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New Guinea: West Papua - Birding Tour

Tour Overview:

The island of New Guinea has long been held with fascination among birders, for it holds the majority of arguably the world’s most dramatic bird family: the birds-of-paradise. Included among the possibilities on this tour of the western (Indonesian) side of the island are Wilson’s Bird-of-Paradise, Red Bird-of-Paradise, King Bird-of-Paradise, Splendid Astrapia, Magnificent Bird-of-paradise, and Twelve-wired Bird-of-Paradise. The number of species we are likely to see from this remarkable family is expected to exceed 15. Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise has been named by none other than Sir David Attenborough as his favorite world bird, and one glimpse at an image of this stunner has caused many birders to immediately add this destination to their personal bucket list. While birds-of-paradise will be hard to displace from center stage, the island of New Guinea holds plenty of other birds that are aptly described by adjectives like spectacular, gorgeous, and outstanding, such as Golden Cuckoo-shrike, Goldenface, Golden Monarch, MacGregor’s Honeyeater (long thought to be a bird-of-paradise), Papuan Pitta, Western Crowned Pigeon (one of the World’s largest pigeons), and a legion of parrots. Even birders that have visited the other half of the island, Papua New Guinea (PNG), look at the list of birds on this tour with envy, and often conclude that they need to return to ‘paradise’. With more than 300 species of island-endemic birds, West Papua outranks PNG in terms of New Guinea endemics. Any birder is sure to leave with a healthy list of lifers, and many spectacular ones among them. This tour covers a range of habitats, from mossy montane cloud-forests to tropical lowland forests, plus grassland, coastal environments, and secondary habitats.

Upcoming Departures:


Main tour: 4 - 22 September ($11950; single supplement $800)

Extension: 2 - 4 September ($1850; single supplement: $190)


Departure 1:
Main tour: 8 - 26 June 

Extension: 26 - 28 June (TBA)

Departure 2:
Main tour: 7 - 25 September 

Extension: 25 - 27 September (TBA)

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Other Tour Details:

Length: 19 Days (21 Days w/ Ext.)

Starting City: *Office will confirm

Ending City: *Office will confirm

Pace: Moderate/Intense

Physical Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult

Focus: Birding

Group size: 8 + 1 leader + 1 local guide 

New Guinea- West Papua - Birding Tour-01.jpg

Detailed Itinerary

New infrastructure on Waigeo, and the opening of  new guesthouses and construction of new roads in  the Arfaks and Snow Mountains now means that  camping is no longer required on this tour. Therefore,  a destination that was previously very difficult and  tough to visit is now comparatively much easier and open to a wide range of birders who would formerly have been reticent to go. Visiting West Papua is by  far the cheapest and most comfortable way of  visiting the island of New Guinea. It also provides  the best experience of the birds-of-paradise.  However, it should be noted that PNG may be a better choice for keen family listers, as our limited time at middle elevations on the West Papua trip reduces our chances of seeing a couple of endemic families.


*Please Note: The itinerary often runs in a different order due to limited space in some of the lodgings. The tours all visit the same places, merely in a different order. This can affect both the starting and ending cities for the individual tours. The office can confirm the order in which the tour you are booking on will be running when needed, in order for you to book the correct flights.


Day 1: Arrival in Sentani (Indonesia)

After arrival in Sentani, you’ll be transferred to a hotel in the city. There is no birding planned for this day.


Days 2-3: Nimbokrang

After driving from Sentani to Nimbokrang on the morning of day 2, we shall spend the rest of day 2, and all of day 3 there. This lowland site may be hot and sweaty, but it is loaded with special birds – a major theme on this tour! King Bird-of-paradise, Twelve-wired Bird-of-paradise, Hook-billed, Shovel-billed and Blue-and-black Kingfishers, Vulturine Parrot, and Blue Jewel-Babbler, are just some of the birds on offer, though all of these species require a combination of luck and effort. Other notable species include Salvadori’s Fig-Parrot, Hooded Monarch, and Beautiful, Superb, and Wompoo Fruit-Doves. 


Day 4: Nimbokrang to Sentani

After a final morning in Nimbokrang, we shall return to Sentani in the afternoon for another night.


