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Birdquest's Ultimate Papua New Guinea birding tour is a classic birdwatching trip. Our Ultimate Papua New Guinea tour visits Port Moresby, Kiunga, Tabubil, Kumul (Mount Hagen) and Ambua (Tari) on the mainland and the island of New Britain, producing a fantastic array of birds including well over 20 species of birds-of-paradise and an unsurpassed number of other endemics in just three weeks in this fascinating land where the Stone Age coexists with the 21st Century.
Friday 14th July —
Monday 31st July 2017
New Britain Extension: Sunday 9th July — Friday 14th July (6 days)
Leaders: Chris Kehoe and local bird guides
Group Size Limit: 8
Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part and comfortable accommodations except on two nights
From high in an ancient, gnarled and epiphyte-bedecked tree a strange, static electric crackling reveals the presence of a displaying King of Saxony Bird of Paradise sitting on a snag and waving its extraordinary head-plumes like some strange antennae. A cacophony of yelping reaches a crescendo in the foothill forest and an arching, flaming mass of shivering yellow and orange-pink resolves itself into a Raggiana Bird of Paradise. A pinprick of blood red against an emerald canopy is a King Bird of Paradise. A glint of iridescent viridian, illuminated by a shaft of sunlight that pierces the lead-grey, rumbling heavens, is followed by a rippling wave of white tail streamers as a Ribbon-tailed Astrapia takes to the air.
There is no need to say that we are on the island of New Guinea, for these extraordinary birds are amongst the most famous in the world. Indeed, their wondrous variations in form and colouration, that defy simple description, are so ‘out-of-this-world’ that when the first skins (which lacked feet) reached Europe they were thought to be faked constructs, or even heavenly species that had somehow fallen to earth!
New Guinea is the second largest island in the world and to this day remains one of the wildest, most sparsely settled regions on earth. Over 700 species of birds are found here, the world’s richest island avifauna, and nearly half of these are found nowhere else! Whilst the extraordinary birds of paradise are the finest jewels in New Guinea’s ornithological crown, there is so much else to attract the birdwatcher – huge but secretive cassowaries, strange mound-builders, a gorgeous array of doves, pigeons, parrots and kingfishers (all of which reach their greatest diversity here), sinister-looking frogmouths, skulking jewel-babblers, exquisite fairy-wrens, brightly coloured flycatchers, confusing honeyeaters and fascinating bowerbirds to mention just some of the highlights.
The island of New Guinea holds no fewer than seven endemic bird families, including the monotypic Wattled Ploughbill (family Eulacestomatidae), the monotypic Blue-capped Ifrit (family Ifritidae), the longbills and berrypeckers (family Melanocharitidae), the painted berrypeckers (family Paramythiidae), Mottled Berryhunter (formerly Mottled Whistler, family Rhagologidae), the satinbirds (family Cnemophilidae) and the melampittas (family Melampittidae), making it an absolutely key destination for anyone wanting to see all the world’s bird families.
This classic tour explores the eastern half of the island, Papua New Guinea (or ‘PNG’), where we shall travel from modern towns to regions almost untouched by the twentieth century (or even the last millennia) and still inhabited by stone-age tribes whose warriors dress in bark belts, loincloths and headdresses decorated with bird of paradise plumes.
While much of Papua New Guinea is still primitive and undeveloped, conditions for visitors are often much better than first-timers expect. The only downside is that it is an extraordinarily expensive place.
We shall start our travels at Port Moresby on the southeast coast. This excellent area possesses one of the richest avifaunas in Papua New Guinea due to its unusual diversity of habitats ranging from dry, Australian-like eucalypt savanna and grassland to lowland rainforest and hill forest. Here we will look for flamboyant Raggiana Birds of Paradise and Growling Riflebirds, as well as many other exciting birds.
Next we will travel far to the west, first to the town of Tabubil in the foothills of the Star Mountains, where Salvadori’s Teal, Pesquet’s (or Vulturine) Parrot, the handsome Queen Carola’s Parotia, Obscure Berrypecker and Mottled Berryhunter (now treated as a monotypic bird family) will attract our attention and where, if we are fortunate, we will find the amazing Shovel-billed Kingfisher or the strange Greater Melampitta.
From here we will move on to the frontier town of Kiunga on the great Fly River of southwestern Papua New Guinea. In this remote area many large species that have been extirpated by hunting elsewhere can still be seen, as well as some exciting western specialities. Star attractions include the huge Southern Crowned Pigeon, Spangled Owlet-Nightjar, Flame Bowerbird and the gorgeous Greater, Twelve-wired and King Birds of Paradise.
From the southwestern lowlands and foothills we will fly up to Mount Hagen in the central highlands, seeming to travel back in time as we do so, in search of our first montane species, including such great birds as New Guinea Woodcock, Mountain Owlet-Nightjar, Lesser Bird of Paradise and Crested Satinbird.
For our grand finale we will continue to Tari in the southern highlands. Here we will explore the magnificent cloud forests of Mount Kerewa and the fringes of the Tari Valley, home of the famous Huli tribe or ‘wigmen’, in search of the area’s remarkable selection of birds of paradise and many other montane specialities. Highlights here will include the superbly elegant Ribbon-tailed Astrapia, the strange King of Saxony Bird of Paradise, the striking Blue Bird of Paradise, Loria's Satinbird and the retiring Lesser Melampitta. Here also we will be on the lookout for Wattled Ploughbill, Blue-capped Ifrit, Mottled Berryhunter and a variety of berrypeckers and painted berrypeckers.
During the optional extension there will be the opportunity to visit the large island of New Britain in the Bismarck Archipelago, a centre of avian endemism in its own right which will provide us with a superb selection of little-known species including such spectacular birds as Nicobar Pigeon, Blue-eyed Cockatoo and Black-headed Paradise Kingfisher.
Birdquest has operated tours to Papua New Guinea since 1986.
Birding in Papua New Guinea: New Guinea has a rich, fantastic and world-renowned avifauna, but many birds here are shy and, although one does see some bird of paradise display, visitors should not expect to see the quantity and intensity of display that takes film-makers many months or even years to gather!
Important: The Birdquest group size limit is lower than for most other tours to Papua New Guinea. Birding here is mostly in forest and not at all easy, so having a smaller group size is key to giving participants a better experience.
Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels/lodges used are mostly of good standard (two are medium grade). At the Elevala River we will spend two nights in a very basic lodge with two beds in each partitioned area in the building and shared outdoor bathroom facilities. Road transport is by small coach or minibus. Roads are often in moderate to poor condition and are few and far between.
Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, occasionally moderate.
Climate: Generally warm or hot, dry and sunny at lower altitudes, but cool in upland areas. Overcast weather is quite regular and there is very likely to be some rain, perhaps heavy and prolonged at times. It will be rather humid in the lowlands.
Bird Photography: Opportunities are worthwhile.
Papua New Guinea Tour Prices: Prices in Papua New Guinea are very high by any standards, but there are reasons for this. In the first place accommodations in PNG are mostly very expensive, as is transport for tourism purposes. PNG is a country with only a thin ‘meniscus’ of development that sits on an otherwise very undeveloped part of the world. The very limited but often very comfortable layer of infrastructure that tourism uses (there are some superb lodges here) is also used by oil and gas development staff, miners, lumber extractors and many other expatriates, with the result that prices are exceedingly high. Furthermore, there are only a very limited number of local agents that specialize in eco-tourism, so they can effectively dictate price levels. This combination makes for remarkably high prices.
Important Information for Pound Payers: Kindly note that the Pound prices shown here are based on post-EU-referendum exchange rate reality, unlike the website prices of most UK bird tour operators which are still based on outdated and hugely higher pre-referendum exchange rates. Consequently you can rest assured that we will not have to adjust these prices upwards at invoicing, unless the Pound falls significantly further, and if there is any recovery by the Pound you will receive the full benefit of the cost-saving by way of a price reduction at invoicing.
Tour Price: £8590, €10140, $11250 Port Moresby/Port Moresby. New Britain Extension: £1980, €2340, $2590.
Price includes all transportation (including all flights inside Papua New Guinea), 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.
Base prices for this tour are determined in US Dollars, the currency in which we pay for most tour services. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.110. For those not paying us in US Dollars, prices may be adjusted (either downwards or upwards) at the time of invoicing should there be a change in the exchange rate. See booking information.
Single Room Supplement: £1005, €1186, $1317 (excluding two nights at the Elevala River). New Britain Extension: £235, €277, $308.
Deposit: £950, €1250, $1450. Extension: £200, €250, $250.
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.
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
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