South West Pacific
Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu & New Caledonia

August-September 2015

 

- Pre-departure planning
- Itinerary
- Costs
- When to go
- What to bring
- Sites
- Vitu Levu
- Kadavu
- Taveuni
- Samoa
- Vanuatu
- New Caledonia
- Ouvea


- Triplist of George Wagner

You can download a Garmin GPS file of most waypoints and tracks here
- Garmin GPS file


















 

After West Papua I went to places like Cuba, India, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Chile, South Africa, Lesser Sunda's, and a return to Sabah Borneo of which I thought there to be enough recent information on the internet (sorry no reports). I thought it was time for a trip to some Islands in the Pacific. This report is written mostly as a help for independent budget birders.

I always wanted to visit these exotic islands in the big blue. A totally new bird area with some of the most elegant and graceful beauties of the avian world. White tailed tropicbird, White Tern and Kagu all seemed to have been escaped from a fairytale. For me this especially accounts for the White Tern which has all the characteristics of an imaginary bird that seems to be miraculously created, defying the laws of evolution. One could almost believe the earth was once ruled by elves and fairies and this bird would be the only living reminiscent of that era. How blunt does the English official name of this iconic bird sound: "Common" White Tern!

I was very excited to finally visit these Islands and see some of my most wanted birds. The Pacific is an expensive place to visit obviously because of the far and numerous flights, on some of those islands one needs a car and it is popular with the very rich. We managed to do this trip with only renting a car on Grande Terre (New Caledonia) where it really pays off. It turned out a quite successful trip which was indeed the most expensive I've done ever. Flying right to the other side of the globe and than thousands of miles up and down the pacific a number of times could be done at a surprisingly cheap price taking into account that we needed to go in the high season to increase the chances of dry weather.

We missed a few birds by travelling the budget way and not hiring 4WD's with local guides to hard to reach places. On Fiji we did not try for the Long-legged warbler and did not really hunt for the Pink-billed Parrot-finch. We also did not try the White-eye on Samoa and obviously the Tooth-billed Pigeon which seems to be on the brink of extinction. Also we dipped the two starlings on Vanuatu and the Palm Lorikeet. We also only heard the Scrubfowl there like others who did the same trip. With a little more time on Vanuatu it should be possible to get a slightly better result. Apart from Santo (Vanuatu) the birding is easy with most or sometimes even all species seen in a single morning. Also our plans to visit Lifou near New Caledonia were disrupted by 2 cancelled flights of Air Vanuatu to get from Vanuatu to New Caledonia. So we missed the two White-eyes and a nice snorkelling trip in Baye the Jinek. We also did not see any of the seabirds because we did not bring a scope and got only very distant views of anything flying over sea. They were either too far from shore for binoculars and/or we did not try the best seawatch points. Not getting to Lifou may played us part there too.

I met a friend who flew in from the US on the first day: George Wagner. The two of us prepared this trip in a way that both of us would get the best out of it. I wanted also to have a look at the underwater world at some of these places.



Considering the lack of time I limited this goal to a snorkelling trip on Kadavu and Lifou. Since Lifou fell through completely I was happy to have taken the chance to peek underwater at Samoa while we had a day to spare.

Contact information is marked red

Links are in blue, when a bird name is blue it is linked to a recording by George Wagner on this trip.

 

Pre-departure Planning

I booked the rough outline of the trip to the major hubs of the countries in one series of tickets. The cheapest I found was about 2100 euro. This turned out in some horrible flight times with long stop-overs so I finally settled for 2400 euro for a round trip by Qantas, Air Vanuatu and Fiji Airways. This involved flying from Amsterdam first to Fiji via Dubai and Brisbane and from there to Samoa, back to Fiji and onwards to Vanuatu then on to New Caledonia and from there back home via Brisbane and Dubai. The order of visiting was altered a little by checking the optimum time to visit these islands. Since these Islands are quite a distance apart also their dry season is shifting a little. There are sometimes good and cheaper connections possible via Hong Kong to Fiji. Flying in the high season made us realise that to be sure to not miss the Loyality Islands near New Caledonia we should book these local flights also in advance as well as the local flights within Fiji and Vanuatu. The total number of flights came to 20. With sometimes a tight schedule we were a bit anxious not to miss some of them. Fiji Airways seems a reliable and well organised Airline that is a bit on the expensive side for some short flights. Air Vanuatu turned out not so reliable. Even though Air Vanuatu has backup from Air Calin when things are not going according to plan, it managed to completely screw up by scheduling a maintenance for the plane on Fiji right on the day when Air Calin decided to change their schedule. This meant that the only two flights from Port Villa to Noumea were both cancelled, so we were stuck on the least interesting of all islands: Efate. If we would have known this a day ahead we would have stayed on Santo to try for the Vanuatu Scrubfowl. Air Vanuatu gave us a luxury hotel stay on Efate but we would much rather have slept in a tent somewhere where there would be chances of admiring natural beauty instead of a posh place full of the less adventurous. Both of us developed a brief stomach problem with the food here. I tried to find out how to see the Coconut Crab but it turned out this most impressive arthropod has been extirpated completely from the larger islands. One needs to get to the smaller islands to see one in the wild instead of one on the plate.

