Indonesia: West Papua – Birds-of-paradise and Endemics of the Arfaks and Waigeo
Dates and Costs:
03 – 14 August 2022
Space available: 1. We recommend early booking for 2023.
Price: US$6,995 / £5,950 / €7,020 per person sharing based on 4-8 participants
Single Supplement: US$575 / £489 / €578
* Please note that currency conversion is calculated in real-time, therefore is subject to slight change. Please refer back to the base price when making final payments.
01 – 12 August 2023
Price: US$7,555 / £6,427 / €7,583 per person sharing based on 4-8 participants
Single Supplement: US$621 / £528 / €624
(Please also read our blogs about recommended field guides for the seven continents here)
Duration: 12 days
Group Size: 4 – 8
Tour Start: Manokwari
Tour End: Sorong
Reasonable physical fitness and good agility are required to bird the relatively steep slopes here.
All accommodation (as described, including camping equipment (e.g. sleeping bags etc.) for night at the top of the mountain)
Meals (from dinner on day 1 until breakfast on day 12)
Drinking water – please bring a refillable water bottle
Expert tour leader
Local bird and wildlife guide/trackers/porters fees
Birdwatching site entrance fees and travel permits
All ground transport and tolls/taxes while on tour, including airport pick-up and drop-off
Flights to Manokwari/from Sorong
Domestic flight (Manokwari to Sorong – estimated around US$200 for 2022 – we can book this for you and add it to your tour balance to ensure everyone is on the same flight!)
Visa fees if visa required
Items of a personal nature, e.g. gifts, laundry, internet access, phone calls, snorkeling equipment hire, excess luggage charges for internal flights, extra porter help (e.g. with walking or extra baggage carrying support) etc.
Any pre- or post-tour accommodation, meals, or birding/sightseeing/monument excursions
Camera (still/video) permits
Personal travel insurance
Gratuities (please see our tipping guidelines blog)
Featured Guide:Andrew Walker
Indonesia: West Papua – Birds-of-paradise and Endemics of the Arfaks and Waigeo
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 exhilarating, small-group birding adventure. Aside from the large landmass of New Guinea, the New Guinea region includes numerous small islands (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).
Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise is often considered one of the best-looking birds in the world!
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 which spend some of their time in West Papua.
This tour will begin in the town of Manokwari, situated on the north-eastern tip of West Papua’s Bird’s Head (or Vogelkop) Peninsula where we could get our tour started with the gorgeous Lesser Bird-of-paradise, this area is usually great for Blyth’s Hornbill and numerous fruit doves. 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 Western Parotia, Arfak Astrapia, Crescent-caped Lophorina (formerly part of the Superb Bird-of-paradise complex), Long-tailed Paradigalla, Arfak Catbird, Vogelkop Melidectes, and Vogelkop Bowerbird.
Western Parotia, yet another great bird-of-paradise. Watching these birds doing their ballet dancing display is incredibly impressive.
We can also find more widespread birds-of-paradise (BoPs) here too, such as Black Sicklebill, Black-billed Sicklebill, Magnificent Bird-of-paradise, Trumpet Manucode, and Crinkle-collared Manucode.
There are numerous other simply breathtaking and highly sought-after birds possible in the Arfak mountains and just a few of these include Spotted Jewel-babbler, Blue Jewel-babbler, Masked Bowerbird, Pesquet’s (New Guinea Vulturine) Parrot, Moluccan King Parrot, Modest Tiger Parrot, White-striped Forest Rail, Feline Owlet-nightjar, Mountain Owlet-nightjar, Papuan Boobook, Tit Berrypecker, Mottled Berryhunter (a monotypic family), Papuan Treecreeper, Papuan Logrunner, Grey-banded Mannikin, Papuan Grassbird, Drongo Fantail, Goldenface, and Lesser Melampitta.
The second leg of our tour takes us to Sorong, on the opposite side of the Bird’s Head Peninsula where we might find King Bird-of-paradise, Magnificent Riflebird, Red-breasted Paradise Kingfisher, and Blue-black Kingfisher, 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 Glossy-mantled Manucode. Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise is often considered one of the best-looking birds on the planet, and so we will look forward to making our own judgments on this. Again, there are numerous other species high on our ‘wanted’ list, including Western Crowned Pigeon (a seriously impressive bird that will rival the birds-of-paradise for ‘bird of the trip’ if we find them), plus the likes of Hook-billed Kingfisher, Rufous-bellied Kookaburra, Yellow-billed Kingfisher, Papuan Dwarf Kingfisher, Common Paradise Kingfisher, Beach Kingfisher, Papuan Hawk-Owl, Marbled Frogmouth, Papuan Frogmouth, Palm Cockatoo, Eclectus Parrot, Great-billed Parrot, Raja Ampat Pitohui, Hooded Pitta, Papuan Pitta, and Brown-headed Crow.
A huge bird, Western Crowned Pigeon is sure to impress on Waigeo.
Immediately prior to this West Papua tour, you could join our Indonesia: Sulawesi and Halmahera – Spectacular Endemic Birding tour looking for (Wallace’s) Standardwing and (Halmahera) Paradise-crow (these are two endemic birds-of-paradise), plus Maleo, Ivory-breasted Pitta, North Moluccan Pitta, Sulawesi Pitta, Purple-bearded Bee-eater, Green-backed Kingfisher, Lilac Kingfisher, Scaly-breasted Kingfisher (with over 15 kingfisher species actually possible on this tour!), Moluccan Owlet-nightjar, Knobbed Hornbill, Hylocitrea (a monotypic family), Malia, Geomalia, and a multitude of more, exciting endemics.
Furthermore, you could follow this tour with our Papua New Guinea: Birding Attenborough’s Paradise tour where we will see numerous birds-of-paradise and other exceptional birds, most different to what will be seen on the West Papua tour, such as Blue Bird-of-paradise, Raggiana Bird-of-paradise, King of Saxony Bird-of-paradise, Ribbon-tailed Astrapia, and Princess Stephanie’s Astrapia to name a few of the stunners, plus Blue-capped Ifrit and Wattled Ploughbill (two more monotypic families), plus other gorgeous endemics!
Additionally, we also offer an extension to the endemic-rich, amazing satellite islands of Biak, Numfor, and Kofiau where we look for island endemics such as Biak Paradise Kingfisher, Numfor Paradise Kingfisher, Kofiau Paradise Kingfisher and many more key, range-restricted species (please email us or fill out the contact form here to request information).
Itinerary (12 days/11 nights)
Day 1. Arrival in Manokwari
Arrival at Rendani Airport in Manokwari during the day, where you will be met and taken to your nearby hotel for the remainder of the day at leisure. We will meet for a group evening meal together as the anticipation builds for the exciting birds and adventure awaiting us.
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, Blyth’s Hornbill, Eclectus Parrot, Black-capped Lory, Lowland Peltops, 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. On the lower slopes of the mountain we might again have a chance to spot Lesser Bird-of-paradise and even Trumpet Manucode, a rather unusual crow-like bird-of-paradise (both of these sometimes get up to the area of our accommodation). What the manucodes lack in looks, they make up with their voices. The afternoon will be spent birding the forest near our accommodation, where we may see some of the birds given for days 3 to 5.
Overnight: Arfak Mountains (mid-elevation)
There is a good chance that Lesser Bird-of-paradise will be the first BoP of the tour.
Days 3 – 5. Birding in the Arfak Mountains
We have three full days (in addition to the afternoon of day 2 and the morning of day 6) to explore what is arguably the premier birding region in West Papua, the Arfak Mountains. This area supports several endemic bird species and a number of other species with restricted ranges, including several stunning birds-of-paradise.
Over the course of our stay on the mountain we will focus our attention on the birds-of-paradise and bird our way around them. This tactic works really well and gives us great opportunities for viewing the birds-of-paradise on their lek sites and also picking up numerous other exciting birds along the way. We will spend a few nights in a basic yet comfortable ‘village’ at the mid-elevation on the mountain, after which we will head up (on foot) to the high-elevation zone for a night in a basic camp (see notes on accommodation at the end of the itinerary). Those not wishing to make the hike will be able to stay in the village and will be suitably looked-after by our excellent support staff with further birding opportunities in that zone! The exact day-to-day routine over these few days will be dictated by the location of the birds-of-paradise lek sites, but a bird-filled time is to be expected, the birding here is seriously exciting.
