A fantastic male Wilson's Bird-of-paradise waiting for a female to come and inspect his display court on the island of Waigeo, an image captured by Nick Cobb from a palm-leaf hide a few metres away.
A male Western Parotia displaying at its court in the Arfak Mountains of West Papua, an image captured by Nick Cobb. The bird's head and head-wires move so fast it's almost impossible to get them in focus!
West Papua Endemics
White-striped Forest Rail, Western Crowned Pigeon, Black Lory, Salvadori's Fig Parrot, Vogelkop Bowerbird, Vogelkop Whistler, Raja Ampat Pitohui, Brown-headed Crow, Splendid Astrapia, Western Parotia, Red and Wilson's Birds-of-paradise, Smoky Robin and Olive-crowned Flowerpecker. Also a chance of Bruijn's (Waigeo) and Red-billed Brush Turkeys, Arfak Astrapia and Long-tailed Paradigalla.
New Guinea Endemics
Salvadori's Teal, Snow Mountain Quail, Long-tailed (Honey) Buzzard, goshawks, Victoria Crowned Pigeon, fruit doves, imperial pigeons, coucals, koels, cuckoos, Feline and Mountain Owlet-Nightjars, swifts, Red-breasted Paradise Kingfisher, Rufous-bellied Kookaburra, Blue-black and Hook-billed Kingfishers, Orange-fronted (Papuan) Hanging Parrot, Buff-faced Pygmy Parrot, lories, lorikeets, Large and Orange-breasted Fig Parrots, Archbold's and Fawn-breasted Bowerbirds, fairywrens, myzomelas, honeyeaters including MacGregor's (formerly a bird-of-paradise), scrubwrens, Goldenface (Dwarf Whistler), New Guinea (Papuan) Babbler, New Guinea (Papuan) Logrunner, longbills, Crested, Fan-tailed and Tit Berrypeckers, Blue, Chestnut-backed and Spotted Jewel Babblers, Black-breasted Boatbill, Lowland and Mountain Peltops, Hooded Butcherbird, Great Woodswallow, cuckoo shrikes, cicadabirds, Black-browed Triller, Varied Sittella, whistlers, Mottled Berryhunter (previously Mottled Whistler now considered to be the sole member of a separate family, the Rhagologidae, by the IOC), Rufous-naped Bellbird (formerly Rufous-naped Whistler, now in a new family of Australian-Papuan Bellbirds which also includes Crested Pitohui, also present in West Papua, and Crested Bellbird of Australia), Brown Oriole, Pygmy Drongo (possibly to be moved to a new family with Silktail which occurs only on Fiji), fantails, monarchs, Grey Crow, Loria's and Crested Satinbirds, Glossy-mantled and Jobi Manucodes, Short-tailed Paradigalla, Lesser Melampitta, King, King-of-Saxony, Lesser, Magnificent, Superb and Twelve-wired Birds-of-paradise, Black, Black-billed, Brown and Pale-billed Sicklebills, robins, white-eyes, Golden and Yellow-faced Mynas, Red-capped Flowerpecker, and Grand (Great-billed) and Streaky-headed Munias. Also a chance of Northern Cassowary, Collared and Wattled Brush Turkeys, New Guinea Megapode, Forest Bittern, New Guinea (Papuan) Eagle, Papuan Harrier, Chestnut Forest Rail, Dusky Woodcock, Pheasant Pigeon, Papuan Boobook, Papuan Hawk Owl, Archbold's and Papuan Nightjars, Barred and Wallace's Owlet-Nightjars, Shovel-billed Kookaburra, Pesquet's Parrot, Brehm's and Modest Tiger Parrots, Papuan King Parrot, Spotted and White-eared Catbirds, Masked (Flame) Bowerbird, Wattled Ploughbill, Blue-capped Ifrita, Torrent Lark and Papuan Parrotfinch.
Palm Cockatoo and Blyth's Hornbill, as well as Lesser Frigatebird, Great-billed Heron, Brahminy Kite, Gurney's Eagle, White-bellied Sea Eagle, cuckoo doves, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Eclectus and Moluccan King Parrots, Channel-billed Cuckoo, Greater Sooty Owl, Marbled and Papuan Frogmouths, Moustached Treeswift, Common Paradise Kingfisher, Beach, Variable Dwarf and Yellow-billed Kingfishers, Rainbow Bee-eater, Dollarbird, Hooded and 'Red-bellied' Pittas, Yellow-breasted Boatbill and Island Thrush. Also present in the Trans-Fly region, off the usual circuit, are Brolga Crane, Black-necked Stork, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Australasian Bustard and Spangled Kookaburra.
Reptiles, Amphibians and Fish
The islands of the Raja Ampat Archipelago off West Papua, including Batanta, Salawati and Waigeo, lie in an area with the greatest concentration of marine life for an area of its size in the world, with over 1300 fish species, twice as many as there are in the Red Sea and the Caribbean. Whale Sharks are present year round in Cenderawasih Bay between Manokwari and Biak, where it is possible to dive and swim with them.
A male Magnificent Bird-of-paradise above its court in the Arfaks, by Paul Macklam.
A roosting Feline Owlet-Nightjar in the Arfaks, by Nick Cobb.
Biak Paradise Kingfisher by Lars Petersson.
West Papua has a warm, wet equatorial climate and rain falls year round in the highlands, but there is usually a dry season in the lowlands which lasts from May to October and this is the best time to go, especially September-October for displaying birds of paradise. The best scuba-diving and snorkeling conditions overlap with both ends of this season, from April to June and September to November.
Birds of New Guinea by P Gregory. Lynx Edicions, due May 2016.
Birds of New Guinea by T K Pratt and B M Beehler. PUP, 2014 (Second Edition).
Birds of New Guinea by B M Beehler et al. PUP, 1986 (First Edition but arguably better than the Second).
Birds of New Guinea and the Bismarck Archipelago: Photographic Guide by B Coates. Dove Publications, 2001.
Birding Indonesia edited by P Jepson and R Ounsted. Periplus Editions, 1997.
Mammals of New Guinea by T Flannery. Cornell University Press, 1995 (Revised Edition).
Where to watch birds in Australasia & Oceania by N Wheatley. Helm, 1998.
Don’t know which country/countries/regions to visit in Australasia? Then it may be worth considering taking a look at this book, written by this website’s author. It is many years old of course but it still provides a starting point, an overview and a guiding light to the best birds and the best places to look for them in the region, and could save hours of searching for similar information on the internet. However, it is important to check more up-to-date sources for sites which have been opened up, sites and species which have been discovered, lodges that have been built etc. since the book was published.
Many trip reports, some for West Papua, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to West Papua. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to West Papua' below.
The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.
There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.
While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.
Tour companies who run organized tours or can arrange custom tours to West Papua include the following.