Birding Tour New Caledonia, Fiji and Samoa
Birding Tour New Caledonia, Fiji and Samoa
Our Birding Tour New Caledonia, Fiji, and Samoa starts in Nouméa, New Caledonia, and concludes in Apia, Samoa. The tour duration is 19 days. Please note that the tour dates are merely indicative because the local flight schedules are only released at quite a late stage, and this often changes the itinerary a little.
New Caledonia (6 days)
New Caledonia is an ancient archipelago of Gondwanan origin. Most of the islands are covered in tropical evergreen forest at higher elevations, while savanna and maquis dominate the lower elevations. Most famous for being the home of the unique Kagu, they host a total of 20 island endemics as well as about a dozen additional Melanesian endemics. The strict island endemics include White-bellied Goshawk, Kagu, Cloven-feathered Dove, Goliath Imperial Pigeon, Horned Parakeet, New Caledonian Parakeet, New Caledonian Myzomela, Barred Honeyeater, Crow Honeyeater, New Caledonian Friarbird, New Caledonian Whistler, New Caledonian Crow, Yellow-bellied Flyrobin, New Caledonian Thicketbird, Large Lifou White-eye, Small Lifou White-eye, Green-backed White-eye, Striated Starling, and Red-throated Parrotfinch.
We will spend time in the following areas: Parc Provincial de la Rivière Bleue, Mont Koghi, and the Farino area. The main targets will be the endemic birds found on Grande Terre (the main, largest island) and the prime target will be finding and photographing the star bird of New Caledonia, the endemic and charismatic Kagu. Most other endemics found on Grande Terre should also be encountered during the time we have in New Caledonia.
Fiji (10 days)
Fiji is an archipelago of beautiful tropical islands, scattered across the southwestern Pacific, with numerous endemics. There is high diversity of pigeons and doves (especially fruit doves), monarch flycatchers, and parrots. By visiting three islands (Viti Levu, Vanua Levu, and Kadavu) we can observe up to 24 of the 28 extant endemics available in the islands, along with numerous Polynesian regional endemics. The Fijian endemics include Fiji Goshawk, Orange Fruit Dove, Golden Fruit Dove, Whistling Fruit Dove, Barking Imperial Pigeon, Crimson Shining Parrot, Maroon Shining Parrot, Masked Shining Parrot, Collared Lory, Fiji Wattled Honeyeater, Kikau, Yellow-billed Honeyeater, Giant Honeyeater, Kadavu Honeyeater, Fiji Woodswallow, Natewa Silktail, Kadavu Fantail, Slaty Monarch, Azure-crested Flycatcher, Fiji Bush Warbler, Long-legged Thicketbird, Fiji White-eye, Fiji Parrotfinch, and Pink-billed Parrotfinch.
Samoa (3 days)
Samoa (formerly Western Samoa) is a nation of laid-back, tropical islands to the east of Fiji with its own smattering of endemics and specialties, which include Flat-billed Kingfisher, Mao, Samoan Triller, Samoan Whistler, Samoan Fantail, Samoan Flycatcher, Samoan Starling, and Red-headed Parrotfinch. The near-endemic Blue-crowned Lorikeet of a genus endemic to Polynesia also occurs here. We will spend our time on the island of Upolu, focusing on these birds.
Itinerary (19 days/18 nights)
Day 1. Birding Parc Provincial de la Rivière Bleue
Our tour will start in Nouméa, New Caledonia, at 8:00 a.m. We will spend a full day birding at Parc Provincial de la Rivière Bleue, located in the southern part of the island of Grande Terre, in search of endemic birds, including New Caledonia’s star endemic, the flightless and extremely rare Kagu. Other birds we will search for include New Caledonian Parakeet, New Caledonian Myzomela, Barred Honeyeater, New Caledonian Friarbird, Green-backed White-eye, Fan-tailed Gerygone, Metallic Pigeon, Goliath Imperial Pigeon, Sacred Kingfisher, South Melanesian Cuckooshrike, Crow Honeyeater, New Caledonian Cuckooshrike, Horned Parakeet, Southern Shrikebill, Yellow-bellied Flyrobin, Red-throated Parrotfinch, White-bellied Goshawk, Cloven-feathered Dove, and New Caledonian Crow.
