Papua New Guinea Island Boat Tour

17 Day Tour

8 birdwatchers minimum / 10 maximum

Walindi (New Britain Island) – Wasu on the Huon Peninsula, Manus, Tong, Mussau, Tench, New Hanover, New Ireland and Djaul Island – Rabaul

This itinerary is prepared by Brian Coates, who is the main guide on this tour.
Please click here for more information about your guides.


In addition to our usual PNG Bird Tour, Kirrama Wildlife Tours is offering a boat tour that will visit key islands of the Bismarck Archipelago and the mountains of New Guinea’s Huon Peninsula. This tour is designed to observe birds that are endemic to those remote locations.

Our accommodation for this tour will be on the comfortable, air-conditioned MV FeBrina, except for two nights at Walindi Plantation Resort on New Britain and one night in a village guest-house on New Ireland. During the tour we expect to list more than 200 bird species.

The Bismarck Archipelago is a semi-circular chain of islands lying northeast of New Guinea, some large, others tiny. These islands are of volcanic and oceanic crust origin and have never been connected to the New Guinea mainland. The birds that have colonized these islands are typically strong-flying species, mainly of Australo-Papuan ancestry although some are of Oriental origin. Using the islands as stepping-stones, they arrived directly from New Guinea and indirectly via the Solomon Islands, and also directly and indirectly from Asia. Due to their long isolation many of these birds are now well differentiated from their parent stock and many have completed speciation. These include several raptor species, various pigeons and parrots, a cockatoo, two coucals, three boobooks, several kingfishers, Superb Pitta, Mussau Triller, various fantails and monarch flycatchers, New Ireland Drongo, three friarbirds, five Myzomela honeyeaters, a flowerpecker, a white-eye, three mannikins, Atoll Starling and a wood-swallow. While at sea we will be looking out for Heinroth’s Shearwater and Beck’s Petrel – two rare and little-known seabirds that are endemic to Northern Melanesia.

Set amid pristine tropical waters, the Bismarck islands are fascinating and delightful places to visit. They enjoy a warm and pleasant climate, have prolific and luxuriant vegetation, and are inhabited by friendly people.

The magnificent mountains of the Huon Peninsula are also an island – an ecological island – where certain upland species have evolved in isolation from their nearest relatives on New Guinea’s central ranges. These mountains are off the beaten track and are seldom visited by birders. The avifauna here includes three splendid endemic species of birds of paradise, one endemic bowerbird and two endemic montane honeyeaters, plus numerous special New Guinea birds, some of which (e.g. Spotted Berrypecker) are difficult to find elsewhere.


Day 1

7th October, 2011

Our tour begins on Friday 7th of October, the day we fly from Port Moresby to Hoskins on the island of New Britain. Here we will stay for two nights at Walindi Plantation Resort while looking for birds in forested and coastal areas. In the afternoon, time permitting, we shall visit nearby Kilu Ridge to look for forest birds.

Day 2

8thOctober, 2011

Today we visit the Kulu River area for birding in forested and partly cleared habitats. New Britain is the largest island in the Bismarck Archipelago and here can be found many species that are endemic to: (i) New Britain, (ii) the Bismarck Archipelago, and (iii) the islands of Northern Melanesia. Birds we will be looking for include Melanesian Scrubfowl, New Britain Buzzard, Pied Cuckoo-dove, Red-knobbed Fruit-dove, Red-knobbed and Finsch’s Imperial-pigeons, Blue-eyed Cockatoo, Eastern Black-capped Lory, Red-flanked and Red-chinned Lorikeets, Song and Eclectus Parrots, Buff-faced Pygmy-parrot, Bismarck Hanging-parrot, Violaceous and Pied Coucals, White-rumped Swiftlet, Black-headed Paradise-kingfisher, White-mantled and Bismarck Kingfishers, Blyth’s Hornbill, Bismarck Pied Monarch, Lesser Shining Flycatcher, New Britain Friarbird, Ashy and New Britain Red-headed Myzomela Honeyeaters, Bismarck Flowerpecker, Buff-bellied Mannikin, ‘Melanesian’ (Yellow-faced) Myna and White-backed Wood-swallow.

Day 3

9th October, 2011

In the morning we visit the Pokili Wildlife Management Area for more forest birding. In the afternoon, following lunch, we embark the MV FeBrina, our very comfortable air-conditioned accommodation for the remainder of the tour, except for one night on New Ireland. We then depart for Wasu on New Guinea’s Huon Peninsula. En route we will visit a small island to look for some small-island species, including Island Imperial-pigeon, Island Monarch and Scarlet-bibbed Myzomela Honeyeater. We will also make observations of seabirds. Little is known of the occurrence and seasonal distribution of seabirds in the Bismarck Sea and all observations made during our tour will be of interest. One of the species we are hoping to see is the rare Heinroth’s Shearwater.

Day 4

10th October, 2011

Our arrival at Wasu is expected to be late afternoon, having spent part of the day crossing the Vitiaz Strait, between New Britain and New Guinea.

Day 5, 11 October, 2011

This morning we travel by motor vehicle up into the mountains of the Huon Peninsula. Birds to be found here are localized endemic species such as Huon Wattled Honeyeater, Spangled Honeyeater, Huon Astrapia, Wahnes’ Parotia, Emperor Bird of Paradise and Huon Bowerbird. Other special New Guinea birds that occur here include Black-mantled Goshawk, Rufescent Imperial-pigeon, Papuan Lorikeet, Pesquet’s (Vulturine) Parrot, Blue-capped Ifrita, Mid-mountain, Spotted and Tit Berrypeckers, Red-collared Myzomela Honeyeater, Cinnamon-browed Melidectes Honeyeater, Mountain Peltops, Crinkle-collared Manucode, and Superb and Magnificent Birds of Paradise.

Day 6, 12 October, 2011

This morning will again be spent birding in the Wasu hinterland, prior to our early afternoon departure for Manus Island.

Day 7, 13 October, 2011

All of this day through to the following morning will be spent cruising in a northerly direction across the Bismarck Sea. Seabirds to look out for include the very rare and local Beck’s Petrel, Tahiti Petrel, Heinroth’s and Streaked Shearwaters, and Grey-backed Tern. An allowance is included in the itinerary for stopping occasionally during daytime cruising to observe seabirds.

Day 8, 14 October, 2011

We expect to arrive Manus Island around 5:00am. Here we will spend the day looking for Admiralty Islands endemics such as the splendid Superb Pitta, Manus Cuckoo-shrike (recently split from the smaller White-bellied), Admiralty Pied Monarch, the noisy (and relatively handsome!) Manus Friarbird, and Manus Boobook. Other special birds here include Meek’s Pygmy-parrot, Claret-breasted Fruit-dove and Black-headed White-eye.

Day 9, 15 October, 2011

Following early morning birding, we depart Manus for Tong Island, arriving there early afternoon. Our reason for visiting Tong is to observe the Admiralty Rufous Fantail; formerly found on Manus this species is now known to exist only on three small outer islands. Other birds found on Tong include Mackinlay’s Cuckoo-dove, Yellow-bibbed Fruit-dove, Island Monarch and Bismarck Black Honeyeater. We depart Tong approx. 4:30pm for an overnight cruise to Mussau Island.

Day 10, 16 October, 2011

Our arrival at Palakau, Mussau Island is expected to be around 7:30am. Most of this day will be spent birding on Mussau, the main island of the St Matthias Group. Mussau is host to several distinctive endemic bird species such as Mussau Triller, Mussau Rufous Fantail and Mussau Pied Monarch, as well as a number of other well-differentiated forms including a distinctive white/buffy-capped form of Collared Kingfisher, and isolated forms of Scaly Zoothera Thrush, Lesser Shining Flycatcher and Blue-faced Parrot-finch. Departure from Mussau will be approx. 11:00pm for an overnight cruise to Tench Island.

Day 11, 17 October, 2011

We expect to arrive at Tench Island around 6:00am. This tiny wooded island presents a remarkable sight: birds are everywhere as tens of thousands of terns depart in all directions for feeding grounds, many also mill about above the trees, and flocks of Nicobar Pigeons fly over. The most abundant bird here is the Black Noddy, which nests colonially in trees all over the island. Also present and breeding are Brown Noddy and the lovely White Tern. Tench is one of only a few places where Atoll Starling can be found. Other birds here include White-tailed Tropicbird, Pacific Imperial-pigeon, Yellow-bibbed Fruit-dove, Beach Kingfisher, Island Monarch and Bismarck Black Myzomela Honeyeater. We depart Tench in the early afternoon for Taskul, New Hanover Island, allowing time to look for seabirds along the way. Arrival at our destination is expected to be late evening.

Day 12, 18 October, 2011

Our reason for visiting New Hanover Island is to observe the ‘New Hanover Mannikin’ (usually considered to be a distinctive race of Hunstein’s Mannikin of northern New Ireland). After locating the mannikin we depart for Kavieng, New Ireland, arriving there around early afternoon. This should allow sufficient time for afternoon birding in the Kavieng area. Special birds to be found here include Hunstein’s Mannikin and Green Pygmy-parrot.
Day 13, 21 October. In the morning, starting early, we drive to central New Ireland for birding on the Lelet Plateau uplands. Endemic New Ireland birds found in this area are White-naped Lory, the streamer-tailed New Ireland Drongo, New Ireland Friarbird, New Ireland Myzomela Honeyeater and New Ireland Mannikin. Other special birds here, shared with New Britain or other Bismarck islands, include Pied Cuckoo-dove, Red-knobbed, Finsch’s and Black Imperial-pigeons, Red-knobbed Fruit-dove, Red-chinned Lorikeet, Bismarck Hanging-parrot, Violaceous and Pied Coucals, Bismarck Rufous Fantail, the yet-to-be-described ‘Bismarck Flycatcher’ (Microeca sp.), Bismarck Flowerpecker, Black-headed White-eye and White-backed Wood-swallow. Our accommodation for the night is at the Dalom village Guest House where we also hope to find New Ireland Boobook.

Day 14, 20 October, 2011

This morning will again be spent birding on the Lelet Plateau uplands. In the afternoon we drive back to Kavieng and then resume our accommodation aboard the MV FeBrina.

Day 15, 21 October, 2011

In the early hours of the morning the MV FeBrina will depart Kavieng for Djaul Island, arriving there around 7:00am. Djaul is a smallish island just off the west coast of New Ireland. It has never been connected to the mainland and is host to well-differentiated races of Bismarck Pied Monarch (‘ Djaul Pied Monarch’), Golden Monarch, Lesser Shining Flycatcher and Bismarck Flowerpecker. Following our search for these birds we depart Djaul in the afternoon and begin our cruise south towards waters off Cape Lambert on north coast of New Britain’s Gazelle Peninsula.

Day 16, 22 October, 2011

In the early morning we arrive at waters off Cape Lambert. Here we hope to find Beck’s Petrel. If our search for the petrel is successful we shall proceed to Watom Island for birding and then to Rabaul for the night. Birds found on Watom include Mackinlay’s Cuckoo-dove, Yellow-bibbed Fruit-dove, Island Imperial-pigeon, Island Monarch and Scarlet-bibbed Honeyeater.
Alternatively, if our search for Beck’s Petrel off Cape Lambert is unsuccessful, we may proceed to waters in southern St George’s Channel off southwest New Ireland to look for the petrel there. Our departure from these southern waters would be no later than 6:00pm, for the overnight cruise to Rabaul.

Day 17, 23 October, 2011

We transfer from the MV FeBrina to Rabaul airport at approx. 5:00am for our flight back to Port Moresby.

Additional extensions

At the end of the tour, a 2-3 days extension could be added for birding (and also sightseeing) on the Gazelle Peninsula, inland from Rabaul. Birds found here include New Britain Buzzard, Pied Cuckoo-dove, Finsch’s and Black Imperial-pigeons, Rufous-faced Thicket-warbler and Bismarck Rufous Fantail.

It is also possible to visit for 2-3 days Fergusson Island (off the southeastern tip of New Guinea) to observe Goldie’s Bird of Paradise and Curl-crested Manucode.