Papua and Waigeo Island, Raja Ampat, Indonesia Post-Trip
December 27, 2015 – January 6, 2016
We finished our Sulawesi & Halmahera tour just after Christmas, so we needed no excuse to add a few extra days onto the tour and fly to Sorong in Papua. Two very range-restricted Birds-of-paradise are found on nearby Waigeo Island in the adjacent province of Raja Ampat. It was just a two hour fast ferry ride from the filthy harbor in Sorong to Waigeo and the journey over produced Brown Booby and a few wintering Streaked Shearwaters, but little else. Accommodation is a little limited here, so we opted to stay in a local homestay; a delightful way to meet and stay with a local family. Yes, this wasn’t a fancy hotel, but our views over the ocean were amazing and it was a 30 second walk (jump) into the warm water.
I believe our first bird was the outstanding and crazy-looking Palm Cockatoo which was sitting in a tree over our new home. The next morning we had an appointment with a local guide and both the Wilson’s and Red Birds-of-paradise. An uphill hike before dawn found us watching the amazing display of Red BOPs as they noisily called over where we sat. The nearby forest was rich in birdlife and we discovered it was a daily race to see birds before the heat drove them back into the shadows. Other highlights our first morning included Wilson’s BOP, Brown-headed Crow, Black-sided Robin and both Raja Ampat and Rusty Pitohui.
The pattern of the days was to bird early and late and spend the heat of the day either relaxing in the shade or snorkeling along the nearby reef. The next morning found us taking a somewhat shaky longboat trip to a nearby peninsula to search for Western Crowned-Pigeon. More uphill hiking! We never did get the pigeon, but several fruit-doves and a Cuscus made the trip worthwhile. An evening walk added Hook-billed Kingfisher, Gray-headed Goshawk and the unusual Glossy Manucode – a rather dull plumaged Bird-of-Paradise. It was then back to Sorong to continue our adventure into the Klasow Valley and to find more birds! A real motel in the town was a haven and for the first time in a few days we go to enjoy air-conditioning, an ice-cold beer and a comfortable bed!
Unfortunately Mark had injured his knee while on Waigeo Island and was unable to join us for our upcoming village visit. Our local guide, Charles, picked us up the next morning and off to the jungle we drove. After a blip when our 4-wheel drive truck broke a suspension rod, we again hit the road. It was a 2km walk from the main road into the village and bird activity was low due to the mid-afternoon heat. The odd sound of the Magnificent Riflebird rang through the forest, but the singer was tough to track down. The village was only a year old and the forest damage around the clearing seemed a little drastic but the dead trees certainly made for some easy bird viewing. Black Lory, Rainbow Lorikeet, Orange-bellied Fruit-Dove and White-bellied Cuckooshrike all sat for some easy viewing from the shaded front stoop of our hut. Oh, yes and tonight was New Year’s Eve – time to ramp us the music, beat on a few tree trunks and celebrate!
We got no sleep at all that night so celebrated the New Year with a mini-bottle of Bailey’s and plenty of bug repellent! 5:30 AM came early (or late?) and it was off to see the lek of the Lesser Bird-of-Paradise. Wow! To stand under the tree and listen to the males squawking and displaying in front of an unassuming female was quite the show. Hooded and Red-bellied (Papuan) Pittas were common in the forest and Great Cuckoo-Doves called from high in the canopy, but overall birds were tough to see in the dense forests. A pair of Western Crowned-Pigeons was a real bonus on our last morning and it was a real pleasure to watch them sunbathing by the river, barely aware of our presence.
We spent our last 2 days in Sorong enjoying the creature comforts of the hotel and birding in the nearby forest. Birding in Papua is tough and the new field guide specifies that, although New Guinea is a world-class birding destination, it’s best left until one has birded all of the regular birding spots around the world. One morning we managed 45 species, while the other it was less than 30 – all seen or heard before the 10 AM heat began to sizzle. Without a doubt one of the highlights over our last few days was the variety of Fruit-doves with Coroneted, Beautiful, Dwarf and Orange-bellied all being seen in a couple of hours. A pair of Golden Cuckooshrikes flew over the canopy and at last we managed to get a perched Yellow-capped Pygmy-Parrot – at last.
It was too soon when our Papua journey ended and then it was a long series of flights back home, but one thing I do know, we will be back. Thanks to all of our local guides, village hosts and drivers for doing such a great job.
Photos from this Trip are on the Ventures Flickr Page Under Papua, Indonesia 2016 Album
Birds seen or heard on our Papua and Waige Island, Raja Ampat, IndonesiaPost-Trip
December 27, 2015 – January 6, 2016
Red-billed Brush Turkey (Heard)
New Guinea Eagle
Rock (Feral) Pigeon
Slender-billed (Brown) Cuckoo-Dove