Simon Quek and Wang Bin
Halmahera – Paradise for Birds, Hell for Photographers
It has been a long journey, one hour from Singapore to Jakarta, stayed overnight at Jakarta airport, woke up at 3 am (2 am Singapore time) in the morning to catch 5 am flight to Manado, then transited to Ternate, reached at local time 11:45 am, drove to the jetty, another 45 min speedboat ride, then followed by a 5-hour drive (of course we stopped by to shoot birds along the way), reached Weda Resort around 6:30 pm, it was dark, very dark by then.
Never heard of Halmahera before till Wong Lee Hongposted his Standard Wing in Birder’s group and Simon Quek recommended it to me. Understand it is a bird paradise with many Halmahera Endemic (not just Indonesia) birds, was excited before the trip. The reality is, yes, it is a paradise for birds, or maybe even for birdwatchers or twitchers, but from a photographer’s point of view, though the word “Hell” is a bit exaggerated, it is really a challenging place, especially comparing to other places we have been, such as Thailand. Many birds, we had never been able to see them but only hear their call, such as Common Paradise Kingfisher, Ivory Breasted Pitta, and more, needless to say, to record them on our sensors. Besides, situations such as high up on the tree tips, low light or backlit, dense leave block, far distance, fast-moving or skittish birds, plus the steep slope, muddy trail, and uneven ground, make the photography of bird a real difficult and sometimes frustrating job. Remember read an article before saying birding is light exercise leisure, shooting bird in Halmahera has never been light, one better prepares yourself physically before going to this place. 🙂
Though it is a tough place for bird photography, well, we still very much enjoy our stay in this amazing place, very good experience and eye-opening. Thanks to Monal Capellone who made it happen and everything possible for us, despite last min hiccups (which almost ruined our visit since the originally engaged guide flew us kite even though he had taken the deposit without refunding ), turns out, we were able to stay and birding at a much better place, the Weda Resort with relatively easy access to our target bird (comparing to the original arrangement). It is really 塞翁失马焉知非福呀. Highly recommend Monal, a very responsible tour organizer.