Adam is very energetic and helpful. He is an excellent birder and having spent 6 months living in PNG, he also had a good knowledge of other wildlife, as well as the culture. I really enjoyed his company.
Of all the world’s birding destinations, Papua New Guinea must certainly rank amongst the most fascinating and exotic. The second largest island on Earth, New Guinea was the last inhabited island to be explored by Europeans, and even today many areas have little or no exposure to Western influence. The virtually untouched forests come alive with incredible fruit doves, fig parrots, fairywrens, jewel-babblers, pittas, honeyeaters and berrypeckers, while over twenty species of dazzling birds-of-paradise present sometimes unbelievably iridescent colours and wild tail plumes in one of the most astonishing exhibits of the natural world!
Travelling by air, road, and boat we will explore the diverse habitats of the country, from winding lowland rivers and sprawling grasslands, to the richly forested highlands. Native tribes still dress themselves to mimic the island’s fabulous birds, adorned with elaborate head plumes made from the feathers of parrots and birds-of-paradise. Our eighteen-day tour covers the highlights of this enchanted and little-travelled country. We can expect a phenomenal variety of remarkable birds in and amongst vast regions of immaculate forests that have been experienced by few people on earth!
King of Saxony, Superb, Magnificent, King, Twelve-wired, Greater, Raggiana, Lesser & Blue Bird-of-paradise, Magnificent & Growling Riflebird, Black, Brown & Black-billed Sicklebill, Glossy-mantled, Crinkle-collared & Trumpet Manucode, Short-tailed Paradigalla, Ribbon-tailed & Princess Stephanie’s Astrapia, Queen Carola’s & Lawes’s Parotia, Salvadori’s Teal, Forest Bittern, Papuan, Pygmy & Gurney’s Eagle, Doria’s & Black-mantled Goshawk, Papuan Harrier, Chestnut & Forbes’s Forest Rail, New Guinea Flightless Rail, New Guinea Woodcock, New Guinea Bronzewing, Cinnamon Ground Dove, Pheasant Pigeon, Southern Crowned Pigeon, Wompoo, Pink-spotted, Ornate, Orange-fronted, Superb, Coroneted, Beautiful, White-bibbed, Orange-bellied & Dwarf Fruit Dove, Purple-tailed, Rufescent, Pinon’s, Collared, Zoe’s & Torresian Imperial Pigeon, Papuan Mountain Pigeon, Papuan Boobook, Marbled & Papuan Frogmouth, Archbold’s Nightjar, Feline, Starry, Wallace’s, Mountain & Barred Owlet-Nightjar, Hook-billed, Common Paradise, Little Paradise, Buff-breasted Paradise, Brown-headed Paradise, Forest, Torresian, Yellow-billed, Mountain, Papuan Dwarf & Azure Kingfisher, Shovel-billed, Blue-winged & Rufous-bellied Kookaburra, Pesquet’s, Yellow-capped & Buff-faced Pygmy, Papuan King, Eclectus & Brehm’s Tiger Parrot, Striated, Red-flanked, Fairy, Papuan, Yellow-billed & Orange-billed Lorikeet, Purple-bellied, Dusky, Goldie’s & Coconut Lorikeet, Orange-breasted Fig Parrot, Papuan Pitta, Archbold’s, MacGregor’s, Flame, Yellow-breasted & Fawn-breasted Bowerbird, Papuan Treecreeper, Wallace’s, Emperor, White-shouldered & Orange-crowned Fairywren, Goldenface, Papuan Babbler, Papuan Logrunner, Loria’s & Crested Satinbird, Tit & Crested Berrypecker, Papuan Whipbird, Spotted, Blue & Chestnut-backed Jewel-babbler, Painted Quail-thrush, Mottled Berryhunter, Papuan & Black Sittella, Wattled Ploughbill, Rufous-naped Whistler, Crested Pitohui, Lesser Melampitta & Greater Melampitta, Blue-capped Ifrit, Mountain Firetail, White-spotted, Great-billed, Grey-headed, Hooded & Chestnut-breasted Mannikin.
