Quite simply, this is a birding tour unlike any other! Each island or archipelago that we will be visiting (New Caledonia, Fiji, Vanuatu and Samoa) exhibits its own distinctive ensemble of characteristic and rarely-seen endemics, including some of our planet’s least known species; and, although these oceanic islands and their bird lists aren’t large, they are nevertheless very special indeed. On this trip we will be treated to a wonderful assortment of imperial pigeons, fruit doves (one of the most beautiful of all bird groups), parrots and lorikeets, kingfishers, hosts of flycatchers, monarchs, fantails, whistlers, honeyeaters and white-eyes, all of which are endemic and consequently found nowhere else on earth.
In the mid-80s, the Kagu was critically endangered and seemingly impossible to see. Now, thanks to concerted conservation efforts by the local park authorities, it has staged a remarkable comeback, and with special help, we have an excellent chance of seeing this “missing link” in the avian world. And while seeing this iconic species may well be the main focus of the tour for many of us, on offer is also a remarkable diversity of other spectacular endemics. Furthermore, the islands of the Southwest Pacific have a lazy, relaxed charm about them and one of the features that we can anticipate on this tour includes a fascinating collage of landscapes and culture, great food and some lovely accommodations.
In Fiji, we will wander balmy, sun-bleached beaches and explore luxuriant forests only a short distance from our delightful hotel. Among mist-draped montane forests we will be treated to such spectacular surprises as the Orange Fruit Dove (an almost unbelievable colour!), the enigmatic Silktail and a plethora of other attractive endemics including Many-coloured Fruit Dove, Collared Lory, Red-Shining Parrot, Fiji Shrikebill, Azure-crested (Blue-crested) Flycatcher (a real humdinger!) and the handsome Red-headed Parrotfinch.
These are just two examples of some of the islands we will visit and explore on what promises to be a most memorable tour!
Please note: the present tour schedule will almost certainly be adjusted due to inevitable flight changes; we will, however, attempt to stick with the current itinerary as far as possible.
New Caledonia: Kagu, New Caledonian Goshawk, Goliath Pigeon, Cloven-feathered Dove, Crested & Red-crowned Parakeet, New Caledonian & Melanesian Cuckooshrikes, Long-tailed Triller, New Caledonian Gerygone, New Caledonian Whistler, New Caledonian Starling, New Caledonian Myzomela, Dark-brown, Barred & Crow Honeyeater, New Caledonian Friarbird, New Caledonian Crow & Red-throated Parrotfinch, New Caledonian Thicketbird (New Caledonian Grass Warbler, New Caledonian Grassbird)
Lifou: Small & Large Lifou White-eye, Red-bellied Fruit Dove, Cardinal Myzomela
Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu Islands: Vanuatu Scrubfowl, Swamp Harrier, Mackinlay’s Cuckoo-Dove, Tanna (Vanuatu) & Red-bellied Fruit Doves, Pacific Imperial Pigeon, Palm Lorikeet, Collared & Chestnut-bellied Kingfisher, Polynesian & Long-tailed Triller, Southern Shrikebill, Mangrove (Common) Golden Whistler, Buff-bellied Monarch, Spotted Fantail, Vanuatu White-eye & Royal Parrotfinch
Fiji: Golden, Orange & Many-coloured Fruit Doves, Tongan (Shy) Ground Dove, Barking (Peale’s) Imperial Pigeon, Fiji Goshawk, Masked Shining Parrot, Red-throated Lorikeet (very rare), Collared Lory, Giant & Wattled Honeyeater, Silktail, Black-throated(-faced) & Fiji Shrikebill, Long-legged Warbler (Long-legged Thicketbird), Pacific Golden Plover, Fiji Woodswallow, Bristle-thighed Curlew, Pacific Reef Heron, Fiji Goshawk, Vanikoro Flycatcher, Slaty Monarch (Flycatcher), Sulphur-breasted (Orange-breasted) Myzomela, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Polynesian Triller, Vanikoro & Azure-(Blue-)crested Flycatcher, Fiji Bush Warbler, Fiji (Layard’s) White-eye, Red-headed & Pink-billed Parrotfinch
