Trip Report: Flores and Komodo (Indonesia), November 1999

Tim Allwood, Olive Lodge, Stukeley Road, Huntingdon, Cambs, PE29 6HG, UK;


During 1999 and 2000 I was resident in Indonesia, and in Nov 99 I made a three-week trip with my partner Claire Stephenson to the island of Flores in the Lesser Sundas in order to see some of the endemic birds of the region.

Due to unrest in Indonesia over the last couple of years the number of visitors has declined markedly. There are however many areas that are perfectly safe to visit at the time of writing, and the Lesser Sundas are one of these. The islands are still relatively unknown, and there is a real potential to improve ornithological knowledge of the area.

Flores is not so easy to reach but it is easy to get around, very cheap, and the people are friendly and helpful and notably restrained when compared to Javans.

The birding is wonderful and reasonably straightforward.

Essential Info

Malaria is present. Doxycycline is the current drug of choice and very cheap in Jakarta but can lead to nasty sunburn if you're not careful. I found an umbrella to be very useful as a sunshield. Otherwise no probs, apart from potential tidal-waves, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes....


The essential refs are Birding Indonesia by Paul Jepson and Birds of Wallacea by Coates and Bishop. Birds of Sumatra, Java and Bali may also be of some limited use. Paul's guide has all the site directions you need and other invaluable info to boot.


I managed to get hold of a good tape from some birders whom I met in Java but I dont know where it was from. If you're intending to visit drop me a line and I'll get a copy to you.

Getting there

We caught a ferry from Surabaya in eastern Java, booked in advance in Jakarta. The booking process was incredibly difficult, and it was impossible to secure a return ticket - not a problem as you can get back o.k but you'll have to sleep on deck as you'll not be able to get a cabin. We had a cabin on the way and it was very comfortable. The interior of the boats can be very cramped, and I'm sure you'd rather sleep on deck after seeing and smelling the conditions. When embarking/disembarking wait until the Indonesians have finished as the melee can be pretty scary with fighting commonplace, such is the demand for a piece of prime floorspace etc.

The journey was excellent for birds and cetaceans and worth doing in its own right.

Otherwise It's probably easier to fly.

Getting Around

It's possible to hitch more or less everywhere and it's polite to offer something such as cigarettes or a small amount of cash. Buses will pick you up from the side of the road and are very cheap. Bemos can be chartered for about Rp50,000 ($6) per half day if you like.

Sites Visited

We concentrated on western Flores as this is where all the endems can be encountered, and it also has most of the remaining forests. All the sites are well described in Paul Jepson's book so I won't go over the boring stuff here.


Your probable point of arrival and a good base. Lots of cheap places to stay, notably the Gardena in the centre of town; great food and view and nice little cabins. The dirt track that leads to the New Bajo Beach Hotel south of town is a good spot for Elegant Pitta/Moluccan Scops Owl, and after c.2kms it leads to a small wetland area that was very productive at the end of the dry season. The scrubby hills around town are also a good area to bird and hold the commoner species.

Road to Rareng

Get a lift from the road in town on a bemo or bus for c.10 km until you reach this junction on the north side of the road. Cost is minimal or even free if you get a friendly driver as I did. Simply alight here and walk up the road, birding as you go. I did come across one very vicious dog here so watch out! A good site for Green Junglefowl, Wallace's Hanging Parrot, Flores Crow and Great-billed Parrot among others. To return just walk back to the main road and wait for a lift.


A couple of wetlands a few km south of 'bajo and best accessed by boat. The guys at the dive shop almost opposite the Gardena took us for about Rp25,000 each.


A telecommunications station between 'bajo and Ruteng best known as the site for Flores Monarch. Catch any bus to Ruteng and get off at the entrance road. Bird this road (100 m long) and the trail into the forest at the top off the road. We found this area quiet for passerines but good for raptors. The monarch was very elusive and it took around 7-8 hrs to discover.