Spectacled Dasyure, Black-tailed Giant Rat, Sugar Glider, Agile Wallaby, Great Flying Fox, Plush-coated Ringtail
lowland and montane rainforest, Eucalyptus savanna, mangroves, grasslands, wetlands, islets
hot and humid with tropical showers, cooler in the highlands
moderate pace with some longer hikes
Huli Wigmen, Tari Valley, traditional carvings, spectacular forest vistas and mountain scenery
Day 1: Arrival in Port Moresby and Pacific Adventist University
Today we meet in Port Moresby, the capital city of Papua New Guinea (PNG). This area was once home to the Motuan seagoing people, famous for their impressively long boats with strange crab-claw shaped sails. PNG occupies the eastern half of the world’s second largest island, New Guinea. Once divided between the two colonial powers of Germany to the north and Britain to the south, the entire island was ceded to Australia after the First World War, with PNG gaining independence in 1975.
The region of Port Moresby supports the richest avifauna in PNG due to its diversity of habitats. These range from lowland rainforest and eucalypt woodland to rich mangroves, open grasslands and coastal palm beaches. In the afternoon we will visit the Pacific Adventist University, which affords a pleasant introduction to some of the woodland and wetland birds of the island. The expansive grounds of the university contain gardens and patches of habitat suitable for a surprising variety of lowland species that can literally teem with birds.
We will spend this afternoon of our Papua New Guinea birding tour looking for species that include the huge Blue-winged Kookaburra with its distinctive raucous call, flocks of migrant Black-faced Cuckooshrike that can often number more than 50 at a time, as well as the attractive Rufous-banded and Yellow-tinted Honeyeaters. The loud calls of New Guinea Friarbird are heard throughout the grounds, while conspicuous Black-backed Butcherbirds and the huge, skulking Pheasant Coucal patrol the scrubby edge. One of the key birds here is the subtly attractive Fawn-breasted Bowerbird and we will also look for Torresian Imperial Pigeon, Torresian Crow, the locally uncommon Bar-shouldered Dove and flocks of attractive Australasian Figbird and Yellow-faced Myna. The grounds support many ponds and we can expect to see Comb-crested Jacana, Purple Swamphen, Dusky Moorhen and good numbers of Pacific Black Duck and Wandering Whistling Duck. Other species we may encounter include Plumed and Spotted Whistling Ducks, Green Pygmy Goose, Raja Shelduck and Nankeen Night Heron. Overhead we will keep an eye out for Whistling and Brahminy Kites, noisy Rainbow Bee-eater, White-breasted Woodswallow and Pacific Swallow. Variable Goshawk hunt throughout the grounds and in the late afternoon we will seek out a roost of impressively large Papuan Frogmouths! We will then head back to our comfortable hotel situated on the outskirts of the city.
Day 2: Day trip to Varirata National Park
Our day will begin with a very early departure for Varirata National Park, situated in the foothills above the city. En route to the park entrance, we will pass by the head of the notorious Kokoda Trail, where valiant efforts by Australian and local troops halted the Japanese march during the Second World War.
The dry eucalypt forests that flank the quiet access road to Varirata provide superb birding and noisy screeches will reveal pairs of stunning Black-capped Lory and/or flocks of busy Coconut Lorikeet and Red-cheeked Parrot. Here we will find a mix of New Guinea endemics and species shared with Australia. Likely birds may include the attractive White-shouldered Fairywren, Black Sunbird, White-throated Honeyeater, White-bellied Cuckooshrike, Varied Triller, Lemon-bellied Flyrobin, Leaden Flycatcher, Brown Oriole, Spangled Drongo and noisy Hooded Butcherbird, while we will also work hard to try and locate the scarce White-bellied Whistler.
Upon entering the park, we will spend the morning slowly walking the narrow trails that enter the moister evergreen hill forest. These well-marked trails wind through a variety of habitats with some excellent lookouts over Port Moresby and the coastline, providing a full day of new sights and sounds.
The forests here are particularly rich in kingfishers; in fact, New Guinea hosts the world’s highest density of these desirable birds with 24 species known to occur! We will search for the PNG endemic Brown-headed Paradise Kingfisher, one of several paradise kingfisher species found on the island and distinguished by their long trailing tails. Further kingfishers to be found today may include Yellow-billed, Azure, Forest, Variable Dwarf and Sacred, while the most attractive of all the giant kingfishers, Rufous-bellied Kookaburra, is also a distinct possibility.