Mind that the pricing of flights is mostly adjusted by the expected demand. The moment of checking the price on the internet can seriously affect the price. Prices are much higher in the weekend and cheaper during the middle of the week. Also you may try checking from a different IP-address if you find out that the price was raised since the last time you checked. In my experience booking six months or more ahead is most often the cheapest if one has limited time and limited flexibility with the period of leave from work. I arrived in the evening on the International Terminal of Nadi on Fiji while the best birding area is around Suva on the other side of the island. Realising I would miss the next morning I thought it to be a good idea to try to connect to Suva on arrival. This worked out with a 4 hour stop-over at Nadi. I would in hindsight not recommend this. Although the connection by road is a 4 hour trip, it turned out that there are regular minivans (leaving when full) going to Suva from Nadi. So if I would have tried to go by road I could have made it in almost the same time saving me roughly 150 US$ or so.

We took a small library of sounds from Xeno Canto as usual:

http://www.xeno-canto.org./explore

Some sounds that we missed on this excellent site were recorded and added by George Wagner. The sounds that were recorded during this trip are linked in this report. My Itinerary looked like this:

Date

intended itinerary

comments

08/08/2015

Amsterdam-Dubai

several hrs stopover losing time flying against timelines

09/08/2015

Dubai-Brisbane

several hrs stopover losing time flying against timelines

10/08/2015

Brisbane-Fiji

onwards flight to Suva

11/08/2015

Fiji

Vitu Levu: Suva Birding Pipeline road

12/08/2015

Fiji

Vitu Levu- Kadavu afternoon flight  12.30

13/08/2015

Fiji

Kadavu: Namara rd. morning; afternoon snorkelling

14/08/2015

Fiji

Kadavu: morning birding Namara  rd. afternoon flight Nadi -Taveuni

15/08/2015

Fiji

Taveuni: Morning Deveaux Peak; afternoon Bobby's farm

16/08/2015

Fiji

Birding along coast; Taveuni- Nadi

17/08/2015

Fiji

Spare day Vitu Levu: heavy rain whole day

18/08/2015

Fiji Samoa

Arrive afternoon walk south of V. valley

19/08/2015

Samoa

Upolu: Vaisigano Valley

20/08/2015

Samoa

Upolu: Cloud 9 lodge

21/08/2015

Samoa

Upolu: Snorkeling at Deep Marine reserve

22/08/2015

Samoa Fiji Vanuatu

travel day arriving evening on Efate

23/08/2015

Vanuatu

Efate-Santo-Uleipo-Urpoi

24/08/2015

Vanuatu

Santo: Urpoi village-Camp (8 hrs  climbing)

25/08/2015

Vanuatu

Santo:Camp one up to 900 m.

26/08/2015

Vanuatu

Santo: Camp one - Urpoi village

27/08/2015

Vanuatu

Santo: Urpoi-Luganville-Efate

28/08/2015

Vanuatu New Caledonia

Unfortunately stuck on Efate, missing flight to Lifou

29/08/2015

New Caledonia

Flying in Evening to NC

30/08/2015

New Caledonia

Hiring car driving to Mt  Khogis afternoon flight Ouvea

31/08/2015

New Caledonia

Ouvea evening flight to Grande Terre

01/09/2015

New Caledonia

Grande Terre: driving to Parque Rivieire Bleue finding it blocked because of a strike

02/09/2015

New Caledonia

Grande Terre: Parque Rivieire Bleue

03/09/2015

New Caledonia

Grande Terre: Farino

04/09/2015

New Caledonia

Grande Terre: Mt. Khogis

05/09/2015

NC - Brisbane

Travelday

06/09/2015

Brisbane- Dubai- Amsterdam

Arriving home in afternoon

Costs:

