I was very lucky recently to be invited by the Palau Visitors Authority to visit the Micronesian Island of Palau, from the 29th of May to the 1st of June. The invitation was part of an initiative to encourage bird-watching tours to visit the islands.
A full programme was laid out for me, and I was kept busy during my short 3-day stay. Palau is an archipelago of over 500 islands in the Western Pacific Ocean. Koror is the commercial centre, where most of the hotels are situated. The capital Ngerulmud is situated on the main island, Babeldaob. The main attractions for tourists are the pristine beaches, sea and scuba-diving.
On our first morning, we visited Long Island Park, where we had fantastic looks at Blue-faced Parrotfinches, the endemic Palau Flycatcher, Micronesian Starling and the beautifully-marked Palau Fruit Dove. Then we took a boat to the stunning Rock Islands, a major attraction for divers, with its crystal clear waters and excellent coral reefs. Our journey across to the island was livened by Black-naped and Bridled Terns, and the odd Tropical Shearwater.
We landed on the golden sandy beach of Ulong Island, shrouded in shady trees and picnic tables. The trail here was very productive, and soon we were watching Micronesian Megapode, the stunning White-throated Ground Dove, delightful Palau Fantails and the strange Morningbird. A visit to the nearby island of Urkathapel was also excellent for birding, with flocks of Grey White-eyes and the scarce Palau Cicadabird showing after a bit of a runaround. After a long search, we found a trio of the large Giant White-eye – an oddity for white-eyes, with its large bill and nuthatch-like feeding habits. A visit at night to Long Island Park gave us a calling Palau Owl, albeit tricky to see.
The following morning, we headed inland to the Ngardok Lake Reserve, where a walk through the forest produced all the endemics seen the day before, as well as Yellow Bittern and White-browed Crake. A bonus came in the form of several Nicobar Pigeons flying over and the huge Palau Flying Fox. A nearby pristine forest reserve with very large trees gave us Pacific Imperial Pigeons; while Common Noddies, White-tailed Tropicbirds and White Terns were constantly in view. On our journey back, we scored with excellent looks at Palau Kingfisher. A visit to the water purification ponds in the afternoon yielded Common Greenshank, Pacific Reef, Intermediate and Little Egrets, Chestnut Munia and a lone Whiskered Tern. Later, a fabulous last meal was had at our hotel.
Unfortunately, my short but rewarding visit to these wonderful islands had to come to an end. I am very grateful to the Palau Tourism Authority for their generous hospitality and very helpful staff. I look forward to future tours in Palau; and this island will be part of our upcoming Micronesian Tour, which will include Palau, Yap, Rota, Saipan, Chuuk and Pohnpei.