Day 2. Birding Mont Koghi
Today we will have a full day birding Mont Koghi and the surrounding area for a range of endemic birds including New Caledonian Thicketbird and White-bellied Goshawk.
Days 3 – 4. Birding Parc Provincial de la Rivière Bleue
We will have two more full days birding the Parc Provincial de la Rivière Bleue area, focusing on getting good views and photographs of Kagu and the other endemic birds found in this beautiful reserve, including many of those species already mentioned for Day 1 above.
Day 5. Birding the Farino area
We will spend the day birding the Farino area. Our main targets here include New Caledonian Thicketbird, Cloven-feathered Dove, New Caledonian Crow, and Horned Parakeet, among many others such as New Caledonian Whistler and Striated Starling.
Day 6. Birding the Farino area, flight to Viti Levu, Fiji
In the early morning we will still be birding the Farino area, looking for any endemics that might still be missing. Then we will travel back to Nouméa before flying from there to Nadi International Airport on Viti Levu, Fiji, and from there to Suva, the capital of Fiji, also on Viti Levu.
Days 7 – 8. Birding the Suva area
Two full days will allow us to thoroughly explore the Suva area, where we will look for Fijian specialties such as Fiji and Pink-billed Parrotfinches, Barking Imperial Pigeon, Collared Lory, Sulphur-breasted Myzomela, Polynesian Wattled Honeyeater, Giant Honeyeater, Black-throated Shrikebill, Vanikoro Flycatcher, Fiji Bush Warbler, Fiji White-eye, Fiji Goshawk, Golden Fruit Dove, Polynesian Triller, Slaty Monarch, Pacific Robin, Polynesian Starling, Long-legged Thicketbird, Metallic Pigeon, Island Thrush, Masked Shining Parrot, Azure-crested Flycatcher, and Fiji Whistler.
Day 9. Flight to and birding Vanua Levu
In the morning we’ll fly from Suva to Savusavu on Vanua Levu, Fiji. In the afternoon we’ll be birding around the Daku Resort area.
Overnight: Daku Resort
Days 10 – 11. Birding Vanua Levu
For two days we will be birding around Vanua Levu at the Silktail stakeout and around the Daku Resort area. We will spend time looking for more of the Fijian specialties listed above, but we’ll also search for the little-known, endemic Silktail, along with Orange Fruit Dove, Maroon Shining Parrot, Fiji Shrikebill, and Island Thrush (different subspecies to those on other islands we’ve visited so far).
Overnight: Daku Resort
Day 12. Birding Vanua Levu
Today we will be birding around the small towns of Oneva and Naqere before our late-afternoon flight from Savusavu back to Suva. This is a day spent looking for some more Fijian endemics, but we also will have a chance for a few waterbirds.
Day 13. Flight to Kadavu, transfer to our lodge
We’ll take a morning flight from Suva to Kadavu, followed by transfer to our accommodations. We will take a boat to our secluded lodge, where we will spend three nights.
Overnight: Papageno Resort
Days 14 – 15. Birding Kadavu
For two days we will be birding around Kadavu island from our resort. We will spend a couple of days in a peaceful paradise, seeking more Fijian specialties, some of which are only found on Kadavu. We’ll search for Kadavu Honeyeater, Kadavu Fantail, Whistling Fruit Dove, Many-colored Fruit Dove, Polynesian Starling, Collard Lory, Crimson Shining Parrot, Fiji Whistler, Fiji Goshawk, and Fiji Shrikebill.
Overnight: Papageno Resort
Day 16. Birding Kadavu, flight to Nadi
We’ll have a final morning birding on Kadavu before transferring, first by boat and then by plane, to Nadi.
Day 17. Flight to Samoa, afternoon birding the Apia area
We will take an early morning flight from Nadi International Airport, Fiji, to Apia, the capital of Samoa on the island of Upolu. Here we will have an afternoon of birding near Apia, targeting Flat-billed Kingfisher, Samoan Starling, Samoan Whistler, and Samoan Fantail. Our eyes will also look to the skies for White-tailed Tropicbird, Brown Noddy, and White Tern.
