New Guinea is the world’s second largest island and lies in the south-west Pacific to the north of Australia. The island is divided between two countries: Papua New Guinea (PNG) in the east and Indonesia in the west. It is one of the wildest and least explored regions on Earth, with some 90% of the country still covered in forest. It has the richest avifauna of any island, with more than 360 endemic species, including the majority of the birds-of-paradise, perhaps the most extraordinary of all the world’s bird families. Although their remarkable displays are often shown on television, to watch them in the field is a priceless experience of a lifetime. In addition, the island holds a wonderful and varied assembly of pigeons, parrots and kingfishers, not to mention gorgeous jewel-babblers and fairywrens, as well as stunning species such as Redbellied Pitta, Flame Bowerbird and Golden Monarch. New Guinea is also home to seven endemic bird families and we may see species from all seven during our time here. Raptors are not numerous, but we have a chance of observing one of the most magnificent, the New Guinea Harpy Eagle.
We begin our holiday in Port Moresby, where we will spend the afternoon exploring the grounds of the Pacific Adventist University. Comprising a mosaic of dry woodland, gallery forest and small water bodies, the grounds provide a perfect introduction to the Australo-Papuan bird families that we are likely to encounter; Fawn-breasted Bowerbird, White-shouldered Fairywren, Black-backed Butcherbird and a variety of honeyeaters are all possible here. The following day we will visit the eucalypt and evergreen forests of Varirata National Park in the nearby foothills, where we can hope to see such specialities as Brown-headed Paradise-kingfisher and Raggiana Bird-ofparadise, along with a plethora of fruitdoves, cuckooshrikes and flycatchers.
From Port Moresby we fly to the Western Highlands for a 3-night stay at Rondon Ridge Lodge, one of PNG’s premier lodges. Birding in the high-altitude forest near the lodge, we have an excellent chance of seeing some of PNG’s most iconic species, such as both Black and Brown Sicklebills, Princess Stephanie’s Astrapia and Blue, Superb and King of Saxony Birds-of-paradise, not to mention Loria’s Satinbird and Wattled Ploughbill. Our stay will include a visit to Kumul Lodge, famous for its bird feeding table where species such as Brown Sicklebill, Ribbon-tailed Astrapia, Brehm’s Tigerparrot and Belford’s Melidectes are among the many species seen; there will also be an opportunity to learn about the culture and traditions of the local Melpha people.
Next, we relocate to the vast lowland rainforests that surround the Karawari River for a 3-night stay in a wonderful lodge boasting spectacular views of seemingly endless forest. Exploring the area through a mix of walks and boat rides, we are likely to encounter a very different array of species, with Eclectus Parrot, Southern Cassowary and three birds-of-paradise amongst the highlights, including the fabulous 'pole-dancing' Twelve-wire Bird-of-paradise.
We then return to the highlands, flying to Tari for the grand finale of the tour — three nights at the incomparable Ambua Lodge. Here we can again feast our eyes on several species of birds-of-paradise, including Ribbon-tailed Astrapia and Lawe’s Parotia, as well as a host of other interesting species such as Brehm’s Tigerparrot, Eastern Crested Berrypecker, Bluecapped Ifrit, Mountain Firetail and Orangecrowned Fairywren. The lodge is positioned at Tari Gap in the central highlands and is home to people from one of the most immediately recognisable cultures in Papua New Guinea, the ‘Huli wigmen’. A proud, flamboyant tribe — known for their ornate ceremonial wigs, and dances and songs fashioned on the mating rituals of the birds-of-paradise — an encounter with the Huli tribespeople will be a truly fascinating experience.
All too soon we must return to Port Moresby where we will spend a final evening together before flying back to London, via Singapore, after what promises to be an exciting and memorable adventure.
The special thing about this holiday for me was the mix of lowland terrain and mountain environment to see a great range of birds as well as variety of people from the warlike Highlanders to the 'stone age' people of Sepik. Karawari Lodge was wonderfully remote, in a hugely atmospheric area a million miles from 'civilisation' as we know it. Ambua Lodge was a superb base for spotting birds of paradise and many other birds, and provided a good insight into the way of life of the Highland peoples of PNG. In many ways the holiday was 'made' by Terry Reis with his constant good humour and positive outlook, his immense skills at locating birds and his dedication to the happiness of the group.
Papua New Guinea is a lovely country, the people friendly and helpful and charming. The Birds of Paradise, our reason for the trip, magnificent.John Hornbuckle, an amazing amount of knowledge of the birds and a pleasing companion.
Definitely the guide Terry made all the difference. His knowledge, his care and timing was faultless. We were lucky to have such a good group (only four of us) I was the only female, and felt cared for without being patronised. I shall remember Papua New Guinea for as long as I live. Thank you.
Thanks for a memorable holiday.