White-headed Fruit-dove on Makira Island. Photo: David Fisher
The Solomon Islands, east of Papua New Guinea, offer one of the few remaining places on the planet where we can still well and truly get away from it all. Seemingly forgotten by time itself, many of these islands are home to tiny coastal villages, where the main mode of transport is dugout canoe, and fishing on reefs by hand is commonplace. Still very much off the tourist map, this region has long proven difficult and expensive for birders to tour…until now.
This tour, with its optional extension to the islands of the Western Province, provides you with the opportunity to see some 70+ endemics and 20+ near-endemics (the only other place these species are found are on other Melanesian islands) together with a huge array of regional species unique to this tropical paradise. In addition to the allure of the numerous endemics, near endemics, and endemic subspecies, we also have the chance to see the sole members of four genera known exclusively to these islands – Woodford’s Rail, Solomons Frogmouth, Makira Honeyeater and the Bare-eyed White Eye being the stars of the show.
A trip quite unlike any other, our tour to The Solomon Islands is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a region that very few birders visit, but one that boasts more restricted-range species than any other endemic bird area on the planet! There are some very special species here indeed.
Day 1: Most flights into Honiara on Guadalcanal typically arrive in the afternoon (many routing from Brisbane, Australia). Honiara is the closest thing to a city that we’ll encounter during our time in the Solomon Islands. Honiara’s location in the centre of the nine provinces that comprise the Solomons means that Honiara is a hub to which we’ll return over the course of the trip and from which we’ll launch excursions to yet more idyllic islands - each with its own suite of endemics. This relatively small island witnessed some of the most intense fighting between Allied and Japanese troops during World War II with both the Battle of Guadalcanal and the naval Battle of Midway centred in and around these sparkling waters and scenic shorelines so typical of the South Pacific. But, in addition to having its named forever etched in the annals of history, this island is also without question a birder’s paradise and home to the second highest concentration of endemics to be seen on our tour. Birding during the late afternoon today, however, will be limited to a casual stroll along the coast, a few minutes’ walk from our hotel, where we should find Bridled Tern along with Great and Lesser Frigatebirds. The hotel grounds and small parks within the city also provide an introduction to some of the more commonly seen species, such as Olive-backed Sunbird and Singing Starling. A wide selection of fish and chicken dishes (most served with sweet potato and taro) will be on offer for dinner before heading to bed. Night in Honiara, Guadalcanal.
Day 2: We’ll breakfast on local culinary specialities fresh from the nearby market (including a wide selection of tropical fruits) before making for the birding mecca of Mount Austen. From the mountain’s peak, the lush forest here extends downward to the river valley below, and we’ll find easily negotiable logging trails throughout. Our large and powerful 4WD trucks will wind their way to the heights of the forest where our trail birding begins by targeting endemic canopy specialists, such as the dazzling Yellow-bibbed Lory, as well as Black-headed Myzomela, Black-and-white Monarchs, and Ducorp’s Cockatoo. As we slowly walk down the trail network, the birds change as the elevation lowers, and soon we should encounter Claret-breasted Fruit Dove, Chestnut-bellied Monarch, Midget Flowerpecker, Brown-winged Starling, and the quite brilliant range-restricted Ultramarine Kingfisher.
We’ll eat a picnic lunch in the field at the Betikama Wetlands, a site teeming with water-loving species such as Guadalcanal Hooded-whistler, Little Pied Cormorant, Melanesian Kingfisher, Pacific Black Duck (the only duck on over 900 Solomon Islands), and Rufous Night Heron. In the skies overhead, we might see Pacific Swallow, Uniform Swiftlet, and possibly our first encounter with one of the most elegant birds of the trip, the Moustached Treeswift. As daylight begins to fade, we’ll wind our way back to the city centre. Night in Honiara, Guadalcanal.