Around our village base in the mid-elevation zone we will look for Magnificent Bird-of-paradise which may be seen on his court, displaying, in sequence his iridescent, carmine back, dark-green breast shield, and sulfur-yellow cape before jerkily dancing up and down a vertical sapling, while quivering his cocked, sickle-shaped central tail feathers.
Magnificent Bird-of-paradise may be seen in the Arfak Mountains.
Also, around our village we will look for the additional exciting bird-of-paradise trio of Western Parotia, Black-billed Sicklebill, and Crescent-caped Lophorina. The male of the Western Parotia performs 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. Black-billed Sicklebill is also found in this zone; quite a large bird, they spend a lot of time in the mid-canopy, but drop down to exposed display perches early in the morning when we have a good chance to view them well. One of the most-interesting though, is the Crescent-caped Lophorina (formerly part of the Superb Bird-of-paradise complex). This bird is mesmerizing when displaying and we will hope for a repeat performance witnessed on previous tours. The male’s fixed, delta-shaped, iridescent, blue-green breast-shield (with elongated side feathers making it protrude way beyond its chest) and its expandable hind neck cape combine to give this bird a really strange look, but one you (or the female birds) can’t take your eyes off!
Of all the endemic birds of the regions, one of the most famous ones (though not the most beautiful!) 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!
The impressive bower of the Vogelkop Bowerbird is something pretty special, even if the bird is rather drab – what it lacks in good looks it certainly makes up for in architectural ability!
Other potential interesting birds of this area may include Spotted Jewel-babbler, White-striped Forest Rail, Pesquet’s (New Guinea Vulturine) Parrot, Arfak Catbird, Arfak Honeyeater, Vogelkop Melidectes, Vogelkop Scrubwren, Vogelkop Whistler, Papuan Eagle, Black-mantled Goshawk, Masked Bowerbird (the colors on this one need to be seen to be believed!), Moluccan King Parrot, Red-breasted Pygmy Parrot, Black-capped Lory, Papuan Lorikeet, Ivory-billed Coucal, White-crowned Cuckoo, Dwarf Koel, Drongo Fantail, Papuan Mountain Pigeon, White-bibbed (Mountain) Fruit Dove, Red-collared Myzomela, Papuan Black Myzomela, Rufous-sided Honeyeater, Northern Variable Pitohui, Hooded Pitohui, White-shouldered Fairywren, Papuan Parrotfinch, Wattled Brushturkey, Sclater’s Whistler, Regent Whistler, Rufous-naped Bellbird (formerly called Rufous-naped Whistler but moved from that family to a new family called Australo-Papuan bellbirds), Goldenface, Mountain Peltops, Black-breasted Boatbill, Papuan Treecreeper, Papuan Sittella, Green-backed Robin, Black-throated Robin, Slaty Robin, Garnet Robin, Lesser Ground Robin, and, if we are lucky, Feline Owlet-nightjar or Mountain Owlet-nightjar.
The colors on this Masked Bowerbird really need to be seen to be believed, this is one insanely colorful bird! Its bower is nowhere near as impressive as the Vogelkop Bowerbird (above), but when it looks like this, it probably doesn’t matter to the female!
Depending on timing and road conditions, we might also be able to take our 4×4 vehicles to an open area home to the extremely range-restricted endemic Grey-banded Mannikin, a beautiful bird. Other birds possible in this area include Torrent-lark, Papuan Grassbird, Great Woodswallow, Pale-vented Bush-hen, and Grey Wagtail.
Our time in the high-elevation zone (almost 6,550 feet/2,000 meters) will focus on a range of different species, including three new birds-of-paradise, two of which are endemic, the little-known Arfak Astrapia and Long-tailed Paradigalla (the latter rediscovered as recently as 1989!), as well as the more widespread Black Sicklebill, with its magnificent tail, which can be 31 inches (80 centimeters) long and its ability to turn itself into assorted shapes; the cobra move is particularly noteworthy! All three of these birds are incredibly unique and well worth the hike!
Our time will be focused on finding the above three great birds-of-paradise but we will also be in the zone for plenty of other exciting birds and we will hope to also see the likes of Lesser Melampitta, Brehm’s Tiger Parrot, Modest Tiger Parrot, Bronze Ground Dove, Crested Berrypecker, Orange-crowned Fairywren, Obscure Berrypecker, Fan-tailed Berrypecker, Tit Berrypecker, Mottled Berryhunter (a monotypic family endemic to New Guinea), Papuan Logrunner, Ashy Robin, Smoky Robin, Black-throated Robin, Canary Flyrobin, Cinnamon-browed Melidectes, Arfak Honeyeater, Papuan Treecreeper, Papuan Parrotfinch, Mountain Mouse-warbler, Red-collared Myzomela, Vogelkop Owlet-nightjar, and Papuan Boobook, among, as always, so many others.
Overnight: Arfak Mountains (two nights mid-elevation and one night high-elevation)
Brehm’s Tiger Parrot is a possibility in the higher elevations of the Arfaks (photo Matt Prophet).
Day 6: Arfak Mountains to Manokwari
We will have a final morning birding in the Arfak Mountains mopping up species mentioned above, or maybe taking one last look at our favorite birds-of-paradise of this area for the final time. After our final lunch in the village we will bid a fond farewell to our hosts and we will then descend off the mountain, before returning back to Manokwari for a welcome night in our comfortable hotel.
Day 7. Manokwati to Sorong
We will take a short flight in the morning between Manokwari and Sorong where we will check into our very comfortable hotel for the night. In the afternoon after the heat of the day wanes we will venture into the mangroves where we hope to find Blue-black Kingfisher, Azure Kingfisher, Little Kingfisher, Barred Rail, Black Bittern, Collared Imperial Pigeon, Little Bronze Cuckoo, Moustached Treeswift, Orange-fronted Fruit Dove, and Orange-breasted Fig Parrot.
Day 8. Sorong to Waigeo
An early start today will see us birding in some forest near Sorong where we could extend our bird-of-paradise list in the form of the raucous Magnificent Riflebird and the bizarre, delightful, and rather small King Bird-of-paradise. There are many other incredible birds possible here too, and one of the most highly sought-after of these is Red-breasted Paradise Kingfisher which we will look for today. Other quality birds here include Papuan Pitta, Hooded Pitta, Blyth’s Hornbill, Palm Cockatoo, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Red-cheeked Parrot, Coconut Lorikeet, Black Lory, Moluccan King Parrot, Large Fig Parrot, Yellow-billed Kingfisher, Blue-black Kingfisher, Red-billed Brushturkey, Golden Cuckooshrike, Brown Oriole, Dwarf Fruit Dove, Pink-spotted Fruit Dove, Superb Fruit Dove, Orange-bellied Fruit Dove, Wompoo Fruit Dove, Frilled Monarch, Rusty Pitohui, Lowland Peltops, and Long-tailed Honey Buzzard. Plus, Lesser Bird-of-paradise is also present in this area.
King Bird-of-paradise is a beautiful BoP and we will hope for some great views at their lek site.
After lunch and checking out of our hotel, 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 Jaeger, Lesser Frigatebird, Great Frigatebird, Brown Booby, Bulwer’s Petrel, Streaked Shearwater, Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Matsudaira’s Storm Petrel, Black Noddy, Common Tern, Great Crested Tern, Black-naped Tern, and Bridled Tern. On arrival at Waigeo Island we will likely see White-breasted Woodswallow and Singing Starling in the harbor. We will then drive the short distance to our picturesque and secluded beachside dive resort where we will check in for the next few nights. As we take the short ride between the harbor and our resort, we might spot Eclectus Parrot, Red-cheeked Parrot, Pacific Baza, Claret-breasted Fruit Dove, Black Sunbird, Oriental Dollarbird, New Guinea Friarbird, Moluccan Starling, and Rufous-bellied Kookaburra along the way. The birding in Waigeo is great!