Four hours give or take a puncture or two from 'bajo. Best place to stay is probably the Hotal Dahlia. There's a good restuarant a few doors up with mainly Chinese food. You could eat at one of the basic Padang places in town but they're not the best intro to this excellent food. There are several sites in the area; the hills to the south of town are excellent for many of the endemics. The forest here is being hacked to death, and the trail described by Jepson has now been totally cleared, as has the north side of the mountain. There is already some quite bad erosion to be seen.

Pong Toda

Worth a half day but note that it is west, not east of Ruteng as in Jepson's book. The track that he mentions leading into Casuarina forest is a little tricky to find and a couple of hundred metres further than stated. This was the only place I saw Black-backed Fruit-dove.

Lake Ranamese

An excellent place, very picturesque and peaceful. We had all the Dark-eyes here as well as White-backed Kingfisher and Bare-throated Whistler.

Gunung Ranaka

Another essential stop. The access road is now virtually impossible to pass. We cajoled our driver into reaching km 6 of 8 but it was such difficult going we'd have been better to walk. Good for Chestnut-backed Thrush but we had more luck with them south of Ruteng.

Komodo and Rinca

Well, you have to go and see the dragons don't you? Small islands, so not many species but quality rather than quantity. Komodo is probably the best place in the world now to catch up with Yellow-crested Cockatoo, and you should see Great-billed Heron in the vicinity. Our guide, who was a good birder despite not having any bins claimed Timor Black Pigeon occurs?

Other Islands

There are several very small islands to visit for snorkelling etc which is absolutely fantastic here. Ask at the dive shop in 'bajo.

List of Birds Observed (follows Coates and Bishop 1997)

