Trip Report: Sumba & Timor (Indonesia), July 13-24, 1991

Niels Poul Dreyer, Brisbane, Australia;


In July 1991 Dion Hobcroft, Sydney; Peter Lancely, Melbourne; Niels Poul Dreyer, N.T., visited Sumba and Timor in Indonesia in order to find endemic birds.

The journey produced 134 birds including 43 endemics. The weather was dry and not too hot in the hills, but on Gunung Mutis it was cloudy and cool at night time.

We flew out from Darwin to Kupang and continued the next day to Waingapu Sumba for 4 days birding. Then we returned to Kupang Timor for 7 days stay. It is very cheap to travel with Bus in Timor and Sumba as it costs between 100 to 200 Rp for 20 km drive. However we hired a taxi to get quickly out to the birding spots on Sumba, which cost about Rp 50000 for 3 h drive. We saw 7 endemic birds there including the shy Sumba Hornbill, Sumba Boobook (call very different), Sumba Green Pigeon, Red-naped Fruit Dove (stunning), Sumba Cicadabird (barred belly), Sumba Flycatcher, Apricot-breasted Sunbird. Near Wangapo we went for a morning trip to Yumbu 14 km east of town. On the fields we were very lucky to spot 2 Sumba Botton Quails within 5 min. search.

On Timor we visited 3 main birding sites, which were Camplong Hills, Gunung Mutis, and the lowland forest near Bipolo. We saw 25 endemics out of 30 possible species. The accommodation is basic but adequate in the towns, but it was necessary to camp in a forest 7 km east of Lewa on Sumba and at Gunung Mutis Timor. Hotels cost about Rp 2000 to 3000 pr room, and meals almost the same. Bentang Beer cost Rp 2500. We spent about 650 Australian dollars each on the trip from Darwin for 11 days all inclusive, which is very cheap given that we stayed at the best hotels and hired taxis many times.

The exchange rate was Rp 1960 = 1 US dollar. No visa was required for Australian or Danish passport holders in 1991.

No vaccinations was taken, but it is important to take anti malaria tablets, but avoid camping at Bipolo, as several birders have caught Malaria in that area. Avoid drinking unboiled water at any cost. Otherwise it is a very safe and nice place for birdwatching.

This report does include following parts:

  1. Itinerary
  2. Report of the bird sites.
  3. List of Birds

Bird Books used:


13.07.91   15.30-17.00     Garuda Flight from Darwin to
                           Kupang. Taxi to Hostel.
14.07.91   07.00-08.30     Flight to Waingapo. Taxi to
                           Hotel Elim then hire taxi to
           10.30-12.30     7 km East from Lewa and walk 2 km
                           to forest. Camping, Birding rest of the day.
15.07.91   06.00-18.30     Birding in forest and Edge
           20.30-22.30     Spotlighting owling
16.07.91   06.00-12.00     Birding in the same area
           12.00-13.30     Pack up Camp, lunch.
           14.00-14.30     Walk out, hitch to near village
           16.30-18.00     Hitch with work truck to Waingapo. Night hotel
17.07.91   07.00-10.30     Taxi to Yumbu Bridge, Mangrove 14 km East of
                           Waingapo. Birding along Mangroves and Fields
           10.30-15.30     Back to town, shopping, lunch.
           15.30-18.30     trip to Mangroves and Mudflats 2 km NE of harbor.
18.07.91   09.30-11.30     Walk South of Airport to Mangroves.
           13.30-14.00     Merpatir Air to Kupang.Taxi to Bus Terminal
           14.00-17.30     Bus to Camplong.Night at Wismar uphill from town.
19.07.91   06.00-11.00     Birding in semi evergreen and deciduous forest 
                           uphill from Wismar
           12.00-17.00     Birding on the road uphill.
20.07.91   06.30-09.00     Birding at Camplong Forest
           09.30-11.30     Bus Camplong to Zoe
           11.45-14.45     Bus Zoe to Kapan.
           16.30-18.00     Hire Bus to Gunung Mutis
           18.30-19.00     Put up tent, firewood collecting
21.07.91   06.00-18.00     Full day birding down from camp
           19.30-20.30     Night birding around camp.
22.07.91   07.00-10.30     Walk with pack downhill 7 km to near village.
                           Wait 5 h for pack up of market. On truck to Kapan.
           14.30-17.30     Bus Kapan,via Zoe to Camplong
                           Night at Wismar.
23.07.91   06.30-08.00     Bus trip to Bipolo.
           08.00-14.30     Birding in forest East of
           14.30-16.00     Bipolo. Bus to Camplong.
           16.30-18.00     Birding in Camplong Forest
24.07.91   06.00-08.00     Birding in Camplong area
           09.00-10.30     Bus to Kupang, taxi to Airport.
           13.30-15.30     Garuda flight to Darwin.