Day 3: Our local contacts will have done their best to negotiate access to this morning’s bonus birding site, the Gold Ridge Mine. From our accommodation, we’ll make the hour and a half drive inland to an area of pristine forest coveted by many a birder but off limits to most as it is privately owned. As is the case with many of the bird species throughout the Solomons, some that may be difficult to see on one island are relatively easy to spot on another. Here, we should find the delightful Finsch’s Pygmy Parrot, the rather bizarre looking White-billed Crow, and the subtle Grey-capped Cicadabird. Moving farther onto the property, we’ll have an opportunity to train our optics on a patch of forest off limits to nearly everyone but where the almost-never-seen and only recently described Moustached Kingfisher has been detected.
Following an early lunch at a popular eatery in downtown Honiara, we’ll stroll over to the port, where we’ll board our sleek zodiacs armed with powerful twin motors. We’ll make for species-rich Makira, the largest of the islands in Makira Ulawa Province. This is a densely forested and fascinating isle that’s home to the highest number of endemics of any island on our trip.
While exploring the wonders of Makira, our lodging for the next five days will be the lovely and idyllically located village of Anuta. We’ll have an opportunity to experience daily village life, sleep in our very own traditional Solomon Islands stilt houses, chat and dine with Anuta’s residents, and delight in their rich and varied culture. Night at Anuta Village on Makira.
Day 4: The wide variety of habitats, ranging from moist montane forest to lowland swamp, is one of the main reasons for the wealth of birdlife on Makira, and we’ll take full advantage of our lengthy stay here in order to visit them all.
On our first excursion, we’ll stick relatively close to the coast as we make for a nearby area of lowland swamp and likely sightings of Sooty Myzomela, Pacific Baza, Long-tailed Triller, the elegantly patterned White-collared Monarch, and two birds on either end of the endangered spectrum - the seemingly ever-present Willie Wagtail and the near-threatened White-headed Fruit Dove. These swamps are largely unspoiled and tend to be visited only by fisherman and crabbers, plying their trade along the banks. As a result, the bird life is undisturbed and often approachable. Other species known to inhabit these mangroves include Striated Heron, Sacred and Common Kingfishers, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, and the truly gargantuan Australasian Swamphen.
We’ll return to the village for lunch and a light siesta, after which we’ll have the option of joining an avid Anutan snorkeler for an afternoon session in the crystal-clear, warm waters surrounding his village. More than 1,000 fish species can be found on the coral reefs of these islands, a staggering number surpassed only by those found at Raja Ampat in Indonesia. We’ll spend a blissful couple of hours meandering through the bays close to shore in the company of cuttlefish, turtles, rays, clown fish, damselfish, surgeonfish, and - keeping with the bird theme - parrotfish! Those not wishing to snorkel can extend their siesta or go for a quiet stroll along the beach. A freshly prepared dinner under the stars will await us tonight and every night of our stay. Night at Anuta Village on Makira.
Day 5: Today, we’ll make the first of two ascents into the forested highlands of Makira. Fortified by an excellent breakfast, we’ll board our speedboat, which will whisk us towards an idyllic stretch of coast, above which lies an immense band of rich primary forest. These are unspoiled lands, where the inhabitants include a host of endemics such as the stunning Makira Dwarf Kingfisher, the relatively common but flighty Makira Thrush, the difficult Makira Honeyeater, and the vocalist extraordinaire, the Makira Cicadabird! Other forest dwellers include the common Mottled Flowerpecker and Makira Fantail.
By using boats to take us from Anuta to our birding sites farther along the coast of the mainland, as well as to a number of tiny uninhabited islands, we’ll have in-transit opportunities to look for the seabirds which frequent these islands, including Black-naped and Little Terns, Brown Booby, Streaked Shearwater, Long-tailed Skua, and Wedge-tailed Shearwater.
Those interested in witnessing traditional local fishing practices, by assisting the islanders in catching our dinner, are welcome to give it a go. You might well be under the watchful eye of a species found in the forests around the village, the strikingly patterned Oriole Whistler. Others of us may prefer to relax until dinnertime. Night at Anuta Village on Makira.