Endemics to Flores/Sumbawa underlined

  1. Bulwer's Petrel - 1 north of Komodo
  2. Streaked Shearwater - Small groups in Flores Sea
  3. Wedge-tailed Shearwater - Small groups in Flores Sea
  4. Red-throated Little Grebe - 2 Ranamese, 2 Dolat
  5. Red-tailed Tropicbird - 1 north of Sumbawa
  6. Great Frigatebird - 1 positive ID off 'bajo
  7. Lesser Frigatebird - Frequently encountered
  8. Little Pied Cormorant - 1 Ranamese, a few south of 'bajo
  9. Red-footed Booby - Frequently encountered in Flores Sea
  10. Brown Booby - Frequently encountered in Flores Sea
  11. Abbotts'Booby - 1 north of Flores appeared to be this sp.
  12. Great-billed Heron - c.6 between 'bajo and Rinca, 1 Komodo
  13. Purple Heron - A few around 'bajo and Dolat
  14. Intermediate Egret - A few around 'bajo and Dolat
  15. White-faced Heron - 1 Dolat
  16. Little Egret - Frequently encountered
  17. Pacific Reef Egret - Common around islands
  18. Cattle Egret - Max. 50 near Dolat
  19. Javan Pond-Heron - 2 near Dolat
  20. Little Heron - A few here and there
  21. Rufous Night Heron - 3 ads and 2 imms at Dolat; only a couple of previous recs and none of breeding
  22. Cinnamon Bittern - 1 flushed near Dolat
  23. Woolly-necked Stork - 2 near Dolat
  24. Oriental Honey-buzzard - 11 in off the sea from west
  25. Black-winged Kite - 2 south of 'bajo
  26. Brahminy Kite - Several encountered
  27. White-bellied Sea-Eagle - 7 around Rinca, 2 Komodo
  28. Chinese Goshawk - A pair at Puarolo (first island rec?)
  29. Variable Goshawk - A few; Rareng road, Komodo
  30. Brown Goshawk Poss - 1 at Ranamese
  31. Japanese Sparrowhawk - 2 south of 'bajo, 1 road to Rareng
  32. Bonelli's Eagle - 1 near Ruteng
  33. Rufous-bellied Eagle - 2 at Puarolo
  34. Changeable Hawk-eagle - 1 stunner at c.2200 m on Gunung Ranaka
  35. Spotted Kestrel - Scaterred individuals, 1 Rinca
  36. Wandering Whistling Duck - c.400 south of 'bajo, 100 Dolat
  37. Lesser Whistling Duck - c.200 south of 'bajo, 50 Dolat
  38. Sunda Teal - c.20 south of 'bajo, 20 Dolat
  39. Pacific Black Duck - c.20 south of 'bajo, 30 Dolat
  40. Orange-footed Scrubfowl - A few Komodo
  41. Green Junglefowl - c.6 Komodo, 4 Road to Rareng
  42. Buff-banded Rail - 1 south of 'bajo
  43. White-browed Crake - 1 south of 'bajo
  44. White-breasted Waterhen - Few Ranamese
  45. Common Moorhen - Few Ranamese, few south of 'bajo
  46. Black-winged Stilt - 9 south of 'bajo (sub. sp. Leoucocephalus)
  47. Pacific Golden Plover - 2 south of 'bajo
  48. Kentish (Javan) Plover - 9 south of 'bajo (first island rec)
  49. Greater Sand-Plover - 2 south of 'bajo
  50. Whimbrel - 4 Sumbawa, 1 Rinca
  51. Common Redshank - Few south of 'bajo
  52. Common Greenshank - Few south of 'bajo
  53. Marsh Sandpiper - up to 15 south of 'bajo on two days (second island rec?)
  54. Wood Sandpiper - Several south of 'bajo
  55. Red-necked Stint - 2 south of 'bajo
  56. Broad-billed Sandpiper - 1 south of 'bajo (first island rec)
  57. Red-necked Phalarope - 1000s recorded at sea/between islands
  58. Pomarine Jaeger - 1 north of Lombok, 1 north of Komodo
  59. Whiskered Tern - Few north of Lombok and Bali
  60. White-winged Black Tern - Only 1 positive ID near Surabaya
  61. Gull-billed Tern - Few north of Lombok and Bali
  62. Sterna sp - 3 north of Bali (Common/Roseate)
  63. Black-naped Tern - Numerous at sea and on islets
  64. Sooty Tern - 2 north of Komodo
  65. Greater Crested Tern - Common offshore
  66. Lesser Crested Tern - Several at sea between 'bajo and Komodo
  67. Brown Noddy - 1 between 'bajo and Komodo
  68. White-throated Pigeon - 1 on Komodo (first island record)
  69. Island Collared Dove - A few Komodo
  70. Spotted Dove - Common Flores, also Rinca and Komodo
  71. Ruddy Cuckoo-dove - Several Ranamese
  72. Barred Dove - Common Flores, also Rinca and Komodo
  73. Black-backed Fruit-dove - 3 Pong Toda
  74. Black-naped Fruit-dove - Several on road to Rareng
  75. Green Imperial Pigeon - Several on road to Rareng, also Komodo
  76. Rainbow Lorikeet - Several around Ruteng
  77. Yellow-crested Cockatoo - c.15 on Komodo - all small groups
  78. Great-billed Parrot - c.18 on Road to Rareng - low elevation
  79. Rusty-breasted Cuckoo - 1 prob imm above Ruteng
  80. Oriental Cuckoo - Common in montane forest
  81. Common Koel - Common by voice - don't sound like the Australian subspecies
  82. Lesser Coucal - Few seen on road to Rareng
  83. Moluccan Scops-owl - 1 spotlighted south of 'bajo ,several heard