Columbids are very well represented here, particularly the stunning collection of Fruit Doves including Wompoo, Pink-spotted, Superb, Beautiful and Ornate. Zoe’s Imperial Pigeon, Slender-billed Cuckoo-Dove, Metallic Pigeon and the elusive Pheasant Pigeon are other species we will be on the lookout for here on our Papua New Guinea birding tour. The latter is likely to be heard but we would be very fortunate to observe this secretive ground dweller. Other species we might find on the trails include White-faced Robin, Black Cicadabird, Barred Cuckooshrike, Sooty Thicket Fantail and inquisitive Chestnut-bellied Fantail, Frilled, Black-faced and Spot-winged Monarchs, Green-backed Honeyeater, Rusty Mouse-warbler with its continuous squeaky-gate call, Yellow-breasted Boatbill, the stunning Goldenface, Grey Whistler, Rusty Pitohui and the poisonous Hooded Pitohui, Pale-billed Scrubwren, Pygmy Drongo, Growling Riflebird with its loud, guttural calls, Fairy Gerygone, Black Berrypecker and Dwarf Longbill. The last two mentioned species belong to the Berrypecker family that is endemic to New Guinea. We will also attempt to locate Barred Owlet-nightjar, a localised endemic, by checking some potential roost sites.
Besides the Pheasant Pigeon, several other secretive terrestrial birds occur in Varirata, all of them a challenge to observe! These include Black-billed Brushturkey, Crested Pitohui, Cinnamon Ground Dove, Painted Quail-thrush, the stunning Chestnut-backed Jewel-babbler and Northern Scrub Robin. However, the absolute highlight of the day will be witnessing the marvellous performance by testosterone-ridden male Raggiana Bird-of-paradise. Adorned with elaborate red and orange flank plumes, they dance in anticipation of a potential mate. We will visit a display site where we may see good numbers of displaying males and receptive females. After this unforgettable experience, we will know for sure that we really are in birders’ heaven!
Day 3: Flight from Port Moresby to Tari Valley
This morning on our Papua New Guinea birding tour, we transfer by air to the Tari Valley, widely hailed as having the richest montane avifauna in all of PNG. Only in the 1930’s were tens of thousands of human inhabitants of these inaccessible highlands discovered by intrepid gold miners looking for their fortune. The Tari Valley is populated by the Huli tribe, widely known for their famous ‘wigmen’ culture. During our next few days we will spend some time learning a little about the culture and daily lifestyle of the beautifully painted Huli ‘wigmen’, adorned with headpieces made from matted hair and the feathers of parrots and birds-of-paradise. From Tari, we will journey to the world-famous Ambua Lodge, where the extensive gardens and surrounding verdant forests will make for an unforgettable birding experience.
Days 4 & 5: Tari Valley
The Tari Valley is rightfully renowned as one of the finest birding destinations in the world, and we will have time to explore the surrounding virgin cloud forest and valley fringes filled with brilliant possibilities. The Ambua Lodge offers breathtaking views of the valley and incredible sunsets over the Tari Valley, while accommodation is in comfortable bush-material huts. At 2,100m (6,900ft) our lodge has a refreshing mountain climate that we will certainly enjoy while exploring the surrounding forested trails and nearby secondary habitat. Our local guides have up-to-date knowledge of the displaying birds and their territories and will be of tremendous help during this portion of the tour.
The star attraction here on our Papua New Guinea birding tour is undoubtedly the unequalled variety of bird-of-paradise species that occur here. Indeed, the immediate environs of our lodge support the elaborately plumed King of Saxony Bird-of-paradise, Superb Bird-of-paradise with its protruding iridescent breast-shields, outrageous Blue Bird-of-paradise, the strange Short-tailed Paradigalla, Brown and Black Sicklebills, Ribbon-tailed and Princess Stephanie’s Astrapias, Lawes’s Parotia and, if we are very lucky, Black-billed Sicklebill! With the keen knowledge of local guides, we will attempt to see as many of these jewel-like species as possible, some of which will be performing their ritualistic displays.
Besides the fabulous birds-of-paradise, we will search some of the forest trails in the area for White-bibbed Fruit Dove, rare Rufescent Imperial Pigeon, unobtrusive Forbes’s Forest Rail, scarce Black Pitohui, rarely-seen Madarasz’s Tiger Parrot, Black-breasted Boatbill, skulking Spotted Jewel-babbler, furtive Ashy Robin, elusive MacGregor’s Bowerbird, Lesser Ground Robin, Papuan Logrunner and the strange and unobtrusive Lesser Melampitta.
On our Papua New Guinea birding tour, we will also visit the high Tari Gap. Here, montane forests give way to expanses of open grasslands dotted with tree ferns where gliding Papuan Harrier may be seen and Brown Quail call from the ranker patches. The road passes through some wonderful forests where might find the impressive, but rare Papuan Eagle, extremely scarce Meyer’s and Black-mantled Goshawks, Brehm’s and extremely scarce Painted and Modest Tiger Parrots, Garnet Robin, Crested and Fan-tailed Berrypeckers, Black-throated Honeyeater, zippy Red-collared Myzomela, Plum-faced Lorikeet, Mountain Firetail and shy Blue-faced Parrotfinch.
Birding along the road above and below our lodge can be very productive indeed, and here we will concentrate on finding mixed species flocks that may yield such specialities as Mountain Kingfisher, Hooded and Black-bellied Cuckooshrikes, Brown-backed, Regent and Sclater’s Whistlers, Yellow-billed and Orange-billed Lorikeets, the scarce Black and Papuan Sitellas, equally elusive Papuan Treecreeper, bizarre Wattled Ploughbill, Papuan, Large and Buff-faced Scrubwrens, Black Monarch, Dimorphic and Black Fantails, Black-throated and Slaty Robins, the extremely rare Yellowish-streaked Honeyeater, Ashy Gerygone, delicate Orange-crowned Fairywren, Canary Flyrobin, Rufous-backed Honeyeater, Mid-mountain Berrypecker and seldom-recorded Spotted Berrypecker.
We will also venture down into the Tari Valley where we will enjoy our Huli Wigmen experience and search for several more target species, including Papuan King Parrot, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Marbled Honeyeater, Capped White-eye, Brown-breasted Gerygone and Collared Sparrowhawk. If we are extremely lucky the local villagers may know the whereabouts of roosting Greater Sooty Owl and Marbled Frogmouth.
Day 6: Drive from Tari Valley to Mt Hagen
We will leave the splendid forests of Tari early today for the long drive to Mt. Hagen where we should arrive in the late afternoon or early evening. Our cosy lodge for the next three nights of our Papua New Guinea birding tour is situated at 2,900m (9,600ft), inside a lush alpine forest patch! Here we will concentrate our efforts on the montane forest patches and secondary forest habitat of this fabulous area.
As we arrive, the feeders just outside the huge windows of the lodge will be hard to ignore. Remarkable Ribbon-tailed Astrapias will compete with Brown Sicklebill, Common Smoky and Grey-streaked Honeyeaters, Belford’s Melidectes, Brehm’s Tiger Parrot, Island Thrush, White-winged Robin and Rufous-naped Whistler for our attention! Two very special birds that occasionally attend the feeder are the usually elusive Archbold’s Bowerbird and Crested Satinbird. A constant flow of hungry birds throngs to the feeders, providing incredible photographic opportunities. Many of us will no doubt spend hours birding from here, with a cup of coffee in hand and coal stoves nearby! Birding in paradise indeed!!