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 home to two endemic birds-of-paradise, 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 – see the front cover of this itinerary for an idea of how stunning this bird is) and the crimson-plumed rather slick-looking Red Bird-of-paradise. We will look for both of these species while on Waigeo.
Endemic to Waigeo, Red Bird-of-paradise is yet another interesting BoP with its wire-like tail projections. We will visit a lek site of this bird while on the island.
Waigeo Brushturkey (a stunning bird too) was recently rediscovered, but this island endemic is a very tough bird and is unlikely to be found on this tour – if you’d like to try for this very difficult range-restricted species please talk to us about a possible expedition extension to look specifically for it after the tour).
Other birding highlights on these islands include Hook-billed Kingfisher, Common Paradise Kingfisher, Western Crowned Pigeon (an absolutely ginormous bird), Pheasant Pigeon, Palm Cockatoo, and Great-billed Parrot. We will also hope to get good views of yet another bird-of-paradise while in this region – Glossy-mantled Manucode. These birds have elongated tracheas which serve to magnify their voice!
We see some amazing kingfishers on this tour and Common Paradise Kingfisher is one beautiful example of the family.
During our time on Waigeo we also hope to encounter, among a multitude of others, Papuan Pitta, Hooded Pitta, Rufous-bellied Kookaburra, Yellow-billed Kingfisher, Papuan Dwarf Kingfisher, Blyth’s Hornbill, New Guinea Friarbird, Southern Variable Pitohui, Raja Ampat Pitohui, Hooded Butcherbird, Black Butcherbird, Marbled Frogmouth, Papuan Frogmouth (often right outside the resort dining room at night!), Papuan Boobook, Dusky Megapode, Pygmy Eagle, Gurney’s Eagle, Red-necked Crake, New Guinea Bronzewing, Moustached Treeswift, Moluccan King Parrot, Brown-headed Crow, Tawny-breasted Honeyeater, Green-backed Honeyeater, Long-billed Honeyeater, Black-sided Robin, Golden Monarch, Spot-winged Monarch, Frilled Monarch, Beautiful Fruit Dove, Purple-tailed Imperial Pigeon, and Stephan’s Emerald Dove.
We will have early-morning and late-afternoon birding sessions in the forest and the late-morning and early-afternoon will be at your leisure around the resort where you can sit and enjoy the view, maybe even with Palm Cockatoos feeding above your heads! Or you can take some time to snorkel in the reef right outside our rooms; the coral reef and various fish and sea-life present here is remarkable and well worth an underwater experience.
One of our afternoons while here, we will take a boat into Kabui Bay to look for Spice Imperial Pigeon, Pied Imperial Pigeon, Metallic Pigeon, White-bibbed Fruit Dove, Beach Kingfisher, Violet-necked Lory, Great-billed Heron, Dusky Megapode, Raja Shelduck, Island Monarch, Common Paradise Kingfisher, Varied Honeyeater, Arafura Fantail, Moluccan Starling, and White-bellied Sea Eagle, ending with sunset and watching the huge Great-billed Parrots coming in to roost.
Overnight: Waigeo Island
The rather large Palm Cockatoo can often be found around our accommodation.
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 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’, not an easy choice!
Day 12. Departure from Sorong
Time at leisure and departure from Sorong.
Overnight: Not included
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.Download Itinerary
West Papua: Arfak and Waigeo Trip Report November 2018
16 – 27 NOVEMBER 2018
By Andy Walker
This West Papua set-departure tour commenced on the 16th of November 2018 in the town of Manokwari, situated on the north-eastern tip of New Guinea’s Bird’s Head (or Vogelkop) Peninsula. From here we traveled to the nearby Arfak Mountains, where we birded the low- and middle-elevation forests. The second half of the tour took us to Sorong, on the opposite side of the Bird’s Head Peninsula, and then to one of the Raja Ampat Islands, Waigeo. After our time on this beautiful bird-filled island we headed back to Sorong, where the tour concluded on the 27th of November 2018.
The main focus on this tour is always the stunning and highly-sought birds-of-paradise, and we managed to find eleven species of them: Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise, Lesser Bird-of-paradise, Red Bird-of-paradise, King Bird-of-paradise, Magnificent Bird-of-paradise, Western Parotia, Black-billed Sicklebill, Crescent-caped Lophorina (formerly the Vogelkop sub-species of Superb Bird-of-paradise), Trumpet Manucode, Glossy-mantled Manucode, and Magnificent Riflebird. Other highlight birds seen were also plentiful and included Western Crowned Pigeon, Spotted Jewel-babbler, Grey-banded Mannikin, Vogelkop Bowerbird, Masked Bowerbird, Arfak Catbird, Mountain Owlet-nightjar, Arfak Honeyeater, Lowland and Mountain Peltops, Common Paradise Kingfisher, Blyth’s Hornbill, New Guinea Friarbird, Lesser Ground Robin, Vogelkop Scrubwren, Vogelkop Whistler, Ivory-billed Coucal, and Papuan Frogmouth.
The region is well blessed in terms of pigeons and parrots, and we enjoyed many of them, such as Ornate, Superb, White-bibbed (Mountain), Orange-fronted, Orange-bellied, Pink-spotted, and Claret-breasted Fruit Doves, Spice, Pied, Pinon’s, and Collared Imperial Pigeons, Papuan Mountain Pigeon, Pesquet’s (New Guinea Vulturine) Parrot, Palm Cockatoo, Eclectus Parrot, Papuan Lorikeet, Moluccan King Parrot, Red-breasted Pygmy Parrot, Yellow-capped Pygmy Parrot, and Great-billed Parrot. There was also a wide range of other interesting species, such as many kingfishers, robins, monarchs, and honeyeaters (Ornate Melidectes being one of the most spectacular of the latter family).
A total of 174 bird species were seen during this short tour, plus twelve species heard only.
Day 0, 15th November 2018. Pre-tour arrival into Manokwari
Shita, Andy, Michael, and Diana arrived in Manokwari the morning ahead of the tour starting, with the rest of the day spent at leisure. Michael and Diana had flown to Manokwari after taking part in our Sulawesi tour immediately before this tour (see here for the Sulawesi trip report) and Andy had flown here after leading the Australia east coast tour (see here for the Australia trip report).
Day 1, 16th November 2018. Birding around Manokwari
We had our first birding of the tour along a road cutting through some forest near Manokwari, which we visited at dawn for a few hours and again late in the afternoon for another couple of hours, sitting out the heat of the day at our comfortable hotel. The morning was overcast with light showers until the sun came through and things really warmed up. Due to the overcast start birding was a bit slow to begin with, but once it got going we found some really exciting birds. On top of the list was the immature male Lesser Bird-of-paradise that was displaying to a female. Later in the day we had an amazing flyover of an adult male passing overhead across the road clearing, glowing against the intimidating dark skies. A very impressive bird!
Other exciting birds were found and included Lowland Peltops sitting on a dead snag, several Blyth’s Hornbills flying about and occasionally perching and feeding in fruiting trees (these must be one of the loudest birds in flight!), and the beautiful Golden Monarch looking for all the world like a tiny New World oriole. Fruit doves were numerous but, as usual, often skittish or just very good at hiding. We heard Wompoo, saw Superb (briefly), and had good prolonged views of multiples of Ornate and Claret-breasted Fruit Doves. The most abundant bird was Papuan Mountain Pigeon, with multiple flocks flying over, some stopping for some nice scope views. Pinon’s Imperial Pigeon showed very well both in the morning and evening, allowing careful study. One of the nice surprises of the morning was a single Black Cicadabird seen well. We also had great looks at perched and in-flight Moustached Treeswifts, Yellow-billed Kingfisher, Northern Variable Pitohui, Brown Oriole, many New Guinea Friarbirds, several Black Sunbirds, and a pair of Yellow-faced Mynas. Hooded and Black Butcherbirds gave us the runaround with lots of calling from deep in vegetation and no proper looks given, and a few Red-billed Brushturkeys were very vocal but not giving us a chance of seeing them. We had brief flythroughs from Long-tailed Honey Buzzard and Variable Goshawk. Pesquet’s (New Guinea Vulturine) Parrot, Moluccan King Parrot, Red-cheeked Parrot, and the minuscule Yellow-capped Pygmy Parrot were all seen too. A very nice set of birds from a few hours’ birding to get the tour going!