International and inter-island-hub tickets approx. 2400 euro. Local flights, taxis, accomodation, local guides and food and car hire (NC): approx. 3000 euro

When to go:

This seems to be the only area in the world where the best birding time (or actually the least chance of rainy days) is in the high season: end of July to the beginning of September. It worked out well with only one day spoiled by rain when we had already seen the specialities in the Suva area on Fiji. We had a little drizzle on Samoa. One surprise with the weather was that it was quite often clouded so when time to spare for a snorkelling trip I was always hesitant. Also the whole area was much cooler than we expected. While snorkelling on Kadavu I was chilled to the bone quickly. The upper part of the Pic Santo track is quite cool, misty and windy usually so bring some extra layers of clothes for birding in the early morning. Mist and rain is also usual on the Des Veoux peak track on Taveuni (Fiji). I usually use the following site to get the rainfall statistics to find out the weeks which have the least rainfall:

https://weather-and-climate.com/average-monthly-Rainfall-Temperature-Sunshine,suva,Fiji

This link is set for Suva on Fiji and is more or less contradicting the impression of the locals for the wettest place on Fiji not having a "dry" season. At the top left of the page one can have a look at other countries or sites within the country.

What to bring:

Tent:
Needed for Pic Santo on Vanuatu.
Mobile phone with off-line navigation app recommended.
We used the free Mapfactor App, which worked fine but required attention at certain roundabouts looking at the screen rather listening to the voice. You can buy cheap local simcards at most of the major airports for the few local calls.
Anti-Malarials:
The only area which has some risk is Vanuatu. However the lack of mosquito's this time of the year and sleeping in a tent, made me not to continue taking the pills. We did not bring a scope but this is useful at the few seawatch points as the reef is keeping seabirds that are active off the continental shelf at a distance.
Rain clothing:
Needed for Des Veoux Peak on Taveuni and Pic Santo on Vanuatu.

 

 

Sites

 

Vitu Levu:

The best is to get yourselves booked in the Colo-I-Suva Lodge.



This is locally called Raintree Lodge, which may be a confusing name since there seems to be a waypoint in a wrong place on Google Earth.

http://www.coloisuva.com.fj/

For a map of the Suva area and the route to walk to see the edemics see below. The lodge is a nice place within walking distance to all the good birds. This is with the exception of the Longlegged warbler and probably also not the best spot for the Pink Billed parrotfinch, both of which seem a tall order without a minimum of 2 days extra in a 4WD with a local guide. We managed to see all the other target endemics while walking around in a single morning. Mind that Suva is by far the wettest place on Fiji. There seems to be no obvious dry season according to the locals. So counting on a single morning maybe a bit too optimistic. We had beautiful weather the first morning but the second visit a few days later it was pouring down the whole day. The Lodge can prepare you sandwiches in the evening for your hike early the next morning. The food is very good but a bit expensive.



(google images 2008)



Birds seen:
Eastern Spotted Dove, Pacific Imperial-pigeon, Barking Imperial-pigeon, Golden Dove, White-rumped Swiftlet, Swamp Harrier, Fiji Goshawk, Collared Kingfisher, Masked Shining-parrot, Red-throated Lorikeet (2):
On the first morning birding I saw a pair of birds flying over:
typical lorikeet type, very small, very fast flying, very slender built and appearing a bit elongated for a Lorikeet because of the slenderness and long tail.
It was completely grass-green below, continuously calling with thin very high pitched calls.
I could knock myself on the head for not checking the throat. I did however check the wrist of the underwing when they were flying over and noticed that the wrist part of the underwing was more yellowish-green as opposed to the grass-green of the other underparts. I did not study the few species that I should be expecting, so I was vaguely aware of the occurrence of Lorikeets on Fiji remembering seeing the pictures in the book. As this was the first morning of a new birding area for me and these were one of the first birds in good habitat, I made the usually obvious assumption that these would be a common species of Lorikeet.
I called “Lorikeets” to George but he was busy looking at something else and did not confirm my sighting.
Checking my recordings in the evening I was shocked. This record might be one of the very few in recent history. The only other small parrot on Fiji is the Blue crowned Lory which does not occur on Vitu Levu but only on smaller Islands. Furthermore I saw the latter bird later on and it is a much bulkier larger and slower flying bird. There is no other bird possible! Realizing how extremely unlikely the record is, I started desperately looking for other unlikely possibilities:
could I have seen a pair of escaped Budgerigars of a weird breed that were completely grass-green below? The sound was unlike Budgies it was higher pitched and less coarse or dysphonial. Also the underparts do not match. This seems an unlikely record as all recent records were up in the mountains. This record was close to sea level. Other birds: Collared Lory, Pacific Swallow, Polynesian Triller, Streaked Fantail, Slaty Monarch, Lesser Shrikebill, Vanikoro Flycatcher,Azure-crested Flycatcher, Fiji Bush-warbler, Golden Whistler, Pacific Robin (1), Orange-breasted Myzomela, Wattled Honeyeater, Giant Honeyeater, Fiji Woodswallow, Jungle Myna, Common Myna, Red-headed Parrotfinch.

Kadavu







Not much choice staying close to the birding area here still. All tourists are concentrating around the Norht-east end of the Island where the resorts are. Prices start at around 200 US$ per night there but include services suitable for divers.
We got ourselves a cheap place half an hours walk from the airport at the other side of the bay to the north-east by contacting Biana Accomodations, phone: 9349552; 3627176. The actual stay was at their neighbours.
From there it is a 45 minutes walk to the good forest along the Namara road that will produce all the specialities. The Kadavu Honeyeater is however more easy in the mangroves than it is in the forest. It is very responsive to tape. Just two soft calls of your tape would be enough to provoke it if you fail to notice one after a while.

One needs a bit of luck and time with the Friendly Ground-dove. But this is the place to try for this illusive bird. Both of us saw independently birds in a stretch of a few hundred yards further from the waypoint "manycolour" which was the place where we saw our only Manycoloured Fruitdove of Kadavu. The latter is common on Samoa.

The locals can organise you a short boattrip to the reef and rent you snorkelling gear. If you contact them in advance you should mention this, otherwise the boat could be used for fishing or other transports. I found the snorkelling quite good although it could be better on the East of the island where all the very expensive resorts are.






Birds seen:
Shy Ground-dove , Barking Imperial-pigeon, Whistling Dove, Many-coloured Fruit-dove, Greater Crested Tern, Pacific Reef-egret, Lesser Frigatebird, Masked Lapwing, Swamp Harrier, Fiji Goshawk, Collared Kingfisher, Crimson Shining-parrot, Collared Lory, Pacific Swallow, Polynesian Triller, Kandavu Fantail, Slaty Monarch, Lesser Shrikebill, Black-faced Shrikebill, Vanikoro Flycatcher, Fiji Bush-warbler, Golden Whistler, Pacific Robin, Fiji White-eye, Orange-breasted Myzomela, Kadavu Honeyeater, Fiji Woodswallow, Polynesian Starling, Jungle Myna, Common Myna.



Taveuni

Again half an hours walk from the Airport to Bibi's for the nights stay.

http://www.tripadvisor.nl/Hotel_Review-g297562-d1205474-Reviews-Bibi_s_Hideaway-Taveuni_Island.html





Birds seen:




Barking Imperial-pigeon, Orange Dove, Many-coloured Fruit-dove, White-rumped Swiftlet, White-faced Heron, Pacific Reef-egret, Pacific Golden Plover, Pacific Black Duck, Tattler spec., Fiji Goshawk, Collared Kingfisher, Maroon Shining-parrot, Collared Lory, Pacific Swallow, Polynesian Triller, Streaked Fantail, Lesser Shrikebill, Azure-crested Flycatcher,Silktail, Fiji Bush-warbler, Golden Whistler, Pacific Robin, Fiji White-eye, Orange-breasted Myzomela, Wattled Honeyeater, Giant Honeyeater, Polynesian Starling, Jungle Myna, Common Myna, Red-headed Parrotfinch.

Your best chance to see the Orange Dove is to visit Bobby's Farm. We managed to do this on the same day as we went to Des Veoux peak. We walked down the road to the turn off and got a ride by our driver to this place. If you stay at Bibi's they will know how to arrange this. If the season is right there is also a chance for the Shy Ground Dove.




Samoa

Another Island where birding is easy and one needs no car except for a couple of taxi rides. For me personally this was the most exciting island of this trip. Giving me my two most wanted birds that both surpassed my expectations. We stayed at Tatiana Motel which seemed a quite cheap place that we were able to book in advance. It is becoming more popular now so by the time you go you should check if there is a cheaper place. The birding locations are a few kilometers from Apia so it is not useful to drive around on your own. It is a little tricky to get the taxi drivers to bring you to the best drop off in their 2WD saloon cars. The last part of the ride is on a rough road and our first taxidriver refused to continue. The first afternoon we were not sure that this was the only right way to the site and we let us bring to another site that fitted more or less our description of "watertank" and this did not produce half of the good birds, although for an afternoon still produced my two most wanted and a range of common birds. If one wants to see the White-eye one has to go to Savai'i. As most other birders we stayed on the Island of Upolu in the capital Apia where all the other birds are easiest in the Vaisigano Valley. The Tooth billed Pigeon is the ultimate bird on Samoa (probably mostly on Savai'i, but to aim for this bird seems a very tall order since a couple of expeditions to remote parts have so far produced one confirmed sighting in the last few decades or so.

The White Tern seems powerfully iridescent so that this is one of those birds that seems to shine like a light in the sky. Yet flying above you it seems to have the most transparent wings of all birds. Taking pictures I had to correct 2 stops to not get the light overpowering the details. The only other bird that I found this powerfully iridescent is the Wilsons Bird of Paradise. The few places that we visited on Upolu seem however not the best places to admire this beauty at very close range.





The single important site here is the Vaisigano Valley. There is little reason to try other sites. But the flycatcher turned out to be rather illusive and this could be the only bird that is possibly easier somewhere else. We managed to see it on the ride back on the rough road. If one has time left the pleasant stay with the exceptional view of the famous Cloud 9 lodge (which is locally better known as Dave Parkers Lodge) is worth a visit. As is the Deep Marine Reserve for the underwater life when you snorkel in the Blue Hole.




Birds seen:
White-tailed Tropicbird, Metallic Pigeon, Pacific Imperial-pigeon, Samoan Fruit-dove, Many-coloured Fruit-dove, White-rumped Swiftlet, Pacific Reef-egret, Buff-banded Rail, Brown Noddy, Common White Tern, Common Barn-owl, Flat-billed Kingfisher, Blue-crowned Lorikeet, Polynesian Triller, Samoan Triller, Red-vented Bulbul, Island Thrush, Samoan Fantail, Samoan Flycatcher, Samoan Whistler, Pacific Robin, Cardinal Myzomela, Wattled Honeyeater,Mao, Polynesian Starling, Samoan Starling, Jungle Myna, Common Myna, Red-headed Parrotfinch.

Vanuatu

The best idea is to try to get a connecting flight as soon as possible from the island Efate (Port Villa) to the Island: Espiritu Santo locally abbreviated to Santo. You will arrive in Luganville from where you will have to find your way to the birding sites. We opted for the Pic Santo track.
Pic Santo
To get the best chance for most of the specialities we think the best option is still the Pic Santo track. Although others have found a way around the gruelling 8+ hours almost continuously tracking on a slippery and sometimes steep and overgrown track. It requires quite a lot of planning and local guides and porters. The way we decided to do it is to contact a local travel organisation in advance to arrange your mini-expedition:

http://www.wreckstorainforest.com/







They can provide an English speaking porter. The guide is local and does not speak English. The trail is not at all obvious and we needed to wait numerous times for directions not to get lost.

You will need at least five days to see the good birds. When we realised that our flight was arriving in the morning we opted for a transfer from the Airport to the office, from there to the supermarket to buy a lot of food and then the 4WD transfer to Uleipo village where our porters were ready to hike up to the Urpoi Village where the forest starts. Because the places where one can camp are limited to sites which are near a source for water, it takes two days to get to the interesting altitudes where the endemic birds reside.

Mountain Starling requires more time and probably an even higher camp for which we lacked the time. So far I do not know any recordings of this bird.

Picture is of the lower part of the Pic Santo track where indigenous plants seem to be covered by a probably introduced species of plant.

Worth mentioning is the report of Petri Hottola of his alternative to go on the Butmas Track:

http://www.club300.se/Files/TravelReports/Vanuatu.pdf

If you have time one more day to visit the Kole Village/Loru Conservation Area site for the Scrubfowl should be enough. In lack of time we tried for 2 hours at Palikulo Point by a taxi in the middle of the afternoon. Not surprisingly we were unsuccessful.