Kadavu: Whistling (Velvet) Fruit Dove, Crimson Shining Parrot (split from Red), Kadavu Fantail & Kadavu Honeyeater
Samoa: Crimson-crowned (Purple-capped) & Many-colored Fruit Doves, Metallic (White-throated) Pigeon, Pacific Imperial Pigeon, Blue-crowned Lorikeet, Flat-billed Kingfisher, Samoan & Polynesian Triller, Mao, Wattled Honeyeater, Samoan Whistler, Samoan Flycatcher, Samoan Fantail, Samoan Starling, Cardinal Myzomela, Red-headed Parrotfinch
Tongan Flying Fox
various forest types, small islands, beaches, shoreline, open ocean, airports
mostly tropical conditions; warm and humid with some rain expected, can be very cool in the highlands
mostly easy with some short walks over steep ground, with the possibility of one very steep and strenuous optional hike for a specific target species
great food, little-explored islands, fantastic scenery, fascinating collage of landscapes & culture, lovely accommodation
Day 1: Sydney, Australia to Noumea, New Caledonia
This morning we will fly from Sydney, on the east coast of Australia, across the ocean to Tontouta airport, well to the north of Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia. From here we will be transported to our attractive hotel on the outskirts of the “city”. During dinner, we will discuss plans for our upcoming adventures through the endemic-rich islands of the Southwest Pacific. If time permits, we will also do some initial birding in nearby secondary habitat for the rather less-than-dramatic Grey-eared Honeyeater. Other possibilities include Nankeen Night Heron, Buff-banded Rail, Dusky Moorhen, White-rumped Swiftlet, Rufous Whistler and Welcome Swallow.
Day 2: Riviere Bleu Reserve
New Caledonia is geologically extremely old, having been cast adrift many millions of years ago from what we know today as Australia and New Zealand. As a result, its community of plants and animals have evolved in extreme isolation, to such a degree that the majority of its native inhabitants are found nowhere else in the world, thus providing us with a rare glimpse of this region’s forests as they were in Gondwanaland times. Our birding will largely focus around the Riviere Bleu forest reserve, which encompasses some of the best remaining lowland and hill forest on the island.
Thanks to the efforts of Yves Letocart and the Department of Forests, many of the introduced predators, which have so decimated the island’s Kagu populations in the past, have been greatly reduced. This has resulted in a relatively healthy group of approximately 500 birds inhabiting the reserve. These strange, ghost-like, flightless birds, which resemble a cross between a Sunbittern and a rail with a long shaggy crest, are one of the most exciting and, until recently, amongst the most challenging birds to see on our planet.
Happily, this is no longer the case, and arriving ideally before dawn, we will listen for the Kagu’s puppy-like calls that are such a characteristic sound of the forest. In the past, this was about as near as one could hope to get to encountering one of these seemingly mythical creatures. Now, thanks to intensive conservation efforts, our chances of seeing this incredible bird are very good indeed.
This morning we will, therefore, depart early for the important Riviere Bleu Reserve to search for the Kagu in addition to several other really fascinating New Caledonian endemics: New Caledonian Goshawk, the huge Goliath Pigeon, Cloven-feathered Dove (a very strange and beautiful bird), Horned Parakeet (severely threatened – the Riviere Bleu reserve is one of its last strongholds), New Caledonian Parakeet, New Caledonian Crow, New Caledonian and South Melanesian Cuckooshrikes, Long-tailed Triller, Fan-tailed Gerygone, New Caledonian Whistler, Striated Starling, New Caledonian Myzomela, Barred and Crow Honeyeaters (the latter sadly now very rare), New Caledonian Friarbird and Red-throated Parrotfinch.
