One week expedition in the endemic-rich lowland forests of Sulawesi to help with biodiversity surveys.

  • Overview
  • Objectives
  • Skills you gain
  • Costs to Consider
  • Site Conditions

One Week Itinerary

The students will spend their week in a remote forest camp in the lowland forest of South East Sulawesi, and will be on site with an international team of academics collecting data on the carbon, biodiversity and community benefits of the forest.

During the first week the teams will complete training and surveys including:

  • Jungle skills training: Students will learn to work safely in a forest research site, how to identify animal tracks and signs, estimate distances, navigate using a compass and identify some of the common bird calls. Exercises are designed to teach students how to make a shelter, find food and water, make a fire and cook in the forest. In addition the students can partake in an optional short course on learning how to ascend into the canopy. Canopy access training costs US$170 or £110 extra for this additional course. Click here to find out more about canopy access.
  • Forest measurements: Students will be working in teams completing measurements of 50m x 50m quadrats to collect data on the diameter at breast height of all woody species, canopy height, quantity of vegetation at different heights from a touch pole, canopy density, evidence of disturbance (e.g. cut stumps) and sapling density.
  • Butterfly surveys: Students will be helping with pollard counts of butterflies.
  • Bird surveys: Students will be working with an experienced ornithologist completing point count surveys where all birds seen or heard are identified.
  • Herpetofauna surveys: Students will be working with an experienced herpetologist emptying pitlines, completing standard time scan searches and also spotlighting at night for frogs.
  • Megafauna surveys: Students will be walking quietly along transects to record large mammals and birds (macaques and hornbills) using distance based sampling. Signs (footprints and droppings) of other species (anoa and wild pig) will be recorded and patch occupancy analysis used to identify their abundance. In addition camera traps have been set at some of the camps and their use to estimate abundance of large mammals will also be demonstrated.
  • Bat surveys: Students will be shown how harp trapping and mist netting for bats can be used to determine bat communities. How captured bats are removed, handled, identified and morphometric measurements recorded will be demonstrated.

In addition to the above practicals the students will also complete a course in camp on Wallacea Wildlife including lectures on Indonesia and the Wallacea region, plant and insect biodiversity, vertebrate diversity, and conservation synthesis. All of the lectures are based on primary research conducted in the area.

Indonesia - Wallacea Terrestrial Research Objectives

The Wallacea region comprises islands of the central part of the Indonesian archipelago that are separated by deep ocean trenches which prevented them from being joined to the main continental land masses during the lowered sea levels of the Ice Ages. As a result of subsequently long periods of isolation, a large number of unique species evolved. The forests of the Wallacea region are one of the least biologically studied areas in the world and one of the most likely places to discover vertebrate species new to science. Since 1995, the Opwall teams have been surveying the biodiversity of Buton Island in SE Sulawesi, so that more information is now available on the wildlife of this well studied area than anywhere else in the Wallacea region. The Opwall gathered data are being used to assess the impacts of potential carbon offset funding schemes in protecting the carbon and biodiversity of the forests and ensure that local communities have a financial benefit from this conservation programme.

  • Attend lectures/workshops about the Wallacea region, and its ecology from published research
  • Learn survey methods to sample birds, butterflies, large mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and bats
  • Learn how to conduct habitat surveys and calculate the carbon biomass of an area of forest
  • Learn skills to work and live safely in a remote rainforest research site
  • Live and work with local people and learn about Indonesian culture, customs and language
  • Opportunity to ascend into the canopy, with Canopy Access Ltd (additional cost)

The costs of a school group expedition can be highly variable. There is a standard fee paid to Opwall for all expeditions but the location you are flying from, the size of your group, and how you wish to pay all impact the overall cost.

You can choose to book the expedition as a package (which includes your international flights) or you can organise your travel yourself and just pay us for the expedition related elements.

If you are booking your expedition as a package, you also have the option of being invoiced as a group, or on an individual basis.

In the tropical rainforests of Indonesia is is generally warm during the day (around 25 degrees Celsius), and humid, with up to 80% humidity. At night the temperatures drop lower, but not usually lower than around 15 degrees Celsius. It rains very frequently, and very heavily at times, but for short periods.

Creature Comforts
The terrestrial sites are basic field camps that enables access to primary rainforest habitats. A camp kitchen, communal eating area and change-rooms are set alongside a river where washing is done after a long day of forest surveys. South and Central Buton guests sleep in hammocks that are set in a large tent in the camp.

Fitness level required
High for the forest sites. You will need to hike for long periods, over steep and muddy terrain, at times with your large rucksack.



  • Indonesia
  • South Buton Forest Camp

Want to get involved with this project?


Want to get involved with this project?

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