If you want the endemic(?) Santo Thicketbird there seems no other site known yet to get it but the Pic Santo track. This counts as one of the toughest tracking day's that I have been on ever. It was interesting to see certain birds appearing at the altitudes where the introduced plant species seem to be absent. At lower altitudes one sees a probably introduced vine covering all other plants that seems to be a major pest. When climbing higher into the forest when there is no view, I noticed when an introduced Ginger species started to be absent is where the sought after local endemics started to appear. Such as: New Hebrides Honey-eater, Bakers Imperial Pigeon and somewhat higher from approx 800 m the Santo Thicketbird is present. A really tough bird to see. It's loud high-pitched alarm call can be heard when close to a nest.


Birds seen:
Vanuatu Scrubfowl (heard only), Mackinlay's Cuckoo-dove, Brown-capped Emerald Dove, Pacific Imperial-pigeon, Vanuatu Imperial-pigeon, Tanna Fruit-dove, Red-bellied Fruit-dove, Glossy Swiftlet, Uniform Swiftlet, White-rumped Swiftlet, Buff-banded Rail, Swamp Harrier, Vanuatu Kingfisher, Collared Kingfisher, Coconut Lorikeet, Pacific Swallow, South Melanesian Cuckoo-shrike, Long-tailed Triller, Grey Fantail, Streaked Fantail, Buff-bellied Monarch, Southern Shrikebill, Melanesian Flycatcher, Melanesian Thicketbird, Golden Whistler, Pacific Robin, Fan-tailed Gerygone, Yellow-fronted White-eye, Vanuatu Honeyeater, Dark-brown Honeyeater, White-breasted Woodswallow, Common Myna, House Sparrow, Red-headed Parrotfinch, Chestnut Munia, Chestnut-breasted Mannikin.

New Caledonia







Grande Terre
Seems to be an exquisite part of france for the very rich. One needs a car here. This can be arranged by the Auberge de Jeunesse (Youth Hostel) staff locally on arrival. We found the staff very helpful. They know a rental company that is willing to pick you up and drive you to your car. The car rental was practically the only cheap thing on this Island. For birding in Parc Riviere Bleue you might want to contact Jean Marc Meriot in advance. His e-mail address is: jmmnc@mls.nc

There is a regular shuttle-bus from the other side of the bridge: Pont Perignon (this is a preset waypoint in the Mapfactor app) that will take you to the good forest. In the past after the cyclone in 2002 that made the bridge impassable by car, birders were forced to walk 10 km from the bridge or rent a bicycle and put it in a rented car. If you have booked JMM he will meet you at the entrance of the Park from which it is still a few kilometres to the bridge.



It is a good idea to arrive well before the Park opens at around 7 am. The entrance area seems good for Horned Parakeet which is surprisingly hard to see inside the park. When the park opens you can follow JMM to the bridge. Cross the bridge and be picked up by the Shuttle bus. We were there at the height of the dry season and the water level was so low that JMM was able to cross with his own car 1,5 km further to the West, but the Shuttle bus will pick you up and drop you off at Pont Perignon.

The first shuttle-bus starts at 7.30 am.
The rates are:
Park entrance 400fcfp/pers
Shuttle: 400 fcfp/pers
Guided Birdwatching 2000fcfp/hour

We could have missed the Crow Honeyeater if it wasn't for JMM's knowledge of the best stakeouts and the use of his tape. Though we had a glimpse of the bird on our own. We managed to get a brief recording of a distress call of this difficult bird of NC. Before our departure we could not find any recording of it. The bird is responsive to tape but rare and illusive.

JMM has a large coned speaker with powerful battery to be able to lure even the low-pitched sound of the Cloven Feathered Fruit-Dove in case you fail to spot one at Mt. Khogis, Farino or Parque Riviere Bleue. Overnights in Noumea seem the cheapest in the Youth Hostel but this is quite a ride from the Park. Camping quite close to the Park is an option at Bois du Sud, a small lush green valley in the otherwise dry and rather empty shrubland. This place is wel signposted by a high signboard to the right about 200 m. passed the turnoff to the Park which is on the left. We went to this site when we found the Parque Riviere Bleu blocked on the first morning because of a strike. The strike was fortunately for just one day. We were told the goal of the strike was that the employees of the local tribe of the area wanted more money than the other employees. Bois Du Sud would be a very nice place to camp. We forgot to check the price. There was an entree fee there and probably one needs to pay a relatively high fee when camping. NC is part of france and this is noticeable particularly by the typical Western European style of paying for everything at high European prices.