Days 7 & 8: Mount Hagen area
We have two full days of our Papua New Guinea bird watching tour to visit the various altitudinal habitats on offer around Mount Hagen as well as spend time at the incredible fruit feeder, coffee in hand! Although the region of Mount Hagen is rather heavily cultivated, the areas of standing native habitat can produce a wide variety of remarkable endemic species. The area below the lodge offers possibilities of seeing a host of mouth-watering specials such as dazzling Blue, Superb and Magnificent Bird-of-paradise, Lawes’s Parotia, Bar-tailed and Slender-billed Cuckoo-Doves, attractive Ornate Melidectes, Mid-mountain and rarely-observed Streaked Berrypeckers, and the striking and rather elusive Torrent-lark. Other birds we will search for include the localised Yellow-breasted Bowerbird, Australian Hobby, Brown Falcon, Hooded Mannikin, Papuan White-eye, the beautiful Mountain Myzomela, Island Leaf Warbler, Long-tailed Shrike and best of all, the localised Lesser Bird-of-paradise. (Please note however that accessing the Lesser BOP site largely depends upon local weather and road conditions and is not always possible.)
The heavily mossed trails around our lodge produce some exciting birding and here we will seek out the secretive Chestnut and Forbes’s Forest Rails, Rufous-throated Bronze Cuckoo, Friendly and Dimorphic Fantails, stunning Regent Whistler, Orange-crowned Fairywren, Wattled Ploughbill, Mountain Mouse-warbler and Large Scrub-wren. The Papuan Lorikeet is one of the world’s most beautiful parrots and both the stunning black form and more gaudy red form occur around the lodge.
Flocks of the attractive, monotypic Blue-capped Ifrit feed like nuthatches along branches and are now known to be even more poisonous than the Hooded Pitohui! Crested Berrypeckers forage around the lodge grounds, while other lodge specialities include Crested Satinbird, New Guinea Woodcock (a resident in the bogs around the lodge), Archbold’s Nightjar and Mountain Owlet-nightjar that sometimes perches on tree-ferns outside the cabins at night. Even the rare Feline Owlet-nightjar occurs around the lodge and we will work hard to try and locate this very difficult species. Several strange and little-known mammals can also be found in the evenings and early morning, with the most obvious being a Papuan Giant Rat that visits the feeder after dark for scraps that are left behind by its diurnal occupants, along with chances for Mountain Cuscus, Raffray’s Bandicoot and De Vis’s Woolly Rat.
In a nearby patch of ridge forest, we will search for lower elevation species that could include Black-breasted Boatbill, Spotted Jewel-babbler, Lesser Ground Robin, Fan-tailed Berrypecker and Tit Berrypecker. Male Brown Sicklebills utter their incredibly loud machine-gun staccato call from a regular post. However, the star here is the King of Saxony Bird-of-paradise. We hope to encounter a stunning male swinging through the vines waving his weird head-plumes around and uttering its strange buzzing calls but we are far more likely to see one perched on top of a dead snag in the forest canopy in the early morning or late afternoon.
Day 9: Flight from Mt Hagen to Kiunga, drive to Tabubil
Today we leave the highlands behind and cross the country to the humid lowlands. After some final morning birding around our lodge, we head to the airport for our flight to Kiunga. As we fly over this vast region, one can’t fail to be impressed by the vastness of this rainforest, indeed one of the largest expanses of lowland tropical forest in the world, smaller only than those found in the Amazon and African Congo Basin! With approximately 80% of the land in its natural state, PNG is one of the world’s most pristine countries. This remote area near the border with the Indonesian state of West Papua offers us the chance of seeing some of New Guinea’s most sought-after and highly-acclaimed species. Most of the birding will be along unpaved roads, and we are sure to see some spectacular birds in these foothill forests. After landing in Kiunga, we shall drive into the foothills of the Star Mountains, to the mining town of Tabubil. Depending on the time of our arrival, we may have some time to bird the local area late this afternoon.
Days 10 & 11: Tabubil area
The forests around Tabubil provide some excellent birding and we have opportunities over two days for observing some rarely seen birds. Target species we will search for include the delightful Red-breasted Pygmy Parrot, which feeds nuthatch-like along mossy trunks, high-flying Blue-collared Parrot, Stout-billed, Black-shouldered, Grey-headed and stunning Golden Cuckooshrikes, Common and Black Cicadabirds, Black-winged Monarch, White-rumped Robin, Mottled, Rusty and Black-headed Whistlers, under-recorded Grey-green Scrub-wren, the recently rediscovered Obscure Berrypecker, Black-fronted White-eye, Mottle-breasted, Puff-backed and Spotted Honeyeaters, as well as Black Butcherbird.