Day 18. Birding on Upolu
All day we’ll be birding for lowland and highland endemics on Upolu. We’ll spend the whole day, and most of the next one, searching for birds such as Crimson-crowned Fruit-Dove, Cardinal Myzomela, Polynesian Wattled Honeyeater, Buff-banded Rail, Blue-crowned Lorikeet, Mao (a friarbird-like honeyeater), Red-headed Parrotfinch, Pacific Imperial Pigeon, Metallic Pigeon, Many-colored Fruit Dove, Samoan Triller, and Samoan Flycatcher, and we look for (or dream of) the mythical Tooth-billed Pigeon.
Day 19. Birding on Upolu
This is the final day of the tour. We will be birding all day on Upolu, chasing many of the birds listed above as well as any others we may still want to have a final look at.
Overnight: Apia (not included in tour price) or international flight
Please note that the itinerary cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors such as internal flight availability. In addition, we sometimes have to use a different international guide from the one advertised due to tour scheduling.Download Itinerary
New Caledonia, Fiji and Samoa – Custom Trip Report, October 2016
02 – 20 OCTOBER 2016
By Andy Walker
DOWNLOAD TRIP REPORT
This custom birding and photography tour for Jim and Barbara commenced on the 2nd October 2016 in New Caledonia and concluded on the 20th October 2016 in Samoa. The tour visited the Pacific Islands of Grande Terre (New Caledonia) for six days, Viti Levu, Vanua Levu, and Kadavu (Fiji) for ten days, and Upolu (Samoa) for three days. Our focus was on finding and photographing the many exciting country and regional endemic birds found across these islands.
Trip highlights were numerous and included most endemics, Kagu, New Caledonian Crow, Crow Honeyeater, Silktail, Horned Parakeet, Masked Shining Parrot, Maroon Shining Parrot, Crimson Shining Parrot, Collared Lory, Azure-crested Flycatcher, Samoan Whistler, Mao, and Flat-billed Kingfisher, but the many interesting and beautiful pigeons and doves really stood out as being exceptional, with Cloven-feathered Dove, Goliath Imperial Pigeon, Barking Imperial Pigeon, Golden Fruit Dove, Orange Fruit Dove, Whistling Fruit Dove, Many-colored Fruit Dove, and Crimson-crowned Fruit Dove all seen well.
Day 1, 2nd October 2016: Parc de la Rivière Bleue
We were going to be having a few visits to the Parc de la Rivière Bleue, so because this was the first day of the tour we had a relaxed start with breakfast in Nouméa. Here many of the common and widespread species were noted, such as Grey-eared Honeyeater, Common Myna, Coconut Lorikeet, Spotted Dove, and White-rumped Swiftlet.
We headed across to Parc de la Rivière Bleue, and we had one big target in mind – Kagu. However, the drive to the reserve produced an incredible sight in the form of a displaying endemic White-bellied Goshawk. We watched the bird, an adult female, for a good 20 minutes! Not a bad endemic to get the trip off to a flying start! After the formalities of getting inside the reserve, with a flyover of Red-throated Parrotfinch at the ticket booth, we made our way straight to the forest, where we were greeted by a rather cute Yellow-bellied Flyrobin family, these tiny endemics are often very approachable, and today was no exception.
We enjoyed watching this small family group, and then, after a quiet walk along a short trail, we found our main prize. Standing there just off the trail was the bizarre-looking, rather large, flightless Kagu, complete with punk-rocker hair-do! We spent the next hour or so watching and photographing this bird, and over the course of the day saw a further five of them.
It was interesting watching the Kagu forage for grubs among the decaying vegetation and quite impressive seeing the size of some of the tree branches that it could move! It was a real privilege to see this bird so well, one of the most sought-after species on the planet and a conservation success with a currently expanding population. We soaked these sightings in as much as we could.
A brief walk before lunch gave good views of several other endemics: New Caledonian Myzomela, New Caledonian Cuckooshrike, Goliath Imperial Pigeon, New Caledonian Friarbird, Green-backed White-eye, and New Caledonian Whistler. A pair of Shining Bronze Cuckoos also put on a good show at this time. We’d had a very nice relaxing day so took a final short walk in the reserve before returning to our base in Nouméa. This walk gave great views of a very confiding, regional endemic Streaked Fantail as well as Coconut Lorikeet and Sacred Kingfisher.
