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MICRONESIA

The Forgotten Islands

Micronesia Birding Tours: our Micronesia bird watching holiday will take you to a scattering of small but beautiful Pacific Islands that between them hold 50 surviving endemic birds. Our Micronesia birding tour explores Palau, Yap, the Marianas, Truk (or Chuuk) and Pohnpei, with a Kosrae option, and so has the potential to produce all of the Micronesian endemics.

Wednesday 27th March — Sunday 14th April 2019
(19 days)


Leader: János Oláh

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 50 (although Guam Kingfisher only survives in captivity and attempts to introduce Guam Rail onto snake-free Rota are only proving partially 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 (other than the poorly-known Pohnpei Starling, which may be extinct).

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 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 Common), 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 regionally-endemic Micronesian Megapode and Micronesian Imperial Pigeon, and 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 regionally-endemic White-throated Ground Dove, and four single island endemics; the uncommon Yap Cicadabird (split from Common), 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 the Mariana form of the Micronesian Megapode, 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 Teardrop (or Truk Great) White-eye, as well as more widespread Micronesian endemics such as White-fronted (or Caroline Islands) Ground Dove, Caroline Islands Fruit Dove, Caroline Islands Swiftlet, Caroline Islands Reed Warbler and Citrine (or 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 Common), Pohnpei Flycatcher, Pohnpei Fantail, Grey-brown (or Grey) White-eye and the curious Long-billed White-eye.

Birdquest has operated tours to Micronesia since 2005.

Kosrae Option: Following taxonomic re-organization, the island of Kosrae, to the east of Pohnpei, now has two endemics; Kosrae Fruit Dove and Kosrae White-eye. If there are sufficient interested participants we will arrange an extension to Kosrae. Cost will depend on numbers and necessary duration (flights are not frequent). Please be sure to mention your interest in this extension at the time of booking.

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 (but distances there are short).

Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, but occasionally moderate, and there will be 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: £7290, €8300, $9550 Koror (Palau)/Pohnpei. Single Room Supplement: £1062, €1210, $1391. Deposit: £850, €1020, $1110.

Includes surface transportation, accommodations, meals, water, entrance fees and tips/gratuities.

Also includes these flights: Koror (Palau)-Yap, Yap-Guam, Guam-Saipan-Guam, Saipan-Tinian-Saipan, Guam-Rota-Guam, Guam-Truk, Truk-Pohnpei. Cumulatively, these flights cover a vast distance across the Pacific and they are correspondingly costly.

Base prices for this tour are in US Dollars. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.150.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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