Day 2, 17th November 2018. Manokwari to Arfak Mountains
After breakfast at our hotel in Manokwari we started our journey into the Arfak Mountains. We stopped two times along the way to our new accommodation. The first brief stop yielded Sultan’s Cuckoo-Dove, Blyth’s Hornbill, and Northern Variable Pitohui. A distant Magnificent Bird-of-paradise could be heard but was a long way off.
The second, longer stop gave us several species to look at. We had some perched views of a very smart Grey-headed Goshawk, a real treat being able to look down on it and study all of its ID features, and several stunning Superb Fruit Doves gave much better views than we had had the previous day. The interesting Hooded Pitohui was also seen, interesting because this species is poisonous to eat due to a small beetle that it eats. A toxin is taken from the beetle and accumulated in the bird’s tissues and feathers! Other birds enjoyed at this second stop included great views of Mountain Peltops, a small family group of White-shouldered Fairywrens, Grey Wagtail, and more Papuan Mountain Pigeons.
We arrived at our homestay village at lunchtime, at which time the weather deteriorated and the majority of the afternoon was, unfortunately, a washout. Rusty Mouse-warbler, Brown-breasted Gerygone, Green-backed Robin, Arfak Catbird, and a few other species were heard, and Dimorphic Fantail and Long-billed Honeyeater were both seen all too briefly. We’d have to wait and hope for better weather in the morning.
Day 3, 18th November 2018. Arfak Mountains
We awoke early after a wet and windy night for breakfast before heading into the forest at dawn. Thankfully the rain had stopped, but the wind was still quite high, therefore far from ideal. The dawn chorus was loud with the songs of Regent Whistler, Rusty Mouse-warbler, and Slaty Robin ringing out. After hiking down a trail for some way we entered a small hide (blind) and waited. While we waited for our main target to arrive (which was calling some way off to the side) we saw Lesser Ground Robin, and Ashy Robin come through. After a while the main event happened when a Western Parotia came into view and, after a couple of attempts at coming in, eventually dropped onto his display area. He cleaned some of the debris up and had a bit of a half-hearted attempt at displaying. This was a young male, so it lacked the six wiry plumes that full adults have, but it still looked rather impressive as its plumaged transitioned into something even more spectacular. His eye was a beautiful piercing blue, and his white forehead glowed in the dark, early morning of the forest. A real treat to see this bird so well!
After seeing the parotia we started to look for Vogelkop Bowerbird. We had no trouble finding its huge, incredibly impressive and intricately decorated tent bower; however, despite waiting for quite a while in another hide, we only got a very brief glimpse as it flew through after calling, seemingly not interested in checking on his bower this morning. While awaiting the bowerbird’s arrival we noted several species in the vicinity of the hide, including Rufous-naped Bellbird, Black Fantail, Dwarf Longbill, Vogelkop Scrubwren, Black Monarch, Blyth’s Hornbill, and Slaty Robin. The wind was again picking up, and the activity was waning, so we headed back to the homestay for lunch.
In the early afternoon, after a brief siesta, we again headed into the forest, but this time along a newly-created trail. After a short hike down a hill we found ourselves at another hide. After waiting patiently for a short while, hearing our target bird calling from an unseen location behind the hide, we were duly rewarded when a stunning adult male Magnificent Bird-of-paradise hopped onto his display court. We enjoyed watching this bird clean his area and then do some display to a female that had also come into the area (image of the male bird in tour overview section). It was great to be able to soak in all the finer details of this bird and really study it closely. Also coming into view (maybe attracted to all the commotion from the male bird-of-paradise?) was a big bonus bird in the form of the very attractively-marked (and often secretive) Arfak Catbird. The catbird continued to show well for quite some time, and after a while we left the two species to get on with their afternoons as we hiked back up the hill, feeling rather satisfied with our sightings.
On returning to our homestay village we birded a little on the entrance road and found several new species, such as Vogelkop Whistler, Sclater’s Whistler, Red-collared Myzomela, Mountain Myzomela, Northern Fantail, Friendly Fantail, and the mainland form of Island Leaf Warbler. As the wind picked up and the temperature dropped we headed back to the village for an early dinner and an early night, ready for the following morning’s early start.
Day 4, 19th November 2018. Arfak Mountains
Another windy morning was spent in the forest near our village. We went into the forest targeting one bird-of-paradise and hoping for another. Our target was Black-billed Sicklebill. Hearing it was not a problem, for its loud call was ringing out as soon as we got into its territory. Seeing it, however, proved a lot more difficult, but after quite a while we finally had perched views as it sat high up in a huge tree opposite our viewpoint. While trying to locate the calling sicklebill we bumped into a pair of our other hoped-for target, Crescent-caped Lophorina (a very recent split from Superb Bird-of-paradise and also known as Vogelkop Bird-of-paradise or Vogelkop Lophorina – the new English name is apparently somewhat up for debate.). This new species was briefly visiting a fruiting tree, which also contained a female Western Parotia. Although our attention during the morning was firmly focused on trying to see the birds-of-paradise we also saw several other species in the area, such as Arfak Honeyeater, Green-backed Robin, Capped White-eye, Regent Whistler, Black Fantail, Blyth’s Hornbill, and Stout-billed Cuckooshrike, while a distant White-striped Forest Rail and Grey Crow were heard calling. As we were leaving the forest in the midmorning we had one final treat in store in the form of the stunning Spotted Jewel-babbler, a tricky bird to see; but after a short while all of us had some nice views of this highly-sought and tough species. We came back to the village for an early lunch, where we had the nice surprise of a day-roosting Mountain Owlet-nightjar in one of the buildings, and we also had good looks at a nesting Glossy Swiftlet.
After our early lunch we took a drive along a very rough road/track to search for a very local endemic species, Grey-banded Mannikin, whose global population is only found in a very small area a couple of hours from our village. As we entered its range we quickly found a flock of thirty birds, which gave some really great views as they fed on seed heads. A really beautiful bird, and great to be able to get such prolonged and close-range views! It definitely made the bumpy drive worthwhile. Here we also enjoyed the added bonus of Great Woodswallow, a brute of a bird with its huge, white, shoulder ‘landing lights’ standing out even at long range before they flew closer and gave nice views! Our drive back was fairly uneventful (apart from a small landslide), and we managed a quick bit of birding between rain showers near the village, where we found our first Ornate Melidectes and improved our views of Slaty Robin and Red-collared Myzomela. Plenty of other birds were moving through too, such as Friendly Fantail, Sclater’s Whistler, and Island Leaf Warbler.
Day 5, 20th November 2018. Arfak Mountains
A slightly earlier start this morning saw us setting off on the trails in darkness in order to get into place before it was light. As we walked along the trail a distant Greater Sooty Owl could be heard calling. In the dawn light birds started to call, one of these was the Black-billed Sicklebill that flew across in front of us and vanished into the undergrowth. We heard him calling for quite a while but he never showed again, although a female did briefly perch up in full view. Also in this area we again saw a pair of Crescent-caped Lophorinas, and these showed much better than those on the previous day. Here we also got another new bird-of-paradise, Trumpet Manucode, which flew into a fruiting tree, grabbed some fruit, and then flew off again. Among all of this activity there were also plenty of other birds around, such as the gorgeous Goldenface, Regent Whistler, Hooded Pitohui, Bar-tailed Cuckoo-Dove, Black-bellied Cicadabird, Rusty Mouse-warbler, Green-backed Robin, Arfak Honeyeater, Ornate Melidectes, and more, with flyovers from Great Cuckoo-Dove, Papuan Mountain Pigeon, Pesquet’s (New Guinea Vulturine) Parrot, Mountain Swiftlet, Glossy Swiftlet, Blyth’s Hornbill, and White-bibbed (Mountain) Fruit Dove. A little past an hour after it all got going there suddenly was silence as the dawn chorus was over.
