Papua New Guinea: Mainland

Comprehensively explore the classic mainland route around PNG with a small group and the most experienced leaders. We consider our logistics, prices, and bird lists to be the best available in this exciting but challenging country! This tour features extra time at Varirata to search out harder species like Pheasant Pigeon and Forest Bittern, several second-chances for desirable highland species like Wattled Ploughbill and Blue Bird-of-paradise, and two nights staying in the forest up the Fly River to allow the best chance to observe Flame Bowerbird, Spangled Owlet-nightjar and New Guinea Flightless Rail. Not to mention all seven endemic families, a dazzling array of colourful parrot, dove, honeyeater and bird-of-paradise species, this itinerary is never to be forgotten.

Huon Peninsula Extension

Visit the display sites of Wahnes's Parotia, Emperor Bird-of-paradise and Huon Bowerbird to hopefully enjoy these three species in their prime! Birding the hill-forest we will also watch for the endemic Huon Astrapia and Spangled Honeyeater, plus Mottled Berryhunter and Forbes's Forest Rail which are much more common here than elsewhere in New Guinea. All up, a very exciting adventure!

Next dates

25 August - 11 September 2024

Tour length: 18 days

Group size limit: 7


Dani Lopez-Velasco and local guides

Tour full

Huon Peninsula Extension

11-16 September 2024

Tour length: 6 days

Group size limit: 7


Dani Lopez-Velasco and local guides

Tour full

23 August - 15 September 2026

Tour length: 24 days

Group size limit: 7


Chris Venetz and local guides

Guaranteed departure

Day 1-2: After early arrivals into Port Moresby on Day 1, we will drop our bags at the hotel and head straight out to the famous Varirata National Park where we will be birding for the next two days. Here we will look for flamboyant Raggiana Birds-of-paradise at their display tree – with luck some females will drop by and send the males into a frenzy of display! Sneaky Growling Riflebirds and Crinkle-collared Manucodes move through the canopy, and we will search for beautful Brown-headed Paradise Kingfishers, the skulking Chestnut-backed Jewel-babbler and Painted Quail-thrush, a huge assortment of pigeons and honeyeaters, as well as many other exciting birds like Black-billed Brushturkey, Barred Owlet-nightjar, Rufous-bellied Kookaburra, Wallace’s Fairywren, Goldenface, the poisonous Hooded Pitohui, Hooded Butcherbird, Chestnut-bellied Fantail, and Golden Monarch. We may see our first of New Guinea’s unique endemic families here, with both Black Berrypecker and Dwarf Longbill regularly encountered. It would not be unusual after these two days to have recorded close to 50 New Guinea endemics in this wonderful park, hopefully including some of the harder targets like Forest Bittern, Pheasant Pigeon, Crested Bellbird and Papuan Scrub Robin! Nights in Port Moresby.

Day 3: Today we will take a short flight to Mount Hagen and transfer to the homely Kumul Lodge where we will stay for the next three nights. Upon arrival we will be immediately be greeted by Ribbon-tailed Astrapias on the feeding table, alongside Belford’s Melidectes, Brehm’s Tiger Parrot and Common Smoky Honeyeater. The surrounding gardens are regularly visited by the unique Crested Satinbird, noisy Blue-capped Ifrit, and beautiful Eastern Crested Berrypecker, all of these representing endemic bird families found only in New Guinea! Other species here include Forbes’s Forest Rail, Feline Owlet-nightjar, Mountain Owlet-nightjar, Archbold’s Nightjar, New Guinea Woodcock, White-winged Robin, Mountain Firetail and Rusty-naped Bellbird (closely related to the Crested Bellbird of Australia!). Night at Kumul Lodge.

Day 4-5: Visiting several sites in the vicinity of the lodge, we will be astounded the luminous Blue Bird-of-paradise, otherworldly King-of-Saxony Bird-of-paradise, and immense Brown Sicklebill, three of the most exciting “BoPs” of the highlands! We should also see other good-looking birds such as Greater Lophorina, Tit Berrypecker, Ornate Melidectes, Black-breasted Boatbill, Regent Whistler, Plum-faced and Orange-billed Lorikeet, plus a large assortment of interesting small birds like Mountain Mouse-warbler, Papuan Scrubwren, and Brown-breasted Gerygone. In some drier habitat we will look for Yellow-breasted Bowerbird, Black-headed Whistler, Mountain Honeyeater and Papuan Grassbird, then check some cascades for the strange Torrent Flyrobin. We hope to be lucky enough to entice the skulking Lesser Melampitta or flighty Mottled Berryhunter into view, and maybe even track down a male Wattled Ploughbill making his high-pitched call, these three birds representing the remaining endemic bird families (though some will be significantly easier to see in the coming days at Tari). Nights at Kumul Lodge.

Day 6: After a final morning at Kumul, we will drive to the luxurious Rondon Ridge for a three night stay.

Day 7-8: The star attraction of Rondon is its unequalled variety of birds of paradise. We should encounter Loria’s Satinbird and the odd-looking Short-tailed Paradigalla, whilst higher up the road we will look for the beautiful Princess Stephanie’s Astrapia, and another chance for King of Saxony Bird-of-paradise. Lower down, we will search fruiting trees for Lawes’s Parotia, and we will have another chance for Blue Bird-of-paradise. Along the forest edge we have more chances for Blue-capped Ifrit, Wattled Ploughbill, and Mottled Berryhunter. This is also a good area for the immense New Guinea Eagle, closely related to the Harpy Eagle of South America. Other targets include the shy Macgregor’s Bowerbirds, Painted, Modest and Madarasz’s Tiger Parrots, Spotted Jewel-babbler, Papuan Logrunner, Chestnut Forest Rail, Ashy and Lesser Ground Robins, Papuan Treecreeper, Black Pitohui, Black Sittella, and Spotted Berrypecker. At night, Papuan Boobook is usually common, while Archbold’s Nightjar might be staked out for us. There is of course the usual assortment of robins, whistlers, honeyeaters, pigeons and scrubwrens to also look for in this very diverse area!

Day 9: After one more morning of birding around we fly to Kiunga and transfer in 4WDs up to Tabubil.

Day 10-11-12: Tabubil is the best spot in New Guinea to access good hill forest favoured by some mouthwatering specialties. One of the best is the retiring Shovel-billed Kookaburra, which we have managed to pin down quite well and have not missed it now for several years! Queen Carola’s Parotia and Magnificent Bird-of-paradise can usually be seen from an overlook north of town, where Obscure Berrypecker and White-rumped Robin sneak by in the vegetation. The handsome Torrent-lark and Salvadori’s Teal favour an area of rapids to the south, where Great Woodswallow and Mountain Peltops often sit along the powerlines. Further afield, there are always new places to explore up here, including the newly open road to Telefomin, and we hope to repeat previous successes where we have seen the alien Yellow-breasted Satinbird, the unique Greater Melampitta, the smart Wallace’s Fairywren and the amazing Pesquet’s Parrot. Recent sightings of the almost unknown Sooty Shrikethrush give us hope to see this extreme rarity too. Striated Lorikeet and Yellow-eyed Starling sometimes pass overhead, and we will be on the lookout for White-eared Bronze Cuckoo, Spotted Honeyeater and Orange-breasted Fig Parrot (amongst many others!).

Day 13: After the morning around Tabubil we drive back to Kiunga, spending our afternoon at the famous “KM17”, where the Greater Bird-of-paradise scenes were filmed for David Attenborough’s “Life of Birds” documentary. The birds have since moved a few trees over, but still put on a great show whenever the females pop by! We will have our first chance to see the tiny King Bird-of-paradise here, as well as both Papuan and Hooded Pitta. We might also come across the rare Wallace’s Owlet-nightjar and bubbling Marbled Frogmouth after dark. Night at Kiunga.

Day 14-15-16: Our two-night/three-day boat trip up the mighty Fly River is always the most exciting section of this tour, with the next two nights at a basic guesthouse in the forest before we return to our Kiunga hotel late on Day 16 for much-needed showers! Due to an excellent ecotourism program, forest lining the Elevala River tributary where we will be based is protected and full of birds. Huge trees dangle their vegetation into the water and footprints on muddy banks often betray the presence of unseen Southern Cassowaries.  There are a huge number of species to look for here, but among the most spectacular are Sclater’s Crowned Pigeon (usually found eyeing us cautiously from a conspicuous perch in the early morning), Twelve-wired Bird-of-paradise (typically calling loudly from his conspicuous display pole visible from our guesthouse balcony!), and the glowing Flame Bowerbird (with luck our local guides will have found a bower for us to stake out).

Other mega birds include New Guinea Flightless Rail, Spangled Owlet-nightjar, Papuan Hawk-Owl, Hook-billed Kingfisher, Little Paradise Kingfisher, Blue Jewel-babbler, and Campbell’s Fairywren. More common species include Lowland Peltops, Large Fig Parrot, Golden Myna, White-bellied Pitohui, Papuan Babbler, Long-billed Cuckoo, many more parrots and pigeons, plus the occasional Long-tailed Honey Buzzard, Pesquet’s Parrot, or Obscure Honeyeater.

Day 17: Our last morning at Kiunga will focus on the accessible roadside forests closer to town in search of some new species. We will likely be spending time at a forested overlook on Boystown Road where Emperor Fairywren is often seen, or scan some fields for the endemic White-spotted Mannikin. Towards the middle of the day, we fly back to Port Moresby. If we did not do it already at the start of the tour, there may be time for some open-country birding in the evening, looking for Orange-fronted Fruit-Dove, Grey-headed Mannikin, Black-backed Butcherbird and Papuan Frogmouth.

Day 18: The main tour ends this morning with transfers to the airport, while those continuing on the extension will fly to Lae.



Day 1: After landing in Lae we will board our charter flight and glide over the Huon Peninsula to land at Wasu on the north coast. We will be driven up to the safari-style permanent camp in 4WDs and commence our exploration of this wonderful area.

Day 2-3-4: The Huon Peninsula is most famous for three endemic birds-of-paradise species, all of which we expect to see during our stay! At lower elevations, Emperor Bird-of-paradise lek in the crowns of tall forest trees, betraying their precence with an irregular cacaphony of sound. On the mid-slopes, we will visit a display court of the transformative Wahnes’s Parotia and hopefully witness the incredible ballerina display of this stunning species. Higher up, the incredibly long-tailed Huon Astrapia can often be found by waiting at fruiting trees for the male to make his rounds.

There are three other endemic birds on the Huon Peninsula, with the recently-split Huon Bowerbird hopefully pinned down at a bower for us, while the incredible Spangled Honeyeater is usually found at the highest point on the road. Maybe a Huon Melidectes will appear to give us the clean-sweep, but this species prefers inacessible higher altitudes and only ventures down on occasion.

Plenty of other birds are found in this forest, which is probably the best accessible site in New Guinea to see the unique Pesquet’s Parrot, and the monotypic Mottled Berryhunter, both of which are easy to miss elsewhere on the island. Other species include Mountain Peltops, Mountain Kingfisher, White-bellied Thicket Fantail, Forbes’s Forest Rail, Tit Berrypecker, Black-mantled Goshawk, Blue-capped Ifrit, Greater Lophorina, White-eared Bronze Cuckoo, Brehm’s Tiger Parrot, Papuan Lorikeet, Fairy Lorikeet, Ornate Fruit Dove, Great Cuckoo-Dove, Rufescent Imperial Pigeon, Cinnamon-browed Melidectes, Red-collared Myzomela, Rufous-backed, Black-throated and Mountain Honeyeaters, Papuan Sittella, Buff-faced Scrubwren, Black-breasted Boatbill, Stout-billed Cuckooshrike, Brown-backed and Regent Whistlers, Black and Friendly Fantails, Canary Flyrobin, Black-throated and Slaty Robins.

Day 5: Today we fly back to Lae for an overnight stay near the airport.

Day 6: After breakfast we will fly back to Port Moresby, where this exciting tour ends this afternoon.

Tour details

$ 12,000
Deposit: $ 1,500
Single room supplement: $ 600

Cost: $ 3,200
Deposit: $ 750
Single room supplement: $ 320

Accommodation: Excellent hotels in Port Moresby, Mount Hagen, and Tari. Comfortable hotels in Kiunga and Tabubil. Very basic guesthouse with shared facilities and cold water for our two nights up the Fly River (uncomfortable, but necessary for some of the best lowland birding and spotlighting in New Guinea!).

On the Huon Extension, we will be in a basic but comfortable safari-style permanent tented camp in the forest with shared facilities and cold water. Due to the remote nature of the camp here, please be aware that the drives up and down will be on bumpy roads in uncomfortable vehicles.

Walking difficulty: To fully participate in this tour, participants should be able to keep balance and walk comfortably at a birding pace on muddy/uneven/steep trails for several hours at a time. We also welcome any participants who feel they might not quite be at this level of fitness, but caution there will be two or three birding sessions which you might choose to skip. Please email us if you are  unsure or want more details.

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.