Days 5-8: The Snow Mountains

On the morning of day 5, we will take a flight to Wamena, where we will be based in a hotel for four nights, from where we will explore the Snow Mountains. A variety of habitats will be covered, including grasslands and highland forests close to the treeline. This area is home to a number of restricted range species, most notably, Orange-cheeked Honeyeater, Black-breasted Munia, Snow Mountain Quail, and MacGregor’s Honeyeater, long classified as a bird-of-paradise, but now recognized as the most magnificent of the sprawling honeyeater clan; a regal resident of Papua’s most lofty heights. Birding between Wamena and Lake Habemma will give us a wide range of species to search for, including Crested Berrypecker, Splendid Astrapia, Greater and Lesser Ground-Robin, Subalpine Robin, Alpine Pipit, Orange-billed Lorikeet, and Short-bearded and Belford’s Melidictes. The New Guinea Woodcock and rare Archbold’s Nightjar will be looked for at dusk. Other birds we’ll be on the lookout for include members of island endemic families, like the black-and-orange Crested Satinbird, the funky Wattled Ploughbill, and the nuthatch-like Blue-capped Ifrita. However, note that we won’t be descending the increasingly treacherous Ibele Trail, limiting our access to middle elevations, and reducing our chances for some of these species. Nights will be spent in a comfortable hotel in Wamena.


*Please note that our exact program in the Snow Mountains will depend on the accessibility of certain sites and will be at the discretion of the guide leading the tour. 


Day 9: Wamena to Sentanti

After our final time birding in the Snow Mountains, we will return to Sentani via a flight from Wamena, for another single night stay.


Day 10: Sentani to the Arfak Mountains

After a flight to Manokwari, and a jeep drive, we will arrive at what is arguably the premier birding site on this side of New Guinea, the Arfak Mountains, situated on the northeast of the Bird’s Head (Vogelkop) Peninsula. This part of the island has a rich set of endemics all its own, plus a huge variety of widespread forest species. Four nights will be spent at a guesthouse at an elevation of 5250ft/1600m, and we will bird a range of elevations above and below here.


Days 11-13: The Arfak Mountains

With so much to see here, we will spend three full days birding the various forests, gardens and other secondary habitats that flank the mountains, and hold many of the tour’s standout birds. We will visit the display grounds of Magnificent Bird-of-Paradise, Western Parotia, and the bower of the Vogelkop Bowerbird, one of the great architects of the bird world, with an extraordinarily large and decorative bower that far outshines the dour bird itself! While these may arguably be the most famous targets in the mountains, the list of other birds is both extensive and tantalizing, and includes the likes of Vogelkop Lophorina, Long-tailed Paradigalla, and Spotted Jewel-Babbler. If we are extremely lucky we might catch up with Masked Bowerbird, Vulturine Parrot, or the New Guinea Harpy Eagle. Although some of these require long walks on tricky trails. Other possibilities include the elusive Spotted Jewel-Babbler, Papuan Treecreeper, Mottled Berryhunter (a monotypic endemic family), Blue-collared Parrot, Blue-grey and Green-backed Robins, Perplexing Scrubwren, Vogelkop and Ornate Melidectes, and if we are extremely lucky, Wattled Brush-Turkey. The nights will be spent at a community guesthouse. Sometimes owlet-nightjars can be found by day, but failing that we may venture out at night in search of Feline Owlet-Nightar, Papuan Frogmouth, and Papuan Boobook.


Day 14: The Arfaks to Manokwari

After another full day in the Arfaks chasing the last of the best birds of the mountains we return to Manokwari where we overnight in a comfortable city hotel.


Day 15: Manokwari to Sorong

After taking a flight to Sorong, we can bird some forest patches close to there, which a good selection of the island’s huge range of lowland forest birds. Just a few of many species that we might encounter include Blyth’s Hornbill, Eclectus Parrot, Emperor Fairywren, Orange-fronted Fruit Dove, and Papuan Drongo. A single night will be spent in Sorong.


Day 16: Sorong to Waigeo Island

We will take a fast and comfortable ferry to Waigeo island, where we’ll stay for the next three nights. This island located in the Raja Ampat archipelago, arguably boasts the most-wanted birds on the tour. Display sites of both Red Bird-of-paradise and the awe-inspiring Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise will be visited during our days on the island. To make it even better, these sites are easy to reach after short 10-minute walks, in contrast to the way it was as little as five years ago when a 2:30 a.m. wake-up was required to reach an uphill display site at dawn!


Days 17-18: Waigeo Island

In addition to the aforementioned ‘BoP’s, the lowlands of this island offer a huge list of birds, including the localized Raja Ampat Pitohui, the incredible Western Crowned Pigeon, Great-billed and Moluccan King- Parrots, Claret-breasted, Orange-bellied and Dwarf Fruit-Doves, Palm Cockatoo, Coconut Lorikeet, Yellow-faced Myna, Papuan Pitta, elusive White-eared Catbird, Brown-headed Crow, New Guinea Friarbird, and Golden Monarch. At night, we can go in search of Marbled Frogmouth. The Waigeo Cuscus – a bizarre endemic mammal is also occasionally seen here.