The title is inspired by Ayu Utami’s Laila tak Mampir di New York. Laila did not come to New York. The novel, which eventually was retitled Saman, opens with a narration of a lovelorn young woman talking about a bird. Here I want to say that Alfred Russell Wallace did not visit Sumba during his expedition and therefore, I din bring along Malay Archipelago with me because there was not enough space in my bag. I usually bring it with me whenever I travel. However, it was his “hobby” that I did in Sumba—hunting birds, using a smallish binocular that can “see” up to 1 km. It really screams, “Amateur!”
I joined Olive and Tezza in a bird race held by Taman Nasional Manupeu Tanah Daru and Taman Nasional Laiwangi Wanggameti which took place in the former. Got very excited for this was my first visit to Sumba, arguably the hottest destination in Indonesia right now. The good thing about the race was that it welcomed everyone. No matter how amateur you are, you can compete if you want to. All you have to do is simply describe birds that you see. Easy no? Previously, I had done birding with Olive in Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan.
And now back to Wallace. Sumba lies within the Wallacea which includes Sulawesi, Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores, Timor, Halmahera, Buru, Seram, and many more smaller islands in eastern Indonesia. Wallacea has something to do with the Wallace Line, a line drawn by A.R. Wallace to describe the differences in mammals and birds between Sundaland (more similar to those of East Asia) and Wallacea (more similar to those of Australasia). I remember Bli Wayan said that Bali should have been included in Wallacea because it reportedly has a (small?) population of wild cockatoos. Interesting. Wallacea is full of good looking and endemic birds. So birding in Sumba is so relevant.
During the race, we spotted so many birds in Manurara within Taman Nasional Manupeu Tanah Daru. The first notable species was a graceful perkici oranye (marigold lorikeet), singing on a branch above a creek valley. We also spotted pergam hijau (green imperial pigeons), endemic kakatua jambul kuning (citron-crested cockatoo, Cacatua sulphurea citrinocristata), nuri bayan (eclectus parrots), endemic julang sumba (Sumba hornbill), seriwang nusa tenggara (Nusa Tenggara paradise flycatchers), kipasan arafura (Arafura fantails, a cousin to piwakawaka), endemic burung madu sumba (apricot breasted sunbirds), kacamata wallacea (yellow ringed white-eye), and cikukua tanduk (helmeted friarbird). We did see many raptors, but could not identify them. Oh forgot to mention the ever present walet sapi or glossy swiftlets. Ubiquitous. We loved them.
When we did not catch any sight and could only hear their calls, we would sing “Why do birds suddenly disappear every time we are near?” to entertain ourselves. The national park is indeed an enchanted place. Manurara is our favorite, so is the river valley of Dusun Ringulangu where we spotted so many birds in an intimate distance of 5 to 10 meters. We could not be happier.
When I submitted the book, I named our group Sumba Songbirds Trio, because I thought we “chirped” a lot during the race, perhaps more than the birds did! It felt so good to travel with people you know. There I reunited with Shanty and Kaysan after a while. The boy has grown tall, no longer a “birdling”. I too finally met Simon in person. I admire his photos, many of which have been published in various publications.
Kudos to panitia. It was an uber cool event. Not only after birds, it enabled us to chase stunningly beautiful turquoise waterfalls too: Air Terjun Lapopu, a spectacular 90-meters tall cascade and fan waterfalls. Its water comes from another waterfall, Air Terjun Matayangu. Tezza and I worked our legs for hours to get to the latter which is otherworldly beautiful. Its water comes out of a solid rock mount.
Anyway Sumba really rocks! Really look forward to traveling to Sumba again.