In the midmorning we headed to another rather steep forest trail. Eventually we reached our hide, where we sat and looked at a Masked Bowerbird avenue-bower. We waited for quite a while, but the bird didn’t drop down to the bower, despite calling near to it. While here we could also hear Lesser Bird-of-paradise, Magnificent Bird-of-paradise, Crescent-caped Lophorina, and several other species. The Lesser Bird-of-paradise was seen on our way back up the hill, along with Mid-mountain Berrypecker, Olive-crowned Flowerpecker, Drongo Fantail, Black Monarch, Regent Whistler, Black Fantail, and Slaty Robin. A surprise was the Red-billed Brushturkey that we flushed off the trail. We also had an excellent sighting of Northern Common Cuscus (see photo at end of report).
Over lunch there was a bit of activity around the village with the following species noted: Garnet Robin, Regent Whistler, Sclater’s Whistler, Vogelkop Scrubwren, Ruby-throated Myzomela, Red-collared Myzomela, Black Berrypecker, Grey Thornbill, Dwarf Longbill, Black-breasted Boatbill, Capped White-eye, Slaty Robin, and Friendly Fantail.
Unfortunately, the afternoon birding was curtailed a little by a period of heavy rain and an approaching thunderstorm. Before the rain hit, and during a brief break, we all had good views of stunning Papuan Lorikeets feeding in a flowering tree, along with Vogelkop Bowerbird, Ornate Melidectes, and Black-breasted Boatbill. A pair of Lesser Ground Robins were nearby too.
Day 6, 21st November 2018. Arfak Mountains and travel to Manokwari
We awoke early after an incredibly wet and windy night, but thankfully both stopped before it was time to hit the trails. Our plan was to head into the forest, where on the previous two mornings we had seen so much. Full of anticipation we made the walk into the forest in darkness, arriving at our spot just in time for the dawn chorus to start. However, the dawn chorus simply didn’t really happen this morning for some reason or other, presumably because of yesterday’s rain and the overnight conditions. Black-billed Sicklebill and Crescent-caped Lophorina called just once each, the latter showing briefly. It was a really disappointing end to our time in the forest here. Regent Whistler called but didn’t show, and a pair of Green-backed Robins gave great views to some of us and none to others. Frustrating indeed! Arfak Honeyeater, Moluccan King Parrot, Papuan Mountain Pigeon, and our first White-bibbed (Mountain) Fruit Dove did show, though. The latter was found as we were following the call of a Masked Bowerbird that could be heard calling for a brief spell but could not be located.
We decided to leave the forest and try our luck on the road. We were very quickly successful in locating our main target for the drive, the until-now-elusive Masked Bowerbird! The bird was sitting on some bare branches at the top of the tree, glowing in the murky skies. Luckily it perched long enough for all of us to get good scope views – at times like these it’s nice having the Swarovski ATX-95 to really allow us to see the staggering colors of this species. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that this bird rivals the beauty of many of the birds-of-paradise. You really do need to see this bird!
We then decided to go to a viewpoint overlooking a huge swathe of forest. We could hear and see Blyth’s Hornbills and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and could hear Pesquet’s (New Guinea Vulturine) Parrot. In our pursuit to better our views from earlier in the tour Michael took a tumble on the road and, ironically, where he ended up turned out to be the best place to view the parrots. However, that tumble resulted in the premature end to the birding for the day and unfortunately impacted on the birding over the coming days too. We went back to the village to have lunch and pack up and, as planned, headed back to Manokwari after lunch.
Day 7, 22nd November 2018. Travel from Manokwari to Sorong, birding the Sorong Area
We took a morning flight between Manokwari and Sorong, where we arrived at our new hotel in time for lunch. We sat out the heat of the day and late in the afternoon headed to an area of mangroves near the city, where we found many new birds, including Orange-fronted Fruit Dove, Collared Imperial Pigeon, Little Kingfisher, Little Bronze Cuckoo, Pacific Baza, Peregrine Falcon, Black Bittern, Little Egret, Eastern Cattle Egret, Brown-backed Honeyeater, Torresian Crow, Willie Wagtail, Barn Swallow, and Metallic Starling. Unfortunately the Blue-black Kingfisher was calling in the mangroves but not from a position that we could see.
Day 8, 23rd November 2018. Morning birding near Sorong, afternoon ferry to Waigeo
After breakfast we drove to a forest block near Sorong where we targeted one special bird. After arriving at the site we followed the sound, and quite quickly we were watching a gorgeous male King Bird-of-paradise as it sat high in the trees calling, giving us all excellent views. After enjoying watching him (we also found a female too) we had a quick look around the area, where we found Pink-spotted, Superb, Orange-bellied, and Wompoo Fruit Doves, Brush Cuckoo, Coconut Lorikeet, Black-capped Lory, Black Lory, and Magnificent Riflebird. At least three riflebirds were calling within earshot, but all were too far away to get there, although one did fly across the road, allowing brief views. A few other species around the area included Hooded and Papuan Pittas, Blyth’s Hornbill, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Red-billed Brushturkey, Golden Cuckooshrike, Spangled Drongo, and Frilled Monarch.
After lunch back in Sorong we caught the afternoon ferry to the island of Waigeo for the next few nights at a very picturesque resort right on the beach. As we made the short journey across the island in the late afternoon we found a few good birds, such as a perched Long-tailed Honey Buzzard and Variable Goshawk, Rufous-bellied Kookaburra, Moluccan Starling, Oriental Dollarbird, Grey-streaked Flycatcher, Pinion’s Imperial Pigeon, Grey-tailed Tattler, Far Eastern Curlew, and Lesser Frigatebird, with brief views of Eclectus Parrot, Red-cheeked Parrot, and Golden-headed Cisticola. Red Bird-of-paradise was heard calling but remained out of range on the wrong side of the slope; we’d have to wait to see that one…
Day 9, 24th November 2018. Waigeo
There were three main targets for our morning birding session, two birds-of-paradise and a pigeon. We knew we had a good chance of the first two birds, but the third bird would take some luck. We gingerly made our way up the hills behind our beach resort via a combination of walking and driving a 4×4. We entered the forest to the sound of Rusty Pitohui, Raja Ampat Pitohui, Common Paradise Kingfisher, and Black-sided Robin. We hiked up a short trail, and when we got closer we could here what we wanted to hear, the sound of a male Red Bird-of-paradise announcing his presence. In a short amount of time we found ourselves enjoying great views as he called and displayed, throwing himself upside down, and generally showing off! We were certainly appreciative of the views. While watching this, we could hear the huge Channel-billed Cuckoo calling.
After making our way back down the hill a little we jumped in the 4×4 and started driving to our next spot; however, along the way something hoped-for but not expected happened when a pair of the magnificent, huge Western Crowned Pigeons were found walking along our track! We couldn’t believe our luck to have seen these major target birds so easily! Full of excitement we continued on our way to the next bird we were targeting, and arguably one of the most-sought species in the world, Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise. We didn’t have to wait long. We could hear the bird calling, and after a short while a male flew into of our view from the hide and proceeded to give us some really excellent views. First he was slightly hidden at the back, but then he came out into the open and started to display. A Long-billed Honeyeater flew in, and that seemed to set him off! We all thoroughly enjoyed the sighting (also see the photo on front cover of this report). After this excitement we glimpsed Rusty Pitohui, had great looks at a pair of Black-sided Robins and a couple of Northern Fantails, and then started our drive back to our beach resort. Along the way we picked up a couple of new species, including our eleventh and final bird-of-paradise of the trip, Glossy-mantled Manucode, although the views were not too prolonged, so this was one to try and improve on over the next couple of days. Other highlights here included Yellow-faced Myna, Great-billed Parrot, Coconut Lorikeet, Eclectus Parrot, New Guinea Friarbird, Spangled Drongo, Eastern Osprey, and Hooded Butcherbird. When we returned to the resort we enjoyed watching a Papuan Frogmouth on its nest with a young bird right outside our cabins, and another Glossy-mantled Manucode flew in, giving further brief (but much closer) views!