Day 3: Fly to Lifou, birding all day and return to Noumea
This morning we will make the short flight across to the idyllic island of Lifou. Here we will search for two species found nowhere else: the very common Small Lifou White-eye, and the rather scarce and distinctly babbler-like Large Lifou White-eye. These forests also host several other birds of interest, including the lovely Red-bellied Fruit Dove and Cardinal Myzomela. During the late afternoon, we will fly back to Noumea.
Day 4: Birding New Caledonia
This morning we will visit an area where we have a small chance of seeing the enigmatic New Caledonian Thicketbird (Grassbird), in addition to such specialities as the exquisite Cloven-feathered Dove, South Melanesian Cuckooshrike, Red-throated Parrotfinch and the strange, tool-using New Caledonian Crow.
It is now also possible to see the Kagu at this site, giving us a second opportunity to encounter this extraordinary bird. Later in the day we will conclude our birding on New Caledonia with a visit to a couple of other sites, where we have another chance to catch up with anything we may have missed so far, or else to simply enjoy further and even better studies of the species we have already seen.
Day 5: Fly to Port Vila on Efate, Vanuatu, and onwards to Luganville, Espiritu Santo
This morning we fly to Port Vila on the island of Efate in the Vanuatu archipelago, from there we will connect with a domestic flight to Luganville, the capital of Vanuatu, located on the island of Espiritu Santo. This is the largest of the Vanuatu islands; and if time permits, we will commence our exploration of the island later this afternoon.
Day 6: Birding Espiritu Santo
We have a full day of our Vanuatu birding tour to explore this relatively poorly known island. Vanuatu is a sleepy, rarely-birded hideaway that supports several interesting endemics, some of which are clearly related to those we encountered on New Caledonia and which we will encounter further along on the tour.
Our plan is to spend much of our time birding local nature reserves. Within this protected area of lowland, coastal forest, we hope to encounter Vanuatu (Scrubfowl) Megapode – very shy, Swamp Harrier, MacKinlay’s Cuckoo-Dove, Tanna and Red-bellied Fruit Doves, Pacific Imperial Pigeon, Collared and the elusive Vanuatu Kingfishers, Polynesian Triller, Southern Shrikebill, Melanesian Whistler, Buff-bellied Monarch (perhaps THE speciality of these islands, this attractive bird belongs to a monotypic genus Neolalage), Streaked Fantail and Vanuatu White-eye.
Day 7: Espiritu Santo to Port Vila
After some final birding for any species we may still require, or simply desire better views of, we will then wing our way back to the somewhat more sophisticated township of Port Vila, and our attractive resort.
Day 8: Port Vila to Nadi, Fiji
This morning we will take our leave of Vanuatu, and fly eastwards to the Fijian Islands.
Day 9: Nadi to Taveuni
This morning on our Fiji birding tour, we will wing our way across exquisite turquoise seas, decorated with wonderfully untouched coral reefs to the island of Taveuni, our home for the next three nights. Our birding begins the moment we set down, as there may well be Pacific Golden Plovers and Fiji Woodswallows on the airstrip, perhaps even a Bristle-thighed Curlew if we are extraordinarily lucky. The drive to our resort takes us along the volcanic coastline, passing through villages and coconut plantations along the way. On the journey, we will watch out for frigatebirds, Pacific Reef Heron and the handsome Goshawk.
Our resort is located right on the beach and we should find a number of gorgeous birds and butterflies right in the hotel grounds, including Collared Lory, Vanikoro Flycatcher, Sulphur-breasted Myzomela and Fiji White-eyes, whilst Black-naped and Great Crested Terns often patrol the beach.
Days 10 & 11: Taveuni
A large proportion of the Fijian endemics can be found just a short drive from our very comfortable hotel. During our Fiji birding tour, we will explore a range of habitats from damp, misty, moss-adorned forests atop Des Voeux Peak (4,000 feet), to the humid lowlands.
