The Sulawesi Tarsier Makes an Appearance — It’s About Time!

The Tarsier Spectrum (Spectral) is the smallest monkey in the world. Only 10-15 centimeters long/4-6 inches…that’s tiny! Tarsiers are nocturnal (that’s why we have to hang around until dusk) and eat insets only. Have hair like a bear, trails like rats, big eyes like owls and can even be compared to bats. Why? They are active only at night and their little ears stand up, Endemic to North Sulawesi, we were ready and primed to see these tiny things.

Freddy hiked us over to a “Tarsier Tree” without any other tourists around. The guides usually congregate at one tree they know and there were quite a few tourists standing around, waiting. Sat around at Freddy’s tree for at least 30 minutes while it got darker. Freddy and local ranger kept shining flashlights/torches into the tree crevices looking for one until Freddy decided that the Tarsier’s had packed up their belongings and moved to another tree somewhere in the forest. The Government has never done a Tarsier census so who knows how many Banyan trees are inhabited by them and exactly how many Tarsiers are in Tangkoko.

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tourists waiting for Tarsiers in Tangkoko Nature Reserve, Sulawesi

Packed up our sweaty bodies and moved back to the main Banyan Tarsier tree where, maybe, a total of 15 tourists were standing around, all with guides and flashlights. Our local guides and some of theirs also had tasty, live grasshopper trapped in empty water bottles hoping to lure the little guys out before dark. They’d set the grasshopper on a Banyan branch and wait. The Tarsiers didn’t fall for it.

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tasty Tarsier snack — grasshopper in the bottle, Tangkoko Nature Preserve, Sulawesi

The other tourists were primarily dressed for this steamy weather in sandals, shorts, etc. and would love to know if they got bitten up or were just lucky. There were two Tarsiers in this tree and when a flashlight is shone on them, they freeze. The absolutely cutest little things! All us tourists ran from one side of the tree to the other, trying to see these little guys, take photos and videos. My video is much better than the photos — thank goodness the Camcorder had Infrared otherwise forget it.

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what big eyes the little Tarsier has, Tangkoko Nature Reserve, Sulawesi

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shy Tarsier Spectrum in Tangkoko Nature Reserve, Sulawesi

When the forest becomes completely dark, the Tarsiers leave the trees and start jumping and leaping from branch to branch, foraging for insects. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay long enough to watch this because there was still a 2-1/2 hour ride back to Manada on that potholed, rutty, narrow road. Dangerous to navigate in total darkness. And once back on the main road, there were people walking on and in the road, ox carts, children, little pedicabs and other vehicles.

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can’t get much cuter than this, Tarsier in Tangkoko Nature Reserve, Sulawesi

Leaving Tangkoko National Park in complete darkness, other tourists were walking out using flashlights to guide them. They were the ones spending the night in home stays outside the park gates. If you are a diehard birder or want to wait until the Tarsiers start jumping and leaping, do a home stay, no batter how “basic” and possibly disgusting it is. Then you can come and go whenever you want. Whatever you decide, definitely don’t leave Manado without visiting the Tarsiers. You’ll NEVER see anything like this anywhere else in the world.


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