New Guinea Highlights and O Reilly’s (Australia)
PNG's Best and Aussie Zest
If you are desperate to visit New Guinea, sample the phenomenal birds-of-paradise, but have limited time, this is the tour for you. In just 10 days we will visit several key areas: Kumul Lodge just outside the Western Highlands province in the shadow of the mighty Mount Hagen; New Guinea’s flagship park, Varirata, a short drive out of the capital, and Brown River for a sample of the many spectacular lowland New Guinea species. Once we have returned to Brisbane we will visit World-famous O Reilly’s for an unforgettable close-up experience with parrots, bowerbirds, fairywrens, and pigeons.
Kumul Lodge is well-named, (Kumul means Bird-of-paradise in Pidgin), as it is a hotspot for these breathtaking birds. This is one of the few areas in the world that seeing birds-of-paradise is just a matter of glancing out of the window. A fantastic bird table, laden with tropical fruits, is their centerpiece and attracts such thrillers as Ribbon-tailed Astrapias, and the dramatic Brown Sicklebill. Their moss-covered bird table also plays host to bold Belford’s Melidectes, and striking Brehm’s Tiger-Parrots. Other regular visitors to the lodge include Crested Berrypeckers, plucking berries from shrubs in the lodge garden, while White-winged Robins flit on and off the bird table to pounce on insects on the ground below. Fruiting trees on trails around the lodge may attract fiery-orange male Crested Satinbirds, and shy Lesser Melampittas lurk in the shady leaf litter. Day trips downslope from the lodge will bring us to the display area of the breathtaking Lesser Bird-of-Paradise, and to check sites for the dazzling Blue Bird-of-paradise, the truly unique King-of-Saxony Bird-of-paradise, and also offers up the exquisite Ornate Melidectes, and scarce Yellow-breasted Bowerbird.
Varirata NP is packed with many highly-desired and flambuoyant PNG birds. Walking shady forest trails we will be on the lookout for the beautiful Brown-headed Paradise-Kingfisher, glowing red in the forest understorey. An early morning visit to the display site of PNG’s national bird, the resplendent Raggiana Bird-of-paradise is sure to be a tour highlight, as several males, dance in full view and flare out their most extravagant plumes in an attempt to attract more than just us watching goggle-eyed below! Varirata is also home to many much-wanted skulkers like the furtive Chestnut-backed Jewel-Babbler and striking Painted Quail-Thrush. The growls of Eastern Riflebirds will echo regularly through the forest, and fruiting trees can be loaded with colorful fruit-doves. On top of all of that Varirata also often offers the rare opportunity to see the odd Barred Owlet-Nightjar at a day roost.
By visiting just a few flagship sites in this absorbing country you will walk away with a number of spectacular birds-of-paradise, and a representation of some of New Guinea’s most desired bird families, from bold bowerbirds to colorful parrots and pigeons, to the poisonous pitohuis and miniature boatbills.
On our return to Brisbane we will whisk ourselves away to the incredible O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, where tame Regent and Satin Bowerbirds will compete with gaudy Crimson Rosellas, striking Wonga Pigeons and Aussie King-Parrots for our attentions in the public feeding areas, while on the trails interior birds like Paradise Riflebirds, comical Southern Logrunners, pretty Rose Robins, and Wompoo Pigeons will entertain us.
Day 1: Brisbane (Australia) to Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea) and PAU. After meeting at the airport in Brisbane we will fly to the capital of Papua New Guinea (PNG), Port Moresby. On arrival we will bird the open grounds of the Pacific Adventists University for some Australian species that are much easier to find here in PNG, as they are only found on the remote Cape York Peninsula over in Australia. Some of these could include Fawn-breasted Bowerbird and Black-backed Butcherbird, and Spotted Whistling-Duck. We may also see our first New Guinea endemics like Brown Oriole or Gray-headed Munia. We will overnight in Port Moresby.