Day 2, 3rd October 2016: Mount Koghi
We spent the day on beautiful Mount Koghi, where we enjoyed a walk through some spectacular, ancient forest. One highlight here was getting great views of the huge Goliath Imperial Pigeon – the largest imperial pigeon in the world, likely the largest/heaviest arboreal pigeon in the world too, and a New Caledonian endemic! There were also plenty of other endemic birds to look at in the forest here, such as New Caledonian Parakeet, New Caledonian Myzomela, New Caledonian Friarbird, Barred Honeyeater, New Caledonian Whistler, Yellow-bellied Flyrobin, Green-backed White-eye, and Striated Starling.
Non-endemic birds enjoyed during the day included Swamp Harrier (hunting the forest canopy!), Metallic Pigeon, Glossy Swiftlet, Grey-eared Honeyeater, Fan-tailed Gerygone, South Melanesian Cuckooshrike, Long-tailed Triller, Rufous Whistler, Grey Fantail, Melanesian Flycatcher, and Common Waxbill.
However, the day really belonged to one species, one that was a top reason for coming to New Caledonia – the endemic, tool-using New Caledonian Crow. We were lucky to find a bird that was busily feeding on insects, even briefly using its tool, and it gave exceptional views at very close range!
Day 3, 4th October 2016: Parc de la Rivière Bleue
We had another full day in this great reserve. We concentrated on a different section of forest from our previous visit, where again we got further fantastic looks at several Kagu. It was hard to tear ourselves away from these great birds, especially when a couple of them walked right up to us, totally unconcerned by our presence!
Again we recorded plenty of other country and regional endemics and gained better views of several species we’d enjoyed over previous days, such as Crow Honeyeater, New Caledonian Friarbird, Barred Honeyeater, New Caledonian Cuckooshrike, New Caledonian Whistler, Streaked Fantail, Southern Shrikebill, Yellow-bellied Flyrobin, and Green-backed White-eye.
Day 4, 5th October 2016: Farino
After a relaxing morning enjoying the stunning beach near our hotel in Nouméa we took a relaxed drive north for a couple of hours toward the Farino area. Here, after enjoying a wonderful lunch, we had a late-afternoon walk around our new accommodation, where we had fantastic views of a male White-bellied Goshawk sitting in a giant pine tree. As great as it had been to see the displaying bird on our first day, it was even better to see this bird perched and to really appreciate its beauty.
Here we also got very good views of a pair of confiding Melanesian Flycatchers and several South Melanesian and New Caledonian Cuckooshrikes, but again a real highlight was the tool-using New Caledonian Crows, which gave further great looks.
Day 5, 6th October 2016: Farino
This was our final day birding in New Caledonia, and we ended with a bang, seeing three spectacular species, and one of these (at least!) would be a candidate for bird of the entire trip! We started out by finding a pair of gorgeous Red-throated Parrotfinch feeding in some grassland just outside our accommodation as we drove to our riverside birding site.
On arrival at our riverside walk the sounds of assorted pigeons and doves rang out, and we gradually started picking them off, with Metallic Pigeon and Goliath Imperial Pigeon seen very well. As we were watching New Caledonian Whistler and Rufous Whistler a shape in the back of a tree caught our attention, and after a bit of maneuvering we were soon enjoying good views of the beautiful and rather interesting-looking Horned Parakeet. This endemic parrot was a real treat to see! On a high from this sighting we continued a little further around the corner, where suddenly we were face to face with the simply spectacular endemic Cloven-feathered Dove. There really isn’t anything else on the planet that looks like this one, and we watched this particular individual for a long time, really appreciating it in all its glory. This species was a real treat to end our time in New Caledonia.
Day 6, 7th October 2016: Fly from New Caledonia to Fiji
Essentially a travel day, we left our accommodation in New Caledonia before taking a couple of flights to get to Suva, Viti Levu, Fiji, where we were to spend the next three days birding.
