Birds of Paradise

From Manado, Sulawesi we took a 35 minute flight east to Helmahera Island. It is here where Asian fauna meets Australian fauna. Another short fight and we would be in Papua New Guinea and then Australia…so close!! Too bad we already bought a return ticket to the US. Helmahera is a beautiful, wild island in the Moluccas (spice islands) with several unique bird species. We saw wild White Cockatoos, several large parrots and a bird of paradise! The Wallace’s Standard Wing! Birds of Paradise are dressed in crazy costumes and perform crazy mating dances to attract females. To see the Standard Wing’s flight dance, we awoke at 4am and started down a dark trail with a non-English speaking guide. We arrive at the lek just before dawn and waited patiently for the show. Ten minutes later we heard the call and 2 birds were flitting about in the canopy above us! A green collar was flared and white standard wings were tossed about like streamers as he spun in the air from branch to branch. Such a jaw-dropping experience!
There are marsupials on the island as well. We saw a Cus-cus, which is kind of like a koala bear. So cute!
Tomorrow we are flying to Jakarta, Java. This is the last island we visit before departing for the US on April 2. We should be in Chicago April 4 at 9am! Thanks to everyone for following our journey!

Happy Birthday Mom!!! We love you and miss you tons!

Togian Islands

We stayed at Kiridiri Paradise Resort in the Togian’s for 5 days ($30/night, meals incl.) and it was paradise! This was the 5th tropical island we visited on our trip and it was definitely the best for seeing sea life! The diversity of animals on the reef  is mind-boggling! Ryne went diving and I snorkeled until my head spun. I just loved exploring the reef!

Sulawesi Tales

We are currently in Ampana, Sulawesi (near Poso on the map above). We were on a boat to the Togian Islands today, but the engine blew halfway there, we had to turn around. We’re trying the car fairy tomorrow. The Togian Islands are in the Gulf of Tomini. The snorkelling and diving are suppose to be amazing.
We spent 2 days on an eight-decker cargo ship across the Caleb Sea from Borneo to Sulawesi. We had the choice to stay in economy, 5, 4, 3, 2, or 1 class. We opted to pay a few dollars more and travel first class. It was cheap and beats spending 48 hours in a hot room with boisterous Indonesians that chain smoke. A private room with meals included was $43 each.
I learned a little Bahasa (Indonesian language) on the boat, which makes travelling here much more pleasant. It is a fun and easy language to learn. Indonesians are very friendly and curious of us. If you need a confidence boost, then Indonesia is the place to come. Locals elbow their neighbors and point as we pass by. Sometimes they laugh at us, but mostly they want a picture of us or with us. Total strangers crowd around and ask for a picture of us with them. An actual line will form of locals waiting for their chance to pose with us. I now know how irritating it would be to be a celebrity (luckily, their not asking for autographs). We have experienced this mostly in the non-tourist cities, where I don’t think they see westerners very often. I have also had a stranger rub my arm, mesmerized by my hairy arms. Indonesians have no hair on their arms.
Thus far, we have managed to hold on to most of our belongings. Ryne lost a pair of shorts, his prescription classes and only 3 pairs of sunglasses. We have lost but found several things, such as a memory card, the camera and a bag that was left on a bus. We went to 3 different bus stations looking for this bus and as we were explaining how desperately we needed to track it down, Ryne spots the bus flying down the road. I have never seen Ryne take off so fast!! He sprinted after the bus and amazingly caught up to it (thanks to his track star days) and jumped on. It was like a scene out of a movie. And yes, the bag was still there! Nothing too valuable was inside, but still very happy to be reunited. Unfortunately, our camera decided that it doesn’t want to turn on anymore. Too bad because it takes great underwater pictures. We spent a hectic hour searching for a replacement before the boat left today, but to no avail. We were at peace with the fact that we were going to stunningly beautiful place with no camera. We told our sad story to another traveller on the boat, hoping he might email us pictures, but he did better than that! This kind American GAVE us his spare camera!! Granted it’s a cheap camera, but it works =)

 

Indonesia

We arrived by boat to Kalimantan, Indonesia today! This is our 6th and final country we will visit on our SE Asia travels. After being in Indonesia for an hour, I can tell we will have to learn the language. In Malaysia most people new good English, but here most people don’t go beyond “Hello Mr.” I probably heard this 50 times on a 15 minute walk. The people either smile and wave at you or stop dead in their tracks and stare at you like your an alien.

We had an amazing 5 weeks in Borneo! We spent the past week at Danum Valley Field Center. This protected area is remote and surrounded by pristine lowland jungle, clouded leopard sightings are regular and leopard cats are common! Unfortunately, we did not see any wild cats, but we did see slow loris, red-leaf monkey, borneon gibbon, orang-utans, lesser mouse deer, bearded pigs, malay and common palm civit, hairy nosed otter, sumatran pit viper, leaf-nosed pit viper and many frogs and birds. I think my favorite find was an apple-green juvenile Malayan flat-shelled turtle in a crystal clear waterfall pool! We also had fantastic looks at 4 beautiful Pittas (blue banded, banded, blue headed and black and crimson). Ryne had a brief view of a giant pitta fly across the trail. This was great because pittas are very, very hard to see! We also watched a great argus (pheasant) at close range calling, feeding and preening! Another very hard bird to see, but this one was easy because he had a lek site on the trail. We approached slowly and got within 4 meters!!

Tomorrow we depart by boat to the oddly shaped island of Sulawesi. More later…