Top Five Animal Encounters – Indonesia
Everyone loves the natural world. There is nothing like going for a walk in nature and listening to the sounds of the forest. Although the wind contributes to the sound, the vast majority is made by animals. Whether it be the drone of cicadas or the loud howls of monkeys, there is always a cacophony of sound. Indonesia is home to some of the largest and most ancient rain forests in the world. It’s also home to a variety of unique habitats due to its location between Asia and Australia. With over 17,000 islands, Indonesia boasts a variety of incredible wildlife on both land and underwater. Today we discuss five of the top animal encounters in the country.
Komodo Dragon – Animal Encounters
Indonesia’s most iconic species, the Komodo Dragon, is famous around the world. This largest of terrestrial reptiles is the source of many fables and myths. Reaching over three meters long and more than 150kg in weight, these apex predators are truly a sight to behold. An alpha predator with sharp teeth and capable of running 30 km/hour, they even have a mouth full of bacteria and venom! With a potpourri of weapons, they truly are one of the worlds most fearsome creatures.
Thankfully, they are only found in a small range encompassing the islands of Flores, Rinca, and Komodo. Although they do sound terrifying, they are actually rather docile when seen in person. Dragons tend to be rather inactive animals and it’s possible to approach them closely. In the Komodo National Park, we always invite our guests to visit the ranger stations where we can walk in the forest. The Park Rangers accompany us to ensure the safety of both people and animals at all times. Encountering a dragon in Komodo is truly an opportunity not to be missed.
Black Macaque – Animal Encounters
Native only to North Sulawesi, the black macaque, Macaca nigra, is far different than the common crab eating macaque. Boasting a jet black coat and lacking a tail, these monkeys spend most of their time walking through the forest. They only spend time in trees while sleeping or to evade predators. The Tangkoko National Park is the most easily accessible locations to see these characters. Living in large troops, the Celebes crested macaques boast bright reddish brown eyes that give them a certain ghostly appearance. They are a threatened species due to their small home range and are in need of more protection. To find these extremely photographic monkeys its a simple day trip from the city of Manado in Sulawesi. In a bit of funny news, one of these gregarious animals went viral when it borrowed someones camera for a quick selfie.
Orangutan – Animal Encounters
Quite possibly Indonesia’s most charismatic species. One of the three great apes, the orangutan is endemic to the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. These gentle and intelligent animals are genetically similar to humans and are exceedingly intelligent. Found in the rainforests of these two large islands, it’s possible to visit them before or after a trip on the Samata. The best place to see orangutans in the wild is the Tanjung Puting National Park in Central Kalimantan province. Visiting this area is easy and the trip typically involves staying on a comfortable river boat while cruising through the National Park. Encounters with proboscis monkeys and gibbons are also common in this area. Although highly endangered, it’s almost a guarantee to see the red haired orangutans in the area as it’s one of the last remaining protected forests where they remain.
Bird of Paradise – Animal Encounters
The Bird of Paradise is a flamboyantly colored genera of birds with 42 species. They are exclusively found on the island of New Guinea, NE Australia, and a few islands in the Maluku region of Indonesia. These birds are known for the garish design of their plumage and their intricate mating rituals. Raja Ampat is a wonderful location to encounter two of the most beautiful species: the Red Bird of Paradise and the Wilson’s Bird of Paradise. These birds are found on the islands of Gam, Waigeo, and Batanta. We often spot them when we are in the area as part of a walk in the jungle. An early morning trip to find these amazing animals performing their mating ritual is one of the highlights of a trip to Raja Ampat.
Whale Shark – Animal Encounters
Is there anything quite like coming face to face with the largest fish in the ocean? Although it’s a species of shark, the whale shark behaves more like a whale. These giant plankton eating filter feeders can reach more than 10 meters in length. Not to worry though, they only eat plankton and are not a threat to humans.
Typically found near the surface when feeding, it’s possible to encounter whale sharks throughout Indonesia. One of the hotspots is on the island of Sumbawa, a destination the Samata often visits. We do see the swimming in the open ocean from time to time but in this area they tend to congregate near fishing boats. As the boats pull up their nets after a night of fishing, opportunistic whale sharks have learned to move in close for an easy meal. There is nothing quite so inspiring as swimming with a whale shark to start your day!