Day 2: Port Moresby to Kumul Lodge.We will take a morning flight to Mount Hagen in the highlands, and then drive up to Kumul Lodge, set within cool montane forest, and that comes equipped with a bird table loaded with highland birds, including our first birds-of-paradise. The night will be spent at Kumul Lodge, where we will spend the next four nights. The afternoon will be spent ogling the bird table and checking out the many colorful garden birds that may produce waxwing-like Crested Berrypeckers, White-winged Robins, and Black-backed Honeyeaters visiting the blooms around the lodge, while the feeding table might play host to some of the most spectacular species including the striking Ribbon-tailed Astrapia and bold Brown Sicklebill, and Brehm’s Tiger-Parrot. Occasionally one of the rarer species pops in for an all star performance like Sanford’s Bowerbird or Chestnut Forest-Rail.
Days 3 – 5: Kumul Lodge and surrounds.There are many varied birding options from Kumul by dropping downslope to a number of other birding sites. On one morning we will visit a known calling-post for the outrageous Blue Bird-of-Paradise, one of the most highly desired birds in all of PNG. Another day we will drop lower still to visit a staked out display area for the lovely Lesser Bird-of-Paradise, and we will not forget to target some known spots for the truly unique King-of-Saxony Bird-of-Paradise either. Getting some of the coolest birds in the highland will be our aim, and of course the birds-of-paradise will be right at the top of this list. The highlands are the richest area for these must-see birds and we are sure to pick up many of the most wanted species while there. However, there is much else to see here too, and walking some forest trails we will also search for the bizarre Wattled Ploughbill, the beautiful Garnet Robin, and a host of colorful parrots, including the striking Whiskered Lorikeet and strikingly dimorphic Papuan Lorikeet. The lodge itself will also provide some high class birds and we will search for any ruiting trees that might hold the flame-colored Crested Satinbird that until recently was considered a bird-of-paradise, although was then reclassified within this new endemic bird family. At night we’ll also put in some effort to try and see some of the rare nightbirds around Kumul, including Archbold’s Nightjar and the cute Mountain Owlet-Nightjar.
Day 6: Kumul Lodge to Port Moresby.After some final highland birding we will return to Port Moresby by air. The nest four nights will be spent in a Port Moresby hotel.
Day 7: Varirata NP.The mid-elevation forests and savanna woodlands of varirata will offer us a rich variety of birds, just a short drive from the city. Although easily accessed from Port Moresby, this tranquil park feels a word away. Even here birds-of-paradise can be found, and PNG’s national bird will be one of the highlights here. Just after dawn we will take a short walk into the rainforest where several magnificent male Raggiana Birds-of-paradise usually perform their magnetic displays at close range. Many rainforest skulkers also occur within the park and such thrillers as Brown-headed Paradise-Kingfisher, Chestnut-backed Jewel-Babbler, and Eastern Riflebird can be found within this fantastic park. With luck too some fruiting trees might be found that can attract an assortment of colorful pigeons and doves, with Beautiful, Superb, Pink-spotted and Dwarf Fruit-Doves, Zoe Imperoal-Pigeons, and Wompoo Pigeons all occurring within the park. There is such an arry of possibilities within Varirata it is hard to know what we will see, although Dwarf Whistlers, Chestnut-bellied Fantails, Yellow-breasted Boatbills, Yellow-billed Kingfishers, and an assortment of cuckoo-shrieks all exist within the park, while the savanna below the plateau may yield White-bellied Whistler or Pheasant Coucal.
Day 8: Brown River.We will take a day trip out of the capital to visit a lowland rainforest site that offers many species not possible elsewhere on this tour, as this will be our only venture into the lowlands. Some of the many birds on offer include Great-billed Heron, Pacific Baza, the massive Gurney’s Eagle, the beautiful Orange-fronted Fruit-Dove, Greater Black Coucal, the wonderful Common Paradise-Kingfisher, the elegant Empereor Fairywren, furtive Sooty Thicket-Fantail, and the very local Silver-eared Honeyeater.
Day 9: Varirata NP.We will have another full day in the park to search for any missing species that could include Painted Quail-Thrush, Fairy Gerygone, Pale-billed Scrubwren, and a host of monarchs including the dashing Golden and striking Spot-winged Monarchs in addition to the more widespread Frilled Monarch. We will also check a day time roost stake out for the odd Barred Owlet-nightjar if we still need to. A final night will be spent in Port Moresby.
