Indonesia: Vogelkop West Papua ~Women Only~

It is impossible to forget the first time you see a Western Parotia dance, a Black Sicklebill transforming at dawn, or a Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise glowing like fire in the dark forest understory. Throw in Western Crowned Pigeon, Masked Bowerbird and Red-breasted Paradise Kingfisher? This is the true “Attenborough Experience”, and simply the best birding tour in the world as far as we are concerned! Our itinerary is unique, allowing more time at new sites like Malagufuk where some of the trickiest birds in New Guinea are almost commonplace like Pheasant Pigeon, Thick-billed Ground Pigeon, New Guinea Bronzewing, Red-billed Brushturkey and Northern Cassowary. Experience one of the most spectacular and unique avifaunas on Earth with a group of like-minded, adventurous women!

Next dates

1-16 September 2024

Tour length: 16 days

Group size limit: 7


Donna Belder and Shita Prativi

Guaranteed departure

Day 1: Arrival into Manokwari, and drive up into the Arfak Mountains. Reach our lodgings where we will be based for the next week in the mid-afternoon. Most of our seven nights here will be spent in a basic but pleasant guesthouse in Mingre Village, with one or two nights to be spent at a field camp slightly higher up the mountains to search for more montane specialties.

Days 2-3-4-5-6-7: Perfectly positioned to explore all the different altitudes, we will get started straight away by using the early hours to visit one of the many hides constructed by local villagers, crossing our fingers that we can witness the extravagant ballerina display of a male Western Parotia, the dancing cape of a Vogelkop Lophorina, or the unbelievable stretch of a Magnificent Bird-of-paradise, all at point-blank range! Fruit feeders often attract Black-billed Sicklebill or Arfak Catbird, and if we are lucky the bower of a Masked Bowerbird will have been located allowing us to intimately observe his iridescent flaming plumage. Higher up, the cryptic endemic Long-tailed Paradigalla is usually outshone by the resident male Black Sicklebill practicing his mesmerising display at dawn – the same individual filmed by the BBC in recent documentaries! Nearby, huge and complex structures of sticks, moss, fruit and colourful trinkets are typically closely-watched by unassuming male Vogelkop Bowerbirds, keeping rivals away from their bachelor pads. We will rely on our skilled Papuan guides to find us bizarre-looking Feline, Mountain and Vogelkop Owlet-nightjars at their day roosts, while an abundance of exciting forest birds should also include Arfak Astrapia, White-striped Forest Rail, Josephine’s Lorikeet, Spotted Jewel-babbler, Papuan Logrunner, Vogelkop Melidectes, Western Smoky Honeyeater, Lesser Melampitta, Grey-banded Mannikin, and many more!

Day 8: After a final day of birding in the Arfaks we return to Manokwari for an overnight stay and welcome hot shower!

Day 9: Today we fly to Sorong before heading out to the Malagufuk Village trailhead. At birding pace with several porters we will walk in to the village where we are to spend the next three nights in basic guesthouses.

Day 10-11: This magnificent forest offers the best lowland birding in New Guinea, largely due to the local ban on hunting. The abundance of ground-dwelling species is so extraordinary that every time the trail turns a corner we hold our breath, hoping to come face-to-face with a Northern Cassowary, Pheasant Pigeon, New Guinea Bronzewing, Thick-billed Ground Pigeon, or Red-billed Brushturkey. The mind-blowing Red-breasted Paradise Kingfisher is common here, and many other lovely but widespread lowland species like Blue Jewel-babbler and Emperor Fairywren are regular. New Guinea Eagle, Forest Bittern, Black Thicket-Fantail, Tawny Straightbill, Papuan Hawk Owl, Wallace’s Owlet-nightjar and Papuan Nightjar are other usually rare birds we have quite a good chance of encountering, while the afternoon skies are filled with the endemic Black Lory amongst dozens of other parrot and pigeon species. Some clients may prefer to give the skulkers a miss one morning and visit the Magnificent Riflebird, Twelve-wired, King or Lesser Bird-of-paradise display areas with our Papuan guides, but there is so much to do we will have to choose carefully! If the nights are clear, your leader will work hard to find some excellent mammals such as Lowland Ringtail, Striped Possum, Brown Dorcopsis, and even Western Long-beaked Echidna which was seen last year!

Day 12: Exiting the forest, we will get back to Sorong in time for the fast ferry to Waigeo in the Raja Ampat Islands for a three-night stay by the beach in a relaxing dive resort. Luxury, but there are still many birds to see!

Days 13-14: The island of Waigeo holds two species which stand out from the rest. Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise is perhaps the most ridiculously colourful bird in the world, and positively glows in the understory as we watch from purpose-built hides only meters away from their display areas. In the treetops, male Red Bird-of-paradise form noisy leks and show off their highly-evolved dance moves whenever a female drops by. Western Crowned Pigeon are still common enough here that we should see several, while the endemic Raja Ampat Pitohui and Waigeo Shrikethrush usually don’t take much effort to track down. Several common but nonetheless exciting lowland species are abundant on Waigeo, such as Dusky Scrubfowl, Eclectus Parrot, Palm Cockatoo, Violet-necked Lory, Spice Imperial Pigeon, Beach Kingfisher, Hook-billed Kingfisher, Rufous-bellied Kookaburra, Papuan Dwarf Kingfisher, Glossy-mantled Manucode, Moustached Treeswift and Papuan Pitta. It is also not unusual for us to bump into the endemic Waigeo Cuscus on our wanderings.

Day 15: After a final morning on Waigeo we return by boat to Sorong for an overnight stay. If time allows we will search for Blue-black Kingfisher, Black Thicket-fantail, Orange-fronted Fruit-Dove and Little Kingfisher at a site near town in the evening.

Day 16: The tour finishes this morning with departures out of Sorong.

It is easy to arrange a three-night extension after the tour to visit the beautiful island of Kofiau, where the endemic Kofiau Monarch and Kofiau Paradise Kingfisher are common. Please let us know if this is of interest to you when booking! Cost will be $1200USD.

Tour details

$ 7,000
Deposit: $ 750
Single room supplement: $ 400

Accommodation: Comfortable hotels for Manokwari, Waigeo and Sorong. Basic but comfortable guesthouse in the Arfaks (shared facilities), possibly one or two nights in permanent tented camp in the upper Arfaks (shared rooming and facilities), and basic guesthouse at Malagufuk (shared rooming and facilities).

Walking difficulty: Walks and trails are mostly short, but some sections will be steep and/or muddy so good balance is essential. One or two longer walks (~3 hours) in the Arfaks and around Malagufuk will be taken at birding pace with lots of stops. As such, we no longer consider any part of this tour to be “strenuous”, even though it used to be very tough!

Tour cost includes: All accommodation, main meals, drinking water, internal flights (as stated in itinerary), overland transport, tips to local drivers and guides, travel permits, entrance fees, and guide fees.

Tour cost excludes: Flights before and after the tour start/end, visa, travel insurance, tips to tour leaders, laundry, drinks and other items of a personal nature.