|West Papua, Raja Ampat, Birding on Batanta, Salawati & Waigeo
A pilgrimage to see Wilson’s Bird-of-Paradise. The islands of Batanta, Salawati, Misool and Waigeo are also home to Red and King BoP, Northern Cassowary, c and much more.
Wilson’s Bird-of-Paradise; Red Bird-of-Pardise; King Bird-of-Paradise; Northern Cassowary; Western Crowned-pigeon; Pheasant Pigeon; Black Lory; Beach Kingfisher; Bruijn’s Brush-turkey.
The islands of Raja Ampat are accessed via Sorong on the mainland. There are four main islands: Batanta, Salawati, Misool and Waigeo, but a trip to Batanta and nearby Salawati is usually enough to see all but Bruijn’s Brush-turkey.
Birdwatchers usually base themselves in the village of Walibed on the south coast of the island. From the guest house run by the village there is easy access to some great birding. A short walk inland brings you to a large clearing which is an excellent spot to watch for parrots and pigeons in the morning or evening. It is also the spot to look for Red Bird-of-Paradise as there is a display tree nearby. Beyond the clearing the land rises steeply into forest. A walk through this forest towards the ridge above brings you to a number of display grounds of Wilson’s Bird-of-Paradise. Local guides have built hides around several of the grounds, so an early morning walk in will almost always reward you with spectacular views of these amazing birds.
The island of Salawati is a short boat ride from Walibed on Batanta. There are several birding sites on the island. These include an area of swamp forest almost immediately opposite Walibed, which is home to King Bird-of-Paradise and has Northern Cassowary present. An alternative site for both these species, plus Western Crowned-Pigeon is a slightly longer boat ride to the west side of the island. The swamp forests in this area are more extensive and less disturbed. The crowned-pigeon can be seen in the forest and occasionally foraging along the edge of the beach in small groups. Further east along the channel separating Batanta from Salawati there are a group of small ponds just behind the beach which can be good for ducks and Western Crowned-Pigeon is also occasionally seen.
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Access, accommodation & timing:
The nearest airport to the Raja Ampat islands is Sorong. From there a boat is needed to get to Batanta, Salawati or any other of the islands. An easy, but generally expensive, option is to charter a boat for the number of days you plan to be exploring. This has the advantage that you can pick and choose where and when you want to visit different sites. To arrange a trip on public transport is more difficult, but possible. The best bet for either option would be to ask around for a boat or ride at the port in Sorong or on adjacent Dom Island from which small boats serve the offshore islands.
For Batanta and Salawati the best base is probably Walibed on Batanta. The village here operates a simple guesthouse and can provide local guides to visit the birding sites inland. To visit Salawati is easy if you have chartered a boat, if not you would probably need to catch a ride across on a fishing boat or canoe.
There is no where to buy food on Batanta or Salawati, so you will need to bring everything you need from Sorong. You will also need to bring more than you need (especially rice) as you should expect to feed your guides and anyone else from the village that visits you during your stay. The village can provide someone to cook your food for you if you ask.