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New Guinea is a geographic, rather than political term that refers to the main island in the region. The western half of the island of New Guinea comprises the Indonesian provinces of West Papua (Papua Barat) and Papua, collectively once called West Irian or Irian Jaya; the eastern half of the main island of New Guinea comprises the country of Papua New Guinea. We will be based in West Papua for this birding adventure.
Aside from the large landmass of New Guinea, the New Guinea region includes numerous small islands on the continental shelf or verges thereof (some part of Indonesia and others part of Papua New Guinea), and we will visit one of these areas: Waigeo, part of the Raja Ampat Archipelago in West Papua (also known as the Northwestern Islands).
Approximately 680 bird species have been recorded from West Papua, from slightly more than 700 for the whole New Guinea region. Some 550 species are considered breeding residents, with 279 New Guinea endemics (found in Indonesia and/or Papua New Guinea) and at least an additional 42 endemics found only in West Papua. There are also over 115 Palearctic and Australian migrant species and a range of seabirds to be found spending some of their time in West Papua.
This Arfak and Waigeo tour will begin in the town of Manokwari, situated on the north-eastern tip of West Papua’s Bird’s Head, (or Vogelkop) Peninsula. From here we will travel to the nearby Arfak Mountains, where we will search for a fabulous series of birds, renowned in birders’ circles as the “Vogelkop Endemics”, such as Vogelkop Bowerbird, Western Parotia, Arfak Astrapia, Long-tailed Paradigalla, Black Sicklebill, Magnificent Bird-of-paradise, and Spotted Jewel-babbler.
The second and final leg of our tour takes us to Sorong, on the opposite side of the Bird’s Head Peninsula, and then to one of the Raja Ampat Islands, Waigeo. Here we will search for endemic Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise, Red Bird-of-paradise, and Western Crowned Pigeon. Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise is often considered one of the ‘best-looking’ birds on the planet, and so we’ll look forward to making our own judgments on this.
Itinerary (12 days/11 nights)
Day 1: Arrival in Manokwari
Arrival at Rendani Airport in Manokwari, where you will be met and taken to our nearby hotel for the remainder of the day at leisure.
Day 2: Birding near Manokwari, travel to and birding in the Arfak Mountains
We will get the tour under way with some great birds near Manokwari, such as Pacific Baza, Claret-breasted Fruit Dove, White-bibbed Fruit Dove, Pinon’s Imperial Pigeon, Collared Imperial Pigeon, Zoe’s Imperial Pigeon, Papuan Mountain Pigeon, Eclectus Parrot, Black-capped Lory, and Hooded Butcherbird. We may even find our first bird-of-paradise of the trip, the beautiful Lesser Bird-of-paradise. Around mid-morning we will leave the city and travel into the Arfak Mountains, our base for the next four days. The afternoon will be spent birding the forest near our accommodation, where we may see the likes of Masked Bowerbird, Arfak Honeyeater, Black-throated Robin, Green-backed Robin, and possibly Magnificent Bird-of-paradise.
Overnight: Arfak Mountains
Days 3–6: Birding in the Arfak Mountains
Arguably one of the premier birding regions in West Papua, the Arfak Mountains support nine endemic bird species (and a further eleven species with restricted ranges), of which the most famous must be Vogelkop Bowerbird – the world’s greatest avian architect. Males of this amazing species build a roofed house-like maypole (tented) bower construction at the base of a tree sapling, inside and in front of which they place colorful berries, flowers, and insect parts to attract females, a true sight to behold for the female, and for us!
We will also look for the exciting Western Parotia, the males of which perform a bizarre side-step dance on the floor of their display courts, while their flank plumes are spread to form a circular skirt, with their six, wiry, antenna-like nape feathers directed forward. Two other endemic birds-of-paradise are commonly seen here at higher altitudes (almost 2,000m) – the little-known Arfak Astrapia and Long-tailed Paradigalla (rediscovered in 1989), as well as the more widespread Black Sicklebill with its 80cm long tail. Lower down, the Magnificent Bird-of-paradise may be seen on his court, displaying, in sequence, his iridescent, carmine back, dark green breast shield, and sulphur-yellow cape before jerkily dancing up and down a vertical sapling, while quivering his cocked, sickle-shaped central tail feathers. Up to seven species of robins may be seen on the mountain trails, among many other families, as well as Spotted Jewel-babbler, and, if we are lucky, Feline or Mountain Owlet-nightjar.
