Super Natural Sulawesi – 8 Days
It is hard to imagine a more perfect trip for a science field study, or anyone with a love of nature wanting to greatly expand their horizons. In addition to the world class snorkeling the trip offers, there will be swimming with sea turtles, boating with dolphins and whales, searching for dugong in sea grass lagoons, a two-day rafting expedition from the mountains to the sea and climbing to the crater rim of a dormant volcano.
“Super Natural Sulawesi” also offers those truly magical moments – like sitting quietly at dusk deep in a lowland tropical rainforest waiting for a family of tarsiers to emerge from the hollow chambers of a strangler fig tree. Watching them leap from tree to tree like little Yodas as they set off on their nightly insect hunts is an indescribable experience. During intimate moments like this, describing Sulawesi as “supernatural” is an understatement.
The islands amazing story began 40-million years ago when a northward moving Australian plate crashed into the Asian plate creating the eastern portion of the land mass. Eastern Sulawesi continued to move northward until it collided with western Sulawesi about 15-million years ago. This tetonic scrum created the world’s most bizarre shaped island and resulted in mind-boggling biodiversity. As each plate carried with it different flora and fauna, Sulawesi became like nowhere else on earth.
This mixing of plants and animals created a biological transition zone between Australia and Asia called Wallacea, named after Alfred Russel Wallace the great naturalist that made the discovery and inspired Charles Darwin. Sulawesi is the largest island in Wallacea and has one of the highest levels of species endemism in the world. Of the known Sulawesi fauna, 62% mammal, 27% bird, 32% reptile and 76% amphibian species are found here and nowhere else.
Nowhere outside of the Galapagos can students discover such a wealth of unique species, and the island’s mega-diversity is by no means restricted to the land. The marine waters off the northeastern tip of Sulawesi are considered the global epicenter of marine biodiversity with higher concentrations of marine life than the Great Barrier Reef. The five islands that make up Bunaken National Park alone are home to over 1500 species of fish and 300 species of coral.
Diving or snorkeling Bunaken will give students the opportunity to see sea turtles and schooling fish such as barracuda, tuna, jacks and snapper. What sets North Sulawesi truly apart, however, is the chance to see tiny rare animals such as nudibranchs, leaf-fish, frog-fish, pipe- fish and seahorses. While cruising around the islands by boat, dugong, pods of dolphins, pilot whales, and even orcas and sperm whales are regularly seen. Even more extraordinary is the discovery of coelacanth in these waters. This 360 million year old relic of the “great age of fish” in the Paleozoic era was thought to be extinct for the past 65 million years. In 1997, a tourist couple saw a coelacanth in a Manado fish market. Since that time, fishermen in Manado Bay have caught several more of these living fossil fish.