Several birds-of-paradise also occur here and we hope to see Magnificent Bird-of-paradise and perhaps hear its unique clapping noise as it snaps its wings like two small stones being banged together. Queen Carola’s Parotia with their spatula head wires may appear and we may also encounter Crinkle-collared Manucode. A heap of luck will be required on our Papua New Guinea bird watching tour, to find the rare Shovel-billed Kookaburra, but we will put in persistent effort to hopefully obtain a sighting.
During our time here, we shall also pay a visit (maybe a few) to a nearby hydro-electric plant where we hope to find New Guinea’s three torrent specialists: Torrent Flyrobin, Torrent-lark and the erratic Salvadori’s Teal. These three fast-flowing river species are particularly attractive but the latter two species are equally difficult to pin down, and perseverance and patience will be required to see these highly desirable species. The general birding around the plant can, however, be quite rewarding and flocks of Dusky and Black-capped Lory are often in attendance, as are Red-flanked and Coconut Lorikeets, Orange-breasted Fig Parrot, gaudy Eclectus Parrot, Tawny-breasted Honeyeater and Mountain Peltops.
We will also spend one late afternoon watching an area where we have a reasonable chance of seeing the rare and much sought-after Pesquet’s Parrot flying over the lush forests from their feeding areas to their roost sites. While waiting and watching for the parrots we may pick up other interesting species such as Chestnut-breasted and White-eared Bronze Cuckoos, Black-billed and Ivory-billed Coucals, Scrub and Mountain Honeyeaters and the very scarce Orange-fronted Hanging Parrot. Although we will be visiting during the dry season, this is one of the wettest spots in the world and rain can well be expected!
Day 12: Drive from Tabubil to Kiunga
This morning on our Papua New Guinea bird watching tour, we drive to Kiunga, somewhat to the south of Tabubil. This port town is located in extreme western PNG along the border of West Papua, the Indonesian half of New Guinea. Situated on the north bank of the Fly River, Kiunga was built to service the giant Ok Tedi copper and gold mine. Although Kiunga is situated approximately 1,300 nautical kilometres from the Fly River mouth, the berthing of huge ships bears testament to the size of this impressive river.
After our arrival at Kiunga, we will check in at our hotel and enjoy lunch. Thereafter we will bird a nearby area of fabulous, untouched lowland rainforest where we have a chance of encountering several mouth-watering forest specialities. The forest interior is always hard work but with patience and perseverance, we hope to observe some of the shy and secretive forest dwellers. These include Stephan’s Emerald Dove, Thick-billed Ground Pigeon, White-breasted Ground Dove, White-crowned Cuckoo, Dwarf Koel, White-bellied Thicket Fantail, the brightly-coloured Golden Monarch, vociferous Papuan Babbler, the indescribably stunning Blue Jewel-babbler and tricky-to-see Hook-billed Kingfisher with its adapted ground-hunting bill.
One of our main targets here will be the gem-like King Bird-of-paradise. The smallest bird-of-paradise, we will position ourselves at a known tree where this beauty displays from the tangles, with strident calls and raised iridescent green shoulder fans. Its fabulous wired tail ends in a stunning green spiral and the red and white plumage leaps out of the dark green forest once it has been spotted.
As one of PNG’s most famous birding sites, it is here that David Attenborough was hoisted into the treetops for the marvellous footage of displaying Greater Bird-of-paradise. This remarkable footage is one piece of the highly recommended video Attenborough in Paradise, which stars many of the bird-of-paradise species found in Papua New Guinea, performing their elaborate display rituals. Many bird-of-paradise species keep to traditional display trees that are used by generation after generation. Specific trees are generally well supported by a healthy population of the indescribably beautiful Greater Bird-of-paradise. We will have ample opportunity to observe these elegant beauties as they strut their stuff, competing for the attentions of the rather drab females. Rhythmic displays, wing mantling and posturing, loud, raucous and incessant calling and frequent mating are a constant affair. Many participants might consider this as their top experience in PNG!
