Tangkoko: Where the Wild Things (Still) Live Sulawesi, Indonesia

On the easternmost tip of North Sulawesi lies Tangkoko National Park. According to the Lonely Planet, it’s possible to get there by public transport from Manado, but in reality this proved to be close to impossible. Even if you’d manage it, it wouldn’t necessarily be cheaper than a taxi from the airport directly to Batuputih, the village next to the National Park.


Accommodation in Batuputih is limited and almost everything was full when we arrived. The Tankoko Ranger Homestay still had a room – a decent one for the first night but a very basic one, where neither the shower nor the faucet wored, for the second night. I was sick (I had probably eaten or drunk something bad; this had to happen at one point in our trip) and feeling horrible but what can you do (reserve ahead maybe…). We wouldn’t leave before having been to the national park.

The park – a haven for wildlife

In order not to have to spend more days than necessary there, I decided I could rest later and we got up at 5 a.m. the next morning and went on a five hour walk. Of the five hours we spent at least three sitting around and waiting for a male hornbill to come and feed his breeding partner in their nest. The wait was worth it, we saw how the male gulped up the previously swallowed food and fed it to the (for us invisible) female in the nest.

Sulawesi hornbill

The park is also home to crested black macaques. They’ve become famous a while ago because of the “monkey selfie” that lead to a big debate about the copyright of the picture. The Yakis, as the monkeys are locally known, are critically endangered due to habitat loss and because they’re hunted by the locals for their meat. Now they only live in a small area of their original habitat in north Sulawesi. But the Yakis are not the only endangered species that has found a save home in Tangkoko. The tarsier, the cuscus bear, and the maleo bird are threatened as well, for the same reason as the monkeys.

Cuscus bear

The Yakis are not shy, they come quite close to the humans watching them. Contrary to other monkey species, they’re not aggressive or greedy, they’re actually very well behaved. I had a banana in the outer pocket of my bag and the monkeys eyed it from time to time but never once made an attempt to steal it.

Black crested macaque

Probably the cutest inhabitants of the park are the tiny tarsiers with the huge eyes. They live in trees and are able to jump distances ten times their body length. Tarsiers are nocturnal and during the day sleep hidden in trees. A few animals of the group act as guards and peer out of the tree; that’s how it’s possible to see them even during the day.


No night walk in the rain

We had planned to go on a night walk to see the tarsiers eating. However, it was raining so hard that our guide said there was no point in going because the animals wouldn’t go out in the rain either. He was right; other people went anyway and came back soaked to the bones but without having seen a single animal.


Visiting Tangkoko may help save the endangered animals

Tankgoko National Park is one of the best (and most accessible) places in Indonesia to see wildlife, especially tarsiers, cuscus, and, of course, black macaques. The entrance fee of 100’000 Rupiah per person is quite high but it may help to protect this unique place and its inhabitants from the very real and imminent threat of logging and hunting.

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