Day 6: The Makira Moorhen has not been documented reliably for decades, but reports persist of this strange bird being seen on Makira. With our local guide leading the way, we’ll set out for an area of forest deep in the highlands, known only to villagers. It is here where two of the villagers insist they have seen the bird recently on multiple occasions. Given its habitat, it is a bird unlikely to be mistaken for any other, and, despite the villagers in question not being birders, it is surely worth a go!
We’ll spend the day searching for this phantom of the forest. Even if we are not successful in our quest, the chance to visit some of the most unspoiled habitat remaining on Makira is too good to pass up. Here in this quiet unspoiled setting, we may also have an opportunity to add a number of other more challenging Makira specialities, including Yellow-legged Pigeon, Yellow-bibbed Fruit Dove, and first looks at the montane forest-dwelling Makira Leaf Warbler. Night at Anuta Village on Makira.
Day 7: We’ll again travel by zodiac from Anuta, but on this occasion we’ll make for some of the tiny surrounding islands such as Ugi. These islands hold some little-seen or recorded species. As we negotiate the quiet bays and forest-lined shores, we’ll have the possibility of seeing some delightful endemic taxa reserved only for the eyes of visitors to these islands. On Ugi for example, the Ugi Black Monarch and Ugi White-collared Monarch along with the Ugi Rufous Fantail will be welcome sightings, as will two other species which tend to be seen better on this tiny isle than the mainland: the Makira Flycatcher and Chestnut-bellied Pigeon.
It’s highly recommended that we don’t fall asleep while onboard the boat and accidentally allow our hands to slip into the waters, as these islands are home to the largest concentration of saltwater crocodiles in the Solomons! Departing Ugi, we’ll make our way back to Honiara where we’ll be welcomed by the familiar smiling faces of our hosts at Rock Haven Inn. The rest of the afternoon is ours to relax and gaze out from the veranda at the sparkling ocean beyond or take in a bit more coastal birding. Night on Honiara, Guadalcanal.
Day 8: We’ll board our mid-morning ferry and cross an ocean rich in marine life to the strikingly attractive island of Malaita. The Solomon Islands are the easternmost part of the so-called Coral Triangle, an area within the Asia-Pacific Region that has the highest marine biodiversity in the world. Our several ocean crossings between islands therefore represent excellent opportunities for encounters with cetacean species along with an array of possible pelagics, including Sooty Tern, Black Noddy, Tropical Shearwater, and the always popular White-tailed Tropicbird.
Punctuated by crystal-clear bays and a towering and densely forested interior, Malaita is a remarkably beautiful island and one where we’ll stay three days at Ferafolia Village - another culturally rich and fascinating site located deep in the forested highland. Depending on the punctuality of our ferry, we may have an opportunity to stroll in the forests surrounding the village before dusk. Night at Ferafolia Village on Malaita.
Day 9: We’ll have a leisurely start, soaking in the sights of village life as the inhabitants begin to stir and the aromas of sizzling eggs and freshly baked flatbread fill the air. With a packed picnic lunch in our bags, we’ll board our trucks and leave the village for the day. Because Malaita is one of the more populous islands in the Solomons chain, it is not surprising that, in addition to breathtakingly beautiful scenery, we’ll also encounter some heavily logged areas while being transported between birding sites. Thankfully, we’ll concentrate our birding in the vast lush landscapes found close to Ferafoli - prime habitat for the endemic and reliable Malaita White-eye, the endemic subspecies of Oriole Whistler, the endangered Malaita Fantail, the challenging Red-vested Myzomela, and a glorious subspecies likely to be split in the future, the White-winged Fantail.
