Gunung Ambang Nature Reserves sits just to the east of the Boganinani Wartabone National Park, straddling the small Ambang mountain range in central north Sulawesi. It’s characterised by steep-sided mountains with elevations ranging from 700m to 1,795m, deep valleys, small highland lakes and lowland marshes. Despite the relatively small size of the reserve (8,638 hectares), the topography supports varying habitats from swamp grass wetlands, lowland rainforests and high mountain slopes thick with pigaffeta palms, ferns and flowering shrubs.
Despite obvious human impact around the edges of the reserve, much of the interior remains largely unexplored and supports a wide range of flora and fauna including rare and threatened species such as the Celebes crested macaque, spectral tarsier,lowland anoa (a type of midget buffalo), Celebes warty pig, Sulawesi bear cuscus and the Sulawesi dwarf cuscus.
The reserve however, is best known for its high diversity of avifauna with no less than 138 species recorded in the park so far. At least 20 are classified as rare and endemic including the Cinnabar hawk owl and the Matinan Flycatcher. Not surprisingly, Gunung Ambang attracts a lot of birdwatchers but it’s also a popular trekking destination.
The reserve is centred around the Mt Ambang (1,795m) volcanic complex, the westernmost of North Sulawesi’s active volcanoes. The last recorded eruption was in 1840 but Ambang continues to simmer away with smoking sulphur femuroles and steaming mud pools. Starting from Bungkadai Baru village on the western shore of pretty Lake Danau, it only takes around 2 hours to climb to the summit of Mt Ambang. You’ll need another 2 hours or so to explore the crater complex and admire the fabulous panorama across the neighboring mountain peaks and back towards Moat and Tondok Lakes and far off Kotamobagu city. Allowing an hour for the descent, you should be able to complete this pleasant and easy trek in around 5 hours. Suitable for beginners and children.
For birdwatchers and those not interested in climbing Mt Ambang, the best point of entry is 8km to the northwest of Bungkadai Baru at Singsingon village. There’s a local park rangers post at the edge of the village and from there a vehicle track winding back into the reserve. It’s around 4km from the rangers post to the edge of the forest. A guide isn’t necessary unless you’re planning on leaving the vehicle trail, in which case the ranger should be able to find a willing local guide.
Gunung Ambang is located 135km from Manado (3-4 hours) and 260km from Gorontalo (6-7 hours). Public buses run from both cities to Kotamobagu, departing early in the morning and make the return journey from Kotamobagu in the afternoon. Mikrolet transport is available between Kotamobagu and Bongkudai Baru and Singsingonvillages but it’s quicker and easier to grab an ojek or taxi for the 30min trip. Just don’t forget to ask for them to wait or return for you at a designated time. Neither village has any accommodation facilities but Kotamobagu has a good range of hotels to suit every budget. Also note, before heading out to the reserve, you’re supposed to register and obtain a permit from the National Park Office in Kotamobagu.