Day 13: Kiunga area
We will concentrate our efforts today searching for some of the magnificent birds found in this lowland area. It is important to get an early start as the morning chorus can hold an impressive array of rarely heard sounds. Among many species we may come across on our Papua New Guinea birding tour, our key target will be the incredibly beautiful Flame Bowerbird. We will spend time at a lookout near to a colony of these birds, hoping for fly-by or perched views. The radiant orange males really do appear aflame and this must rank as one of the world’s most beautiful birds. Other species to be found in the area include the rare Grey-headed Goshawk, shy and elusive New Guinea Bronzewing, Long-tailed Honey Buzzard, Pacific Baza, Double-eyed Fig Parrot, petite Red-flanked Lorikeet, Yellowish-streaked Lory, thumb-sized Yellow-capped Pygmy Parrot, the starkly contrasted Eclectus Parrot (named due to the remarkable difference between the red-and-blue females and green males), Orange-bellied, Beautiful, Dwarf, Pink-spotted and scarce Ornate Fruit Doves and Zoe’s, Pinon’s and Purple-tailed Imperial Pigeons. There is also the distinctive Long-billed Cuckoo – the male having a strikingly bright red eye-ring, noisy Brush Cuckoo, brilliant Emperor Fairywren, Red-capped Flowerpecker, Long-billed, Obscure, Plain and Streak-headed Honeyeaters, Ruby-throated Myzomela, diminutive Pygmy Longbill and Meyer’s Friarbird. Further bird-of-paradise species include the glossy-black Trumpet and Glossy-mantled Manucodes, which often perch prominently atop dead trees to utter their loud retching calls. A nearby area of dry grassland may produce Red-backed Buttonquail and/or Australian Pratincole and, if we are very lucky, flocks of elusive and nomadic White-spotted Mannikin.
Day 14: Boat from Kiunga down the Elevala River
This morning we will depart in the predawn mists swirling over the mighty Fly River on a boat journey into the rich swamp forests and lowlands. The Fly River’s source is situated in the higher reaches of the central divide from where it then winds its way south-east, being joined later by the Strickland River. Our destination for the next two days is the Elevala River, one of the tributaries of the Fly.
As dawn breaks, we will be looking along the riverbanks waiting for one of the world’s strangest birds to make an appearance – the Twelve-wired Bird-of-paradise! This yellow-and-black creature with a most unusual shape and a dozen bizarre, wire-like feathers bending upwards from its rear-end, performs its ritual maypole shuffle on a dead snag. After witnessing the unique dance of one of the world’s most desirable birds, we will continue our journey up the river. Travelling slowly, we will be looking out for the giant Palm Cockatoo, a huge black parrot with a floppy crest, massive hooked bill and bright red cheek-patch that flies noisily overhead. Further species along the river might include the Large Fig Parrot, Great Cuckoo-Dove, Shining Flycatcher, Large-billed Gerygone, Lowland Peltops and the scarce Yellow-eyed Starling hidden amongst huge numbers of Metallic Starling. We should also encounter large flocks of Collared Imperial Pigeon, Papuan Spine-tailed Swift, dozens of Oriental Dollarbids and the strange Grey Crow. Parties of noisy Blyth’s Hornbill sound like steam trains passing overhead and are delightfully common while migrant flocks of giant Channel-billed Cuckoo from Australia occur in breathtaking numbers at times. However, our key target once we enter the quiet Elevala River is the huge, fan-crested Southern Crowned Pigeon. The Goura genus that includes Victoria’s and Western Crowned Pigeon are the world’s largest surviving columbids, all three of which are endemic to New Guinea.
A night forest walk will offer us the chance to see some of PNG’s most sought-after nocturnal species including Marbled Frogmouth, Papuan Boobook, the inexplicably rare Papuan Hawk-Owl, seldom seen Wallace’s and Starry Owlet-nightjars and Greater Sooty Owl. We may also encounter New Guinea Crocodile, which can be prolific along the river edges!