The afternoon was spent relaxing around the resort, having a swim, and watching the Palm Cockatoos destroying the almond trees! It was great to be able to watch these magnificent, huge, and rather attractive cockatoos for so long and at close range. We sat on the pier and watched several species come through, such as Beach Kingfisher, Pied Imperial Pigeon, Great Cuckoo-Dove, Claret-breasted Fruit Dove, Grey-headed Goshawk, Variable Goshawk, Lesser Frigatebird, almost three hundred Great Frigatebirds, Greater Crested Tern, Eclectus Parrot, Red-cheeked Parrot, and several other species. We then enjoyed a beautiful sunset over the adjacent Raja Ampat Islands.
Day 10, 25th November 2018. Waigeo and Raja Ampat Islands
Papuan Frogmouth was sitting on its nest as we went to breakfast, allowing a nice photo opportunity.
We then jumped into a small boat and headed to a couple of small islets, landing on one briefly for some exploration. We added quite a few new birds during this trip, with highlights including proper views of Glossy-mantled Manucode, a nest building Dusky Megapode, the stunning Common Paradise Kingfisher, and Beach Kingfisher, along with Spice Imperial Pigeon, Metallic Pigeon, Varied and Mimic Honeyeaters, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Eastern Osprey, and Shining Flycatcher. We also found Waigeo (Spotted) Cuscus (see photo at end of report) and Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin. An interesting interaction involved watching the dolphins fishing, with fish leaping out of the water to escape them. While the fish were leaping out of the water a flock of Greater and Lesser Frigatebirds were diving down, trying to catch the escaping fish. Great fun to watch!
Our afternoon was spent back at the resort relaxing. Some of us ventured out snorkeling right in front of the resort, which was incredible, with a plethora of kaleidoscopic fish and corals on view. It is definitely worth spending some time in the water out here, the rewards are very high. The diving in this area is rightly considered to be some of the best in the world.
Day 11, 26th November 2018. By boat from Waigeo back to Sorong, the rest of day at leisure
We took a speedboat from our resort on Waigeo back to Sorong where we arrived late in the morning. The sea was flat and calm, and the bird activity was low, but we did note Red-necked Phalarope, Brown Booby, Great Frigatebird, and White-naped, Greater Crested, and Common Terns. The rest of the day was spent at leisure at our very comfortable hotel.
Day 12, 27th November 2018. Departure from Sorong and tour concludes
We all departed on early-morning flights out of Sorong to make our international departures, and this enjoyable bird-of-paradise-packed tour concluded. Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise was voted “Bird of the Trip”, which was not surprising given the amazing close views we had had of this stunning bird, with Red and King Birds-of-paradise and Masked Bowerbird coming closely behind.
 Usually this tour would include a trip to the higher elevations of the Arfak Mountains for three bird-of-paradise species, Long-tailed Paradigalla, Arfak Astrapia, and Black Sicklebill, as well as other high-elevation species. However, based on client preferences we did not bird the higher elevation on this trip. Please see the 2017 trip report for an example of the birding at the higher elevation.
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.
Indonesia: West Papua – Birds-of-paradise and Endemics of the Arfaks And Waigeo
GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT INDONESIA CAN BE READ HERE
This amazing, once-in-a-lifetime tour focuses on the multitude of endemic birds that can be found in West Papua and this includes numerous simply spectacular birds-of-paradise (BoPs), including possibly the best-looking bird in the world, Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise. This tour starts in Manokwari and ends in Sorong. We take in the excellent Arfak Mountains, home to loads of restricted-range “Vogelkop Endemics”, such as Arfak Astrapia, Crescent-caped Lophorina, Western Parotia, Long-tailed Paradigalla, and Vogelkop Bowerbird, along with more widespread (in New Guinea) Black Sicklebill, Spotted Jewel-babbler, Masked Bowerbird, and so many more. While in the Sorong area, we will visit the Raja Ampat Islands (specifically Waigeo) and this leg of the trip gives us the opportunity for the aforementioned Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise, along with King Bird-of-paradise, Red Bird-of-paradise, Red-breasted Paradise Kingfisher, Western Crowned Pigeon, Papuan Pitta, and Hook-billed Kingfisher. This is just a tiny sample of what’s on offer on this tour, please refer to the detailed itinerary for further details.
DAILY ACTIVITIES, PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS, AND TOUR PACE
This West Papua, Indonesia birdwatching tour requires reasonable physical fitness and good agility to bird the relatively steep slopes found here. West Papua is one of the most remote and undeveloped areas within Indonesia, so remember you are visiting a developing country and will be camping/staying in the most remote areas, where there are no proper sanitation facilities. Expect many things to be very different from home, or even other parts of Indonesia.
We will shift our body clocks on this tour rising very early but sleeping early too. While we are birding in the Arfak Mountains we will usually have breakfast around 05:00 hrs, or earlier, to then get onto the trails and into bird blinds where we will wait for the birds-of-paradise to arrive (they usually display around first light or late afternoon). We will therefore usually be walking on the trails in the dark or half-light, so we can get into position before the birds do. After our early morning session in the bird blinds, we will do some forest birding on the trails and roads nearby until mid-morning. We will usually take lunch around 11:00 hrs before a siesta during the middle part of the day. In the middle of the afternoon, we will have another birding session before it gets dark, after which we will have an early dinner, checklist session, and then showers and bed. There is no electricity in the mountains, other than that supplied by the generator, which usually gets turned off around 21:00 hrs. When we are birding on Waigeo we will follow a similar pattern of activity and when in Sorong we will have a very early start as we leave the hotel at 04:30hrs to get to a forest patch for our birding there, either having an early breakfast before we leave the hotel or taking a boxed breakfast away with us.
Most birding occurs on narrow, sometimes swampy forest trails, and other times we will bird from wider roads and tracks that are often uneven and can be slippery. On the trails care must be taken as there are trip and slip hazards from damp roots, fallen trees, boulders, and uneven and rough surfaces. Walking sticks or hiking poles are a great idea as they provide added stability to help with balance and are compulsory for anyone who is not steady at walking. Most trails are either going up or down due to the nature of the terrain we will be birding in. Our local porters are excellent at helping those less physically active at getting around the trails and into position to view the birds. When we are in the lower areas of the Arfaks, and on Waigeo all our birding is carried out from our accommodation bases, so these walks can be optional if you’d like to take a rest for some of them. We have more than one chance for most of the birds-of-paradise (and other excellent birds) at these locations, so sitting a session out does not mean you will necessarily miss something totally.
We will also spend time within small bird blinds (which are often not particularly comfortable and may entail sitting on the ground or small stools) to get close to the various birds-of-paradise’s lekking/display sites. Any minor temporary discomfort will be well worth it when a Black Sicklebill, Western Parotia, or Magnificent Bird-of-paradise drops into view.
The village in the Arfak Mountains, makes a great base for walks of a few hours. These walks can, in sections, be tough, but we will take them slowly and we will have time to rest back in the village afterwards. The only activity different to the above scenario is the hike to the top of the Arfak Mountains. This is considered a tough hike (both going up and coming back down), with further tough hiking when we actually reach the top to look for the birds themselves. This trek should only be carried out by those of a good fitness level (please contact us if you would like to discuss whether you think you will be able to do this hike). If you don’t want to do the mountain hike and basic camping at the top of the mountain (see further details in the “Accommodation” section below), it will be possible for you to stay behind in the village where you will be suitably looked after while the rest of the group head up the mountain for one night.
In any reading you may have done on visiting West Papua, you may have seen reference to a requirement for a Surat Jalan (police clearance) for visiting the province. This is no longer required, however, please note that immigration officers at your first point of entry into Indonesia (such as Jakarta, Makassar, or Denpasar) are not always well-informed about West Papua and can be sensitive about this province, so if possible don’t even mention you are going there. Over recent years the Raja Ampat Islands have increased massively in both domestic and international tourism circles due to the excellent diving on offer, so an increase in visitors has made the area more well-known for tourism and tourists are a more familiar sight than they once were.
This is a fairly tough tour and unfortunately will not be suitable for everyone, though we try and make the birding as accessible to everyone as possible as we know that the birds-of-paradise and multitude of other spectacular and range-restricted birds are highly desired by birdwatchers the world over. The information within this document will hopefully help in your preparation for this tour and please do contact us if you have any specific requests for specific or further information. We have helped many people see the birds of West Papua who maybe thought they had missed their opportunity. While being physically fit will increase your enjoyment and participation in this tour we are also able to help those less active to get the most out of this tour, largely thanks to our extremely helpful local team who go above and beyond to work with everyone. The local people here are incredibly proud of their forests and their birds and they love to share these with us. Tourism to this area provides valuable income for the villagers as well as protects the forest for the birds and future generations.
