Site Description: Way Kanan National Park (Sumatra, Indonesia), December 1999 - January 2000

Tim Allwood, Olive Lodge, 7 Stukeley Road, Huntingdon, Cambs, PE29 6HG, UK;


Way Kanan is part of the larger protected area known as Way Kambas National Park. The park comprises an area of 130,000 ha. in Lampung province, south Sumatra. It contains a variety of lowland and coastal habitats, including one of the largest freshwater swamp forests in Sumatra. Approximately 80% of the original Dipterocarp lowland rainforests have been selectively logged and converted to grass-land and secondary forest. The relatively open character of the forest coupled with a few trails makes it a rewarding site, where you can observe several unusual species of bird and animal. It is probably the easiest place in the world to see White-winged Duck and Bonaparte's Nightjar and a good place to catch up with other difficult to find birds, such as Storm's Stork, Cinnamon-headed Green-pigeon and Wrinkled Hornbill. Mammals of note include Elephant, Agile Gibbon, Siamang, Leopard Cat, Tapir, Sumatran Rhino and Sumatran Tiger.

Leeches are quite prevalent on the loop and forest trails but almost absent from the main access track. Tigers are present in the area, and the staff all carry bear alarms. A friend of mine visited a few months previously and came across a Tiger on the loop trail behind the guesthouse. The animal was found to be guarding a kill very close to the trail, so be careful.

The area is easily reached in about 7 hours from Jakarta, so you could add a trip here to a Java and Bali itinerary. Food isn't available so take in everything you need; the staff will let you use the cooking area and may provide you with a some wild chilies or garlic to spice things up. The accommodation is basic, but fine and very cheap at around Rp 10,000 per night.


The book to take is Birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Bali by MacKinnon and Phillipps. You might also find it useful to take Craig Robson's Birds of South-east Asia. Paul Jepson's Birding Indonesia is a fantastic reference to Indonesia in general and very useful for Way Kanan.

From Jakarta take a bus (c.Rp 12000) from any of the major stations (East, West and South) to Merak on the west coast of Java. From here catch a ferry across the Sunda Strait to Tanjung Karang in Lampung Province. From the small port here you shouldn't have any problem getting anyone to take you to Way Kanan. It ought to cost about Rp 150,000 altogether for the three hour trip from the port to the park. Ask to be taken to Way Kanan or you'll end up at the elephant training centre. To return either ask for a ride back to Bandar Lampung with someone from the centre and pay them for the favour (Rp 20-30,000 should be fine) or if no-one's going that way cadge a lift back to the main road and wait for a bus. Tell the locals you want to go to Bandar Lampung and they'll head you in the right direction.

Where to Go Birding

The are several good spots to go birding: the main track that leads to the camp, the short loop that starts behind the guesthouse and joins the main track, the camp clearing itself, the trail that leads along the river from the guesthouse, and the trail heading into the forest from behind the Tiger Project building. Bikes can be borrowed from the rangers but are so old and knackered that you're better off walking. The main track is the easiest to work (virtually leech-free) and allows you to get good views of the birds as the area is quite open, and the secondary forest around here is stunted when compared to, say, Khao Yai or Taman Negara. The loop trail is good for skulkers, and the clearing is a good place to kick back and just see what flies over.


Around 300 species have now been recorded from this area, and your lists will be different to mine so instead of a long list of birds, many of which you're sure to encounter I'll just give details of some of the more interesting species (following MacKinnon and Phillipps):

Spot-billed Pelican can sometimes be seen way downriver - ask the guards and they'll give you a price for a trip. Darters occur around the clearing infrequently. Storm's Stork: I only saw one, soaring over the main track but it was enough! Lesser Adjutant: You might encounter one soaring overhead somewhere. White-winged Duck: We had a pair that flew into a tree across the river at dusk on several evenings - fantastic!

Lesser Fish-Eagle and Grey-headed Fish-Eagle both occur infrequently - I dipped both. Black-thighed Falconet: Often perched in the big dead tree across from the guesthouse. Both Crested Fireback and Crested Partridge occur on the main track and the loop trail, and Great Argus can be heard regularly from here too. I also had a small all-dark partridge here that was perhaps Black; the habitat is good for them. Red Junglefowl can be seen around the camp clearing, usually early a.m.

The main track is great for getting good views of pigeons - even without a scope. We saw good numbers of Green Imperial, Little Green, Thick-billed and a real surprise - 2 Silvery Wood-Pigeons.

Parrots could be seen anywhere, but the more open areas were not surprisingly better with Long-tailed, Blue-rumped and Blue-crowned Hanging Parrots all being observed. Large and Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoos were seen on the main track as were Drongo Cuckoo and all five possible species of malkohas bar Green. Many of the malkohas afford wonderful views in the open forest - take a camera. Greater Coucal was regular around the camp.

Collared and Reddish Scops Owl were both found around or close to the camp while Gould's Frogmouth was present about 1 to 1.5 km down the track. A Bonaparte's Nightjar was seen on a few occasions around the camp. It appeared small and active, with all dark wings. Jizz and size should separate it from Malaysian Eared-Nightjar. It only called a couple of times - and very strange it was too!

Whiskered Treeswifts were common around the Rhino Project clearing about 4 km back down the track. Several trogon species are present but I only recorded Red-naped, behind the Tiger Project.

Rufous-backed, Black-capped and Banded Kingfisher can be found but Rufous-collared and Blue-banded are much scarcer; I dipped. Red-bearded Bee-eater was seen twice on the main track which was also a good spot for hornbills with several sightings of Wrinkled and Wreathed, often giving good views in the somewhat smaller than usual trees here. Great and Rhinoceros were both recorded from the guesthouse porch.

Several barbets can be encountered with views possible in the more open areas. Red-crowned, Red-throated, Yellow-crowned, Blue-eared, Coppersmith and Brown are all possible but much easier by voice.

Woodpeckers too are numerous; we encountered White-bellied, Buff-rumped, Grey-and-buff, Crimson-winged, Checker-throated and Sunda. Rufous Piculets are not uncommon.

It's a fantastic place for broadbills with Banded, Black-and-red, Black-and-yellow and Green all seen on several occasions. The river trail close to the guesthouse was good for Banded and Black-and-red. The only pittas I saw were a couple of Hoodeds by the main track

Lesser Cuckoo-shrike and Large Woodshrike were recorded in dead trees on the main track - also a good spot to get views of Scarlet and Fiery Minivets, Green and Common Ioras and Greater Green and Blue-winged Leafbirds.

Loads of bulbuls are to be found here, among the best are Spectacled and Hairy-backed.

Drongos are represented by Greater Racket-tailed and Bronzed and a couple of times I'm pretty sure we had Sumatran too - spangled breast and wider, less forked tail - check them all out. As numerous as the bulbuls are the babblers. You should see lots, the more interesting include Short-tailed, Ferruginous and Fluffy-backed Tit.

White-rumped and Rufous-tailed Shamas are present but secretive while Dark-necked and Rufous-tailed Tailorbirds are less so. Very few flycatchers were seen, only Yellow-rumped and a cracking male Asian Paradise of note. Maroon-breasted and Rufous-winged Philentomas were both found on the loop and main track.

The whole area is rich in sunbirds and flowerpeckers with many species possible such as Crimson-breasted and Yellow-breasted Flowerpeckers and Purple-naped and Plain Sunbird.

Other species of note included Pin-tailed Parrotfinch and Thick-billed Spiderhunter, the former very high, the latter very low, on the main track.

Good Luck!

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This page served with permission of the author by Urs Geiser;; December 6, 2000