Other wonderful birds, most of them endemic or range-restricted, which we hope to find in the Arfak Mountains include Superb Bird-of-paradise (the Arfak subspecies likely to be split soon), Papuan Mountain Pigeon, Red-collared Myzomela, Rufous-sided Honeyeater, Vogelkop Melidectes, Arfak Honeyeater, Northern Variable Pitohui, Vogelkop Scrubwren, Papuan Parrotfinch, Papuan Boobook, Wattled Brushturkey, White-striped Forest Rail, Trumpet Manucode, Papuan Black Myzomela, Vogelkop Whistler, Papuan Eagle, Papuan Lorikeet, Papuan Treecreeper, Papuan Logrunner, Papuan Sittella, and Smoky Robin, among, as always, so many others.
After our final day birding in the Arfak Mountains we will descend back down to Manokwari.
Overnight: Arfak Mountains (three nights), Manokwari (one night)
Day 7: Transfer to Sorong
Today we will take a flight from Manokwari to Sorong on the far north-western edge of the Vogelkop Peninsula. Depending on the exact time of the flight there might be some time for further birding around Manokwari. After our arrival in Sorong we will visit some of the local mangroves, where we will look for Barred Rail, Collared Imperial Pigeon, Orange-fronted Fruit Dove, Blue-black Kingfisher, Little Kingfisher, Moustached Treeswift, and Orange-breasted Fig Parrot.
Day 8: Sorong to Waigeo
An early start today will see us birding in some forest near Sorong. There are many incredible birds possible, some of these may include Palm Cockatoo, Magnificent Riflebird, King Bird-of-Paradise, Red-breasted Paradise Kingfisher, Yellow-billed Kingfisher, Blue-black Kingfisher, Red-billed Brushturkey, Black Lory, and Long-tailed Honey Buzzard.
After lunch we will transfer by ferry from Sorong to Waigeo Island across the Indonesian Dampier Strait (sometimes also known as Augusta’s Strait). During the two-to-three-hour ferry ride we will look out for pelagic species like Pomarine Skua, Lesser Frigatebird, Bulwer’s Petrel, Streaked and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, and Matsudaira’s Storm Petrel. On arrival on Waigeo Island we will check into our beachside guest house.
Overnight: Waigeo Island
Days 9–10: Birding on and around Waigeo Island
Waigeo, where we will be based for the next three days, is the largest island in the Raja Ampat Archipelago, which comprises over 1,500 small islands, cays, and shoals, located off the northwest tip of the Bird’s Head Peninsula. These islands are the home of three endemics, comprising the exquisite Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise with its bright cerulean-blue, bare crown, crisscrossed with fine black lines (considered by many the best-looking bird on the planet), the crimson-plumed Red Bird-of-paradise, and the recently re-discovered Waigeo Brushturkey (unfortunately this stunning brushturkey is a very tough bird, which may not easily be found on this tour – if you’d like to try for this very difficult species please talk to us about a possible expedition extension to look specifically for it). Other birding highlights on these islands include Western Crowned Pigeon (one of the trio of New Guinea crowned pigeons – the world’s largest pigeons), Pheasant Pigeon, Palm Cockatoo, and Great-billed Parrot.
During our time on Waigeo we also hope to encounter, among a multitude of others, Hook-billed Kingfisher, Common Paradise Kingfisher, Papuan Pitta, Hooded Pitta, Blyth’s Hornbill, New Guinea Friarbird, Southern Variable and Raja Ampat Pitohuis, Hooded and Black Butcherbirds, Marbled and Papuan Frogmouths, Papuan Boobook, Dusky Megapode, Pygmy and Gurney’s Eagles, Red-necked Crake, New Guinea Bronzewing, Moustached Treeswift, Moluccan King Parrot, Brown-headed Crow, and Glossy-mantled Manucode.
One afternoon while here we will take a boat into Kabui Bay to look for Spice Imperial Pigeon, Beach Kingfisher, Violet-necked Lory, Great-billed Heron, Raja Shelduck, Island Monarch, Common Paradise Kingfisher, White-bibbed Fruit Dove, Moluccan Starling, and ending with sunset watching the huge Great-billed Parrots coming in to roost.
Overnight: Waigeo Island (two nights)
Day 11: Birding on Waigeo and travel to Sorong
We will have a final morning on Waigeo, where we will search for more of the species mentioned above, maybe again enjoying the otherworldly Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise. We will then take the afternoon ferry back to Sorong, where we will enjoy a farewell dinner, a good rest, and the difficult task of deciding on a ‘bird of the trip’.
Day 12: Departure
Time at leisure and departure from Sorong.
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, and the discretion of the guides and other factors.
Andy is a superb guide with a wonderful knowledge of birds and where to find them. He is enthusiastic and keen, great company and a real pleasure to bird with. Our Australian trip was very successful in terms of sightings and also really enjoyable. Andy played a big part in that with his superb organisation, excellent birding skills, easy-going nature and positive attitude. I would happily join Andy on a birding trip again and hope to be able to do so later this year!
Janice — Kent, UK
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