We recommend that if you decide to join this tour (no matter your fitness level) that you work on your physical fitness prior to it, hiking up and down hills/steps is a good way to prepare.
We use a wide range of transport on the tour. Most of the driving is carried out in 4×4 vehicles (such as Toyota Hilux or similar) and depending on the final group size we may have between one and four vehicles for our birding expedition. We require that you are fit and flexible and can maneuver yourself into these high-clearance vehicles. We ask everyone to please be aware of the amount of extra equipment they bring into the seating area of the vehicles as there will not be much room (excess luggage can go in the back of the pickup). Most of the roads away from the towns are rough and windy (bring motion sickness tablets if you suffer from motion sickness) and at times this can be a little uncomfortable, however it is the only way to get to some of these remote birding places, so it’s worth the effort when you see the amazing birds!
We will fly across the island between Manokwari and Sorong (see the “Domestic Flights” section below). We will take several boat trips during the tour when we are in the Sorong area. This includes a fast-ferry crossing between Sorong and Waigeo and back. On these crossings, which last approximately two hours each way, we have seats in an air-conditioned (usually rather cold) room. There is very limited, often no, opportunity to birdwatch from the ferry. We will take a speedboat trip around some of the smaller islands in the area one afternoon and will bird from the boat around several islands that we can’t land on, and then access others that we can do. Accessing the speedboat or ferry may require climbing up or down a ladder onto/off a pier.
This tour requires a domestic flight between Manokwari and Sorong. The cost for this flight is not included in the tour cost. Once we confirm the tour, we will purchase flight tickets for everyone in the group at the same time to ensure we are all on the same flights and the cost will be added to your tour balance payment that’s due no later than two months prior to departure. This flight is likely to have a hold luggage weight limit of 44 pounds (20 kilograms) and a hand luggage allowance of 15 pounds (7 kilograms). Any overweight baggage will likely incur costs and will be the responsibility of the individual. Excess baggage costs will need to be paid in cash to the airline at the airport.
Please pack as lightly as possible for this tour (noting the expected weight allowance of the domestic flight detailed above). A medium, soft-sided, and robust duffle bag is likely to work best for packing in the tour vehicles. We recommend a daypack is used to keep items that you wish to use daily when in the vehicle or when birding in the field.
Note we usually spend one night camping in basic facilities higher in the Arfak Mountains than our basic village base lower down the slope, where we spend most of our nights while birding the area. For this one night you will need an overnight bag, this could be your day pack, or should be another small bag large enough for what you might need for one night (noting we will be at elevation so will require warmer clothes etc.). We must hike to the overnight spot, but our porters (for a nominal charge) can carry whatever we take up the mountain and we usually leave the remaining, and majority of, our luggage with our team back at our main base. Note you can also leave luggage in the hotel in Manokwari and take a smaller set of items to the mountain.
If you are not planning on hiking up to the top of the mountain (see information in the “Daily Activities, Physical Requirements, and Tour Pace” and “Accommodation” sections) then you don’t need to worry about bringing something for carrying luggage to the top of the mountain.
Your safety is our paramount concern on this, and all of our tours, hence the detailed information contained within this tour-specific information and the Indonesia general information. Our tour takes us to a remote part of Indonesia, and then to a remote part of West Papua too.
Political tensions in West Papua province have previously given rise to mass demonstrations in cities like Manokwari and Sorong. We monitor local news media as well as keep in regular contact with our various local guides and ground team (who live in these cities) to keep on top of potential security threats. Sometimes there are difficulties with internet connections and communications may be limited (i.e. they are cut off to prevent demonstrators being able to keep in contact to plan further disruption). We will keep clear of any and all protests, demonstrations, and political rallies to the best of our abilities as they can turn violent without warning.
Care should be taken when we are at the port in Sorong as there are a lot of people milling around trying to get paid for loading/unloading the boat and petty theft (e.g. pickpockets etc.) can be a concern as we are likely to stand out rather a lot. It will be important that the group stays closely together and maintains a tight hold of all personal equipment with eyes on bags and personal possessions etc. Please listen to the advice of your local guide or tour leader here. Similarly, care should be taken when passing through the airports, there is often lots of people standing around outside these and similar issues could be possible. Please do not go walking around outside the city hotels on your own as you could become a target of crime. Please speak to us if there is any need for you to go outside of the hotel (such as going to a shop to purchase a SIM card or snacks) as we will have someone we know accompany you.
Trips and falls when on trails, tracks/roads, around our campsites, and getting into or out of the 4×4 vehicles or boats are all possibilities on this tour and care should be taken. A hiking pole or walking stick is compulsory if you are at all unsure on your feet. Please seek the services of one of our excellent porters who will be able to help you navigate the sometimes steep and slippery trails. They are excellent and have helped many clients safely get around these remote birding sites. We do not have access to a satellite phone and regular cell coverage is limited when we are away from the cities. The nearest good emergency medical facilities in the case of a serious emergency might be in Australia (e.g. Darwin) so make sure you have suitable medical insurance in case something unexpected occurs.
Natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, and flooding are frequent across Indonesia and we will be monitoring the situation in the lead up to, and during the tour. Be aware that a volcanic eruption far away from the tour location can cause travel (flight) disruption, e.g. if a volcano erupts in or near the Indonesian international airports in Bali or Java.
There is a high risk of malaria in West Papua. Atovaquone/Proguanil or Doxycycline, or Mefloquine are recommended, but please consult your doctor or local travel clinic for specific advice. We will be spending time birding in lowland forests and mangroves over the dawn and dusk periods, where we will come into contact with mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are also present in the Arfak Mountains and can be a pest when we try and sit quietly in the bird blinds for the birds-of-paradise. Insect repellent with a high DEET concentration can be useful for keeping them away and reducing the chance of getting bites. DEET insect spray can also keep chiggers and leeches away. Chiggers can lead to Scrub (Bush) Typhus and can be incredibly irritating. Leeches do not spread diseases, but they are rather unnerving and can cause blood loss.
Care should be taken when swimming and snorkeling in the Raja Ampat Islands. The reef life is spectacular and some of the best diving in the world, with the highest diversity of fish anywhere on earth. However, with this comes serious danger in the form of creatures such Australian Box Jellyfish (Sea Wasp) and “Blue-ringed Octopus”. Please consult with the dive resort experts prior to taking a swim and follow any health and safety advice they provide.
While in the lowlands of Manokwari, Sorong, and Waigeo we can expect average daytime highs of around 87 °F (30 °C) and average nighttime lows of 75 °F (24 °C). There is often thick cloud cover here, resulting in hot and humid, rather oppressive conditions.
In the mountains it is cooler than the lowland temperatures and we can expect average daytime highs of around 65 °F (18 °C) and average nighttime lows of 50 °F (10 °C) when we are birding around our middle elevation sites of 4,500 feet/1,400 meters. When we reach the higher parts of the mountain, e.g. when we camp overnight at 7,000 feet/2,200 meters, we can expect lower temperatures again, and overnight temperature can feel cold.
The sun is strong at this time of year and care should be taken to remain hydrated and use sun protection. Rain is possible at any time, at any location so rain gear and an umbrella will be essential. A dry bag is also recommended for protecting optics, electrical equipment/cameras, and important documents (see the “What to Bring: Clothing and Other Items” section below).
Hotels in Manokwari and Sorong are typical western-style hotels with good facilities, restaurants, television, Wi-Fi internet, air-conditioning etc., and where you can get laundry done. There are supermarkets and pharmacies in the towns if you find you have forgotten something essential. Tea and coffee facilities are provided in rooms.