  84. Large-tailed Nightjar - 1 above 'bajo
  85. Edible-nest Swiftlet - Common
  86. Glossy Swiftlet - Common
  87. Fork-tailed Swift - 4 Komodo (first island record)
  88. White-rumped Kingfisher - 1 Ranamese
  89. Stork-billed Kingfisher - 1 Dolat
  90. Collared Kingfisher - Common around the coast
  91. Blue-tailed Bee-eater - Common around the coast
  92. Common Dollarbird - 4 road to Rareng
  93. Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker - A few here and there
  94. Elegant Pitta - Many heard, 2 seen south of 'bajo. Almost crepuscular in behaviour.
  95. Australasian Bushlark - Komodo, also near Dolat
  96. Barn Swallow - Common
  97. Pacific Swallow - Common
  98. Striated Swallow - Several encountered
  99. Grey Wagtail - 1 at c.2000 m on Gunung Ranaka
  100. Richards Pipit - A few on Rinca
  101. Wallacean Cuckoo-Shrike - 4 on Rinca
  102. Pale-shouldered Cicadabird - 4 Pong Toda, 5 Ranamese
  103. White-shouldered Triller - 1 Sumbawa
  104. Little Minivet - Several Pong Toda, road to Rareng
  105. Wallacean Drongo - Common
  106. Black-naped Oriole - Common
  107. Flores Crow - 5 seen, others heard, road to Rareng
  108. Large-billed Crow - 4 south of 'bajo
  109. Great Tit - Several
  110. Pygmy Wren-Babbler - Common in montane areas
  111. White-browed Shortwing - Only heard high on Gunung Ranaka
  112. Chestnut-capped Thrush - Only 3 seen in a cage in 'bajo
  113. Chestnut-backed Thrush - 1 on Gunung Ranaka, 3 in cages in Ruteng
  114. Flyeater - Common in coastal areas
  115. Mountain Tailorbird - Common in coastal areas
  116. Arctic Warbler - Just a single, road to Rareng
  117. Timor Leaf-Warbler - Common in montane areas
  118. Russet-capped Tesia - Common
  119. Yellow-breasted Warbler - Several in montane areas
  120. Golden-headed Cisticola - Many around Pong Toda
  121. Zitting Cisticola - Common
  122. Little Pied Flycatcher - 2 Ranamese
  123. Black-naped Monarch - Several
  124. Asian Paradise Flycatcher - 1 road to Rareng
  125. Flores Monarch - 2 Puarolo telecom station
  126. Brown-capped Fantail - Common in montane areas
  127. Common Golden Whistler - Several, especially at Puarolo
  128. Bare-throated Whistler - Common south of Ruteng, also Ranamese
  129. White-breasted Wood-swallow - Several around 'bajo and Rinca
  130. Hill Myna - 4 road to Rareng, common in cages
  131. Helmeted Friarbird - Common, also on Komodo
  132. Scaly-crowned Honeyeater - Common in montane areas
  133. Brown-throated Sunbird - A few
  134. Olive-backed Sunbird - A few
  135. Flame-breasted Sunbird - Common
  136. Golden-rumped Flowerpecker - 1 road to Rareng
  137. Black-fronted Flowerpecker - Common
  138. Blood-breasted Flowerpecker - 1 Gunung Ranaka
  139. Oriental White-eye - Several
  140. Mountain White-eye - Common at Ranamese with above sp.
  141. Yellow-spectacled White-eye - Common in lowlands
  142. Lemon-bellied White-eye - Common around 'bajo and Komodo
  143. Yellow-browed Dark-eye - Several in montane areas
  144. Crested Dark-eye - Only at Ranamese c.6
  145. Thick-billed Dark-eye - 1 south of Ruteng, 1 Ranamese and 1 at Puarolo
  146. Tree Sparrow - Common
  147. Zebra Finch - Many on Komodo
  148. Black-faced Munia - Common in lowlands
  149. Scaly-breasted Munia - Lots above Ruteng/Pong Toda
  150. Five Coloured Munia - 1 above Ruteng
  151. Possible Red Avadavat - Above Ruteng


  1. Brydes Whale - 2 very close to shore near Java
  2. Sperm Whale - 1 north of Bali
  3. Dolphin spp - 1000s
  4. False Killer Whale - 3 thought to be this sp north of Komodo
  5. Minke Whale - 1 thought to be this sp north of Lombok

Species Missed:

Wallace's Hanging Parrot: I didn't get a sniff of these on the road to Rareng where they have been observed. Richard Grimmett did encounter some shortly afterwards. This was my big miss.

Flores Green Pigeon: Very rarely observed lowland species usually recorded from lowland sites east of Ruteng. See Kukila (1998/99)

Flores Scops Owl: Virtually unknown; 3 specimens from the 19th Century and I think there is a recent record too?.

Wallace's Scops Owl: Can be recorded on the road to Rareng but I didn't get out there at night

Russet-backed Jungle-Flycatcher: The only bird I missed that I could really have expected to see. Supposed to be reasonably common around Ranamese.

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This page served with permission of the author by Urs Geiser;; December 5, 2000