Back at Ferafolia, we’ll gather at a stunning lookout on the edge of the village, offering a spectacular view over extensive stretches of lowland forests below. From here, we’ll watch as Oriental Hobby, Brahminy Kite, and even the more elusive Pied Goshawk navigate the thermals rising over the valley below. This idyllic setting may also provide a memorable encounter with the gigantic Blyth’s Hornbill, as it effortlessly moves on six-foot wings from one towering emergent tree to another. Night at Ferafolia Village on Malaita.
Day 10: We’ll begin in the breathtakingly beautiful highlands, where stops at prime sites offer yet another chance for any of the species not seen before, all the while gradually working our way down to the coast and an enticing network of waterways. Along the way we should pick up a number of species not previously encountered: from the recently described Cockerell’s Fantail and near-endemic subspecies of Island Leaf Warbler, and Metallic Pigeon in the highlands to the truly superb Superb Fruit Dove, as well as near-endemic subspecies of stunningly coloured Coconut Lorikeets at lower elevations.
When we arrive at the coast, we’ll enter the realm of the magnificent Sanford’s Sea Eagle, an apex predator with an impressive wingspan and penchant for devouring everything from fruit bats to fish and pigeons. A truly memorable raptor encounter awaits! Another, and equally if not more memorable inhabitant of Malaita’s lowlands, is the Woodford’s Rail, which we’ll also target along with the endemic subspecies of gloriously coloured Little Kingfisher. Back at Ferafolia, we’ll bid our warm and gracious hosts a fond farewell but not before celebrating our field experiences and very special time at this traditional Solomon Islands village with a feast of chicken, pork, taro, and array of vegetables plucked from gardens located in the forest not ten metres away! Night at Ferafolia Village on Malaita.
Day 11: This morning, we’ll return by ferry across sparkling tropical waters to Honiara. We’ll dock in the early afternoon and check in for another overnight stay at Rock Haven Inn. By now, this colourful locally owned inn will feel like a second home, and we can head back to the air-conditioned comfort of our rooms to escape the afternoon heat, or perhaps to the bar to raise a glass to endemics seen and many more still to come.
Some of us may prefer to use the ‘down time’ to explore the sights and sounds of the city. Our centrally located accommodation allows for a leisurely walk into the bustling centre of Honiara to visit the Central Market (selling almost every locally grown product imaginable), the National Museum, or the War Memorial. This evening, we’ll head out of the town to a popular eatery where we’ll dine on Solomon Islands specialities and soak up the local culture in the company of the ever-friendly and welcoming islanders. Night in Honiara, Guadalcanal.
Day 12: This morning we’ll take a short flight to the northernmost of the Solomon Islands. We’ll arrive on the densely forested wilderness island of Santa Isabel, which holds the possibility of encounters with some of the Solomon Islands’ most famous and challenging avian inhabitants.
After touching down at Fera, the southernmost of two small airstrips on this, the longest of the Solomon Islands, we’ll be met by a small rowing boat that takes us on a 15-minute crossing of the stunningly beautiful lagoon bordering the airstrip to our accommodation in tranquil Buala Town. Depending on the number of participants on the tour, we’ll be staying the next two nights at either Maringe Lodge or Buala Lodge, which are within walking distance of each other and offer comfortable rooms near the shores of the lagoon. Night in Buala, Santa Isabel.
Day 13: The forests on little-developed Santa Isabel are among the most unspoiled in the region, and we’ll take advantage of an early start to bring us terrific views of Yellow-throated White Eye, Black-faced and Barred as well as Solomons Cuckooshrike, Red-capped Myzomela and, if we are incredibly lucky, the often-elusive Imitator Sparrowhawk. Early morning is also the best time to hear the highly sought-after notes of the Crested Cuckoo Dove, a stunning bird both in song and physical appearance that we have our best chance of encountering in these undisturbed forests. After a picnic lunch, we begin a relaxed return to our lodging - still on the lookout for forest treasures including the beautiful Eclectus Parrot, which should be breeding; the far more modest Brush Cuckoo, an endemic subspecies; and the common Island Monarch.
