Six days in North Sulawesi at two main locations followed by five days in Borneo (Sabah) at two locations and six flights during this trip. What was initially planned as a short trip to Sulawesi to see Tarsiers in the wild quickly changed into a full herping trip. Frank wanted to go somewhere new so decided to join Kat and I, then we decided to join him in his on going Borneo (Sabah) quests. Overall an amazing trip, Sulawesi being especially good with it’s many endemic species and at times we felt like the only foreigners around. The discovery of species not known previously would probably be quite easily achieved there.
Borneo was challenging as predicted with very heavy rains but with some solid efforts we could find a nice number of species in the limited nights we had there.
The success of the trip would not have been possible without the help of Ateng, Roy and Bayu from Sulawesi. Thanks also to Peter, John, Kenneth, Tom and Kurt for some sneaky hints on Borneo.
North Sulawesi (14th-20th December)
Sulawesi is a fascinating island, a clear bridge between S-E Asia and Australasia with species from both continents as well as a high number of endemics. Overall species numbers seem to be lower compared to Borneo to the west and Papua New Guinea to the East but one of those endemics.
Soon after arriving in North Sulawesi I realised that I would need much more than 5 days to really give this place the attention it deserves. We mostly drove around the far north peninsula, basing ourselves close to Tangkoko NP and a few hours further south. Wildlife here is largely dominated by endemic species across all animal groups and although the Broad-banded temple viper (Tropidolaemus laticinctus) was the main such endemic, I was pleased to a number of endemic birds and mammals as well. Finding the mentioned viper was not easy, we found three Bornean keeled pit vipers (Tropidolaemus subannulatus) before we finally hit the jackpot on the fourth night with the much desired species. Other notable reptile highlights were stumbling across a King cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) on our first day as we explored looking for tarsiers one morning. These cobras have rarely been recorded from Sulawesi, and they show a uniform dark colouration without any patterning. Several Brown tree snakes (Boiga irregularis), an endemic Jansen’s ratsnake (Gonyosoma janseni), Paradise flying snake (Chrysopelea paradisi celebensis) a Reticulated python (Python reticulatus) as well as the omnipresent Mock vipers (Psammodynastes pulverulentus) and Vine snakes (Ahaetulla prasina).
I am hugely grateful to Ateng for showing us the mammal and birdlife of Tangkoko NP and to Roy and Baju who helped us one day during the second three days further south.
Borneo (Sabah) (21st-26th December)
I had heard that searching on Borneo was hard. It turned out all those people were right! However the higher altitude areas of Sabah are great for amphibians and I finally managed to find the iconic and widespread Malayan horned frog (Megophrys nasuta). Frank’s obsessive target in Sabah was Malcolm’s pit viper (Trimeresurus malcolmi) which he had missed during his two previous visits to Borneo, we finally struck lucky with that species on our final night. Overall snake numbers seemed to be low compared to other places in S-E Asia despite a huge array of species occurring there and most people visiting here complain of the struggles of searching for long periods without finding a legless reptile. Fortunately we had a very successful final two nights, which compensated for our poor results in the first few days.