When you stay in the village in the Arfak Mountains (at an elevation of approximately 4,500 feet/1,400 meters), it is basic accommodation with electricity from a generator early in the morning and in the evening only (but enough to allow charging of phones/camera batteries etc.). Rooms are small bungalow-type buildings with, usually, a couple of bedrooms which are basic, and consist of beds with a mosquito net, a table, and an outside bench on the porch to soak in the astonishing views and birds. We will provide you with a sleeping bag and pillow. There are no proper showers, you can get heated water in a bucket when you need it though and have a ‘bucket shower’. There are western-style sit-down toilets located in the toilet/shower room (usually outside of the bungalow). We bring a cook up to the village with us and so still have very nice local meals during our stay. It is also possible to get laundry done here. Tea and coffee facilities are provided in a communal dining area. There is no Wi-Fi and very limited phone signal here.
When you hike up the mountains, you camp at 7,000 feet/2,200 meters on a palm/bamboo-style platform with a tarp roof, and it gets even more basic than in the village – with rustic pit/drop toilets, no showers, more basic food etc. We will provide you with a sleeping bag and sleeping mat (more comfortable if this is on the bamboo rather than just sleeping directly on the palm/bamboo-style platform). You should bring a travel pillow if you would like one. It is also cooler and damper at the top of the mountain where we spend the night, and it takes a full morning to walk up there (birding along a steep trail along the way). There is no electricity at the campsite, or a generator, so if you need to charge batteries you will need to have a power bank (portable power supply) to do so. We usually only stay at this upper campsite for one night. While this accommodation, or the trek to get there, is not going to be suitable for everyone, it is definitely worth the effort and temporary discomfort to try and see some of the special endemics that only occur high up the mountain (such as Arfak Astrapia, Black Sicklebill, and many more). Tea and coffee facilities are provided in the communal dining tent. See note in “Luggage” section regarding bringing a smaller bag for the overnight trip up the mountain. There is no Wi-Fi and very limited phone signal here.
There is a nominal charge for porters to carry daypacks, overnight bags, and other belongings, and this can be booked a day or two before the trek, when you first arrive in the village (you spend a couple of nights before (and after) the trek up the mountain, in the village at a lower altitude. You are also encouraged to 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.), and will help on the trails if you need help walking on the rough terrain, or if you want your daypacks carried.
In Waigeo, we usually stay in a dive resort near our main birding site. Rooms have a fan and air-conditioning, mosquito net, and private bathroom facilities. Tea and coffee facilities are provided in the restaurant area. There is excellent snorkeling or diving off the accommodation. There is no Wi-Fi and limited phone signal here.
Note the above is based on the pre-Covid-19 situation and will be updated further as soon as we are able to return.
While we are in the Arfak Mountains we will not have any mains electricity. For our time in the village (where we will spend most of our nights) there will be limited electricity supplied by a generator. This is usually on in the early hours of the morning over breakfast and then for a few hours in the evening while we eat, do the checklist, get cleaned up, and get ready for bed. This is usually enough time to get camera and phone batteries charged up. When we go high up the mountain to our campsite there is no form of electricity at all, not even a generator. Therefore, if you think you will want/need to charge any electrical equipment you should bring a power bank (portable power supply). Make sure any power bank is certified safe for air travel as these items are likely to be inspected and checked over at airport security checkpoints (they have to go in hand luggage) and if they do not meet the required safety standards they are likely to be confiscated.
All other locations we visit on the tour should have a regular power supply, notwithstanding any unexpected power cuts etc.
Phone signal is limited (or absent) for most of the tour route, with the exception of around the cities of Manokwari and Sorong. You may be able to use your international roaming package in Indonesia, but it may be quite expensive to do so. You may be able to purchase a local SIM card, however this can be quite complicated (e.g. if you purchase a card on a different island it might not work on other islands, without adding specific “local” credit through topping up a balance at a convenience store in cash). If you think you are going to need phone signal – where it exists – during the tour, please let us know as we might be able to purchase SIM cards in advance depending on the current rules in place, which do change from time to time. Our hotels in Manokwari and Sorong have Wi-Fi and this might be the most convenient way to go about communicating with the outside world during the tour if you should wish to do so.
FOOD AND MEALS
In the cities and tourist areas (e.g. Manokwari and Sorong) we will eat in the hotel restaurants where most types of food (Western and Indonesian) and drinks will be available. Meals will become simpler as we move into the mountains while birding the Arfak Mountains and there will be no alcoholic drinks (unless we bring our own with us). Our accommodation on Waigeo provides home-cooked Western and Indonesian meals served buffet style.
We can accommodate vegetarian and special dietary needs if we know in advance. Most meals are based around chicken or fish with rice and noodles, and mixed vegetables, tempeh, and tofu. Fresh fruit will be available. 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.
Getting money out of ATMs on this tour in Manokwari and Sorong can sometimes be difficult. It is recommended that you either bring a supply of Indonesian rupiah with you from home or withdraw some cash from the international airport that you arrive at. You are likely to have time to do that prior to catching your onward flight to Manokwari, such as when you are in Jakarta, Makassar, or Denpasar.
WHAT TO BRING: CLOTHING AND OTHER ITEMS
The following is a list of useful items to bring on this West Papua birding tour and should be read in conjunction with the Indonesia general information document.
- A field guide to the region. Either of the following books are suitable. Our tour leader will have digital copies of each. Birds of New Guinea: Including Bismarck Archipelago and Bougainville – Phil Gregory (2017), Lynx Edicions. This field guide has a clear and modern layout and current take on New Guinea, but is only available as a hardback and is expensive. Birds of New Guinea – Thane K Pratt and Bruce M Beehler (2014), Princeton University Press, 2nd Edition. This field guide is older and more ‘arty’ than the above guide with some plates tough to follow, but is a softback and is affordable.
- Overnight bag (small rucksack) for stay in the Arfak Mountains, either one that is used for the time in the mountains, or just for the one night at the higher elevation campsite.
- Hiking pole or walking stick to help on the tracks and trails. A walking stick is compulsory for anyone who is unsteady walking, as we feel this is a safety issue; we don’t want anyone slipping on the trails or anywhere else. Please discuss with us if you are unsure whether you will need one or not.
- Torch (flashlight) and/or headlamp, and spare batteries – we will be camping overnight in the mountains with no electricity and at our base lower down the mountains we will not have electricity between c.21:00 – 05:00 hrs. Additionally we will likely be setting off into the forest when it is still dark, so this is essential kit.
- High concentration DEET insect repellant.
- Anti-malarial tablets.
- Leech socks – useful, particularly if it is wet.
- A small personal first aid kit. See the suggested items from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), here. There are pharmacies in Manokwari and Sorong, but we will only have limited access to these.
- Footwear is a matter of personal preference. Rubber boots are probably essential in muddy conditions and often dry out quickly, but often lack suitable ankle support which can be given by walking/hiking boots (especially useful on the hike up the Arfak Mountains). If you don’t mind getting dirty in favor of better ankle support, go with walking boots. If it is particularly wet during the tour it may be possible to purchase rubber boots in Manokwari before heading up the mountain, if there is time/availability of your size.
- Quick-drying clothes are the best for this tour and a good selection of clothing layers are also recommended for time at the higher elevations where temperatures will be much lower than in the lowlands (see the “Weather/Climate” section for further information on likely temperatures during the tour).
- Rain jacket (and small umbrella) and a coat/fleece for the time in the mountains.
- Swimwear, mask, and snorkel for optional swimming during free time in Waigeo (note that equipment can be hired from the dive resort, so you don’t need to bring your own if you don’t want to or are limited for space in your luggage – there is likely to be a charge for hiring any equipment and this should be paid in cash).
- A small hand towel or wash cloth can be handy for cleaning and drying things when in the rainforest. Not essential but handy.
- A dry bag to keep valuable documents in such as passports, cell phones, wallets etc., as well as cameras if it rains.
- Power bank – essential if you want to charge items while camping as there will be no electricity at all in some areas – e.g. higher parts of the Arfak Mountains, and limited electricity during the daytime lower down the mountain (see the section on “Electricity” above for further information).
- A travel pillow and travel bath (i.e. large) towel for time in the Arfak Mountains. We will provide other camping gear, such as a sleeping bag and a sleeping mat/roll mat. If you would prefer to use your own camping equipment, please feel to bring it along.
- A mosquito/fly net might be useful for use at the top campsite in the mountains, to keep creepy crawlies off of you at night.