Although West Papua has a reputation of being a tough birding destination, recent improvements in infrastructure, new guesthouses, and the discovery of more accessible sites means the wonders of the area are now available to all birders without the physical efforts required in the past. This tour takes in all of the areas covered by our main West Papua tour but avoids the tougher hikes and there is no camping, instead using guesthouses and hotels throughout. We still managed to see a great many of the spectacular birds of the region starting on the island of Biak in Geelvink Bay searching for some special island endemics. Although just a fraction of the original forest cover on Biak remains, all of the endemic species can still be found in the secondary and selectively logged forest, including Geelvink Pygmy Parrot, Biak Red Lory, Biak Scops Owl and the stunning Biak Paradise Kingfisher.
In a dramatic change of scenery, we then head into the heart of the island of New Guinea, where amid the stunning scenery of the Snow Mountains we will search a variety of habitats from moss-laden montane forest to alpine grasslands in search of some amazing birds; the spectacular MacGregor’s Bird-of-Paradise, Snow Mountain Quail, Snow Mountain Mannikin, Mountain Firetail, Short-bearded Melidectes, Lorentz’s Whistler, Lesser Melampitta, Salvadori’s Teal, New Guinea Woodcock, Archbold’s Nightjar, Splendid Astrapia and perhaps even the rare Greater Ground Robin. Next stop is the steamy lowland rainforest in the shadow of the Cyclops Mountains where delights such as Salvadori’s Fig Parrot, Jobi Manucode and Buff-faced Pygmy Parrot await, and our Bird-of-Paradise tally is boosted by Pale-billed Sicklebill, Twelve-wired, Lesser and King Birds-of-Paradise.
In the little-known Arfak Mountains we will seek wonders such as displaying Western Parotia, Magnificent Bird-of-Paradise, Vogelkop Bowerbird, Buff-tailed Sicklebill, Arfak Astrapia and Long-tailed Paradigalla before we finish our adventure in style on the Raja Ampat island of Waigeo where we will see Wilson’s Bird-of-Paradise, surely one of the most stunning of the family. Red Bird-of-Paradise is also a Waigeo specialty and there’s a good chance of the impressive Western Crowned Pigeon.
Arrivals into Biak, West Papua where the tour begins. Overnight stay in Biak.
Two full days on Biak with plenty of endemics and specialities for us to find, most of which can still be found in areas of good secondary or selectively logged forest. The island holds several special species, some of which are widespread across the islands in Geelvink Bay but others are restricted to Biak and neighbouring Supiori and it is these endemics on which we will concentrate, including the endemic Biak Paradise Kingfisher which is still pleasingly common and conspicuous. In more open areas we will look for Yellow-bibbed Fruit Dove, Claret-breasted Fruit Dove and Geelvink Imperial Pigeon which are vocal and often perch conspicuously. Secondary growth is also the favoured habitat of the endemic Biak White-eye, while overhead Biak Red Lories frequently flash past. Most other endemics and specialties are best searched for in the forest and include the common Long-tailed Starling. Nights in Biak
This morning we fly to Sentani before continuing on the short but spectacular flight to Wamena in the Grand Baliem Valley, and spend the remained of the day exploring the immediate area. The cultivated valley closer to Wamena we hope to find Ornate Melidectes, localised Black-breasted Munia and the conspicuous Superb Bird-of- Paradise which can even be found in close proximity to the villages. We will try to find the giulianettii Island Leaf Warbler as a future split and the Baliem Whistler which is already regarded as a full species. Night in Wamena.
Basing ourselves in a comfortable hotel in Wamena we will make daily forays in 4WD vehicles for the journey up into the fabled Snow Mountains and in particular the Grand Baliem Valley. The journey is along winding roads, through wonderful forests where we will make several birding stops in search of our first specialties.
During our stay we will explore a variety of habitats in the area.
In the high-altitude grasslands close to Lake Habbema we will bird with the mighty Mount Trikora (4700m) as a constant backdrop. Star bird of this alpine plateau is the striking MacGregor’s Honeyeater which although shy, frequently betray their presence with loud whooshing sounds as they fly along the hillsides with orange primary patches conspicuous. DNA studies have shown this amazing bird to be a honeyeater rather than a bird-of-paradise but this makes it no less special. Other special birds in this area include Snow Mountain Quail that are often flushed from the grasslands, Western Alpine Mannikin, Mountain Firetail, Alpine Pipit and Papuan Harrier favouring the more open areas. Sooty and Short-bearded Melidectes, Orange-cheeked Honeyeaters and Lorentz’s Whistlers prefer the alpine shrubbery, while several pairs of Salvadori’s Teal plus Spotless Crake inhabit the lake and its fringes. As dusk falls we will hope to find a displaying New Guinea Woodcock and the little-known Archbold’s Nightjar. Although steep trailing birding is kept to a minimum we will explore the uppermost of the magical mossy forests a whole new suite of birds appear. Ground-dwellers here include Chestnut Forest Rail, New Guinea Logrunner, shy red-eyed Lesser Melampitta and with a big dose of luck, the rare Greater Ground Robin in the tree-line forest above the altitude of the commoner Lesser Ground Robin.
