 

 

 

Komodo Island seen from the air on our approach to Flores Island.  From Flores, we cruised to Komodo for a week filled with trekking to see the dragons and other wildlife and some world-class diving!  What an awesome place!


 

 

This recently wild Sumatran Elephant was seen being "trained" in the Way Kambas elephant training center in Sumatra.  We were fortunate to see one wild herd briefly while there as well.

 

 

 

While searching for the elusive Javan Rhinoceros in Ujon Kulong National Park on Java, we saw many of these Java Rusa Deer (Cervus timorensis rusa).  We did  see lots of wildlife there but no rhinos.  Maybe next time!


 

 

One Komodo Island we saw many Flores Rusa Deer (Cervus timorensis florensiensis), which are the favorite prey of the Dragons.

We saw this cute little Balinese Barking or Muntjac Deer (Muntiacus muntjac nainggolani) grazing along the road in Bali Barat. 

 


 

 

While in Ujon Kulong, we watched this magnificent herd of wild Banteng stroll in for some grazing.  What a spectacular sight.

 

 

Bali Barat is pretty all that is left of the rainforests that covered Bali.  And think, Bali Tigers once strolled these forests.


 

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