Trip Report – September 2019
Comments: We were here for a expedition ship cruise around the islands to the west of Papua New Guinea. We went with VENT (Victor Emanuel Nature Tours) but it was really more of a cultural tour than a birding tour. We had a wonderful time but if you are serious about birding, I am not sure I would recommend it. I mainly only list life birds in the report but the attached checklist shows everything.
DAY 1: Even though we were here in January of this year we decided to go back up to Varirata Park before leaving on the cruise. We hired the same guide as earlier this year, Daniel, and drove up to the park with our target list in hand! We had about 50 life-birds here in January and managed to get another 22 today. This park is amazing!
In addition to the lifers (too many to list), we also got to see 2 of the birds-of-paradise displaying which hadn’t happened in January – Reggiano BOP and Growling Riflebird. This is why we love birding. Night at Airways Hotel.
DAY 2 & 3: We departed Port Moresby on the Caledonia Sky. It was a lovely boat and the crew were amazing – we could not speak highly enough of the cruise itself.
The first morning we joined the VENT guides on the deck and quite quickly saw two life birds fly by – Tahiti Petrel & Bridled Tern. After lunch we went on shore at Suau Island – the locals did a wonderful Welcome Ceremony but the birding was limited to just walking around the village which isn’t the best – did manage Singing Starling, Elegant Honeyeater and Orange-fronted Hanging Parrot as life birds.
DAY 4: Up early and a lovely breakfast on the deck before going over to Ferguson Island. Unfortunately, the birding was not well organized here so we didn’t get anywhere near the area for Goldie’s BOP. In fact, the only thing new for us here was Curl-crested Manucode.
DAY 5: Another day, another island (Kuyawa) and another single life bird – Island Imperial-Pigeon. Every time we land on another island, we have a wonderful cultural experience and it is a thrill to be here but the birding has not been well thought out and we are limited to areas around the villages which is rather challenging. We are also joined by so many locals (which is lovely in one way) that we scare anything off before we get there.
DAY 6: A dry landing today at Tufi. This is quite a birdy spot and the walking path is probably only a couple of kilometers. Unfortunately, there were way too many of us and half the time we couldn’t find the guides but we did manage a few lifers – Pinon’s & Zoe’s Imperial Pigeon.
An afternoon sea watch gave us a third life-bird for the day – Sooty Tern.
DAY 7: As usual we were greeted by some wonderful locals on Lababia and made to feel very welcome. This time we split into groups and headed into the forest – Grey Crow. The path was very slippery so we transferred into canoes that the locals brought over and worked our way up river. Palm Cockatoo, Sooty Thicket Fantail, Coronated Fruit-dove and Papuan Dwarf Kingfisher.
In the afternoon we went to a deserted island which was not birdy but it was just my husband and I and it was beautiful and peaceful.
DAY 8: We landed on Tami Islands and enjoyed a great walk but there really weren’t any birds. The Locals put on the most amazing dances and then displayed their carvings and it was all really wonderful so we didn’t mind the lack of birds. The afternoon was spent snorkeling.
DAY 9: We actually docked in the port of Madang – which is a really unattractive port and certainly only worth going if you can get out of town and go birding. Luckily the bird guides had finally got organized and we drove about 40 minutes up to a research center where we had some good birds. It was very hot when we got there but we still had Lowland Peltops, Pygmy Longbill, Meyer’s Friarbird, Black-browed Triller and Ruby-throated Myzomela.
On the way back to the boat we made a stop near town for Grand Munia. It was a good morning.
The afternoon stop was Karbar Island. No cruise had stopped there before so we were literally met by hundreds of people – many of whom followed us all around the outskirts of the village for our walk. There wasn’t that much there but we did get one lifer – Yellow-bellied Gerygone.
DAY 10: The plan was to take zodiacs up the Sepik River and bird from the boats. This was probably never going to deliver much but as it was pouring with rain we actually saw next to nothing. We did get one life bird though – a White-faced Storm Petrel that landed on the boat over night and took a while to recover before leaving – just as well because that was it for the day.
DAY 11: We dropped anchor off Alim Island which is a huge Red-footed Booby colony. We hopped onto zodiacs to take a closer look and also found a number of Common White Tern (magical!) nesting there.
Further exploration of the mangroves delivered Beach Kingfisher and Island Monarch.
We cooled off with a snorkel before lunch and then enjoyed a lazy afternoon on board.
DAY 12: 7.30 am zodiacs to Tingwon Island. As we landed we had great scope views of Nicobar Pigeon and we watched about 2000 fly overhead. Our target here was Melanesian Scrubfowl and they turned out to be very easy, which was great. Along the way we also got Yellow-bibbed Fruit-dove, Bismark Myzomela and Mangrove Whistler.
DAY 13: Docked in Rabul – enjoyed a visit to the local market before heading to the airport.
Airways Hotel – Port Moresby
Guides & Resources
Guides: Port Moresby – Daniel Warika
Field guides: Birds of Melanesia – Guy Dutson, Birds of New Guinea – Than Pratt & Bruce Beehler