Saturday, March 16, 2024

Birdwatching and Photography Tour in Minahasa Highland

Minahasa in the Province of North Sulawesi of Indonesia is a highly recommended destination for visitors who love birdwatching. There are a lot of birding sites in the highland especially at the outskirts of Tomohon and Subdistrict town of Sonder. Visitors can go hiking, sightseeing and birding in the farmland, forest, and rice field of these towns. 

Black-naped Oriole, Pale Blue Monarch, Sulawesi Pygmy Woodpecker
Some Birds in Minahasa Highland

The first forest that can easily be reached by visitors is the tiny forest of Tounelet that is located inside Sonder town, at the back of Siloam hospital. Visitors can walk down the road slope of Tounelet village to watch birds and photograph them.  Birds that can be watched include Sooty-headed Bulbul, Brown-throated Sunbird, Sahul Sunbird, Black Sunbird, Grey-sided Flowerpecker, Yellow-sided Flowerpecker, Scaly-breasted Munia, Chestnut Munia, Eurasian Treesparrow, Black-naped Oriole, Pale Blue Monarch, Sulawesi Blue Flycatcher, Grey-cheeked Green Pigeon, Barred Rail, Cattle Egret, Black-crowned White-eye, Sulawesi Cuckoo Dove, Sulawesi Hanging Parrot, Sulawesi Swiftlet, White-nest Swiftlet, and Slender-billed Crow and etc.

Black-crowned White-eye (Zosterops atrifrons)
Black-crowned White-eye
birdwatching trip in Sonder of North Sulawesi
Yellow-billed Malkoha, Collared Kingfisher, Warbling White-eye, and Hair-crested Drongo

In the rice field area, we could watch more birds such as White-breasted Woodswallow, Collared Kingfisher, Cattle Egret, Cinnamon Bittern, Purple Heron, White-browed Crake, Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Chestnut Munia, Collared Kingfisher, and Scaly-breasted Munia.

Crimson Sunbird (Aethopyga siparaja)
Crimson Sunbird

More birds could be watched when we go to higher elevation forest. There are White-faced Cuckoo Dove, Black-faced Munia,  Sulawesi Pygmy Woodpecker (Picoides temminckii), Crimson Sunbird, Sulawesi Cuckoo Dove (Macropygia albicapilla), and Warbling White-eye (Zosterops japonicus), Collared Kingfisher, and Hair-crested Drongo (which James Eaton's Birds of Indonesian Archipelago names it, White-eyed Spangled Drongo). More birds could be watched if we explore the forests and farmlands in lowland and lower montane areas like Tangkoko, Tunan and Mount Tumpa. 

Sooty-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus aurigaster)
Sooty-headed Bulbul

Lake Linow and Lake Lahendong are also good for birdwatching. We could watch Wandering Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna arcuata),  Gray Teal, Sunda Teal, Barn Swallow, Gray-rumped Treeswift, Collared Kingfisher, Cattle Egret, Barred Rail, and etc. There are buildings and watching platform at the side of the lakes which can be used by birdwatchers to observe birds.

Barred Rail, Purple Heron, Cattle Egret, Eastern Yellow Wagtail
Barred Rail, Purple Heron, Eastern Cattle Egret, Eastern Yellow Wagtail

The roads that connect Sonder with other villages are good for general birding. Birds such as Zebra Dove, Collared Kingfisher, Slender-billed Crow, Hair-crested Drongo, Sooty-headed Bulbul, Yellow-sided Flowerpecker, Finch-billed Myna, and etc. can be watched during a morning or late afternoon walking tours. 

Zebra Dove (Geopelia striata) - Perkutut Jawa
Zebra Dove in Subdistrict town of Sonder

Visitors need at least 7 days for exploring Minahasa highland, lowland and lower montane forests.

Blanchard's Ghost (Idea blanchardii), Blanchard's Wood Nymph (Ideopsia vitrea), Manado Yellow Tiger Butterfly
Blanchard's Ghost, Manado Yellow Tiger and Blanchard's Wood Nymph Butterflies

In addition to birds, various species of butterflies could also be seen during the hiking tour in Minahasa. They include the Common Birdwing, Blanchard's Ghost, and Blandchard's Wood Nymph (Ideopsis vitrea) butterflies that like to feed on nectar of flowers in the morning. 

Gray-sided Flowerpecker (Dicaeum celebicum)
Gray-sided Flowerpecker

Sonder is a small subdistrict town in Minahasa regency of the Province of North Sulawesi. It is a nice destination for nature lovers who are interested in seeing mountains, farmlands, ricefields, hotsprings, and forests while watching birds, butterflies and other wildlife in the region. 

Sonder town
Sonder town in Minahasa highland of North Sulawesi, Indonesia

Tincep - the village of Flowers

As we continue walking along the roadside from Sonder town to Tincep village, we will see rice fields with the background  of hills. Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Purple Heron, and swiftlets dominate the area. As we entered the village, we will see various kinds of flowers. Tincep is a beautiful village because the villagers grow colourful flowers around their house yards. Tincep is the village of flowers and butterflies. 

Bougainvillea Flowers in Tincep
Flowers along the roadside

Roadside flowers in Tincep
Flowers in Tincep

Tincep is the village of flowers and butterflies
Lime Swallowtail Butterfly in Tincep village of Minahasa

How to get to Minahasa?

Manado city is the main gate to visit Minahasa.

  • It is very easy to visit Minahasa. First, visitors need to fly from your country to Singapore. After that visitors could take a direct flight by Scoot Air to Manado city
  • If visitors fly to Jakarta, Surabaya, or Denpasar, they could continue their trip by taking domestic airline to fly to Manado city.
  • There is also daily flight between Sorong city and Manado city.

traveling to Minahasa
Flying Route to Manado City
Minahasa highland map
Sonder is a small town in the highland of Minahasa

I could meet you at the airport and organize your trip to Minahasa or other regencies in North Sulawesi.

If you are interested in taking a nature tour in Indonesia by combining West Papua and North Sulawesi regions and want me to organize your trip, you could contact me by email to: or by whatsapp to: +6281332245180. 

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