Tangkoko National Park

Many travellers visit North Sulawesi for the world-class scuba diving in Bunaken or Lembeh. However, there's a tiny pocket of primary tropical rainforest on the island's northernmost tip that is definitely worth exploring for a couple of days especially if you want to see the elusive tarsier. There are also a few other mammalian treasures to be found here: the striking Celebes crested macaque (known locally as 'yaki') and the adorable bear cuscus.  

Tangkoko's most famous resident: the tarsier

A pair of bear cuscus

Twitchers the world over already know about Sulawesi for its many endemic bird species. Tangkoko offers a very good chance of viewing quite a few of these including two types of hornbill, the ochre bellied boobook and Sulawesi hawk-eagle, but you certainly don't have to be an avid birder to appreciate the colourful and charismatic winged residents of this national park. 

Getting here / Tangkoko accommodation / Other activities

Manado is an easy short flight from Singapore (approx. 3 hours) on Scoot, which at time of writing (November 2023), departs 4 times weekly.  

A very good tarred road makes the journey from Manado airport into Tangkoko just over 90 minutes without traffic. It seemed to us that only freight trucks used this road. Perhaps locals found the toll charges too high. 

We arranged all ground transfers, accommodation and English-speaking guides through Safari Tours & Travel Manado. In my opinion, for all wildlife-spotting safaris, unless you yourself have strong local tracking skills, your sightings are only as good as your guide so get the best guide you can afford! 

On this trip, our tracker/guide Meidy was a former hunter, and he was awesome at identifying animal/bird sounds, plus he knew Tangkoko inside out. In between walks (we ventured into the park only at dawn and at dusk), he took us out on a scenic boat trip and on short walks around his village for a glimpse into local industry (predominantly farming and copra/coir production). He even gamely harvested some fresh coconuts for us, showing off his tree climbing skills and gave us a look at how highly alcoholic palm wine is produced.

We stayed three nights at Tangkoko Hill homestay in Batu Putih village where accommodation was basic but comfortable for jungle standards. Just don't come expecting luxury! You'll sleep under mosquito netting (there are MANY MANY MANY mosquitoes) and sometimes there is no hot water in the shower, but the climate is so humid and hot this really doesn't matter! Also, the food is simple and homecooked, consisting mostly of veggie/chicken stir-fries and rice. 

A side note: in North Sulawesi, locals make a living from subsistence farming, fishing, working in the copra/coir industry or working in the booming mining industry. Of course, mines offer the most money and therefore, prestige. Every young kid there with a mining job appeared to have a fancy smartphone and a shiny new motorbike. 

In fact, right next to Tangkoko was a gaping strip mine, and Meidy told us that he hoped his own son would find a job there, as guiding was neither well paid nor highly regarded. Personally, I hope that as more people travel to Tangkoko, the locals will see more value in their wildlife and be paid better for their contributions to conservation. This is a destination where your tourist dollars could really make a difference so go before it's gone!