We have a large number of species to find here, so we must be in the forest by dawn in order to maximise our chances. Characteristic species that we may encounter include Swamp Harrier, Fiji Goshawk, Many-colored Fruit Dove, Orange Fruit Dove, Tongan (Friendly) Ground Dove, Barking Imperial Pigeon (unusually common for such a large bird), Fan-tailed Cuckoo, White-rumped Swiftlet, Pacific Swallow, Polynesian Triller, the lovely Pacific Robin, Fiji Whistler, Fiji Shrikebill, Slaty Monarch, Vanikoro and the gorgeous Azure-crested Flycatcher, Streaked Fantail, Fiji Bush Warbler, Island Thrush, Polynesian Starling, Fiji Woodswallow, Sulphur-breasted Myzomela, Fiji Wattled and Yellow-billed Honeyeaters, Fiji White-eye and the striking Fiji Parrotfinch. Of course, we will also seek out the enigmatic Taveuni Silktail, which many consider Fiji’s most special bird. This beautiful species, however, is as elusive as its affinities are unclear, so we will need a good dose of luck to see it!
Day 12: Taveuni to Nadi
This morning we will take our leave of this lovely island and wing our way back to Nadi for the evening.
Day 13: Nadi to Kadavu
This morning we will take an early flight to the island of Kadavu (pronounced Kan davu). Kadavu is home to four species of birds found nowhere else in the world: Whistling Fruit Dove, Crimson Shining Parrot, Kadavu Fantail and Kadavu Honeyeater. Naturally, these four birds will be the primary focus of our attention as we bird this island’s forests.
Day 14: Kadavu to Suva via Nadi
After some final birding or perhaps a morning to relax and enjoy our attractive resort, we will fly to Suva via Nadi.
Day 15: Birding the central highlands of Viti Levu
We have all day to bird the mountainous interior of the weather (wet) side of Viti Levu. This, the archipelago’s largest island, still supports some luxuriant forests in the interior and hosts an exciting range of species, including the sensational looking but peculiar sounding Golden and Many-colored Fruit Doves, vociferous Barking Imperial Pigeon, possibly Fiji Goshawk, Masked Shining Parrot, the lovely Collared Lory, Black-throated Shrikebill, Long-legged Thicketbird and the wonderfully vocal Giant Honeyeater. In addition, we hope to see the truly rare and little-known, Pink-billed Parrotfinch.
Day 16: Viti Levu to Nadi
This morning we’ll enjoy birding around our lodge where we have further chances to see the fabulous Golden Dove and Masked Shining Parrot, as well as Giant Honeyeater, beautiful Many-colored Fruit Dove and Collared Lory. Thereafter, we fly back to Nadi where we will overnight.
Day 17: Nadi, Fiji to Apia, Samoa
This morning we will take our leave of these lovely islands and head even further east across the Pacific to Apia, the capital of Samoa. Whereas formerly one crossed the international dateline and gained a day, this is no longer the case and Samoa now lies west of the IDL.
Day 18: O Le Pupu-Pu’e National Park, Samoa
We have the entire day in which to explore the island of Upolu. Almost certainly one of the first birds we will encounter here will be Buff-banded Rail, which is unusually common and scuttles along roadsides and trails like a chicken! We should also be able to find most of the Samoan specialities here, including Crimson-crowned and Many-colored Fruit Doves, Metallic Pigeon, Pacific Imperial Pigeon, the lovely Blue-crowned Lorikeet, Flat-billed Kingfisher, Polynesian Triller, Samoan Whistler, Samoan Flycatcher, Samoan Fantail, Samoan and Polynesian Starlings, Cardinal Myzomela, Polynesian Wattled Honeyeater and Red-headed Parrotfinch.
However, the distinctly atypical Samoan Triller and Mao, a large and at times very noisy honeyeater, require a bit more work, and if we do not find them here we will visit a couple of other sites where we may get lucky.
Day 19: Apia to Nadi
Today we will catch a flight back to Nadi for a final celebratory dinner together.
Day 20: Nadi to Sydney, Australia and final departures
Today we will catch a flight back to Sydney, Australia, where the tour will conclude.