White-headed Fruit-Dove on Makira Island. Photo: David Fisher
The Solomon Islands archipelago stretches from Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, in a southeasterly arc across the Pacific. Consisting of several large islands and numerous small ones, many of which are uninhabited, it is a must-see destination for serious birders. The archipelago is known for endemics, especially among pigeons, monarchs, fantails, myzomelas, and white-eyes. It also has a couple of near legendary flightless rails and some of the least-known birds on the planet. This tour, while visiting a number of the main birding sites within the Solomons, concentrates on areas that are most easily accessed. We’ll see a good selection of Solomon Island endemics, but it won’t be possible to reach a number of high-altitude specialties because of difficult terrain and steep trails. Some of our accommodations will be basic with limited facilities.
We’ll visit the islands of Guadalcanal, Rennell, Makira, Ugi, Gizo, and Kolombangara, and highlight species are likely to include Heinroth’s Shearwater, Solomons Sea-Eagle, Roviana Rail, Melanesian Megapode, White-headed Fruit-Dove, Ultramarine Kingfisher, Rennell Shrikebill, and Kolombangara Monarch.
There will also be an optional post-tour extension to Santa Isabel, primarily to search for Black-faced Pitta, perhaps the world’s toughest pitta. Conditions here will be tougher too, requiring uphill hiking and very basic accommodations, which is why we haven’t included this excursion as part of the main tour. We’ll also have a chance here of seeing Solomons Frogmouth and the wonderfully named Fearful Owl.
Day 1: The tour starts in Brisbane, Australia, with a mid-morning flight to Honiara, on Guadalcanal, where we’ll spend the night. In the late afternoon there should be time for some introductory birding near the hotel, and we should see a selection of commoner species as well as perhaps Solomons Sea-Eagle and Cardinal Lory. Night in Honiara.
Day 2: We’ll take an early morning flight to Rennell Island, via Bellona, and spend the rest of the day birding on Rennell. Along some of the numerous logging trails through the forest, we’ll search for the six Rennell endemics: Rennell Fantail, Rennell Shrikebill, Rennell Starling, Rennell Whistler, and Rennell and Bare-eyed White-eyes. We also hope to see the near-endemic Silver-capped Fruit Dove here. Night on Rennell.
Day 3: We’ll spend a full day on Rennell looking for any of the endemics we are still missing. There are a number of other great birds to be seen on Rennell, including three Melanesian endemics, Cardinal Myzomela, Fan-tailed Gerygone, and Melanesian Flycatcher, as well as Song Parrot, Finsch’s Pygmy-Parrot, Pacific Kingfisher, and the local lowland form of Island Thrush. Night on Rennell.
Day 4: After a final early morning around Rennell we’ll catch a late-morning flight back to Honiara, via Bellona. After lunch we’ll visit the Betikama wetlands, where we hope to see a selection of more widespread waterbirds and, if we’re lucky, Woodford’s (Guadalcanal) Rail. Night in Honiara.
Days 5–6: On day 5 we’ll take a flight to Kirakira, on Makira Island, where we’ll spend two nights. In the lowlands around Kirakira we should see White-headed Fruit-Dove, Duchess Lorikeet, Yellow-bibbed Lory, Ochre-headed Flycatcher, Solomons Pied and Chestnut-bellied Monarchs, Sooty Myzomela, and Mottled Flowerpecker. In the hills nearby we’ll try for Chestnut-bellied Imperial Pigeon, Makira Starling, Makira Cuckooshrike, and Makira Honeyeater. Nights in Kirakira.
Day 7: We’ll make a day trip by boat to Ugi Island, where there are three very distinct taxa to be seen: the Ugi black form of Chestnut-bellied Monarch, the local form of Solomons Pied Monarch, and a distinctive taxon of Rufous Fantail. Though not yet “split” at the time of writing, they are all contenders for full species status in the future. Silver-capped Fruit-Dove is also a possibility here. Night in Kirakira.
Day 8: After a final morning around Kirakira looking for any species we’re still missing, we’ll catch an afternoon flight back to Honiara, where we’ll visit the botanical gardens in search of Black-headed Myzomela. Night in Honiara.
Day 9: We’ll catch a morning flight to Gizo and spend the rest of the day looking for Melanesian Kingfisher, White-capped Monarch, Steel-blue Flycatcher, and Gizo White-eye. Night on Gizo.
Day 10: We’ll make a day trip by boat to Kolombangara. En route we’ll stop at two islands: at Vella Lavella to look for Banded White-eye and at Ranongga for Ranongga White-eye. The very local Heinroth’s Shearwater can sometimes be seen on this crossing, as well as Brown and Black Noddies. Night on Gizo.
Day 11: We’ll make a second day trip to Kolombangara, exploring the Hambere area as we look for Roviana Rail in the gardens. Kolombangara, Melanesian Megapode, and White-capped Monarchs are also likely here, as is Solomons White-eye. Night on Gizo.
Day 12: We’ll fly to Munda on New Georgia and spend the day looking for Red-knobbed Imperial-Pigeon, Claret-breasted Fruit-Dove, and Long-tailed Myna, and we’ll have another chance for Roviana Rail here if we missed it around Hambere. Night in Munda.
Day 13: We’ll travel to Tetepare by boat, where we’ll look for Island Imperial Pigeon, Nicobar Pigeon, Solomons Nightjar, and Dark-eyed White-eye. We also have a chance for Yellow-legged Pigeon here. Night on Tetepare.
Day 14: This morning we’ll cross back to Munda by boat and then look for Beach Kingfisher, Buff-headed Coucal, and Blyth’s Hornbill. Night on Munda.
Day 15: We’ll catch a morning flight back to Honiara and spend the afternoon on Mount Austen, home to many species, including Pied Goshawk, Ducorp’s Cockatoo, Guadalcanal Boobook, White-billed Crow, and Brown-winged Starling. Night in Honiara.
Day 16: We’ll make a second visit to Mount Austen, looking for whatever species we are still missing, perhaps including Guadalcanal Rail, Ultramarine Kingfisher, Mackinlay’s Cuckoo-Dove, Oriole Whistler, and Cockerell’s Fantail. In the afternoon we’ll return to Honiara via some of the World War II historical sites. Night in Honiara.
Day 17: Those participants not continuing on the extension will catch a flight back to Brisbane, where the tour ends in the afternoon.
Extension to Santa Isabel:
Day 17: We’ll catch an afternoon flight to Fera Island and then transfer to Bouala on Santa Isabel, where we’ll spend the night.
Days 18–20: We’ll hike up to Tirotonga, where we’ll spend three nights in a very basic lodge. This will give us access to the area where Black-faced Pitta can be found, but while we hope to see this much sought-after species, it won’t be easy! Other birds that we should see while here include Yellow-throated White-eye, Grey-capped Cicadabird, White-billed Crow, and Red-capped Myzomela, and we also have a chance for Imitator Sparrowhawk, Solomons Frogmouth, Fearful Owl, and White-eyed Starling—but again, none of these will be easy.
Day 21: This morning we’ll hike back down to Bouala, take the boat across to Fera, and catch the afternoon flight back to Honiara. If time permits, we’ll look for Island Monarch. Night in Honiara.
Day 22: We’ll fly back to Brisbane, where the tour ends in the afternoon.
Updated: 05 December 2016
- 2017 Tour Price : $10,150
- Single Occupancy Supplement : $960
- Santa Isabel Extension : $2,750
- Extension Single Supplement : $150
This tour is organized by our British company, Sunbird. Information on Sunbird and an explanation of Sunbird tour pricing can be found here.
* Tour invoices paid by check carry a 4% discount. Details here.