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NEW CALEDONIA & FIJI including Vanuatu and Samoa

Birdquest's New Caledonia & Fiji including Vanuatu & Samoa birding tour takes you to the borderlands of Melanesia and Polynesia where we explore four different endemic-rich island groups. New Caledonia in particular is an essential place to visit if you want to see all the world's bird families, as it is the sole home of the extraordinary Kagu. It would be worth the effort just to see this delightful and charismatic bird, but the islands have a host of other great birds, amidst some beautiful tropical island scenery.

Sunday 21st October — Saturday 3rd November 2018
(14 days)


Vanuatu Extension: Thursday 18th October — Sunday 21st October (4 days)

Samoa Extension: Saturday 3rd November — Tuesday 6th November (4 days)

Leader: Mark Van Beirs

Group Size Limit: 9

Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part and comfortable accommodations

The wonderful Kagu – in a family all of its own and without doubt the avian highlight of a visit to New Caledonia. These two are displaying to each other, raising their extraordinary crests (Mark Beaman)

The wonderful Kagu – in a family all of its own and without doubt the avian highlight of a visit to New Caledonia. These two are displaying to each other, raising their extraordinary crests (Mark Beaman)

The words ‘South Pacific’ conjure up images of curving white sand beaches, sparkling turquoise seas, exotic coral reefs, swaying coconut palms, emerald green hills and soaring volcanoes under deep blue skies.

The various island groups, scattered throughout the vast Pacific Ocean, have been isolated for almost 80 million years. Despite their relative proximity to each other, a high degree of endemism has developed, especially in the larger, more diversified archipelagos. This is particularly evident amongst the island groups of New Caledonia and Fiji, both of which support endemic-rich avifaunas. These groups lie near the western edge of the South Pacific and are made up of numerous volcanic and coral islands which are inhabited by people of Melanesian origin. The moisture-laden southeast tradewinds have swept the islands for millions of years, ensuring that the many volcanic peaks are draped with lush, tropical rainforest. Scattered like pearls across the ocean, it is little wonder that these beautiful islands are thought of as a heaven on earth.

This is a tour for those keen to observe the many island endemics of this fascinating region, including the monotypic bird family Rhynochetidae, whose sole member is the renowned Kagu. Living costs are high in the area, but as compensation the standards of accommodation and food are good throughout and travelling conditions in general are well above average. For those who love tropical islands, beautiful scenery, unique endemic birds and that ‘get away from it all’ feeling, this is a wonderful experience.

We begin our travels in New Caledonia, an overseas territory of France, which comprises the large island of New Caledonia itself (known as Grande Terre) and a chain of much smaller islands, the Loyalty Islands, to the northeast, as well as a number of other small islands and islets. The main island is the largest island in the South Pacific, apart from New Zealand and New Guinea, being some 400 km long by about 50 km wide. The New Caledonia group has at least 24 endemic species, of which two are feared extinct, but we have a very good chance of seeing all but one of the others, including the spectacular Kagu, the sole member of the family Rhynochetidae.

Most of our time will be spent on the main island of New Caledonia itself, based at Noumea and La Foa, where, as well as enjoying the remarkable Kagu, we will be searching for such endemics as White-bellied Goshawk, the exquisite Cloven-feathered Dove, Goliath Imperial Pigeon (the world’s largest arboreal pigeon), New Caledonian Parakeet (split from Red-fronted), New Caledonian Myzomela, Barred Honeyeater, the huge Crow Honeyeater, New Caledonian Friarbird, Yellow-bellied Flyrobin, New Caledonian Whistler, New Caledonian Cuckooshrike, Striated Starling, the tool-using New Caledonian Crow, Green-backed White-eye, the shy New Caledonian Thicketbird and the superb Red-throated Parrotfinch.

We will also make short explorations of the far less visited islands of Lifou (or Lifu) and Ouvea (or Uvea) in the Loyalty Islands for Small and Large Lifou White-eyes and the beautiful Ouvea Parakeet.

