My wife and I spent a few weeks in Northern Sulawesi this past July - with a few days spent over in Halmahera. I'm not one to write a classic trip report (but I sure appreciate reading them) - just wanted to offer some advice and opinions. First off, I hired Semuel "Untu" Baware [email protected]
from Batu Putih (outside Tangkoko Park in Sulawesi) where he is a well known birding guide. His services went way beyond being an excellent bird guide. I now consider him a close friend. My wife and I enjoy markets, villages, and natural history. He really made our short trip to Northern Maluku a great success. His close friendship with Damianus "Anu" Bagale of Sidangoli also added to our experience. Anu has been through a rough and terrible war that ended in 2000. This is not the place to speak of horrors and hostilities, but suffice to say - it was Untu's friendship with all of us and his translating skills that made the difference. If researching Halmahera on the Web you'll find different impressions of Anu. Ours was great. He's someone who literally has put his life on the line for preservation. He's also fun and a great woodsman. Trekking a few hours before dawn with him and Untu will be something my wife and I will never forget. The payoff of 20 Standardwing's lekking for at least one hour was the experience of a lifetime.
The areas we visited around Sidangoli were very birdy. We also crossed over to the East and drove north to visit the Pago tribe. It's members having fought invaders with bow and arrow, sword and shield. Very powerful. "Real war" was a phrase used by a Dutchman we met later in Sulawesi when referring to the religious conflict on Halmahera. There has obviously been a reconciliation of some sorts. We found things very safe and everyone friendly.
If you have time, the market in Ternate is spectacular. Especially in the morning. Buy a smoked tuna to eat on the boatride over. It pays also to look into the Colonial history of the area before you go. There's some old things in the Sultan's house that dazzled our senses.
I can't say enough about Untu. He took care of our plane tickets and other travel, really looked after my wife and I, was the perfect interpreter, and always the professional bird / natural history guide.
We spent a few weeks on Perhentian besar prior. Tangkoko birding with Untu after Halmahera. A great introduction to Maengket music in the Highlands and nice beaches near Pulisan. Then to Eastern Bali to finish our trip. Witnessing Wallace's Standardwing in that distant land will forever last in our minds. We saw mating, immature males displaying, and classic mature male display. Incredible. Untu's fee was a pittance and Anu's story a marvel........