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Vanuatu: Highland Expedition

Climb through pristine forest flanking a newly-accessible mountain in search of all the rarely-seen endemics and specialties of Vanuatu. Despite many of these species being considered nearly impossible only a few years ago, we expect several encounters with every target, from the stunning Royal Parrotfinch and Buff-bellied Monarch to the rare Mountain Starling, Vanuatu Thicketbird, and Santa Cruz Ground Dove! Following our hiking expedition, we will have two nights in a coastal resort to relax and enjoy some lowland birding targeting Vanuatu Megapode and Vanuatu Kingfisher, with maybe a bit of snorkelling!

Next Dates

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Price: $

TBD

Leaders:

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Single Room Supplement: $

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Group Size Limit:

6

Deposit: $

TBD

Add a Title

Price: $

TBD

Leaders:

Add a Title

Single Room Supplement: $

TBD

Group Size Limit:

Deposit: $

TBD

Accommodation:

Comfortable beachside resort for our few days in the lowlands, very basic camping for the remainder.

Walking difficulty:

This expedition will be extremely strenuous, with at least 5 days of >8 hour steep treks on uneven, rocky, and muddy trails far from any professional medical assistance. We will be using local porters, so participants are only expected to carry daypacks with water and birding gear, but an excellent level of fitness, stamina, and balance is essential.

Tour cost includes:

All accommodation, main meals, drinking water, internal flights (as stated in itinerary), overland transport, tips to local drivers and guides, travel permits, entrance fees, and guide fees.

Tour cost excludes:

Flights before and after the tour start/end, visa, travel insurance, tips to tour leaders, laundry, drinks, and other items of a personal nature.

Day 1: We will meet this evening in Luganville, on the large island of Espiritu Santo, where we will stay overnight to go over plans for the coming days. There are daily flights from Port Vila (Vanuatu's capital city), and semi-regular flights from New Zealand and Australia direct to Luganville International Airport (SON). The flight schedules in this region remain fluid, so we will advise on the best connections closer to the date of departure.


Day 2: Leaving early, we will be transported around the coast and then begin hiking towards the interior with our group of friendly porters and local guides. Today will be a long one (approximately 8 km ascending from sea level to 600 m), but we expect to reach our camp on the mid-mountain slopes before dusk.


Day 3-4-5-6-7-8: We will continue to our main camp on Day 3 (4 km from 600 m to 1000 m), before spending the following four full days working our way up and down a trail that leads to the peak of the mountain. The best birding is along a ridge between 1200-1400 m about 2 km away from the camp. It is a steep hike, but well worthwhile, knowing that recent surveys have detected extraordinary numbers of several endemics that have been previously out of reach, and probably recorded by fewer than a dozen foreigners since the early days of collecting. These include Mountain Starling, Vanuatu Thicketbird, the astonishing Royal Parrotfinch, and the Vanuatu subspecies of Island Thrush, which is due for splitting! Other poorly-known species we will see in this pristine island cloud forest include Santa Cruz Ground Dove, Vanuatu Imperial Pigeon, Palm Lorikeet, White-bellied Honeyeater, and Rusty-winged Starling. We will also have our first encounters with some endemics like Buff-bellied Monarch, which can be seen in the lowlands but are likely to be much more abundant and cooperative up here. Our extended time up here may seem lengthy, but we consider this necessary to allow for rain and other logistical problems that may arise.


Day 9: Today, we will descend after some final morning birding and return to Luganville for welcome hot showers and a fine meal!


Day 10: Exploring the easily accessible Loru Conservation Park, we can search out any remaining targets. In particular, the impressive Vanuatu Megapode is common in this forest, as is Vanuatu Kingfisher. Other endemic birds here include Tanna Fruit Dove and Vanuatu White-eye, while Pacific Imperial Pigeon, Mackinlay’s Cuckoo-Dove, Melanesian Whistler, and Polynesian Triller may also make an appearance.


Day 11: The tour ends this morning with departures from Luganville International Airport.


We are happy to provide advice on any extra birding that participants might wish to do (before or after the tour) in neighbouring countries like Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa, or New Caledonia.

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