Written by Bethany Richmond
Photos courtesy of Amy Dixon
I had been looking forward to this evening all week – the evening we were going tarsier spotting! We had heard them calling to each other in the trees all around camp during the week but, despite our best efforts, we had yet to see one in the flesh. Tonight was the night. Luckily, one of our guides knew of a strangler fig tree where they could be found, so it was with much excitement that we set off towards it before just before dusk. It was essential that we not miss sundown, as this is when these nocturnal animals are most active and are easiest to see.
It seemed like we waited for an age, staring up at all the small holes formed in the trunk of the tree, hoping for a glimpse of the tarsiers that lived there. Finally, just as it was becoming too dark to see properly without a headtorch, there was some very excited whispering and pointing to my right – someone had seen one! I frantically searched up and down the trunk but, much to my disappointment, I had missed it. I remained hopeful though – tarsiers are very territorial, so I knew that if one had been spotted there would be plenty more nearby defending the tree from neighbouring groups. Sure enough, they soon started their high-pitched, territorial ‘singing’, and I knew that it would not be long before my first tarsier sighting.
I kept straining my eyes towards the tree in wait and, after a couple of minutes that seemed to last hours, not one but two tarsiers showed themselves! My first thought was that they were much smaller than I had imagined – one of them could easily have sat in the palm of my hand with room to spare. My second thought was how cute they were! I found myself smiling at the thought that these tiny, adorable creatures are an insect’s worse nightmare, while most humans would have to fight the urge to steal one to keep as an extremely endearing pet. They didn’t seem at all nervous of our presence. In contrast, their naturally curious natures meant that they spent a lot of time peeking out at us with their huge, orange eyes, as if to determine exactly what we were and the precise nature of our visit to their tree.
We stayed there for around half an hour, and during that time we saw tarsiers every couple of minutes or so. Everyone was silent – just gazing up at these amazing creatures which so few humans ever have the opportunity to see in the wild. Eventually we turned back, not wanting to disturb them for too long, all of us thrilled at such a successful trip. I’m coming to the end of my time in Indonesia as I write this, and looking back over the entire trip I can pinpoint our evening tarsier spotting as my favourite moment of the season.