In the afternoon, we’ll relax on the veranda of our lodging, or those feeling adventurous may wish to slip into the calm waters of the nearby lagoon. At sunset, we’ll all gather for a birding session along the shores and grasslands of the lagoon for encounters with such species as Pacific Reef Heron, Beach Thick-knee, Pacific Golden Plover, and Common, Terek, and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers before assembling at the dining room for a freshly caught seafood dinner. Night in Buala, Santa Isabel.
Days 14-15: This morning, we’ll abandon our lodging on the shores of the lagoon and make the two-hour hike to renowned Tirotonga Village, nestled deep in the remote wilderness and limestone hillsides of Santa Isabel. We’ll take our time, and, when we arrive, we’ll be greeted with cool refreshments and the warm hospitality of the Tirotongans. Those of us up for a bit of village birding following our hike will have a very good chance of getting more looks at the endemic White Eye and Metallic Starling, as well as Glossy and Uniform Swiftlets performing their delicate aerial dances in the skies above.
Using the village as a base, we’ll make short excursions along well-established trails into the forests and densely vegetated hillsides to target a selection of very difficult-to-see endemics. The most famous of these is without question the most easterly and perhaps least well-known pitta on the planet: the Black-faced Pitta. We’ll need to maintain a patient vigil for this brilliantly plumaged deep forest dweller; it is generally thought that this Solomons endemic is amongst the shyest of all the more than 33 species of pitta. With no sightings of this species for decades, it was thought in some circles to have become extinct, but it was rediscovered in 1938 and since then has only been seen at Tirotonga! We’ll certainly be in the right place and will stay in the field as long as necessary on both days to attempt to see it. While on ‘pitta duty,’ we’ll also keep an eye out for North Solomons Kingfisher and the fabulous but perhaps not-quite-as-critical Pacific Koel.
The majority of our time in the field will be spent in the company of local guides who will use their superb knowledge to lead us to the best sites for our targets, including the day-roost sites of three wonderful Solomon endemics: the Fearful Owl, Solomons Frogmouth, and Solomons Boobook. We’ll head out on each of the two nights to listen for calls and spotlight in hopes of seeing these spectacular birds in flight or actively perched. The evenings are reserved for tucking into hearty dinners amid fascinating chats with some of the locals of Tirotonga. Both nights at Tirotonga Village, Santa Isabel.
Day 16: We’ll head back into the field to have another look for any of the targets that may have eluded us on the previous two days. As we’ll learn, the key targets at Tirotonga come with their challenges, and an unwillingness to be seen is the greatest of these. However, with two full days and this extra half day of birding a relatively small area, we’ll have given ourselves the best chance for some memorable encounters. Back at the village, we’ll say our goodbyes to our friendly hosts and make a slow-paced return to Buala, with a picnic stop in the forest along the way. Another peaceful evening of lagoon-side viewing and birding will await us. Night at Buala, Santa Isabel.
Day 17: We’ll take the short flight back to Honiara Airport and check into Rock Haven Inn. As our flight to Rennell Island is not until tomorrow, we’ll have the entire day to rest and relax at the hotel or head back to the coast for some light birding. Alternatively, those who are feeling up to it can accompany the leader on a drive into the interior and a hike to the truly spectacular Tenaru Falls. This will not be a birding excursion per se, rather an opportunity to see these 60-metre-high falls in all their glory.
It’s a four-hour walk, including return, from the tiny settlement of Tenaru Village, but it’s flat and generally very easy walking with several crossings over small bridges to negotiate the river. Gentle trailside birding for some of the more common forest dwellers will be made possible by our having taken our binoculars, of course! Night in Honiara, Guadalcanal.
Day 18: This morning we’ll take the one-hour flight from Honiara airport to the southernmost island in the entire Solomons chain, the large raised-coral atoll of Rennell. Relative to its size, Rennell boasts a hugely impressive number of endemics. These numbers are perhaps unsurprising, as its remote location has been integral to its identification as a key site for the evolution and migration of species in the western Pacific. It is on this magical island that we’ll draw the first leg of our trip to a close.
