Birdwatching at Tangkoko Nature Reserve

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Tangkoko Birdwatching

Tangkoko Nature Reserve is located in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, and is renowned among birdwatchers for its diverse avian species and unique habitats. In June 2024, my local Malaysian bird club planned a special long trip to Tangkoko Nature Reserve near Manado to observe birds.

While not many birders have visited this incredible destination, I have decided to do a quick and simple summary of my birding trip here. It will be straight to the point and precise without having a long story.

Birdwatching at Tangkoko Nature Reserve

Tangkoko Nature Reserve, located in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, is a biodiverse hotspot known for its rich flora and fauna, including unique primate species and various birds. The exact location is on the northeastern tip of Sulawesi Island, near the town of Bitung and about 70 kilometres from Manado, the provincial capital of North Sulawesi.

Tangkoko Nature Reserve, spanning about 8,700 hectares in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, boasts diverse ecosystems ranging from lowland rainforests and mangrove forests to coastal areas. This variety of habitats supports a rich array of flora and fauna, making it a captivating destination for various types of visitors.

Visitor Profile to Tangkoko:
  • Commercial Nature Lovers from Europe: Tangkoko attracts nature enthusiasts from Europe who are seeking to explore its natural beauty and observe unique wildlife. These visitors often experience the reserve and appreciate its pristine landscapes.
  • Birders and Photographers: With the rise of the internet and social media, Tangkoko has increasingly become a hotspot for birdwatchers and wildlife photographers. These enthusiasts are drawn by the opportunity to spot rare and endemic bird species, such as the Sulawesi Dwarf Kingfisher and Knobbed Hornbill, and capture their sightings and behaviours.
Length of Stay at Tangkoko:

Visitors to Tangkoko typically spend anywhere from five to fourteen days, depending on their specific interests and goals:

  • Birders: Birdwatchers often dedicate several days to exploring different habitats within the reserve, guided by local bird guides who can locate specific bird species and their habitats.
  • Photographers: Bird photographers may stay longer to capture unique moments and behaviours of the unique birdlife, taking advantage of early morning and late afternoon hours when the birds are most active. Sometimes, bird hides may also contribute to the long hours of waiting.
Sulawesi Lilac Kingfisher
The beautiful Lilac Kingfisher was seen at the nature reserve during my trip there.

Bird Species at Tangkoko

Tangkoko is home to a variety of endemic and rare bird species, making it a hotspot for birdwatching enthusiasts. The reserve is also a paradise for birdwatchers and photographers, and over 200 bird species are recorded within the reserve. Some of the notable bird species that can be observed in Tangkoko include:

  • Sulawesi Hornbill: A striking hornbill endemic to Sulawesi with a prominent yellow and black casque.
  • Maleo: An iconic bird known for its unique breeding behaviour, where it buries its eggs in the warm sand.
  • Knobbed Hornbill: Another hornbill species found in the reserve, recognised for its distinctive knob-like casque.
  • Sulawesi Dwarf Kingfisher: A small and colourful kingfisher species endemic to Sulawesi.
  • Lilac Kingfisher: One of the beautiful kingfishers found in the lowlands of the Indonesian islands of Sulawesi and Lembeh.
  • Green-backed Kingfisher: Endemic to Indonesia, restricted to north and central Sulawesi and the islands of Manadotua and Lembeh.
  • Large-billed Kingfisher: Endemic to the Sulawesi region of Indonesia and can be found on the island of Sulawesi and in the Sula Archipelago.
Sulawesi Green-backed Kingfisher
A Green-backed Kingfisher at the nature reserve.

Birdwatching Experience

Visitors to Tangkoko Nature Reserve can enjoy guided birdwatching tours led by experienced local guides familiar with the area and its avian inhabitants. The reserve offers excellent opportunities for observing birds in their natural habitat, with sightings often including endemic species not found elsewhere.

Engaging with a local bird guide is crucial for maximising your birdwatching experience at Tangkoko Nature Reserve in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, and below are the reasons why.

  1. Expert Knowledge: Local bird guides know the reserves, bird habitats, and behaviours. They possess specialised knowledge that helps them locate rare and endemic bird species, ensuring you have a higher chance of spotting them during your visit.
  2. Finding Specific Birds: Tangkoko is home to numerous bird species, including endemics like the Knobbed Hornbill and Sulawesi Dwarf Kingfisher. A knowledgeable bird guide can identify bird calls, recognise subtle movements, and navigate through the forest to find these elusive species.
  3. Enhanced Experience: Guided birdwatching tours offer a structured and educational experience. Guides can provide insights into bird ecology, behaviour, and conservation, enriching your understanding and appreciation of the local avifauna.
  4. Safety and Conservation: Guides prioritise visitor safety and adherence to conservation guidelines within the reserve. They ensure minimal disturbance to wildlife habitats and promote responsible tourism practices.
  5. Accessibility: TangkokoTangkoko’scan be challenging to navigate without guidance, particularly for those unfamiliar with the area. Guides know the best routes and viewpoints for birdwatching, optimising your time and effort.
  6. Local Support: Hiring a local guide supports the community economically and encourages sustainable tourism practices. Local guides often have a deep connection to the land and wildlife, offering a more authentic and immersive experience.

In summary, while Tangkoko Nature Reserve offers exceptional birdwatching opportunities, engaging a local bird guide is essential for a successful and rewarding experience. Their expertise, knowledge of birding hotspots, and passion for conservation will significantly enhance your chances of encountering rare and endemic bird species, making your visit to Tangkoko truly memorable.

Birdwatching in Sulawesi
A Knobbed Hornbill, photographed in the Tangkoko Nature Reserve.

Conservation and Accessibility

Conservation efforts are crucial in Tangkoko to protect its diverse ecosystems and endemic species. The reserve is accessible by road from nearby towns like Bitung and Manado, making it convenient for visitors interested in exploring its natural wonders.

In summary, Tangkoko Nature Reserve stands out as a prime birdwatching destination in Indonesia. Its diverse habitats allow enthusiasts to observe a wide range of endemic and rare bird species.


I hope this information will come in handy for anyone planning to do birdwatching at Tangkoko Nature Reserve. Again, please note that two types of guides are found here. One is the nature guide, which generally covers flora and fauna but is not a specialist. The other is a purely bird guide, and this is what you should engage.

About Bird Watching Asia

Bird Watching Asia is a self-funded project to promote bird watching in Malaysia and around Asia.

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