Day 10: Port Moresby (PNG) to Brisbane (Australia) to O Reilly´s.We will take a morning flight back to Oz, where we’ll go straight out birding near the airport, where a section of mangroves can often be good for the aptly-named Mangrove Honeyeater and Mangrove Gerygone. After this short stop we will check a town park for Koalas before heading in earnest for O Reilly’s. The next two nights will be spent at the luxurious O Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat.
Day 11: O Reilly’s.O Reilly’s is world famous for the unrivalled views you can get of often shy rainforest creatures right around their cabins, restaurants and reception areas. We will awake in the morning to Crimson Rosella creeping around on our balconies looking for the first handout of the day, while shimmering male Satin Bowerbirds clamber around on the lodge roofs. A quick check of the grounds will see us run into a multitude of tame, wild O Reilly’s residents. The first sign of any grain and an Australian King-Parrot will drop in, or lurk impatiently on the bushes nearby. Gray Shrike-Thrushes use the early hours of the morning to hop around in front of reception, or even enter into reception on some of their bolder days! The constant “whooping” calls of Wonga Pigeons will reach our ears, although rather than try and stalk them on the dark rainforest floor we’ll simply walk the roads and check the feeding areas, where these strikingly marked blue-and-white doves are remarkably approachable. However, the bird that will stand out the most is O Reilly’s flagship species, the black-and-gold Regent Bowerbird that adorns their logos, and is stamped across all of their giftware. If we did not get them five minutes after arriving yesterday, dawn should see the trees around reception loaded with expectant regents, waiting for the day’s first official feeding. If these views are still not good enough, get some grain in the palm of your hand and let them crawl all over you! Other friendly inhabitants of the grounds include the impossibly cute Superb Fairywrens, which regularly bound across the parking lots behind the cabins. Not to be outdone in the cute department, O Reilly’s also has some adorable mammals too, that like the birds offer rare, up close views at this very special spot. In the early hours of the morning fluffy Red-necked Pademelons munch grass on the cabin lawns, and over dinner at the lavish restaurant we can eat, and drink locally produced wine, while Mountain Brush-Tail Possums wolf down fruits at the tableside feeders.
The top of the plateau at O Reilly’s is cloaked in lush rainforest, and we will walk some of the tracks in order to track down some of the shyer rainforest inhabitants. The loud mimicry of Albert’s Lyrebirds are regularly heard along the park trails, and with luck we might find one stalking quietly through the forest. Indeed, some of the rainforest interior birds are like the birds right around the lodge: astoundingly approachable. Nowhere in Australia can it be easier to get up close to the whip-cracking Eastern Whipbird, whose distinctive calls haunt many sites on the tour, and an assortment of scrubwrens and Yellow Robins often hop on and off the tracks. The early hours of the morning are often the best time to catch sight of one of Lamington’s most comical residents, the Southern Logrunner, that readily bounds across the leaf litter and, appropriately, along the logs, close to the lodge. Strangled, cat-like calls should lead us to our first Green Catbirds, and the loud rasping calls of Paradise Riflebirds echo through the forest, a magnificent bird-of-paradise, that should turn up some time during the day. Other possibilities in the rich rainforest on the summit include Bassian and Russet-tailed Thrushes, the beautiful Rose Robin, and the dashing Rufous Fantail.
Some time will also be spent in the markedly different habitat below the plateau, where dense green rainforest gives way to dry sclerophyll woodland, dominated by pale gum trees, bringing a much more open nature to the birding. Here we’ll seek the Red-browed Treecreeper on the forest edge, and then descend to a Bell Miner colony, where we will soon be wishing we could switch off their incessant school bell-like calls. These drier woods are also home to the scarce Koala, and the prettiest of the wallabies, the well-named Pretty-faced Wallaby, that are often seen bounding through the grassy understory. At night we’ll check some regular rainforest spots for Southern Boobook and Marbled Frogmouth.
Day 12: O Reilly’s to Brisbane/departure. We will transfer you to Brisbane in the afternoon for departures or you will overnight in Brisbane before staring the Great Channel Country tour. The tour finishes in Brisbane at 5pm if not joining the Great Channel Country departure.