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Birdquest’s Micronesia birding tour will take you to a scattering of small but beautiful Pacific Islands that between them hold nearly 50 surviving endemic birds. Our Micronesia tour explores Palau, Yap, the Marianas, Truk (or Chuuk) and Pohnpei and has the potential to produce all of the Micronesian endemics.
Wednesday 27th March —
Sunday 14th April 2019
Leader: a Birdquest leader
Group Size Limit: 9
Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part and comfortable accommodations
Scan the vastness of the Pacific in an atlas, or on a globe, and what do you see – nothing but the endless ocean! But wait, there is something else. In the southwest a scattering of islands stretching from the Solomons to French Polynesia and beyond, and in the north-centre the islands of Hawaii, and nothing else. But, not quite nothing... There, in the northwest, is a peppering of tiny specks, barely visible, straddling that immensity of blue between the Philippines, Japan and Hawaii.
This then is the region known as Micronesia – a collection of little known island nations and territories that rarely if ever cause the needle of world events to give the merest flicker, let alone register in the minds of the billions inhabiting the continental landmasses. Yet for one brief period in world history these unknown islands suddenly leapt into prominence, their names becoming familiar to millions as mighty armies wrestled for their control and over 100,000 died in the bloodbath that resulted. From February to September 1944 American forces swept through the area, capturing first the Marshall Islands and then the Marianas and strategic parts of Palau (the Carolines and Yap were bombed but not invaded).
After the Second World War these formerly Japanese territories came under the administration of the United States, but more recently most have become independent, leaving only Guam and the Northern Marianas as territories of the USA. Once the war had passed them by, the islands of Micronesia slipped back into obscurity, although the most important of them have developed tourist infrastructures to cater for scuba divers, WWII sightseeing and the like. Standards of accommodation and travelling conditions in general in the islands are surprisingly good.
In spite of their many endemic species, these idyllic tropical islands have attracted few birdwatchers to date, although this may start to change now that genetic studies are revealing that many morphologically fairly similar island forms are genetically quite distinct and should not have been regarded as conspecific. With recent splits the number of definitely surviving endemics in Micronesia has risen to 51 (although Guam Kingfisher only survives in captivity and attempts to introduce Guam Rail onto snake-free Rota are not proving successful so far), and this number may rise still higher. During this fascinating journey through these little-visited islands we will have a good chance of seeing all of those endemics that survive in the wild.
Our travels through Micronesia start in the archipelago of Palau (or Belau), geographically the closest part of Micronesia to a major landmass (the Philippines) and faunistically and floristically the richest part of the region. Highlights here should include such endemics as Palau Megapode, Palau Fruit-Dove, Palau Ground-Dove, the unusual Palau Owl, Palau Nightjar, Palau Swiftlet, Rusty-capped (or Palau) Kingfisher, the strange Morningbird, Palau Cicadabird (split from Slender-billed), Palau Bush Warbler, Mangrove (or Palau) Flycatcher, the handsome Palau Fantail, Dusky White-eye and the intriguingly-named Giant White-eye, as well as the strange Nicobar Pigeon, not to mention the extraordinary scenery of Palau’s ‘Rock Islands’.
From here we head northeastwards to the interesting island of Yap, our first port of call in the Federated States of Micronesia, with its strange tradition of ‘stone money’ and special birds including the impressive Micronesian Imperial Pigeon and five single island endemics; White-headed Ground-Dove, the uncommon Yap Cicadabird (split from Slender-billed), the smart Yap Monarch, Plain White-eye and Olive White-eye (or Yap Olive or Olive-coloured White-eye).
Next we come to Guam, a territory of the United States of America, but we will pause only briefly here for flight connections because the island now offers thin pickings after the devastation wrought by the introduced Brown Tree Snake.
Instead we will head north into the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, visiting first Saipan, where we will be concentrating on finding the majority of the Marianas endemics including Mariana Megapode, White-throated Ground-Dove, Mariana Fruit-Dove, Guam Swiftlet, White-headed Kingfisher, Nightingale Reed Warbler, Saipan Bridled White-eye and the beautiful Golden White-eye, and then Tinian (for Tinian Monarch) and Rota (for Rota Kingfisher, Mariana Crow and Rota Bridled White-eye, and Guam Rail if the introduction programme is doing well).
From the Northern Marianas we head southeast (and back into the far-flung Federated States of Micronesia) in order to explore the remote islands of Truk (or Chuuk) Lagoon, famous amongst scuba divers for the extraordinary number of wrecks that resulted from Operation Hailstone in World War II, where the specialities include Truk Monarch, Oceanic Flycatcher and Truk Great White-eye, as well as more widespread Micronesian endemics such as Caroline Islands Ground-Dove, Caroline Islands Fruit Dove, Caroline Islands Swiftlet, Caroline Islands Reed Warbler and Caroline Islands White-eye.
Finally we will head still further east to Pohnpei, where we will be wanting to see the seven single island endemics, Pohnpei Lorikeet (or Pohnpei Lory), the superb Pohnpei Kingfisher, the handsome Pohnpei Cicadabird (split from Slender-billed), Pohnpei Flycatcher, Pohnpei Fantail, Grey (or Grey-brown) White-eye and the curious Long-billed White-eye.
Birdquest has operated tours to Micronesia since 2005.
Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels are of good or medium standard throughout. Road transport is by minibus or car. Roads are mostly good, with the exception of Truk and the mainland of Palau (but distances there are not great).
Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, but sometimes moderate, and there will be one fairly strenuous optional hike on Pohnpei and one optional fairly strenuous hike on Mount Winipot on Tol South in Truk Lagoon.
Climate: It is typically warm or hot and humid. Some rain is likely and it can be heavy (although in theory this is the drier time of year in Micronesia).
Bird Photography: Opportunities are worthwhile.
Can be taken together with: HAWAII
Prices are provisional
Tour Price: £6870, €8590, $9620 Koror/Pohnpei.
Price includes all transportation (including the many inter-island flights as described in our itinerary, which cumulatively are very expensive because of the huge distance involved), all accommodations, all meals, bottled water, some drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees, all tips for local drivers/guides and for accommodations/restaurants, leader services.
Single Room Supplement: £996, €1245, $1394.
Deposit: £750, €950, $1050.
Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency can arrange your air travel in connection with the tour from a departure point anywhere in the world, or you may arrange your own air travel if you prefer. We can tailor-make your itinerary to your personal requirements, so if you would like to travel in advance of the tour (and spend a night in an hotel so you will feel fresh when the tour starts), or return later than the end of the tour, or make a side trip to some other destination, or travel business class rather than economy, we will be happy to assist. Please contact us about your air travel requirements.
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