SUMBA: 14 July to 17 July 1991

The Sumba Island is under influence of North easterly monsoon with seasonal rain from November to March. The vegetation is dominated by broadleaf semideciduous forest with taller evergreen rainforest trees on the hills which reach an elevation of 1000 m. In the lowlands the habitat consist more of scrub and deciduous trees. Inspire of the close position and climatic similarities with Northern Australia the island is not, unlike highland Timor, dominated by Eucalyptus trees. Because of the seasonal dry season man-made fires have devastated the island, and now 90% of Sumba is denuded of its natural vegetation as the trees, unlike eucalyptus, cannot resist the heat from the fires.

Most of the human population live in fishing towns along the coast. Only a few cattle gaze on the hills.

Some nice small forest patches exist at Lewa. We traveled in a hired bus from Waingapo which dropped us off 7 km east of Lewa. Then we walked the last 3 km from road into the woods where we camped. Because the forest grows on limestone, water is not available. We brought all camping gear, 15 l water, food, cooking gear in our packs 3 km into the camping site. Because of too little water, we left one day earlier than planned. Fortunately we saw all 7 possible endemic birds in the area. We stopped enroute from Waingapo to Lewa at Lake Ambotanjara where we spotted Bonelli's Eagle, Black-winged Stilt, Rainbow Bee-eater.

Two birding sites around Waingapo are worth visiting. The first place is near a bridge at Yumbu, 14 km East of town where Sumba Botton Quail can be seen on a field to the left of the road towards the Mangroves. We were so fortunate as to see one botton quail frozen on 3 meters distance after 5 min. search. The other quail ran away. The Quail is more bright in color than the Red-chested Botton Quail. We later realized that it may be difficult to find as it took 2 hours more to locate another bird. The Sumba Botton-quail has in the past only been seen by a few birders.

Shorebirds can be seen on the mudflats among a few mangrove trees full of White-vented Mynas in an estuary north east of Wainanpo. Some birds unusual for Sumba was seen as Javanese Pond Heron, Sunda Teal, Redshank, Spotted Harrier, Mongolian Sandpiper.

TIMOR: 18 July to 24 July 1991

Timor is the driest island in Indonesia. More natural vegetation is found on Timor than on Sumba, partly because the island is more mountainous and therefore less easy to clear. Eucalyptus trees grow on the mountains, and the landscape has an Australian look, as most undergrowth is grazed away. In the lowlands and lower hills only scrub and deciduous trees such as fig trees dominate the landscape. The bird life is influenced by Australian families. Some species such as the Olive-shouldered Parrot, Black-backed Fruit-dove are so similar to for example Red-winged Parrot, and Banded Fruit Dove, that it is a question whether they are true endemic species.

The 3 places visited on this trip were the following:

Camplong Forest: 19 July to 20 July

Most of the time spent on Timor was near Camplong, as 2/3 of the endemics occur there. Camplong village is 1 to 1 1/2 h drive by bus (slow) from Kupang on the Road to Zoe. We stayed at the Wismar which was a Chaotic convent for Rp 2000 each. If no event or function occurs during a stay the nuns will provide excellent food for little money, but otherwise it is possible to eat in a small restaurant 2 km down the road through the town. As it is not permitted to drink Betang Beer at the Wismar it is good to know it is available at this restaurant.

The forest is rather extensive with goat tracks and is found just uphill from Wismar. It is important to locate a fruiting fig tree in order to find parrots and fruit doves. The passerine birds such as Thrushes, Flycatcher, Bush Bird are found in the wine scrub near bamboo growth. As we quickly realised that the road was very busy and noisy, only little time was spent birding along the road.

Bipolo: 23 July

The Bipolo forest is not very big, same size as Kungelunden på Amager (Denmark) or Frences Forest (Sydney). The place can easily be reached from Camplong in the morning. Ask the bus driver to drop you off at the Junction 5 km down road from Camplong towards Kupang. Very few buses go to Bipolo in the morning so hitching is the quickest way to get there early. It is hard to get back later than 2 o'clock. Do not camp there as malaria is rampant. The birding in the forest is slow, but we saw two Lesser Sulfur-crested Cockatoos which are nearly trapped out, the Great-billed Parrot, and Flame-breasted Sunbird. None of these birds were seen elsewhere on Timor.

Gunung Mutis 20 July to 22 July.

The highest mountain on West Timor is the 2427 m Gunung Mutis. It is a great place to camp because it is not necessary to bring water. However it is a hassle to reach the site. As we have to travel one day in a crowded bus to get there, it was necessary to hire a bus for Rp 30000 in order to get from Kapan to the top in time before it got dark. If you have more time some buses go to a village 10 km from the summit in the morning. However we walked all 7 km back from the camp and had to wait 4 h for a lift before we could reach Kapan. Birding at Gunung Mutis was pleasant, because it stayed cool and cloudy most of the time as the temperature was between 8 and 16 degrees during the day.

Most of the time was spent on birding in a ravine below the camp. As the Mountain Gum forest is overgrazed with cattle, little undergrowth remains in the area. Consequently, it is important to concentrate on birding at ravines, gorges, and around rocks in order to locate species such as Pygmy Wren-Babbler, Indonesian Bush-warbler, Red-rumped Myzomella. We found the difficult-to-see Tricoloured Parrot-Finch near some Bamboo in a ravine. However, we missed the Timor IMP and Sunda Thrush.

BIRD LIST (endemics written in bold):


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