Days 7 – 9, 8th – 10th October 2016: Suva Area, Viti Levu
We spent three full days based near Suva in the southeast of Viti Levu. We lost a full day on the 10th due to a huge tropical cyclone that brought 24 hours of non-stop torrential rain and gale force winds, which brought down many trees. However, the other two full days we had gave us ample opportunity to see and photograph many exciting country and regional endemics. Most of our time was spent in and around the excellent Colo-I-Suva Forest Park, but we also made a trip to the coast at Suva and a nearby forested area, which was particularly productive.
Some of the really exciting birds we saw on Viti Levu included Fiji Goshawk, Wandering Tattler, Many-colored Fruit Dove, Golden Fruit Dove, Barking Imperial Pigeon, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Pacific Kingfisher, Masked Shining Parrot, Collared Lory, Sulphur-breasted Myzomela, Kikau, Giant Honeyeater, Fiji Woodswallow, Fiji Whistler, Streaked Fantail, Slaty Monarch, Fiji Shrikebill, Black-throated Shrikebill, Vanikoro Flycatcher, Azure-crested Flycatcher, Pacific Robin, Fiji Bush Warbler, Fiji White-eye, Island Thrush, and Fiji Parrotfinch.
Day 10, 11th October 2016: Suva Area, Viti Levu
After a morning’s birding after the cyclone had passed, enjoying more of the aforementioned species, we were due to fly between Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. However, after a lengthy delay to our departure due to a technical fault with our Fiji Airways plane this flight regrettably got cancelled. This resulted in an unexpected and unwanted additional night in Suva, with a rescheduled flight the next morning.
Day 11, 12th October 2016: Suva Area, Viti Levu to Savusavu, Vanua Levu
We arrived for our rescheduled flight only to find that Fiji Airways again had aircraft issues, and they were far from helpful in sorting anything out quickly. Eventually, after the best part of a day waiting, we finally set off on a flight to Vanua Levu. Not where we wanted to be on the island, but at least we were finally on the correct island. After a taxi ride across the island we belatedly got to our resort, where we could finally relax and prepare for some new endemics the next morning.
Day 12, 13th October 2016: Savusavu Area, Vanua Levu
We spent the day birding within a couple of forested areas around Savusavu. We had one main target bird for the morning, and we made that a priority after enjoying great views of Fiji Wattled Honeyeater, Fiji Goshawk, and Fiji Parrotfinch over breakfast. Our target bird was Orange Fruit Dove, and after a short uphill hike through a patch of forest we heard the dove’s distinctive call. It took a bit of locating in the thick vegetation, but we quickly got onto the bird, and wow, what a spectacular bird it was! We spent a good hour or so trying to improve our views of this wonderful endemic dove, being successful in doing so.
During the afternoon we drove through some nearby hills, where we connected with a number of endemics, many species listed for Viti Levu above but represented by different subspecies, which was interesting to see. Some subspecies (country and regional endemics) were markedly different – such as Fiji Whistler, Fiji Bush Warbler, and Streaked Fantail.
Day 13, 14th October 2016: Vanua Levu
We took an early morning drive out to the east of our accommodation, where we entered some good forest (having dodged last years’ very damaging tropical cyclone). Here we searched for and in a short space of time located the very interesting endemic Silktail. There has been much debate on the taxonomy of this species; previously considered a bird of paradise and a monarch flycatcher, it is now considered to be more closely related to the fantails, and while watching it forage it was easy to see why it could have been considered either a monarch or a fantail! While here we also saw Tongan Ground Dove, Maroon Shining Parrot, Fiji Whistler, Fiji Bush Warbler, Fiji Goshawk, and Fiji Shrikebill.
We enjoyed a picnic lunch on a vast, empty beach, just us with a few Wandering Tattlers, White-faced Herons, and Pacific Reef Herons for company, with a flyover Black Noddy nearby. As the tide came in a few fishermen arrived and we made our way back to our accommodation, where we spent the remainder of the afternoon making the most of the resort’s pool!
Day 14, 15th October 2016: Vanua Levu to Kadavu via Viti Levu
After an early breakfast we made our way to the Savusavu Airport, where we took the first of two flights for the day. The first stop was in Nadi on Viti Levu, and after a short transit period we made our way to our new island – Kadavu. We were greeted at the airport by our new resort staff and took a rather bumpy boat for an hour (enjoying Brown Booby and Green Turtle along the way) before pulling up at our secluded spot of paradise!