Other potential species include Splendid Astrapia, Brown Sicklebill, Black Sittella, Crested Berrypecker, Rufous-naped Bellbird, Papuan Treecreeper, Rufous-throated Bronze Cuckoo, Brehm’s and Modest Tiger Parrots, gorgeous Plum-faced Lorikeets and many more.
Nights in Wamena.
This morning we fly back to Sentani before continuing to the lowland forests of Nimbokrang at the base of the imposing Cyclops Mountains where we will be based for the next three nights at a basic homestay. The remainder of the day with be spent exploring this bird-rich area.
The flat alluvial rainforests of Nimbokrang have suffered from logging but large tracts of good secondary and selectively logged forest remain. The birding here is by no means easy but the rewards are great. Several species of Bird-of-Paradise can be found here and we will be hoping to find Pale-billed Sicklebill and to witness the amazing displays of Twelve-wired and King Birds-of-Paradise. The seemingly endless list of possible species here includes some true specialties of the area and thus we will target Salvadori’s Fig-Parrot, Brown and Western Black-capped Lories, Lowland Peltops, Buff-faced Pygmy Parrot, Blue Jewel Babbler, White-eared Catbird, Brown-headed Crow and Jobi Manucode. Nights at basic homestay in Nimbokrang.
After a final day of birding in these tropical lowland forests we will return to Sentani for an overnight stay.
We start the day to exploring nearby grasslands in the shadow of the Cyclops Mountains, where it is often possible to find Fawn-breasted Bowerbird, Grand and Hooded Mannikin. We then fly to Manokwari on the west shore of Geelvink Bay, and from here we drive up into the Arfak Mountains, to our friendly host village, situated at 1600m. Throughout our time here we will base ourselves in a basic but comfortable guesthouse and explore the easier trails in the area, plus some productive roadside birding.
In these remote mountains we will be searching for many special montane birds which include some of New Guinea’s most desirable yet little-known birds. Perhaps the highlight of our stay here will be the chance to visit the dancing ground of the Western Parotia. Hides have been built overlooking some of these display areas and the chance to watch the extravagant ‘ballerina dance’ of these extraordinary birds at point-blank range is truly a mind-blowing experience. Magnificent Birds-of-Paradise can likewise be enjoyed on their display areas and other highly desirable birds here include the elusive Black-billed Sicklebill, the virtually unknown Long-tailed Paradigalla and the fascinating Vogelkop Bowerbird which not only builds an impressive bower but is also a skilled mimic, imitating the songs of many other species. Our local Papuan guides are incredibly skilled at finding these birds and often treat us to daytime views of bizarre-looking Feline and Mountain Owlet Nightjars. Roadsides at higher altitudes give the possibility of the likes of Black Sicklebills, Orange-crowned Fairy-wren, Western Smoky Honeyeaters, Vogelkop Melidectes and maybe even the rare Arfak Astrapia.
After a final day of birding in the Arfaks we return to Manokwari for an overnight stay and a welcome hot shower.
Today we fly to Sorong, hopefully arriving in time to explore areas close to the city which host specialities like Blue-black Kingfisher and Black Thicket-Fantail. Overnight stay in Sorong.
We will spend any available time birding in forests outside of Sorong with the chance of one of the rare and localised species such as Black Lory or Red-breasted Paradise Kingfisher, before taking the fast ferry to Waisai, Waigeo for a three-night stay.
The island of Waigeo holds several species absent from the mainland and these will form our focus here. Our primary target is to find the quite astounding Wilson’s Bird-of-Paradise, a bird frequently cited as one of the most beautiful in the world. Using specially constructed hides we will be able to observe the birds as they visit their display grounds completely oblivious to our admiring eyes. With good fortune we will see the male in full action – calling and displaying vigorously to any females which enter his display arena. Other birds present include Red Bird-of-Paradise, found only on Waigeo and Batanta, Raja Ampat Pitohui, and the shy Western Crowned Pigeon. Nights at Waisai.
After a final morning on Waigeo we return by boat to Sorong for an overnight stay in Sorong.
Tour ends this morning with departures from Sorong.
Deposit: £ 1000 or $ 1,400
Single room supplement: £ 500 / $ 600
Maximum group size: 7
Tour cost includes: all accommodation, main meals, drinking water, internal flights (as stated in itinerary), overland transport, tips to local drivers and guides, travel permits, entrance fees, and guide fees.
Tour cost excludes: International / domestic flights and departure taxes to and from West Papua (tour starts in Biak and ends in Sorong), visa, travel insurance, tips to tour leaders, laundry, drinks and other items of a personal nature.
Accommodation: basic to comfortable twin-bed, and single rooms, all with private facilities everywhere except in the Arfak Mountains (5 nights). There is no camping on this tour.
Walking difficulty: easy to moderate throughout the tour on a mixture of trails and roadside birding. Trails in the Arfak Mountains are steep in places but walking on these is kept to a minimum.
On a few days in both the Snow and Arfak Mountains more difficult walks may be offered for specific birds which wouldn’t otherwise be seen, but these are optional.
Maximum altitude on the tour is 3,400m in the Snow Mountains.
Expected number of species: 320-360 species.
Number of endemics and range-restricted species: 200-220 New Guinea endemics, including 45-50 West Papua endemics.