Mt Khogis
One needs to park the car at the Auberge where one should pay a small entrance fee.
This is a nice spot to spend some time if you are in Noumea, have a car and have only a few hours to spend. It has quite a few good birds. Follow the trail to the right at a junction where most tourists are going left towards the waterfall. Only about a kilometre on this trail it gets to a broken bridge with a tricky passing. If you continue you should pass underneath the bridge. We saw all our good birds in the short stretch before the broken bridge. Cloven Feathered Dove, New Caledonian Crow are mentionable.

Metallic Pigeon is easiest near the car park on the side of the road where the forest is.




Birds seen on Grande Terre (mostly at Parc Riviere Bleue):
Kagu, Metallic Pigeon, Eastern Spotted Dove, Brown-capped Emerald Dove, Pacific Imperial-pigeon, New Caledonian Imperial-pigeon, Cloven-feathered Dove, Glossy Swiftlet,
Fan Tailed Cuckoo, Rufous Night-heron, Great Cormorant, Silver Gull, Swamp Harrier, White-bellied Goshawk, Whistling Kite, Sacred Kingfisher, Horned Parakeet, Red-fronted Parakeet, Coconut Lorikeet, Pacific Swallow, South Melanesian Cuckoo-shrike, New Caledonian Cuckoo-shrike, Polynesian Triller, Long-tailed Triller, Red-vented Bulbul, Grey Fantail, Streaked Fantail, Southern Shrikebill, Melanesian Flycatcher, New Caledonian Whistler, Rufous Whistler, Yellow-bellied Robin, Fan-tailed Gerygone, Green-backed White-eye, Silvereye, Barred Honeyeater, New Caledonian Myzomela, Cardinal Myzomela, Dark-brown Honeyeater, Crow Honeyeater, New Caledonian Friarbird, White-breasted Woodswallow, New Caledonian Crow, Striated Starling, Common Myna, House Sparrow, Red-throated Parrotfinch.









Farino:
For the NC Grassbird we searched for hours at Farino (Parque de Grandes Fougeres) when only George finally got good views of this illusive bird. I missed it. Cloven Feathered Dove is quite common here.



Loyality Islands


Lifou
We unfortunately missed out completely because we were stuck on Efate (Vanuatu) for 2 days. One should book the local flights to these islands in advance if flying in the high season. The islands are becoming increasingly popular as exclusive resorts to get the ultimate tropical pacific feeling. At our time of travelling Air Loyalite did not allow booking online. They were working on this possibility right as we were trying to book it. The few weeks before departure they promised to confirm our seats when paid by the internet and said it would be possible to pay online by credit card. This turned out a false promise and we decided to book with Air Caledonie where this possibility existed. Air Caledonie does not have the option to fly from Lifou directly to Ouvea so you may want to try Air Loyalite by the time you go there. Another option is to take your chance and try to book on the fly.

Ouvea:
The endemic here is the Ouvea Parakeet.




Some taxonomists do not recognise this as a full species. HBW does and to me it seems obvious and a matter of time before all agree on this. We contacted Roland Ouckewen (Ph. +687931168) at the Airport in our limited french and he picked us up and drove us to his accommodation "Le Banian" and the next day to the site where he arranged the local guide for us. Roland will provide you with decent meals and basic accommodation and the transport. We do not remember the prices (pretty high as usual in the most expensive part of france) but the transport was not so expensive as to make you want to rent a vehicle. On Ouvea the adults of the Striated Starling seem to have yellow eyes as compared to those of Grande Terre where they seem to have red eyes. It is possible that this is an age depending feature though. This also was the only place where we encountered the Shining Bronze Cuckoo in case of the small chance they were ever to split it from the Australian birds.



Birds seen:
Brown-capped Emerald Dove, Red-bellied Fruit-dove, Shining Bronze-cuckoo, Pacific Reef-egret, Sacred Kingfisher, Ouvea Parakeet, Long-tailed Triller, Melanesian Flycatcher, New Caledonian Whistler, Fan-tailed Gerygone, Silvereye, Cardinal Myzomela, Dark-brown Honeyeater, Striated Starling, Common Myna.



Triplist of George Wagner

You can download a Garmin GPS file of most waypoints and tracks here
- Garmin GPS file