Day 15: Elevala River and afternoon boat ride to Kiunga
After an early breakfast this morning on our Papua New Guinea birding tour, we will head back onto the narrow trails of the surrounding forest for the dawn chorus. Canopy bird parties here can keep us occupied for hours and leave us with warbler-neck! Possible new species include Black-billed Brushturkey, Wompoo Fruit Dove, Rufous-backed Fantail, Green-backed and Yellow-bellied Gerygones, Hooded and Spot-winged Monarchs, the scalloped blue-crowned Wallace’s Fairywren, Little Shrikethrush, Yellow-bellied Longbill, shy and secretive White-eared Catbird and most localised of all, flocks of noisy White-bellied Pitohui. The forest trails also allow us the very slim possibility of observing the giant Southern Cassowary; though not an uncommon species, it does tend to be incredibly shy. Other regular species that are more likely to be encountered are Ivory-billed Coucal, elegant Moustached Treeswift, up to three species of Paradise Kingfisher (Little, Common and Buff-breasted), secretive Hooded and Red-bellied Pittas as well as Black-sided Robin.
In the afternoon we will then make our way back towards Kiunga along the Elevala and Fly Rivers. We may be rewarded with sightings of Great-billed Heron and if we are immensely lucky, the secretive Forest Bittern or Red-necked Crake. Any of these species would be a coup! Upon arrival in Kiunga, we will transfer to our now familiar hotel.
Day 16: Flight from Kiunga to Port Moresby
This morning we will have a few hours to bird the Kiunga area before catching our onward flight to Port Moresby. We may have a few hours to bird locally in the afternoon.
Day 17: Port Moresby area
Today on our Papua New Guinea bird watching tour, we will either revisit Varirata National Park or the area around Hisui Mangroves and the Brown River, depending on road conditions and whatever species we may still require. The Hisui Mangroves area could provide us with Mangrove Gerygone, Black Thicket Fantail and/or Dusky Lory feeding amongst the fruiting coconut palms. A walk to the beach may yield Beach Thick-knee or Lesser Frigatebird. A nearby lake often holds Green Pygmy Goose and Spotted Whistling Duck, while the few flowering shrubs are excellent locations for both Silver-eared and Brown-backed Honeyeaters.
We will also bird an area near the Brown River that consistently proves productive. Walking along the riverine habitat and dense secondary growth we will search for such beauties as Coroneted and Dwarf Fruit Doves, Yellowish-streaked Lory, the radiant Golden Myna, Dusky Myzomela, Common Paradise Kingfisher, exquisite Emperor Fairywren and, if we are lucky, the rare Streak-headed Mannikin, amongst many others. An area of nearby grassland may yield Great-billed, Grey-headed or Chestnut-breasted Mannikins as well as Papuan Harrier. Stands of Eucalyptus woodland could produce White-throated Gerygone, Bar-shouldered Dove, Grey Shrikethrush, Black-backed Butcherbird, Forest Kingfisher, White-winged Triller and Buff-faced Pygmy Parrot. In the late afternoon, we will return to our hotel in Port Moresby.
Day 18: Port Moresby and departure
Depending on flight times we might have time for some early morning birding at the Pacific Adventist University. Thereafter we will transfer to Port Moresby International Airport where some of us will catch our international departures, while the rest of us will fly to Hoskins Airport for the start of our New Britain Extension tour.
What our clients say about tours to Papua New Guinea
- SL, PNG II 2015
The birds were magnificent, and when you combine this with the awesome guide combo of Adam Walleyn and the ‘Big G’ (Gareth Robbins), it made for a once in a lifetime trip. Thanks again Rockjumper for delivering a first-class birding experience.DH & RD, Papua New Guinea
Glen is always a pleasure to travel with and his professional yet friendly manner was appreciated by the whole group. He knows his birds extremely well and works hard to get everyone in the group onto the birds. He has a great memory for names and always remembers and greets by name, local guides, drivers, hotel staff, etc that he has met on previous trips. The trip went very smoothly, due to his excellent handling of logistics.SL, PNG II 2015
Adam Walleyn acted as a very experienced and skilful leader. He had an intimate knowledge of the birds and great skills in finding and showing them. His communication was extremely clear, to the point and flavoured with a good sense of humour. In the few difficult situations that arose due to flights, civil unrest, etc, he showed extremely good skills in handling these with a perfect balance between group decisions and executive decisions. A role model for a tour leader.BA, Papua New Guinea