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.
The August tours can be combined with our preceding Birding Tour Indonesia: Sulawesi and Halmahera and with our following Birding Tour Papua New Guinea: Attenborough’s Paradise. We also offer an extension to the endemic-rich, amazing satellite islands of Biak, Numfor, and Kofiau.
Itinerary (12 days/11 nights)
Day 1. Arrival in Manokwari
Arrival at Rendani Airport in Manokwari, where you will be met and taken to your 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 midmorning 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 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 2,000 meters/6,550 feet) – the little-known Arfak Astrapia and Long-tailed Paradigalla (rediscovered in 1989), as well as the more widespread Black Sicklebill with its magnificent tail, which can be 80 centimeters/31 inches long. 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 is 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 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 which 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 at 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 two days, is the largest island in the Raja Ampat Archipelago, comprising over 1,500 small islands, cays, and shoals and 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 by fine black lines (considered by many as 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, and Moluccan Starling, ending with sunset and watching the huge Great-billed Parrots coming to roost.
Overnight: Waigeo Island
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 only slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, weather, roads, birding sites, the discretion of the local guides, or 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
This is a sample trip report. Please email us (email@example.com) for more trip reports from this destination.
When you stay in the village in the Arfak mountains (ca. 1,400m/4,500ft), it’s extremely basic with limited electricity for a few hours in the evening and limited or no proper showers – you can get heated water in a bucket when you need it, though. “Facilities” such as rooms, beds, etc. are exceptionally basic (even in the village) with four rooms, each with two benches. Then, when you hike up the mountains, you camp (2,200m/7,000ft) on a platform with a tarp roof and mosquito net, and it gets even more basic than in the village – with rustic pit toilets, etc. You can leave luggage you don’t want to cart up the mountain behind in the village, so please ensure you have a small bag to take some clothes to the camp site. You can tip the villagers for this service at your discretion (they also do a lot of other hard work for the group, e.g. heating water, making meals, etc.). You can get large suitcases carried up for you if you want – but if you prefer to leave stuff in the village that is also OK and recommended. There is a nominal charge for porters to carry day packs and other belongings, and this can be booked a day or two before when you first arrive in the village (you do spend nights either before or after the trek up the mountains in the village at a lower altitude).
In Waigeo we will stay in a resort by the beach the whole time. Each room has a mosquito net, and the facilities are of a much higher standard than in the mountains, with electricity on all of the time and showers in each room. We usually stay at a dive resort, and the snorkeling straight off the resort is excellent. Masks and fins are available for hire.
Accommodation in Sorong and Manokwari is in comfortable hotels with good facilities. Wi-Fi is available here. Hotels have swimming pools, good restaurants, and excellent rooms.
In the tourist areas most types of food and drink will be available, but meals will become simpler as we move into the forest areas. We can accommodate vegetarians and special dietary needs if we know in advance. Most meals are based around rice and fish, noodles, and a few vegetables. Due to the lack of refrigeration dairy products are not common. We suggest you bring your favorite snacks or protein bars to supplement your diet (and it’s fun to share things with the local people, but we suggest you don’t give candy to the local children). Note that alcohol is generally not available around Manokwari and in the Arfak Mountains (except at great cost) but is available at a reasonable cost in Sorong and Waigeo.
Please remember to give us your dietary preferences. Are you vegetarian? Can you eat spicy food?
Currency exchange is only available in Makassar and Jakarta, but ATMs are available in every town, but not all foreign cards will work in all machines. Traveler’s cheques are not accepted in most banks or stores in Indonesia, and we don’t recommend the use of credit cards except in major hotels or larger stores. Plan on either using your ATM card for money (ideally bring two), and bring American money, preferably $100 bills. But note: Any bills dated 1996 or 1999 will not be accepted anywhere in Indonesia due to counterfeiting problems in the past. The highest rate they will accept is the newest edition of $100 bills. Allow at least several weeks for your bank to obtain these for you. Also throughout Indonesia people will not accept bills that are worn or ripped. A rip of only 1/16th of an inch can make a bill unusable.
Some Items to Bring: