Philippines: Highlights ~Women-Only~

Tours to the Philippines are typically characterised by tough birding in degraded habitat, but this unique itinerary focuses on the best patches of forest with a huge array of special endemics possible! Focusing on Luzon, Palawan and Bohol, we should enjoy some excellent and easy birding without hours of trudging along birdless trails like is typically experienced on other islands! Azure-breasted Pitta, Flame-breasted Fruit-Dove, Blue-headed Racket-tail, Spotted Wood Kingfisher, Northern Silvery Kingfisher, Indigo-banded Kingfisher, Red-headed Flameback, Rough-crested Malkoha, and Visayan Wattled Broadbill are some of the standout species, but we expect to record more than 120 endemics!

Next dates

1-15 March 2025

Tour length: 15 days

Group size limit: 6


Donna Belder and Irene Dy

Spaces available

Day 1: International arrivals into Manila International Airport (MNL), for overnight at a nearby hotel.

Day 2: After a morning flight to Puerto Princesa we will head to Irawan for some initial birding. New hides here make easy work of finding previously tricky species like White-vented Shama, Palawan Flycatcher, and Ashy-headed Babbler. Here we will also find our first of the more common endemics like Lovely Sunbird, Yellow-throated Leafbird, and Spot-throated Flameback. Then in the afternoon we will head to a roosting area for the threatened Philippine Cockatoo, hopefully enjoying the spectacle of a few dozens birds coming in for the evening. The day is not over though – we’ll take a short boat trip out into Honda Bay where an offshore island hosts Mantanani Scops Owl! Night in Puerto Princesa.

Day 3: Arriving early in some good hill forest inland from the city, we will begin our search for Palawan endemics like Palawan Hornbill, Blue-headed Racquet-tail, Palawan Fairy Bluebird, Sulphur-bellied Bulbul, Ashy-fronted Bulbul, Palawan Bulbul, Palawan Flowerpecker, plus the stupendous duo of Palawan Tit and Blue Paradise Flycatcher. Spotlighting will give us chances for both Palawan Frogmouth and Palawan Scops Owl.

Day 4: Driving to St. Paul’s National Park we take the short boat trip to the outflow of the world’s longest navigable underground river, this area usually a good place to see Philippine Megapode and Palawan Blue Flycatcher. Following a short cruise in the world heritage listed cave system, we will spend the rest of the day searching out remaining species. Some of the trickier birds we might still need at this point could include Red-headed Flameback, the regal Falcated Wren-Babbler, Melodious Babbler, Pale Spiderhunter, Blue-naped Parrot, Black-chinned Fruit Dove and more. Night in Puerto Princesa.

Day 5: A last morning to get any remaining endemics before flying to Cebu and taking the fast ferry to Bohol, where we will spend two nights.

Day 6: Bohol has an avifauna somewhat intermediate between neighbouring Leyte, Samar and Mindanao, but is a safer place and retains some easily accessible forest! In the lovely Chocolate Hills, we will spend the day exploring Rajah Sikatuna National Park in search of the sublime Azure-breasted Pitta, strange Visayan Wattled Broadbill, and stunning Northern Silvery Kingfisher. Other new birds might include Samar Hornbill, Bohol Sunbird, Rufous-lored Kingfisher, Buff-spotted Flameback, Striated Wren-Babbler, Rufous-tailed Jungle Flycatcher, Visayan Blue Fantail, Black-faced Coucal, Philippine Trogon, Philippine Pitta, Yellow-bellied Whistler, Philippine Oriole, Philippine Bulbul, Brown Tit-Babbler, Philippine Leaf Warbler, Philippine Leafbird, Yellow-breasted Tailorbird, plus Red-keeled and Buzzing Flowerpeckers. After dark we have a good chance of finding the superb Philippine Frogmouth, Everett’s Scops Owl and the strange Philippine Colugo or Philippine Flying-Lemur which is particularly common here.

Day 7: After morning birding on Bohol, we take a midday flight back to Manila and transfer to Los Banos for overnight.

Day 8: Morning birding at Mount Makiling, where we will arrive pre-dawn to search for Philippine Eagle-Owl and Philippine Scops-Owl. Many endemics are present in these forests, including Scale-feathered Malkoha, Red-crested Malkoha, Philippine Trogon, Luzon Hornbill, “Luzon” White-browed Shama, Philippine Magpie Robin, Flaming Sunbird, Spotted Wood Kingfisher, and even Luzon Bleeding-heart with some luck. Afternoon birding at another site where Chirruping Nightjar and Indigo-banded Kingfisher are likely. Night at Jariel Peak.

Day 9: Birding in the Sierra Madre, positioning ourselves at first light to hopefully spot the enigmatic Whiskered Pitta, plus rarely seen endemics like Bicol Ground Warbler, Cream-bellied Fruit Dove, Black-crowned Babbler, Grand Rhabdornis and Northern Rufous Hornbill. It is also our best chance to see tricky species like Flame-breasted Fruit Dove, Luzon Hawk Eagle, Philippine Fairy Bluebird, Lemon-throated Leaf Warbler, and Yellowish White-eye. Night at Jariel’s Peak.

Day 10: After another morning around Jariel’s Peak we head west towards Subic Bay for a two-night stay.

Day 11: We will spend our days at Subic searching for the many lowland endemics present here. Green Racquet-tail, Blue-naped Parrot, Rufous Coucal, Rufous Coucal, Blackish Cuckooshrike, Luzon Flameback, Philippine Pygmy and the awesome Northern Sooty Woodpecker, Green-backed Tailorbird, Luzon Hornbill and hopefully the localised White-fronted Tit. More widespread species found on several other islands in the Philippines might include Bar-bellied Cuckooshrike, “Luzon” Balicassiao, Philippine Falconet, Stripe-headed Rhabdornis, Red-crested Malkoha, White-eared Brown Dove, Philippine Green Pigeon, Brown-breasted Kingfisher, and Rufous-crowned Bee-eater. Spotlighting here usually produces excellent encounters with Chocolate Boobook, Luzon Boobook, and Philippine Scops Owl. Night at Subic Bay.

Day 12: After spending the full morning at Subic, we will head northwards into the Central Cordillera Mountain Range to Banaue where we will arrive in the evening, perhaps with another stop at a backup Indigo-banded Kingfisher site along the way. We will make our first night-time excursion for Luzon Scops Owl, which is usually easy to hear on the surrounding slopes but difficult to see! Night in Banaue.

Day 13-14: Two full days birding on Mount Polis will give us opportunities to connect with most of the higher elevation Luzon endemics, here in good densities with the forested slopes still in good shape. The Luzon endemics usually found here include Chestnut-faced Babbler, Blue-headed Fantail, Philippine Bush Warbler, Long-tailed Ground Warbler, Luzon Sunbird and Green-backed Whistler. More widespread endemics occur here in mixed flocks passing by, and we stand good chances to see Elegant Tit, Sulphur-billed Nuthatch, Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker, Philippine Mountain Warbler or Scale-feathered Malkoha, and some more globally widespread birds such as Mountain Tailorbird, Tawny Grassbird, Turquoise Flycatcher and more. Some rarer species occur here, and we’ll make sure to do our best to connect with Mountain Shrike, Yellow-crowned Flowerpecker, and the endemic subspecies of Red Crossbill, while we will certainly hear Benguet Bush Warbler, but seeing it is a different story although well possible! We will visit some river gorges lower down and look for the endemic Luzon Water Redstart, here at its easiest location. Night in Banaue.

Day 15: This morning we will drive back to Manila where the tour ends this evening, with dropoffs at Manila International Airport (MNL) for late departures, or at a nearby hotel for anyone wishing to depart the next day.

Birding situations constantly change in the Philippines, which has resulted in some tough endemics like Palawan Peacock Pheasant, Whiskered Pitta, and Ashy Thrush recently becoming either very difficult or completely unavailable. We will try our best for these most desirable species if they become gettable again.

Tour details

Cost: $ 4,800
Deposit: $ 750
Single room supplement: $ 600

Accommodation: Comfortable hotels throughout, unlike most other Philippines birding tours!

Walking difficulty: Mostly easy roadside and trail birding, also very different to most other Philippines birding tours!

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.