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THE SOLOMON ISLANDS

Solomon Islands Birding Tours: our Solomon Islands bird watching holiday explores these rarely-visited but endemic-rich islands that lie to the east of New Guinea. Our Solomon Islands birding tour provides a very comprehensive coverage of the islands for the more adventurous birder who longs to see its rich birdlife, including that final glorious pitta right at the edge of the family's world range.

Thursday 8th August — Tuesday 3rd September 2019
(27 days)


Leader: Josh Bergmark

Group Size Limit: 8

Tour Category: Easy to demanding walking and comfortable to very basic accommodations

The superb Rennell Shrikebill is one of the more attractive and unusual-looking of the Solomon Islands endemics (Brian Field)

The superb Rennell Shrikebill is one of the more attractive and unusual-looking of the Solomon Islands endemics (Brian Field)

Scattered in a loose oval to the east of New Guinea, the Solomon Islands are a quintessential South Pacific idyll, combining a classic landscape and tourist-free, easy-going island life with exotic endemic birds. The nation is an archipelago of volcanic islands, still largely cloaked in luxuriant rainforest, sweeping down to golden sand beaches and fringing coral reefs. Who else has a national flag symbolizing sea, sand and forest?

The environment is still remarkably pristine as most Solomon Islanders pursue their traditional life of fishing on the reefs and tending lush gardens hidden in the forest. Few tourists have discovered this Eden, and the Solomon Islanders remain overwhelmingly friendly and generous to visitors whilst retaining much of their cultural heritage. Beyond the central island of Guadalcanal, famous for some of the most heroic battles of the Second World War, and Gizo, a fledgling scuba-diving destination, we may well encounter no other visitors.

During our journey through the Solomons we will visit nine of the largest islands, allowing us the opportunity to find the great majority of the Solomons endemics. The Solomons form a chain of islands stretching out beyond Papua New Guinea into the deeper Pacific. They are close enough to retain a reasonably high bird diversity yet isolated and fragmented enough to enable an amazing level of speciation of endemic birds. Here, islands only eight kilometres apart have evolved their own endemic bird species!

The central Solomons is the richest ‘Endemic Bird Area’ in the world, with at least 62 completely endemic species (depending on the taxonomy followed). Combined with Rennell and the Santa Cruz islands, the Solomons have a total of 73 endemic birds plus another 20 endemics shared only with other isolated Melanesian islands. Many more species are due to be recognized in future if current concepts of species limits are applied. Whilst searching for many of these incipient species, we will marvel at the subspecific variation between islands and come to our own ideas about species limits! Still yielding undescribed species and rediscoveries of birds long feared extinct, this region has truly been overlooked both by scientists and birders.

This exciting tour aims to see as many as possible of the accessible Solomon Islands endemics. While much of the tour involves nothing out of the usual, and has moderate or even easy walking, this tour also involves some quite demanding hiking and very basic village accommodation at times, so will definitely appeal to the more adventurous birder!

We will begin our explorations from the small and quiet capital town of Honiara, where the local forests hold such endemics as Pied Goshawk, Solomons (or Ducorps’s) Cockatoo, Solomons Boobook, the attractive Ultramarine Kingfisher, Chestnut-bellied Monarch, Steel-blue Flycatcher, Midget Flowerpecker, Brown-winged Starling, and the uncommon Black-headed Myzomela.

Next we will fly far to the south to the remote island of Rennell, a raised coral atoll that is a World Heritage Site and holds no fewer than six single-island endemics, Rennell Fantail, the beautiful Rennell Shrikebill, Rennel Whistler, Rennell Starling, Rennell White-eye and the weird Bare-eyed White-eye, as well as the slightly more widespread endemic Silver-capped Fruit-Dove.

After a brief pause in Honiara we will fly to Gizo, where the endemics include Crimson-rumped (or Yellow-vented) Myzomela, the smart White-capped Monarch and Gizo (or Splendid) White-eye. From here we will make a day trip by boat to the islands of Ranongga and Vella Lavella, each with endemic white-eyes and the chance of Heinroth’s Shearwater en route.

Afterwards we take a boat to Kolombangara (or Kulambangra), a steep volcanic cone with a series of exciting endemic birds including the magnificent Sanford’s (or Solomons) Sea-Eagle, the flightless Roviana Rail, Buff-headed Coucal, Pale Mountain-Pigeon, Meek’s Lorikeet, the beautiful Duchess Lorikeet, White-winged Fantail, Kolombangara Monarch, Solomons Cuckooshrike and Solomons White-eye. For Kolombangara Leaf-Warbler and Kolombangara White-eye we will have to trek up into the highest moss forest.

On Malaita we will be seeking the endemic Malaita White-eye and the endemic Red-vested (or Red-bellied) Myzomela.

On Santa Isabel we aim to see some of the most spectacular Solomons birds, concentrating on the recently-described Solomons Frogmouth and the recently rediscovered Black-faced Pitta at its single known site. Other endemics include the flightless Woodford’s Rail, Scarlet-naped Myzomela, White-billed (or Guadalcanal) Crow, Solomons Cuckooshrike, Black-and-white Monarch and Yellow-throated White-eye, not to mention the impressive Fearful Owl.

Finally, on Makira (or San Cristobal), we will trek into the highlands where a very distinct array of endemic birds includes the attractive White-headed Fruit-Dove, the bizarre Crested Cuckoo-Dove, Chestnut-bellied Imperial Pigeon, Sooty Myzomela, Makira Honeyeater (or San Cristobal Melidectes), the shy White-bellied (or San Cristobal) Thrush, Shade Bush Warbler, San Cristobal Leaf-Warbler, White-collared Monarch, Makira (or Ochre-headed) Flycatcher, Dusky Fantail, Makira (or San Cristobal) Starling, Grey-throated White-eye and Mottled Flowerpecker. This is the only island where we stand a good chance of seeing the little-known Yellow-legged Pigeon.

As this ground-breaking tour unfolds, the presence of large flocks of parrots, especially the raucous Solomons (or Ducorps’s) Cockatoo, and many large pigeons, remind us just how unspoilt these wonderful islands still remain.

Birdquest has operated tours to the Solomon Islands since 1996.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels at Honiara and Gizo are of good standard. The hotel on Malaita is fairly simple, although it usually has functioning air-conditioning. The guesthouses on Rennell, Kolombangara, Makira (near the airstrip) and Santa Isabel are fairly basic but provide mattresses, clean sheets, cold showers and toilets. Accommodation is very basic at Hauta on Makira, where we will sleep on bamboo beds in traditional, open-plan village houses, washing under piped stream water or in the local river. One night will be spent in a basic camp on the mountain on Kolombangara. Road transport will be by minibus and 4x4 vehicle. Roads away from the Honiara area are mostly bad, but in any event we do not travel far on them.

Walking: This tour mostly involves moderate walking effort, and while there are a few easy areas there are also some fairly demanding ones. On Kolombangara the upper part of the trek to the summit is demanding. The trek on Makira up to Hauta involves a steep hike on muddy trails lasting for a number of hours (and possibly one or more river crossings) and there is also a steep hike of two hours on Santa Isabel from the coast to our accommodations.

Climate: Hot and humid. Although it is the ‘dry’ season, rain is still very likely and it can be heavy. Boat journeys and the camping night on Kolombangara can be cool.

Bird Photography: Opportunities are worthwhile.

Important: Flight schedules in the Solomons change frequently, and delays are also not uncommon, so participants need to be aware of this and have a flexible and relaxed approach. Changes to the order in which the islands are visited, compared to the tour description, are almost inevitable and changes to the amount of time on some of the islands are also likely. The itinerary has a built-in safety margin to allow for such eventualities.

Prices are provisional

Tour Price: £8890, €10130, $11650 Honiara/Honiara. Single Room Supplement: £770, €877, $1009. Deposit: £1100, €1320, $1430.

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

Also includes these flights: Honiara-Rennell-Honiara, Honiara-Gizo-Honiara, Honaira-Malaita-Honiara, Honiara-Fera (Santa Isabel)-Honiara, Honiara-Kirakira (Makira)-Honiara.

The single room supplement relates to Honiara, Gizo and Malaita only.

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.

The coastal scenery around the islands (Brian Field)

The coastal scenery around the islands (Brian Field)

... and atolls, is at times quite stunning (Brian Field)

... and atolls, is at times quite stunning (Brian Field)

The Rennell White-eye is one of a whole range of white-eyes that occur in the Solomon islands (Brian Field)

The Rennell White-eye is one of a whole range of white-eyes that occur in the Solomon islands (Brian Field)

35 photos View Gallery Photos From THE SOLOMON ISLANDS
Some smart pigeons occur in the Solomons, including Claret-breasted Fruit-Dove (Brian Field)

Some smart pigeons occur in the Solomons, including Claret-breasted Fruit-Dove (Brian Field)

Other goodies include Solomon (or Ducorp's) Cockatoo (Brian Field)

Other goodies include Solomon (or Ducorp's) Cockatoo (Brian Field)

... the tiny Finsch's Pygmy Parrot (Brian Field)

... the tiny Finsch's Pygmy Parrot (Brian Field)

... the splendid Ultramarine Kingfisher (Brian Field)

... the splendid Ultramarine Kingfisher (Brian Field)

... the rarely seen Heinroth's Shearwater (Brian Field)

... the rarely seen Heinroth's Shearwater (Brian Field)

... the impressive and rare Solomon's Sea Eagle (Brian Field)

... the impressive and rare Solomon's Sea Eagle (Brian Field)

... the secretive White-winged Fantail (Brian Field)

... the secretive White-winged Fantail (Brian Field)

... the rather subdued Rennell Fantail (Brian Field)

... the rather subdued Rennell Fantail (Brian Field)

... and the very different-looking Bare-eyed White-eye (Brian Field)

... and the very different-looking Bare-eyed White-eye (Brian Field)

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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