From New Caledonia we fly to Fiji, a group that comprises two large islands (Viti Levu and Vanua Levu), two medium-sized islands (Taveuni and Kadavu) and a large number of small islands and islets. We will visit three of the larger islands, where we should see all of Fiji’s 27 endemic birds except for two restricted to remote islets and four others that are exceedingly rare (and hardly ever observed).

As we explore Viti Levu, the main island, we will be looking for such endemics as Fiji Goshawk, the dazzling Golden Fruit Dove, Peale’s (or Barking) Imperial Pigeon, Masked Shining-Parrot, Collared Lory, the extraordinary Giant Forest Honeyeater, Sulphur-breasted Myzomela, Slaty Monarch, Azure-crested Flycatcher, Fiji Bush Warbler, Fiji White-eye, Fiji Woodswallow and Fiji Parrotfinch. We will also be hoping to see the rare and relatively recently rediscovered Long-legged Thicketbird.

Even more enjoyable and indeed relaxing will be our exploration of the peaceful, beautiful and largely undeveloped islands of Taveuni and Kadavu. Here we will be looking for yet more endemics, including the outrageously-coloured Orange Fruit Dove, Red Shining-Parrot and the puzzling but exquisite Silktail on Taveuni and Velvet Fruit Dove, Crimson Shining Parrot (split from Red), Kadavu Fantail and Kadavu Honeyeater on Kadavu. It will be hard to drag ourselves away from such a paradise!

During the optional pre-tour extension we will travel to Vanuatu, a chain of 83 volcanic islands which were originally named the New Hebrides by James Cook in 1774. It was here on these idyllic islands that James A. Michener was inspired to write Tales of the South Pacific, the magical Bali Hai of his imagination.

We shall explore the island of Espiritu Santo, which harbours all 11 of Vanuatu’s endemics. We should see five of these, including New Hebrides (or Vanuatu) Scrubfowl, Tanna Fruit Dove, Chestnut-bellied Kingfisher, the attractive Buff-bellied Monarch and Vanuatu White-eye.

During the optional post-tour extension we shall visit Samoa (formerly Western Samoa), which became the first independent nation in Polynesia in the modern era in 1962, and which has the largest concentration of full-blooded Polynesians in the world. These verdant tropical islands lie in the very heart of the South Pacific and their inhabitants are amongst the most hospitable and friendly people in the world, with many still living in traditional villages and retaining their ancient ancestral customs and traditions.

On the island of Upolu we should find seven out of the eight seeable Samoan endemics only a short distance from Apia, the main town, including Flat-billed Kingfisher, Samoan Whistler, Samoan Triller, Samoan Fantail, Samoan Flycatcher and Samoan Starling. We will also try to see the handsome Grey-backed (or Spectacled) Tern.

Birdquest has operated tours to the islands since 1996.

Espiritu Santo Highlands Option: We can arrange a special extension to explore the mountains of Espiritu Santo before the standard Vanuatu extension starts, but please bear in mind this is something only for the very fit. We should find Vanuatu Imperial Pigeon, Melanesian Thicketbird, White-bellied Honeyeater and Rusty-winged Starling, as well as Palm Lorikeet (species shared only with the Santa Cruz islands). We could also find Royal Parrotfinch and the rare Mountain Starling (the latter restricted to the highest peaks), but both are likely to remain beyond our grasp. Cost will depend on numbers and duration is likely to be five extra days as it takes some time to walk in and out. Simple camping is the only possibility here. Please contact us if you are interested in this special extension.

Samoan White-eye Option: Anyone fit enough for the hike up Mount Silisili, which is a demanding, full day trip, can opt to stay on and explore the island of Savai’i, the biggest island in the Samoan archipelago, where we will explore the massif of Mount Silisili for the endemic Samoan White-eye. The strange Tooth-billed Pigeon is sadly now on the verge of extinction, but a recent record of a juvenile on Savai’i means one can live in hope! The extension will add three extra days and cost will depend on numbers. Please contact us if you are interested in this special extension.

Part-Tour Option: Subject to space being available, we can accept bookings for any of the island sections on this itinerary (for example, New Caledonia and Vanuatu, or Fiji and Samoa). Please contact us for further information.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels are of good standard throughout. Road transport is by minibus and roads are rather variable in quality.

Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, but there are a few moderate grade walks or scrambles.

Climate: It is generally hot and humid, with a mixture of dry and sunny weather and overcast, rainy periods, but it can be cooler at higher altitudes.

Bird Photography: Opportunities are worthwhile.

Can be taken together with: NEW ZEALAND

Prices are provisional

Tour Price: £5290, €6240, $6930 Noumea/Nadi. Vanuatu Extension: £1020, €1200, $1330 Luganville/Luganville. Samoa Extension: £1020, €1200, $1300 Apia/Apia.

Price includes all transportation (including all inter-island flights in New Caledonia and Fiji: the flight between Noumea and Nadi, and the flights between Luganville and Noumea and Nadi and Apia if you are taking the extensions, are not included and need to be included with your other international flights), 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: £962, €1135, $1260. Vanuatu Extension: £189, €223, $248. Samoa Extension: £210, €248, $275.

Deposit: £600, €700, $800. Vanuatu Extension: £100, €100, $150. Samoa Extension: £100, €100, $150.

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.

The wonderful Collared Lory is common and conspicuous on all the Fijian islands we visit, especially Kadavu. A brilliantly coloured monotypic endemic genus (Richard Thomas)

The wonderful Collared Lory is common and conspicuous on all the Fijian islands we visit, especially Kadavu. A brilliantly coloured monotypic endemic genus (Richard Thomas)

Another shot of the star of the show, the wonderful Kagu (János Oláh)

Another shot of the star of the show, the wonderful Kagu (János Oláh)

The glorious Maroon Shining Parrot is restricted to the island of Taveuni (Mark Van Beirs).

The glorious Maroon Shining Parrot is restricted to the island of Taveuni (Mark Van Beirs).

The Ouvea Parakeet is a recent split from Horned Parakeet and only occurs on the tiny island of Ouvea, off New Caledonia (Mark Van Beirs).

The Ouvea Parakeet is a recent split from Horned Parakeet and only occurs on the tiny island of Ouvea, off New Caledonia (Mark Van Beirs).

The taxonomy of the Fiji kingfishers is still unclear as some authorities consider them as a race of Collared Kingfisher while others claim they belong with Sacred Kingfisher. The best solution is probably to consider them as a separate species. This is a bird of the vitiensis race on the island of Taveuni (Mark Van Beirs).

The taxonomy of the Fiji kingfishers is still unclear as some authorities consider them as a race of Collared Kingfisher while others claim they belong with Sacred Kingfisher. The best solution is probably to consider them as a separate species. This is a bird of the vitiensis race on the island of Taveuni (Mark Van Beirs).

The Kadavu Honeyeater is one of the Kadavu endemics and is easily seen around our cosy lodge (Mark Van Beirs).

The Kadavu Honeyeater is one of the Kadavu endemics and is easily seen around our cosy lodge (Mark Van Beirs).

The spritely Vanikoro Flycatcher is restricted to Temotu and the Fiji archipelago (Mark Van Beirs).

The spritely Vanikoro Flycatcher is restricted to Temotu and the Fiji archipelago (Mark Van Beirs).

Our accommodation on Kadavu is situated at a particularly attractive bay (Mark Van Beirs).

Our accommodation on Kadavu is situated at a particularly attractive bay (Mark Van Beirs).

The Orange Fruit Dove is endemic to the island of Taveuni (Fiji) and must be a contender for the title of most attractive dove of our planet (Mark Van Beirs).

The Orange Fruit Dove is endemic to the island of Taveuni (Fiji) and must be a contender for the title of most attractive dove of our planet (Mark Van Beirs).

Other great doves on this tour include Whistling Dove (János Oláh)

Other great doves on this tour include Whistling Dove (János Oláh)

... Golden Dove (János Oláh)

... Golden Dove (János Oláh)

... Many-coloured Fruit-Dove (Richard Thomas)

... Many-coloured Fruit-Dove (Richard Thomas)

... and the colourful Red-bellied Fruit Dove which is endemic to New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Temotu, but is most easily seen on smaller islands (Mark Van Beirs).

