Bird Watching, Wildlife Watching and Sightseeing Tour in Kerinci Seblat National Park and Way Kambas National Park of Sumatra

A Travel Report by Charles Roring
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The island of Sumatra is one of the most important destinations in Indonesia for visitors who are interested in birdwatching and wildlife watching. According to Avibase website, there are 775 species that have been scientifically recorded there. Of that number, 31 species are endemic and 74 species are considered as threatened in the world.

From 18 to 23 February 2023, I had the opportunity to guide 2 European visitors, Mr Karsten and Ms. Sheila. They were birdwatchers from Germany.

kerinci Seblat National Park
Wildlife Watching Tour in Mount Kerinci and Rawa Bento

The first location that we went to was Kerinci Seblat National Park. To reach it, I had to fly from Manokwari to Jakarta. Because it was late afternoon when I arrived, I still had to stay at Hotel Orchardz Jakarta for 1 night and then continued my trip to Padang city - the capital of West Sumatra Province in the next day. After staying 1 night at the Daima Hotel, I then continued my journey by minibus to Kersik Tuo Village in Kayu Aro District, Kerinci Regency, Jambi Province. There, I met Mr. Subandi and his family. I stayed at his homestay. The two European tourists arrived a few hours later and stayed at Hotel Bintang Kerinci.

The highlands of Kerinci, especially in Kayu Aro District, have been very well known since the Dutch colonial era as the center for the production of Arabica coffee and black tea .

Across the street from where we were staying, a vast expanse of tea and vegetable gardens provided the foreground for Mount Kerinci rising high into the sky. In the morning when we were there, the volcano appeared to be spewing ash, however, it seemed that the volcanic activity was only momentary. Therefore, we could still carry out birdwatching activities in the forest at the foot of Mount Kerinci safely.

Yellow-eared Spiderhunter
Yellow-eared Spiderhunter

While in Kerinci, we were assisted by experienced local guides, namely Mr. Subandi and his son Budi. They have for years guided bird-watching tourists who come from all over the world to West Sumatra and Jambi.

The best time for bird watching was in the mornings and evenings. The birds that we were able to see and identify were the Sumatran Trogon, Sunda Minivet, Golden Babbler and White-throated Fantail. There are also birds in farmlands such as the Cattle Egret, Long-tailed Shrike, Black-winged Kite and Barn Swallow. Apart from birds, there were also butterflies and squirrels that we could find while walking along the path on the slopes of Mount Kerinci.

Black-browed Barbet
Black-browed Barbet

We also did bird and wildlife observation tours in the afternoon, especially in Rawa Bento. We used a motor boat driven by local residents. While walking along the small river in the swamp, we managed to see several interesting bird species such as the Common Myna, Purple Heron, Cattle Egret, Gray Wagtail, Barn Swallow, Wood Sandpiper, and a lot more.

wildlife watching tour in Sumatra
Southern Pig-tailed Macaque

Buffalo, pig-tailed monkey were common mammals found in the area.

The next day we continued our journey to the city of Sungai-Penuh town and did bird and wildlife observations along Tapan Road. Various types of Sumatran birds can be observed easily while walking along the winding road on the edge of the cliff. We saw Hill Prinia, Black-browed Barbet, Yellow-eared Spiderhunter, Little Spiderhunter, Sumatran Trogon, Fire-tufted Barbet, Sumatran Treepie, Sunda Forktail, Graceful Pitta, Black-headed Bulbul, Black and Crimson Oriole, Orange-bellied Flowerpecker, Long-tailed Broadbill, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Wreathed Hornbill, and a lot more. I highly recommend Tapan Road as the top destination for birding and wildlife watching in Kerinci Seblat National Park.

Black and Crimson Oriole
Black and Crimson Oriole

We returned to Padang the next day by a chartered car. It was a Toyota Avanza driven by our young driver - Oky. Along the way, we made several bird watching stops including on the waterfront for plover, tern and frigatebird. Local residents constructed large buildings to house the Edible-nest Swiftlet, whose nests would be harvested regularly. The nest was made by birds using their saliva. The nest was an expensive ingredients for special food mainly consumed by wealthy Chinese communities. Indonesia exported swallow nests to Hong Kong - China, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and various other countries around the world.

The next morning (22 Feb. 2023), we continued our journey from Padang to Lampung by Batik Air via Jakarta.

Way Kambas National Park was a tourist destination for observing flora and fauna which had been famous not only in Indonesia but also in the world. It's a surprize for us that this national park was still closed so tourists could not do activities in it yet. Instead, we carried out animal observation activities only along the edge of the forest while exploring cassava plantations and rubber forests. In the afternoons and evenings, we were guided by local guides Hariyono and Angga and Moko. During the night birding, we saw the Sunda Scops Owl and the Large-tailed Nightjar. In the morning, the bird watching activities were still guided by Hariyono and Angga. There were many birds that perched on tree branches and twigs such as the Blue-throated Bee-eater, Brown-throated Sunbird, Red-throated Barbet, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Ashy Tailorbird, Brown Shrike, Plaintive Cuckoo, Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker.

After lunch, the next activity was to go along the river using a speedboat guided by Hariyono. He was a well-known birding guide among domestic and foreign bird watchers who visited Way Kambas. The next day (24 Feb 2023), we left for Jakarta.

Personally, this was an amazing tour to Sumatra island. The beauty of nature, the friendliness of the people and the unique culture of Sumatra left a good impression on me and the birding visitors whom I guided. Hopefully in the future, the number of tourists who are interested in Kerinci Seblat National Park and Way Kambas National Park could continue to increase, so that they could provide jobs for local tour guides which had been halted for 2 years, as a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic.