The Ultimate In Birding Tours

Australia & The Pacific Islands


Monday 7th October – Monday 21st October 2024

Leaders: Dáni Balla and local bird guides

15 Days Group Size Limit 7
Friday 7th August – Friday 21st August 2026

Leaders: Birdquest leader to be announced and local bird guides

15 Days Group Size Limit 7


Birdquest’s West Papua’s Vogelkop & Raja Ampat Islands birding tours in Indonesia explore the western end of the island of New Guinea (a territory that used to be called Irian Jaya). Our West Papua’s Vogelkop & Raja Ampat Islands birding tour concentrates on the many endemic specialities of this part of New Guinea, including both the Vogelkop (‘Bird’s Head’) Peninsula and the Raja Ampat islands, where some marvellous creatures can be found such as Northern Cassowary, Western Crowned Pigeon, Vogelkop Owlet-Nightjar, Red-breasted and Kofiau Paradise Kingfishers, Red and Wilson’s Birds-of-paradise, Western Parotia, Arfak Astrapia, Long-tailed Paradigalla, Black-billed Sicklebill and Masked and Vogelkop Bowerbirds.

When, in the mid 19th century, Alfred Russel Wallace first approached the shores of western New Guinea he wrote that he could barely contain his excitement knowing that “those dark forests produced the most extraordinary and the most beautiful of the feathered inhabitants of the earth”.

First sighted by the Portuguese in 1526, this huge island, second only in size to Greenland, exhibits incredible ecological diversity. The very varied local ecology and the isolating effect of the rugged terrain have resulted in a cultural and linguistic diversity unparalleled on earth. Here 0.1% of the world’s population speak 15% of the known languages. Early Dutch colonial influence barely extended beyond the immediate vicinity of the coast, with vast areas remaining terra incognita until the mid 20th century. Most of the tribes, particularly those in the highlands, were first contacted by outsiders as recently as in the 1930s or even later, and some are still unknown to westerners. Despite the efforts of missionaries and ‘Indonesianization’ programmes, many tribes are much as they were before outside influences arrived. Stories of tribal warfare and even cannibalism are still frequent in some places, although fortunately not in the areas we will visit!

Diversity and timelessness are as characteristic of the fauna and flora as of the people. West Papua (formerly known as Irian Jaya) is still covered by some of the largest tracts of undisturbed forest on earth, second only to Amazonia. Very few birdwatchers have as yet visited West Papua, before mass tourism, logging and mining have had a serious impact on the environment. Whether sampling the birds of New Guinea for the first time or returning for those exotic and rarely seen endemics, West Papua provides the adventurous birder with some of the most exciting birding and travel experiences the modern world can offer.

A visit to this very remote region is much more of an adventure than a normal birding tour, and even after the improvements of recent years, there are still a few nights with basic accommodations. Tourism is still very much in its infancy in West Papua. Although reasonably comfortable hotels exist in all the main centres, once we are away from such places our accommodation will be in remote, basic villages or even (for one or two nights) in simple ‘bush shelters’ deep in the forest and well away from habitation. In addition, local agent charges for arranging adventurous ecotourism in West Papua have become very high, reflecting rapidly climbing costs in this unique part of Indonesia.

This wonderful tour concentrates on the very best that West Papua has to offer, the Arfak Mountains, the Raja Ampat islands and the Klasow Valley.

Our adventure starts at the small town of Manokwari on the east coast of the Vogelkop Peninsula, from where we will travel by a fairly recently-constructed road up to the village of Mokwam amongst the spectacular ridges and deep valleys of the Arfak Mountains. Our quest takes us in search of these mountains’ three endemic birds-of-paradise: Western Parotia, Arfak Astrapia and Long-tailed Paradigalla (only rediscovered in 1989). Here we may well also see Black-billed and Black Sicklebills, Crescent-caped Lophorina, Magnificent Bird-of-paradise, Masked and Vogelkop Bowerbirds, and much more besides.

Next, we travel to Waigeo in the Raja Ampat (or Raja Empat) Islands to search for the endemic Wilson’s and Red Birds-of-paradise at their display grounds in the forests. We also have a good chance of seeing the amazing Western Crowned Pigeon flush noisily up into the trees, as well as the endemic Raja Ampat Pitohui and many other more widespread New Guinea birds.

Finally, we come to the Sorong region, at the western tip of the oddly shaped Vogelkop Peninsula, and in particular the fabulous Klasow Valley. What makes the Malagufuk area of the Klasow Valley special is the long list of mega New Guinea endemics. Recent explorations of the forest by a handful of intrepid birdwatchers (our leaders included) have yielded seemingly regular observations of Northern Cassowary, Forest Bittern, Thick-billed Ground Pigeon, New Guinea Bronzewing, Papuan Nightjar, Papuan Hawk-Owl, the superb Red-breasted Paradise Kingfisher, Black Thicket Fantail, and the somewhat drab but nevertheless exceptional Tawny Straightbill. We should see a number of these marvellous birds.

Birdquest pioneered West Papua birding tours (the territory was then known as Irian Jaya) in Indonesia as far back as 1992.

Important: With steady improvements to roads, it is no longer necessary to camp for more than one or if need be two nights in the Arfak Mountains, but you cannot avoid camping if you want to see some of the special birds of the Vogelkop.

Kofiau Island: The rarely-visited island of Kofiau was pioneered by Birdquest as a bird tour destination in 2019 and holds the beautiful endemic Kofiau Paradise Kingfisher and the endemic Kofiau Monarch, both of which one can expect to find during a visit. If there are participants who would like to make a visit to the island after the tour we can arrange a short extension by boat from Sorong. The cost will depend on the number of participants. Please inform us at booking if you are interested in such an extension.

Accommodation & Road Transport: Standards of accommodation in West Papua have hugely improved in some areas. The hotels and lodges at Manokwari, Sorong and Waigeo are of a good or medium standard. In the Mokwam area in the Arfak Mountains, we will sleep in a simple village guesthouse at Mingre with basic washing and toilet facilities and also spend one or two nights camping at higher altitudes under simple ‘bush shelters’ (in both cases the best accommodations available in this remote area). Near Sorong, we will stay two nights in basic village accommodation at Malagufuk village and may have to sleep in just two large rooms together. Road transport is by small coach or minibus/passenger van. Roads are rather poor and few and far between, but then we do not have to travel long distances on them.

Walking: The walking effort during our West Papua’s Vogelkop & Raja Ampat Islands birding tours is mostly moderate grade (easy in only a few areas). In the Arfak Mountains, there will be some more demanding walking as some of the trails are steep in places.

Climate: Unpredictable and dependent on local topography but at this season it should be mostly dry and often sunny. It is generally hot and humid in the lowlands and foothills. At high altitudes daytime temperatures are pleasant but it can get cool at night or when it rains.

Bird Photography: Opportunities during our West Papua’s Vogelkop & Raja Ampat Islands birding tours are worthwhile.


  • Unrivalled hide-based experiences with up to 8 displaying birds-of-paradise, and seeing a further 14 species of this amazing family
  • In the high Arfak Mountains, watch from a hide as the imposing male Black Sicklebill visits his display log at dawn and advertises with loud staccato calls
  • Witness the intricate dance of a male Western Parotia from only metres away
  • Many birders say Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise is the best bird in the world – we will see several males at their courts on the island of Waigeo
  • Having several chances to observe the beautiful Red Bird-of-paradise at a lek on Waigeo – arguably the best dancer of the avian world
  • Beholding the complex structures designed by Vogelkop Bowerbirds, while the iridescent Masked Bowerbird shows off mainly with his striking plumage
  • Amazing Feline and Mountain Owlet-nightjars are usually seen at day-roosts, and in recent years we have had success with both Wallace’s and Vogelkop
  • Fabulous Western Crowned Pigeons erupting from the forest floor with noisy wingbeats and usually perching in full view
  • Visit one of the only accessible untouched lowland forest areas on the island where Northern Cassowaries still roam
  • A place where several Vogelkop specialties like Red-billed Brushturkey, Black Lory and Red-breasted Paradise Kingfisher are common
  • Travelling to remote Kofiau island and seeing the endemic Kofiau Paradise Kingfisher and Kofiau Monarch
  • Exploring what many bird tour leaders consider the ultimate birding destination, and incomparable to anywhere else in the world


  • Day 1: Morning tour start at Manokwari airport. Drive to Mokwam in the Arfak Mountains.
  • Days 2-7: Exploring the Arfak Mountains.
  • Day 8: Return to Manokwari.
  • Day 9: Flight direct to Waigeo if possible, or flight to Sorong and ferry to Waigeo.
  • Days 10-11: Exploring Waigeo Island.
  • Day 12: Ferry to Sorong, then drive to Klasow Valley. Walk to Malagufuk village.
  • Day 13: Klasow Valley.
  • Day 14: Klasow Valley, then return to Sorong.
  • Day 15: Morning tour end at Sorong airport.

To see a larger map, click on the square-like ‘enlarge’ icon in the upper right of the map box.

To see (or hide) the ‘map legend’, click on the icon with an arrow in the upper left of the map box.

To change to a satellite view, which is great for seeing the physical terrain (and for seeing really fine details by repetitive use of the + button), click on the square ‘map view’ icon in the lower left corner of the ‘map legend’.


West Papua Tour Prices: We are sometimes asked why West Papua tour prices are so expensive, especially when there are basic accommodations for much of the tour. The answer is straightforward, but not entirely obvious to an outside observer; the very high price levels that are charged by the local agents. There are very few competent local ecotourism agents in West Papua and the best of them have to have an unusual level of expertise in order to function well in this remote and very undeveloped part of the world. They assure us that their operating costs in West Papua are very high.

Birdquest Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.

We also include all tipping for local guides, drivers and accommodation/restaurant staff.

We also include this flight: Manokwari-Waigeo (or Sorong).

Deposit: 20% of the total tour price. Our office will let you know what deposit amount is due, in order to confirm your booking, following receipt of your online booking form.

TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates)

2024: confirmed £5450, $6990, €6360, AUD10550. Manokwari/Sorong.
2026: provisional £5450, $6990, €6360, AUD10550. Manokwari/Sorong.

Single Supplement: 2024: £270, $350, €310, AUD520.
Single Supplement: 2026: £270, $350, €310, AUD520.

The single supplement will not apply if you indicate on booking that you prefer to share a room and there is a room-mate of the same sex available.

The single room supplement excludes two nights in the Arfak Mountains and two nights in the Klasow Valley.

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

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.


West Papua (Vogelkop & Raja Ampat): Day 1  Our tour begins this morning at Manokwari on the western shore of Geelvink Bay on the northern coast of West Papua.

From Manokwari we will drive inland to the village of Mokwam, situated at 5250ft (1600m) in the Arfak Mountains. We will spend five or six nights in buildings in one or two of the local villages, but we will also camp for one or two nights higher up in the mountains. In the late afternoon, we will start our exploration of this remote area.

West Papua (Vogelkop & Raja Ampat): Days 2-7  In these seldom-visited mountains we shall hope to find many montane species, including some of New Guinea’s least-known birds. On the high ridges, the shy and scarce Black-billed Sicklebill utters its Whimbrel-like song and Arfak Astrapias can be found foraging along the moss-bedecked branches. Even less well-known is the Long-tailed Paradigalla, which has only been seen by very few birders since it was first described. Whilst uncommon and wary, it draws attention to itself by its powerful monotone whistle and can sometimes be seen feeding in Pandanus and other fruiting trees.

Females and immature males of the endemic Western Parotia are fairly common but to see an adult male it is usually necessary to locate a display ground by following up their harsh calls. Hides have been built at a couple of these dance courts and one of the highlights of the tour will be observing the incredible display of this exquisite species. To watch the dazzling ‘ballerina dance’ of this fabulous species at very close range is totally out of this world and has been described as one of the climaxes of a birding career.

Another characteristic species of the area is the endemic Vogelkop Bowerbird, which not only builds a magnificent bower decorated with colourful flowers, fruits and mushrooms but can imitate the songs of nearly all other species. In recent times a display site of the amazing Crescent-caped Lophorina has been found and if it remains active we will surely pay it a visit.

In the mid-montane forest, the feeding flocks hold Sclater’s Whistler and the pretty Goldenface, as well as the endemic Vogelkop Whistler. Magnificent Birds-of-paradise occasionally join these flocks, but more usually call from close to their display grounds. A hide has been built overlooking the dance court of this lovely species, so we should be able to admire a male in full swing. Shy Arfak Catbirds attract attention by their mewing calls from the canopy. Attractive Spotted Jewel-babblers are fairly regular in these moss-festooned forests and with a modicum of luck, we will observe this wonderful but shy species in all its glory. Sometimes our man on the spot knows of a day roost of the magical-looking Feline Owlet-Nightjar or the cute Mountain Owlet-Nightjar.

After climbing well into the mountains we shall come to a clearing on the steep slopes of Gunung Nadim. From here, at dawn, before the clouds come in, the view down to the lowlands is magnificent. The forest here holds feeding flocks which include Black Monarch, the endemic Vogelkop Scrubwren, Black Pitohui and Red-breasted Pygmy Parrot.

Eventually, we shall reach the summit ridge, where Black Sicklebills sing from favourite perches and we may see the male making its amazing display on a favourite branch. Along the ridge, Orange-crowned Fairy-wren and Smoky and Ashy Robins are to be seen, while attractive Tit Berrypeckers can be found in fruiting bushes. Flowering trees attract Arfak (or Western Smoky) Honeyeaters, and Cinnamon-browed and the endemic Vogelkop Melidectes.

Other species we will be looking out for include White-throated Pigeon, Bronze Ground Dove, Rufescent Imperial Pigeon, Josephine’s, Papuan and Yellow-billed Lorikeets, Blue-collared Parrot, White-eared Bronze Cuckoo, Grey-green Scrubwren, Garnet, Green-backed and White-rumped Robins, Hooded Pitohui, Olive-crowned Flowerpecker, Black-fronted White-eye, Dwarf Longbill, and Rufous-sided and Mountain Honeyeaters.

At night we will search for the delightful Papuan Boobook. If we are particularly lucky we will chance upon a rare marvel like Papuan Eagle or White-striped Forest-Rail.

If we have time we will visit a different area in search of the rare Grey-banded Mannikin.

Mammals are scarce here, but we stand a fair chance of encountering the adorable Red-bellied Marsupial Shrew.

West Papua (Vogelkop & Raja Ampat): Day 8  Today we return to Manokwari for an overnight stay. We will spend most of the day birding along the road, looking for species that favour lower elevations, including the almost fluorescent Masked Bowerbird.

West Papua (Vogelkop & Raja Ampat): Day 9  Today we will either catch a flight direct to the island of Waigeo in the Raja Ampat (or Raja Empat) archipelago or else fly to the bustling town of Sorong at the head of the Vogelkop Peninsula and take the ferry. We will stay on Waigeo for three nights. Depending on air and ferry schedules, there may be some opportunity for birding somewhere today.

West Papua (Vogelkop & Raja Ampat): Days 10-11  The island of Waigeo to the northwest of Sorong is seldom visited. Still forest-covered and very sparsely populated, this island holds several species rare or absent on the mainland. In the lowland forest, Red Birds-of-paradise, endemic to the islands of Batanta and Waigeo, can be watched displaying in some of the taller forest trees. Purple-tailed Imperial Pigeons can be found in fruiting trees and the tiny Yellow-capped Pygmy Parrot might be seen hanging from the trunk of a forest giant. Another key species is the endemic Raja Ampat Pitohui.

A primary goal here is to find the brilliantly plumaged Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise, without a doubt one of the most beautiful birds on the planet. In the early morning, one or two males and several females gather at display grounds; usually, an area cleared of all leaf litter under a tangle of vines, where the male calls vigorously and displays to the females as they arrive. Hides have been built overlooking these dance courts, so we should be able to watch these stunning birds at our leisure.

With a modicum of luck, we will hear the low thrumming call of Western Crowned Pigeons and then track one or more down. These huge creatures usually flush up with explosive wing beats and find a perch from which to nervously watch their pursuers.

Other birds we may well see here include Dusky Megapode, Pygmy Eagle, Great-billed Parrot, Common Paradise Kingfisher, Papuan Pitta, Pale-billed Scrubwren, Green-backed Gerygone, Frilled Monarch, Grey Whistler, Yellow-bellied and Pygmy Longbills, Puff-backed Meliphaga, Tawny-breasted and Spotted Honeyeaters, and Torresian Crow. We will also have a chance for Brown-headed Crow. In the forest, one of the most frequent songs to be heard is the repeated descending trill of the Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo.

Along the shoreline, Great-billed Heron, Eastern Reef Egret, Raja (or White-headed) Shelduck, Eastern Osprey, White-bellied Sea Eagle and Beach Kingfisher can all be found.

One afternoon we will travel by boat to some islets where we should find Pied and Spice Imperial Pigeons, and Violet-necked Lory, as well as a roost of Great-billed Parrots.

West Papua (Vogelkop & Raja Ampat): Day 12  Today we will return by ferry to Sorong looking out for Lesser Frigatebird, the elegant Black-naped Tern, Greater Crested Tern and other seabirds during the journey.

After a quick lunch, we will continue eastwards to the Klasow Valley where we will stay for two nights at Malagufuk village. The village which will be hosting us lies in the middle of a large tract of superb lowland forest, the likes of which are always extremely hard to access in New Guinea – often soon after a track or village is built in good habitat, the habitat is removed! The locals here however truly value their forest, and the number of remarkable species which are present is a tribute to that.

West Papua (Vogelkop & Raja Ampat): Day 13  In addition to the tame village Northern Cassowaries which come in from the forest to be fed fruit most mornings, the forest holds a good number of these gigantic birds, and we may be lucky enough to come across one on the trails while we are concentrating on our main targets. Pride of place goes to the stunning Red-breasted Paradise Kingfisher, which is usually an ultra-scare or cryptic species, but which has proven to be almost common in the valley. The Vogelkop-endemic Black Lory is another somewhat tricky bird that is much more abundant here than in the degraded forest elsewhere, and we should see multiple parties flying overhead and feeding in the canopy. What truly makes the Klasow Valley special however is the long list of mega New Guinea endemics which have previously been almost entirely unknown and only irregularly occurring elsewhere on the island. Recent explorations of the forest by a handful of intrepid birdwatchers (our leaders included) has yielded repeat, and seemingly regular observations of Forest Bittern, Thick-billed Ground Pigeon, New Guinea Bronzewing, Papuan Nightjar, Papuan Hawk Owl, Black Thicket Fantail, and the somewhat drab but nevertheless exceptional Tawny Straightbill. We will definitely hear the astoundingly common and restricted Red-billed Brushturkey here, and we will hopefully bump into one by walking along quietly, along with four desirable BoPs – King Bird-of-paradise, Twelve-wired Bird-of-paradise, Magnificent Riflebird, and Lesser Bird-of-paradise. 

Of course, there are not just rare birds here, and we will also be on the lookout for more widespread species including Large Fig Parrot, Cinnamon Ground Dove, Wompoo, Pink-spotted, Dwarf, Claret-breasted, Beautiful and Orange-bellied Fruit Doves, Purple-tailed Imperial Pigeon, Ivory-billed Coucal, Papuan Spine-tailed Swift, Long-billed and Plain Honeyeater, Papuan Babbler, Rusty Pitohui, Sooty and White-bellied Thicket Fantail, Dwarf Koel, Scrub Meliphaga, Ruby-throated Myzomela, White-eared Catbird, Grey Crow, Olive Flyrobin and Emporer Fairywren.

West Papua (Vogelkop & Raja Ampat): Day 14  After some final birding in the Klasow Valley, we will return to Sorong for an overnight stay.

Our last birding will be spent in Sorong itself at a nice stretch of mangroves where the scarce Blue-black Kingfisher is quite common, and we may also find Little Kingfisher, Pale-vented Bush-hen, Collared Imperial Pigeon, Orange-fronted Fruit Dove, Brown-backed Honeyeater and Streak-headed Mannikin. Soon after the sun comes up here everything disappears, at which point we will return to the hotel to wash and change.

West Papua (Vogelkop & Raja Ampat): Day 15  Our tour ends this morning at Sorong airport.



West Papua (Kofiau): Day 10  This morning we will board a sturdy boat which will take us to the distant island of Kofiau, a birding location pioneered by Birdquest in 2019. It will take us around four hours to reach this little-visited island and on the way, we will encounter flocks of Red-necked Phalaropes, Common, Little, Bridled and Greater Crested Terns, Lesser and Great Frigatebirds and Pomarine and Parasitic Jaegers (or Pomarine and Arctic Skuas).

Upon arrival, we will transfer to our simple village accommodation for a two nights stay. We should arrive in time for some initial exploration.

West Papua (Kofiau): Day 2  Kofiau is one of the smaller islands in the celebrated Raja Ampat islands and has a surface area of 144 square kilometres (56 square miles). It is situated about 90 km (55 miles) west of the island of Salawati and consists mainly of raised coral limestone with some volcanic hills. Most of the original rainforest was selectively logged in the 20th century, but luckily most of the island is still covered in closed canopy primary and secondary forest.

Kofiau holds two intriguing endemic species: the attractive Kofiau Paradise Kingfisher and the pied Kofiau Monarch. The former species is fairly common in the forest interior and closely resembles the widespread Common Paradise Kingfisher, differing mainly in having a shorter and totally white tail. Like its sister species it is quite vocal and perches quietly in the forest understorey, slowly pumping its tail and occasionally sallying out to catch invertebrate prey. The little known Kofiau Monarch was discovered in 1955 and described in 1959. It favours the lowland forest interior and bears a close resemblance to the widespread Spot-winged Monarch, looking blackish on the upperparts and lacking the distinctive wing spots.

As well as these two major specialities we should also encounter Dusky Megapode, Great-billed Heron, Spectacled and Spice Imperial Pigeons, Beach Kingfisher, Violet-necked Lory, Red-flanked Lorikeet, Great-billed Parrot, Hooded Pitta, Island Monarch, Spangled Drongo, Large-billed Gerygone and Olive-crowned Flowerpecker.

West Papua (Kofiau): Day 3  After some final birding on Kofiau we will board our boat and return to Sorong for an overnight stay.

West Papua (Kofiau): Day 4  The extension ends this morning at Sorong airport.


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Other shorter Australasia and surrounding region birding tours by Birdquest include: