Sulawesi & Halmahera

In the Footsteps of Wallace

A centrepiece of our visit will be Bantimurung-Bulusarung National Park. In 1857, Alfred Wallace was the first western naturalist to explore this beautiful area and wrote extensively about it in ‘The Malay Archipelago’. A national park for hardly more than a decade, it is nevertheless one of the most important in the region. A boat trip is the best way to see the amazing rugged karst limestone of Ramang-Ramang, which combined with tropical greenery and abundant water make for a fabulous landscape. Bantimurung’s waterfalls are famed for their beauty and for their butterflies – it was Wallace who first referred to Bantimurung as the ‘Kingdom of Butterflies’.

© Phil Benstead

We may see rather less than his 256 documented species but we can hope for groups of Graphium swallowtails mud-puddling and of photographing impressive Birdwings such as Troides haliphron and the gorgeous Troides hypolitusGraphium androcles is a fantastic thing, zebra-striped with long white tails. We’ll want to spend quality time with the endemic Sulawesi Moor Macaque which inhabits forests close to the waterfalls alongside birds such as Sulawesi Dwarf Hornbill and the Piping Crow. Red-knobbed Hornbills fly over as we look for the Bear Cuscus which is often visible along trails in Sungai Pattunuang Asue. Here we’ll also encounter a rich variety of Odonata and butterflies such as Papilio sataspes, iridescent green Papilio blumei, and intricately-scripted Cethosia myrana.

The enchanting landscapes and culture of Tana Toraja is unmissable. Elegantly painted houses with arching boat-shaped roofs house the friendly Torajans, a tribe who until very recently were animists and whose preoccupation with death is taken to an unusual level – we’ll see the extraordinary cliff cemeteries during our visit and likely one of their funerals which are a spectacle in themselves.

The Spectral Tarsier is the embodiment of cuteness, these tiny little bouncing balls are the World’s smallest primate and the amazing Tangkoko-Duasudara Nature Reserve is the place to see them. Local guides know their resting sites and so morning and evening you can see and photograph them at close quarters as they start or finish their daily activities. Another World-famous mammal is endemic to this area, Celebes Crested Macaque, an entirely black primate that likes to pose on Tangkoko’s black sand beaches, a combination that ensures this monkey’s striking reddish eyes are admired fully! We’ll see Common Birdwings, the pure white Phalaenopsis amabilis orchid, Sulawesi Lined Flying Lizard, the attractive Lantern Bug Scamandra tethis, and the gorgeous Sulawesi (Blue-breasted) Pitta. Indeed Tangkoko has some amazing birding with Ochre-bellied Booboks, Racket-tailed and Blue-backed Parrots, and Purple-winged Roller, however it is the kingfishers that really take the biscuit, including the fantastic Great-billed, the diminutive Sulawesi Dwarf, Collared, Blue-eared and three absolute stunners – Green-backed, Ruddy, and Lilac-cheeked Kingfishers.

Sulawesi Pitta

Halmahera, the largest of the Molucca Islands, looks on a map rather as an ideal template for Game of Thrones or perhaps Lord of the Rings! Reaching it, we cross Weber’s Line (also known as Wallace’s Line), marking the boundary between Australian and Oriental faunal regions. There are over forty species of bird found only on Halmahera and many of these are truly beautiful. The standout species has to the Wallace’s Standardwing, a bird whose voice is as ugly as his plumage is sensational! Almost equally gorgeous are Ivory-breasted and Moluccan Pittas, and Kingfishers include Sombre, Blue & White, and Beach. Butterflies are everywhere around Tolire Lake, a glorious blue circle of water surrounded by cliffs cloaked in greenery on the side of the highest volcano in the northern Moluccas. Resident Dugongs cruise the waters of Bunaken Island, as do no less than five species of Turtle. The island’s waters are noted for their clarity and for their tropical fish diversity and incredible nudibranch fauna.

Dates and Prices

17th March - 2nd April 2025 (17 days)

London - London £6,995
Singapore - Singapore £6,280
Makassar - Manado £5,940
Single Supplement* £995
Deposit £700

* doesn't apply if you're willing to share and a room-mate can be arranged

or ask us a question.

Please note; dates and prices are provisional and will be confirmed by August 2024

Tour Summary

Day 1
Depart UK
Days 2-4
Makassar: Bantimurung-Bulusarung NP, Sungai Pattunuang Asue and Ramang-Ramang
Days 5-7
Rantepao for Tana Toraja. Flight back to Makassar on Day 7
Days 8-9
Bunaken Island
Day 10
Manado to Ternate and on to Halmahera
Days 11-13
Halmahera: Weda Resort (snorkelling and standardwings) & Tolire Lake
Days 14-15
Tangkoko-Duasudara Nature Reserve.
Day 16
To Manado and Singapore
Day 17
Arrive Europe

Tour information


Birds, Mammals, Butterflies and Coral Reefs. Also some Cultural Sites.


Phil Benstead , Local Leaders

Group Size

The minimum is 5 and the maximum is 9.

Included in the Price

All flights. All accommodation, transport and meals in Sulawesi & Halmahera. Services of the leaders. Please note: Drinks, tips, and items of a personal nature such as travel insurance, are not included. Butterfly and bird checklists are available.


Three nights at the start and a night in the middle of the tour will be at the Grand City Hotel in Makassar. This hotel has light modern rooms and is a very comfortable base. We’ve two nights at Rantepao at the Toraja Heritage, a fabulous hotel set 700m in these green mountains. Architecturally the hotel follows the local Torajan Clan House style with huge ‘ship’s-prow’ roofs. The rooms are of a very high standard and have balconies to enjoy the magnificent countryside in which the hotel is set. Next are two nights at the Bunaken Island Resort. This is an upmarket dive lodge with spacious bungalow-rooms set around the idyllic grounds. Our time on Halmahera is split between two little hotels, one at Sofifi on the mainland opposite the small island of Ternate and the other at the excellent Weda Resort, a dive lodge surrounded by fine habitat, both underwater and above! Our two nights in Tangkoko will be in chalets. All rooms/chalets on this tour have en-suite facilities and AC or ceiling fans.


No more than three or four miles in any one day, usually much less, and always at a relaxed pace ideally suited to photographers.


UK return flights are from London Heathrow to Makassar via Singapore returning from Manado via Singapore. The same routing is also available from most major European Airports*. Other indirect routes from regional UK Airports* are available. There are a number of internal flights around the islands on this itinerary.

*These routes may incur a supplement.


Warm to hot in the lowlands, although it rarely exceeds 29°C. Humidity varies from medium to high. It is a little cooler in Tana Toraja. Expect a mixture of sun and cloud with occasional showers or heavier storms.

How to Book

Contact us to check if there is availability for the number of places you require. Click on the ‘Book this Tour’ button on this page to be taken to the online booking form or contact us and we will send one to you which you can complete and send back to us. You will receive confirmation of your place, and then a detailed information pack will be dispatched to you about twelve weeks before departure. This will contain up-to-date health information.

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