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BEST OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA

Birdquest's Best of Papua New Guinea birding tour is a classic birdwatching trip. Our Best of Papua New Guinea tour visits Port Moresby, Kiunga and Ambua Lodge at Tari, producing a fantastic array of birds, including up to 20 species of birds-of-paradise and a large number of other endemics, in just two weeks in this fascinating land where the Stone Age coexists with the 21st Century.

Thursday 24th August — Tuesday 5th September 2017
(13 days)


Leaders: Chris Kehoe and local bird guides

Group Size Limit: 9

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

Brown Sicklebill is sometimes a bird table visitor (Nik Borrow)

Brown Sicklebill is sometimes a bird table visitor (Nik Borrow)

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 New Guinea is still primitive and undeveloped, conditions for visitors in Papua New Guinea often amaze first timers: standards of accommodation often being good or excellent, and vehicles modern and comfortable. The only downside is that it is a surprisingly 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, 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.

For our grand finale, and in total contrast, we will fly up to Tari in the western 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.

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.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotel in Port Moresby is of a good standard. The famous Ambua Lodge at Tari is the only good quality accommodation in the area. At Kiunga the hotel is of medium quality but is comfortable. At the Elevala River we will spend one night 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 range from reasonable to poor, but then we do not have to travel long distances on them.

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.

Tour Price: £6090, €7190, $7980 Port Moresby/Port Moresby.

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.

Single Room Supplement: £770, €909, $1009 (excluding one night at the Elevala River).

Deposit: £700, €950, $1050.

Base prices for this tour are in US Dollars. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.110.

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.

The strikingly patterned Mountain Peltops is often easy to see and always a popular addition to the list (Nik Borrow)

The strikingly patterned Mountain Peltops is often easy to see and always a popular addition to the list (Nik Borrow)

The Brown-headed Paradise Kingfisher is an unobtrusive gem to be found in the dark forests of Varirata NP (Nik Borrow)

The Brown-headed Paradise Kingfisher is an unobtrusive gem to be found in the dark forests of Varirata NP (Nik Borrow)

The Hook-billed Kingfisher is common but most active only for a short time at dawn and dusk thus making it difficult to see as it prefers not to leave thick cover (Nik Borrow)

The Hook-billed Kingfisher is common but most active only for a short time at dawn and dusk thus making it difficult to see as it prefers not to leave thick cover (Nik Borrow)

The incredible male King of Saxony Bird of Paradise sits on exposed perches waving its bizarre ‘antennae’ and uttering strange crackling noises (Nik Borrow)

The incredible male King of Saxony Bird of Paradise sits on exposed perches waving its bizarre ‘antennae’ and uttering strange crackling noises (Nik Borrow)

The adult male Ribbon-tailed Astrapia has proportionately the longest tail streamers of any bird in the world (Nik Borrow)

The adult male Ribbon-tailed Astrapia has proportionately the longest tail streamers of any bird in the world (Nik Borrow)

Tame and delightful White-winged Robins are always popular (Nik Borrow)

Tame and delightful White-winged Robins are always popular (Nik Borrow)

Local knowledge comes in useful if there is a roost hole of the Greater Sooty Owl to be found (Nik Borrow)

Local knowledge comes in useful if there is a roost hole of the Greater Sooty Owl to be found (Nik Borrow)

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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