The Tangkoko National Park is located right on the northern tip of Sulawesi, sprawling over the three peaks of Mt Tangkoko, Mt Dua Saudara and Mt Batuangus and a good chunk of coastline to their east. The small coastal reseve of Bukitputih sits adjacent to the parks northern boundary and together, the two reserves comprise roughly 8,700 hectares.
Their diverse ecosystems provide habitats to a huge range of flora and fauna; at least 127 mammals, 233 bird and 104 reptile and amphibian species. Among them the engangered Celebes crested macaque, Sulawesi bear cuscus and the Sulawesi dwarf cuscus. Tangkoko is also one of the last refuges for the tiny, big-eyed Spectral tarsier, the smallest primate in the world.
The Celebres crested macaque is almost common here; usually seen in large family groups in the early morning or late afternoon when they are active in the tropical forest adjacent to the coast. Finding the nocturnal tarsiers requires a more effort and a bit of luck but with a torch, a good guide and a willingness to trek through the jungle at night, you’ve every chance of seeing one. At the very least, there’s a very good chance you’ll hear their vocal duets and choruses ringing through the air around dusk and just before sunrise.
Whilst these guys are are the star of the show, they’re just the start of Tangkoko’s attractions. The entire park is networked with hiking trails. A coastal trail extends right alongside the black volcanic sand beaches from Batuhputih to Batu Angus oposite the Lembeh Strait. The coral gardens at the entrance to the Batuangus cove offer good snorkeling whilst the adjacent mangroves are home to herons, egrets and sea eagles and swiftlets nest in the rocky caves along around the cove. The 450m high Batuangus (literally “burnt rock”) volcanic peak overlooking the cove can be climbed in an hour and offers great views back over the Lembeh Strait and across the bare lava rock strewn crater.
A 5km loop trail on the northern foothills of Mt Tongkoko is popular as the trail passess through lowland tropical forest habitats of macaques, bear cuscus and hornbills. The slopes above Remesun Beach are a favoured nesting ground from the extremely rare Maleo fowl. The northern and pale dwarf squirrels are commonly seen along this trail too.
Whilst most visitors seem content to do the loop trail, reaching the summit of Mt Tangkoko (1,109m) is quite doable. There are several trails to the summit from almost every direction but it is most commonly climbed from the north or north east, traversing much the same territory as the look trail. From Batuh Putih, it’s roughly 6km and 4-5hours to reach the top of the wide crater rim. The last 2km of the trail up the high slopes are a bit strenuous and will have the thigh muscles burning but the views from the top across the coast and the Lembeh Strait to Lembeh Island and south to Bitung city are fabulous.
The twin peaks of Mt Dua Saudara (1,351m) lie 3km to the southwest but despite being the highest peaks in the reserve, it seems very few people make the climb. It’s usually tackled from Duaudare village in the western foothills or Bitung to the south. In either case you’ll need to ask around and recruit a local guide as niether trail is well used.
For best chances of spotting wildife, both the loop and summit trails are best undertaken in the early morning, departing around 4:30-5:00am from Batuh Putih. On the flip side, you’ll be back at your guesthouse or camp by lunchtime with plenty of time to laze away the afternoon on the beach.
Tangkoko is most commonly accessed from Bitung city in the south or Batuputih in the north. Trekkers intending to climb Mt Dua Saudara can also enter the park near the village of Duaudare on the eastern bounday. Bitung can be reached from Manado in around 1 hour by car or 1.5 hours if using public transport. In this case, grab a mikrolet from downtown Manado to Terminal PAAL 2 on the eastern outskirts of the city, then catch the public bus to Bitung, a journey of around 1.5 hours. From Bitung, it takes another 45min to reach Batuputih. There’s no public transport from Bitung so you’ll need to grab an ojek or taxi from here.
Homestay accommodation including meals is available in Batuputih near the park entrance and Bitung. For something more upmarket, there’s a small ecoresort by the beach at Pulisan village which will provide boat transfers to Batuputih and another at Danowudu village just outside Bitung. Alternatively, there’s a popular campground at Batuputih, near the entrance gate close to the beach; a great option if you have camping gear.
Entrance to the park costs 100.000Rp per person but this includes the compulsory guide fee for the shorter treks. For longer treks such as the Mt Tangkoko loop or summit trails, you’ll need to pay additional guide fees of between 300.00-400.000Rp. Apart from a torch for tarsier spotting, be sure to bring along insect repellent. Tiny midgies called “gonone” are rife throughout the park, particularly around dusk, so lather on the repellent. Long sleeve clothing will help but be aware these little bities can still find their way in under your clothing.