After a wonderful lunch, a siesta, and afternoon tea we started a brief look around the resort grounds to see what we could find. It didn’t take long to locate the island-endemic Kadavu Fantail, which went on to give superb views at close range. Equally obliging in terms of abundance was another island endemic, Kadavu Honeyeater, but getting them to pose for the camera was tougher than expected!
Some of the other species enjoyed during the afternoon included: Polynesian Triller, Fiji Whistler (another distinct subspecies), Slaty Monarch, Vanikoro Flycatcher, Pacific Swallow, Fiji White-eye, Polynesian Starling, and Lesser Frigatebird.
Day 15, 16th October 2016: Kadavu
We had the whole day on our island paradise, where we had three great meals and the beautiful sea to swim in; however, there were birds to look for, so we also did a little birding…!
We took a pre-breakfast and late-afternoon walk around the resort grounds, and sandwiched in between these we took a fairly-steep hike up the hill behind the resort into some good forest. Birds were plentiful throughout the day and included all four island endemics, two new ones being Whistling Fruit Dove (quite ‘bland’ compared to the other endemic fruit doves!), and the stunning Crimson Shining Parrot – possibly the better-looking of the three Fijian endemic shining parrots. We also had fantastic views of numerous Many-colored Fruit Doves – these were very pretty!
Other birds seen during the day included Kadavu Honeyeater, Kadavu Fantail, Barking Imperial Pigeon, Pacific Kingfisher, Collared Lory, Sulphur-breasted Myzomela, Polynesian Triller, Fiji Whistler, Slaty Monarch, Fiji Shrikebill, Vanikoro Flycatcher, Fiji Bush Warbler, Fiji White-eye, Silvereye, and Polynesian Starling.
Day 16, 17th October 2016: Kadavu to Viti Levu
Our final day birding in Fiji had come around. We spent the morning having a final walk around part of the island, where we bettered our views of both Whistling Fruit Dove and Crimson Shining Parrot from the previous day and again recorded many of the species listed above.
Late-morning we took a much smoother boat ride back to Kadavu Airport, from where we took the first of two flights. First up was our flight to Suva, and then after some more time at our favorite airport in Fiji we took our second flight back to Nadi, where we overnighted at an airport hotel; here an early night beckoned.
Day 17, 18th October 2016: Fiji to Upolu, Samoa
We had an early start to make our flight across to the island of Upolu in Samoa, and everything went smoothly. After arrival in Samoa we drove along the gorgeous coastal road to our base for a couple of nights in the capital Apia.
We took a late-afternoon walk, where we enjoyed watching Pacific Golden Plover and Buff-banded Rails walking around people’s front gardens! We saw our first endemics in Samoan Fantail and Samoan Starling and had great looks at the gorgeous Blue-crowned Lorikeet and Cardinal Myzomela.
Day 18, 19th October 2016: Upolu
A morning walk around the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum grounds was rewarding and gave us plenty to look at. Samoan Fantail and Samoan Starling were present, along with Crimson-crowned Fruit Dove, Flat-billed Kingfisher, Blue-crowned Lorikeet, Polynesian Wattled Honeyeater, Polynesian Triller, Samoan Whistler, and Polynesian Starling.
It was also worth looking skywards, where Brown Noddies, White Terns and White-tailed Tropicbirds were frequently noted overhead. White Terns were busy chasing each other around in breeding territorial disputes, which was a very impressive sight.
After a siesta during the heat of the day (and the hottest temperatures we’d had on the entire tour) we made our way into a forest road, where we found many of the above-listed species and a few more new ones, such as Metallic Pigeon, Pacific Imperial Pigeon, Mao, Samoan Triller, Pacific Robin, and Red-headed Parrotfinch.
Day 19, 20th October 2016: Upolu and tour concludes
The final day of the tour had come around in no time at all. We’d really enjoyed our time at the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum grounds the previous day, so we headed back there for our final morning’s birding. We had very nice views of many species we’d previously seen, but we also got our best views of Flat-billed Kingfisher and Crimson-crowned Fruit Dove.
Before long it was time to head back to the airport, where this Pacific custom tour concluded.
Please see the downloadable PDF above with the full species lists included. This is a sample trip report. Please email us ([email protected]) for more trip reports from this destination.