This two-week tour concentrates on the Vogelkop or 'Birds head' peninsula of north-west New Guinea and the adjacent Raja Ampat Island. It is designed for people who don't have time for our longer West Papua tours and in no way compromises the species coverage, with a comprehensive itinerary to Waigeo, the best available lowland forest near Sorong and the famous Arfak Mountains.
We begin our adventure by heading up into the lush forests of the Arfak Mountains where 'ballerina dancing' Western Parotia, Magnificent and Vogelkop Superb Bird-of-Paradise, White-striped Forest Rail, Masked and Vogelkop Bowerbird, Black-billed Sicklebill, Arfak Astrapia and Long-tailed Paradigalla are just a few of a mouth-watering list of targets. Moving on to the lowland forests near Sorong we hope to find local specialties like Blue-black Kingfisher, Black Lory and Red-breasted Paradise Kingfisher among a fine selection of other lowland New Guinea species before we finish the tour in style on the Raja Ampat Islands, concentrating on the island of Waigeo in search of Wilson's Bird-of-Paradise, surely one of the most stunning of the family. Red Bird-of-Paradise is also found only here and a few neighboring islands and we should also see Raja Ampat Pitohui, and have a chance to spot the shy Western Crowned Pigeon.
After early morning arrivals from Jakarta into Manokwari we head straight up into the Arfak Mountains, to our base at 1600m. Over the coming days we will split our time between the lower levels of the forest and the higher reaches of the montane forest, each area with its own distinct avifauna and special birds. Most of our seven nights here will be spent in the basic guesthouses in friendly local villages but two nights will be spent at a basic camp higher up the mountains to search for higher altitude specialities.
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, and hopefully the recently described Vogelkop Superb Bird-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. The list of potential birds here is huge, with the lower elevations offering chances at the highly restricted Obscure Berrypecker, hopefully the gem-like Wallace's Fairywren, the mind-blowing Masked Bowerbird, shy Piping Bellbird, and the ground-dwelling Chestnut-backed Jewel Babbler.
In mid-elevation forests we can hope to find the taxonomically fascinating Drongo-fantail and the Mottled Berryhunter already in its own monotypic family. Vogelkop Whistler, Western Smoky Honeyeaters, Mountain Fruit Dove, Lesser Ground Robin, and Vogelkop Melidectes.
As we reach higher altitudes the plethora of birds seen will include additions such as Orange-crowned Fairy-wren, Cinnamon-browed Melidectes, Rufous-sided Honeyeater, Papuan Treecreeper, Ashy, Smoky and Green-backed among a plethora of Robins, the fabulous Arfak Astrapia and watch incredulous as a huge Black Sicklebill displays atop a broken stump at dawn. 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.
Nights in a basic homestay or camping.
After a final day of birding in the Arfaks we return to Manokwari for a welcome plush hotel hot shower.
An early morning flight will take us northwest across the Vogelkop Peninsula to the town of Sorong, from where we will drive inland into the lush lowland forests of the interior. We hike in to our basic village accommodation set amidst these bird rich forests and in the afternoon being our birding near the village where there is a good chance of the local endemic Black Lory and the rarely seen Papuan Nightjar hawks at dusk and the localised Papuan Hawk Owl is present. Night in basic village homestay.
We have a full day exploring the nearby forests. Red-breasted Paradise Kingfisher is one of the stars and we will try hard to tease out one of these shy beauties, but also present are Blue-black Kingfisher, Blue Jewel Babbler, both King and Twelve-wired Bird-of-paradise, Magnificent Riflebird and Pheasant Pigeon. Other rarer inhabitants include Northern Cassowary and Western Crowned Pigeon although both are typically shy. Night in basic village homestay.
Final early morning birding before making our way back out to the main road for our transfer back to Sorong in time to take the afternoon fast ferry to Waisai, Waigeo for a three night stay based at the idyllically situated Raja Ampat Resort.
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 WilsonÕs 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 Ð 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, Brown-headed Crow and the shy Western Crowned Pigeon. Nights at the Raja Ampat Hotel, Waisai.
After a final morning on Waigeo we return by fast ferry again to Sorong for an overnight stay.
Final birding in a nice mangrove patch near Sorong and a final chance to catch up with the likes of Blue-black Kingfisher, Collared Imperial Pigeon and Black Thicket Fantail which are often present, before the tour concludes as we take our departing flights via Jakarta.
Deposit: £ 1000 or $ 1,400
Single room supplement: £TBC/$TBC
Maximum group size: 7
Tour cost includes: all accommodation, main meals, drinking water, internal flight (as stated in itinerary), overland transport and ferry crossings, 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 Manokwari and ends in Sorong), visa, travel insurance, tips to tour leaders, laundry, drinks and other items of a personal nature.
Arfak Mountains; basic to comfortable twin-bed, and single rooms, with shared facilities, except two nights spent in a well-constructed camp with shared toilet facilities.
Malagufuk; two nights in basic shared accommodation with shared facilities.
Sorong / Waigeo; comfortable twin-bed, and single rooms, with private facilities.
Walking difficulty: Trails in the Arfak mountains are steep in places and walks some walks are moderate to arduous but a lot of time is almost spent roadside birding or in observation hides. Easy to moderate at Malagufuk and on Waigeo, on a mixture of roads and trails.
Maximum altitude on the tour is 2,200m in the Arfak Mountains.
Expected number of species: 240 - 280 species.
Number of endemics and range-restricted species: 160-180 New Guinea endemics, including 20-25 West Papua endemics.