... and the colourful Red-bellied Fruit Dove which is endemic to New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Temotu, but is most easily seen on smaller islands (Mark Van Beirs).

The Goliath Imperial Pigeon is endemic to New Caledonia and is the largest member of the genus Ducula (Mark Van Beirs).

The Goliath Imperial Pigeon is endemic to New Caledonia and is the largest member of the genus Ducula (Mark Van Beirs).

The marvellous Red Shining-parrot can be found on Taveuni (Richard Thomas)

The marvellous Red Shining-parrot can be found on Taveuni (Richard Thomas)

The Crow Honeyeater is restricted to New Caledonia and is one of the most threatened species of the tour (Mark Van Beirs).

The Crow Honeyeater is restricted to New Caledonia and is one of the most threatened species of the tour (Mark Van Beirs).

Other notable endemics on the tour include Slaty Monarch from Fiji (János Oláh)

Other notable endemics on the tour include Slaty Monarch from Fiji (János Oláh)

... the taxonomic position of the gorgeous Silktail continues to be hotly discussed. This Taveuni (Fiji) endemic was recently put with the Fantails (Rhipiduridae), but is probably best placed in a separate family together with the fairly closely related Pygmy Drongo of New Guinea (Mark Van Beirs).

... the taxonomic position of the gorgeous Silktail continues to be hotly discussed. This Taveuni (Fiji) endemic was recently put with the Fantails (Rhipiduridae), but is probably best placed in a separate family together with the fairly closely related Pygmy Drongo of New Guinea (Mark Van Beirs).

The Southern Shrikebill is a noisy, but unobtrusive endemic of Vanuatu and New Caledonia (Mark Van Beirs).

The Southern Shrikebill is a noisy, but unobtrusive endemic of Vanuatu and New Caledonia (Mark Van Beirs).

The island of Kadavu (Fiji) holds four endemics including the engaging Kadavu Fantail (Mark Van Beirs).

The island of Kadavu (Fiji) holds four endemics including the engaging Kadavu Fantail (Mark Van Beirs).

The dainty Samoan Fantail will escort us on our walks through the Samoan forests (Mark Van Beirs).

The dainty Samoan Fantail will escort us on our walks through the Samoan forests (Mark Van Beirs).

The cheerful Streaked Fantail is a regular member of mixed species flocks and only occurs on Vanuatu and New Caledonia (Mark Van Beirs).

The cheerful Streaked Fantail is a regular member of mixed species flocks and only occurs on Vanuatu and New Caledonia (Mark Van Beirs).

The attractive Samoan Flycatcher favours forest edge habitat and is endemic to the islands of Savaii and Upolu on Samoa (Mark Van Beirs).

The attractive Samoan Flycatcher favours forest edge habitat and is endemic to the islands of Savaii and Upolu on Samoa (Mark Van Beirs).

The Cardinal Myzomela ranges from the Solomons and Temotu to Vanuatu and the Loyalties (Mark Van Beirs).

The Cardinal Myzomela ranges from the Solomons and Temotu to Vanuatu and the Loyalties (Mark Van Beirs).

The delightful Sulphur-breasted Myzomela is one of the more attractive Fiji endemics (Mark Van Beirs).

The delightful Sulphur-breasted Myzomela is one of the more attractive Fiji endemics (Mark Van Beirs).

The Polynesian Triller on Fiji is rather subtly attired (Mark Van Beirs).

The Polynesian Triller on Fiji is rather subtly attired (Mark Van Beirs).

The striking White-bellied Goshawk is the only bird of prey which is endemic to New Caledonia (Mark Van Beirs).

The striking White-bellied Goshawk is the only bird of prey which is endemic to New Caledonia (Mark Van Beirs).

The Fiji Goshawk is a widespread and readily observed endemic in the Fiji archipelago (Mark Van Beirs).

The Fiji Goshawk is a widespread and readily observed endemic in the Fiji archipelago (Mark Van Beirs).

Pacific Golden Plovers are easily the most often seen waders on the tour (Mark Van Beirs).

Pacific Golden Plovers are easily the most often seen waders on the tour (Mark Van Beirs).

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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