Touching down about an hour later on the single grass airfield at Tingoa - the height of which is maintained by various groups of islanders wielding bush-knives - we’ll make the three-minute walk to our lodging at Moreno Guest House. After checking into our rooms, we’ll don birding gear and literally take 20 steps across the field to the start of a superb trail, along which we’ll possibly find all of the island’s six endemics. Rennell Starling and Rennell White-eye should be easily seen, as should the skulking Rennell Shrikebill and odd Bare-eyed White Eye. The unspectacular Rennell Fantail and occasionally tricky Rennell Whistler round off the targets. For dinner, our local guide will whip up some of his village’s speciality, sweet-potato casserole, while the tour leader breaks out the celebratory beverages. Night at Moreno Guest House, Rennell.
Day 19: Provided we have seen the endemics on the previous day, we’ll hop aboard one of the only reliable forms of transport on the island, the aptly named Blue Bus, and make the 50-minute drive along the coral road towards the south of the island. Here, we’ll visit the largest lake in the insular Pacific and a former lagoon of the atoll Lake Tengano, where Australasian Grebe as well as Great and Little Pied Cormorants abound. The low-lying secondary forest in the vicinity also makes for great birding, and we should have little difficulty in getting bonus views of the island’s fascinating endemic subspecies of Singing Parrot, as well as the near endemic and stunning Silver-capped Fruit Dove. After travelling back aboard the Blue Bus to Moreno Guest House, we’ll pack and head to the grass airstrip to catch our return flight to Honiara.
Day 20: The main tour will formally end with flights home this morning in Honiara.
OPTIONAL EXTENSION TO WESTERN PROVINCE
On the six day extension, we’ll travel into the Western Solomons, where we’ll use the tiny island of Gizo as a base from which to launch excursions to the nearby islands of Vella Lavella, Ranongga, and finally Kolombangara, a near-perfect spherical volcanic cone, towering out of deep blue waters.
Day 20: We’ll depart this afternoon on the overnight ferry from Honiara to Gizo. Upon boarding, we’ll make for the deck, where we’ll soak in the local atmosphere and stunning scenery as the ferry passes by some 300 tiny islands en route to our final port of call. Stops at large islands on this westward journey allow for an appreciation of the importance inter-island commuting has on trade and livelihoods. Solomon Islanders - carrying everything from bananas, ground provisions, chickens and other foodstuffs - mill about the ports of each stop, waiting to board the ferry or eagerly greeting disembarking family and friends. Following dinner enjoyed at sea, we’ll retire to our cabins to await the ferry horn signalling our arrival the next morning in Gizo. Overnight on ferry.
Day 21: Although primarily used as a base from which we’ll launch our birding excursions by boat to some of her more endemic-rich neighbours, Gizo does have a sole endemic – the Gizo White-Eye – and we’ll take this opportunity while in the area to visit a quiet patch of woods just on the outskirts of town, which is usually positively teeming with this handsome species.
From port, we’ll travel to our nearby coastal accommodation. The Western Solomons are located in a utopian coastal setting defined by turquoise waters and shallow reefs that are bursting with tropical fish of every imaginable colour. Indeed, given the beauty of Gizo, it may prove difficult to drag ourselves away in the morning to go island hopping!
Brief birding sessions in and around our lodging over the course of the day should produce some delightful species, including the tiny Steel-blue Flycatcher and distinguishably coiffed White-capped Monarch. In the afternoon, we’ll have the option of donning snorkeling equipment and sinking beneath crystal-clear waters for a relaxing encounter with some stunning reef inhabitants. Night on Gizo.
Day 22: We’ll cover two islands in one day. Our sleek skiffs, armed with powerful outboard motors, will collect us from shore in the morning and head northwest, easily negotiating the distance from Gizo to Vella Lavella. Here, we’ll spend the first half of the day birding the hotspots on this, the largest of the islands we visit in the west. Our main target will be the Vella Lavella White-eye, but the lush landscape is also home to several other species of interest. This is the only island on our travels where we’ll have a chance to see the striking minuscule New-Georgia Dwarf Kingfisher.
Each of the islands we visit in the west hold endemic or near-endemic subspecies, many of which could certainly be split into full species, given the remoteness of these locations and lack of definitive research on these birds, and we’ll look for them all during our time here. In the forests of Vella Lavella, such targets include the near-endemic subspecies of Cockerell’s Fantail (Dot-breasted) and Buff-headed Coucal, as well as endemic subspecies of Kolombangara Monarch and Yellow-vented Myzomela.
Ranongga: Less than ten kilometres separates the two islands, so we’ll depart from our morning birding session on Vella Lavella to spend the second half of the day birding the much smaller but equally species-rich island of Ranongga, where another single-island endemic - the Ganongga White Eye (yes a G rather than an R) - will be our main target along with mighty Imperial Pigeon and the usually common Beach Kingfisher, whose long churring call should alert us to its location. Sightings of Osprey are also common here. Subspecies targeted on Ranongga will be another endemic race of Yellow-vented Myzomela and Kolombangara Monarch.
Travelling between the islands by boat in the Western Province also provides us with what are undoubtedly our best pelagic spotting opportunities of the entire trip. Known in these waters are Black as well as Brown Noddies, Roseate Tern, Long-tailed Skua, Wilson’s Storm Petrel, Wedge-tailed Shearwater, and without question our best chance of Heinroth’s Shearwater. Night on Gizo.
Day 23: We have reserved two days for exploring the imposing and largely unspoiled volcanic giant of Kolombangara. Upon approach by boat this morning, the sheer majesty and natural splendour of this island is on show for all to see. On arrival, we’ll collect our transport and waste no time in birding several rewarding lowland and coastal sites for prized Roviana Rail - only identified in 1991 - the odd and impressive Melanesian Megapode, and the magnificent Solomons Sea Eagle.
In the afternoon, we’ll drive high into the clouds to the remote Imbu Rano Lodge, perched on a stunning outcrop offering some of the finest mountain views and forest trails on the island. In this spectacular setting the habitat, vegetation, and therefore species, dramatically change. We’ll have a leisurely stroll along two of the lodge’s easier trails where truly memorable encounters with the delightful Red-breasted Pygmy Parrot and the incomparable Duchess Lorikeet are possible. There are as well good chances for the near-endemic subspecies of Cockerell’s Fantail (Black-breasted) and Solomon’s Cuckooshrike. Night on Kolombangara.
Day 24: At dawn, the cloud is still low and surrounds the lodge. As it lifts, however, the dawn chorus begins, and we’ll hone in on the calls of those as-yet-unseen birds including Pacific Robin, Pale Mountain Pigeon and, of course, the Kolombangara White Eye. On our final day of birding the montane forests of this rich and largely unspoiled island gem, we’ll set out on other trails surrounding the lodge for encounters with such treasures as the nominate Kolombangara Monarch, Yellow-bibbed Fruit Dove, and Meek’s Lorikeet. In the early afternoon, our vehicle will take us to the dynamic shoreline of Kolombangara, where we’ll board our Zodiac back to Gizo. Along the way, we’ll have another opportunity for Heinroth’s Shearwater, as well as other pelagics. Our overnight ferry awaits, and we’ll board in the evening to sleep through the night in our cabins. Overnight on ferry.
Day 25: The overnight ferry should arrive into Honiara before lunchtime. The tour will formally end with lunch at our now-familiar hotel here. Because of flight times out of Honiara, the tour price includes tonight’s stay at our lodging. However, clients are welcome to depart anytime from mid-afternoon onwards. Night in Honiara, Guadalcanal (for those not flying home on Day 25).
Updated: 17 November 2020