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Home » Raja Ampat » Get Close to the most Exotic Birds of Paradise at Raja Ampat

Get Close to the most Exotic Birds of Paradise at Raja Ampat

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Papua is the natural home of the beautifully colored Birds of Paradise widely admired for their exotic plumage. In Indonesia these rare birds are called Cendrawasih, the Indonesian name for the Paradisaeidae bird family, considered the most beautiful birds on the planet.

Best place to have an opportunity get close these Birds of Paradise are in the village of Sawinggrai in the Raja Ampat island chain off the coast of West Papua.

These rare and exotic birds are best known for their extravagantly colorful coat, elongated tail feathers and decorative plumage. The family consists of nearly 40 species, the majority of which are endemic to the island of New Guinea and a few of its smaller surrounding islands, though a small number of species can also be found in the Moluccas and Eastern Australia.

Birds of Paradise are generally crow-shaped, and vary in size from about  15cm to 110cm in length. Male Birds of Paradise boast a striking combination of colorful feathers of every imaginable design; from tall, fanning plumage atop their heads, to long, trailing tail feathers behind. Some parts of the bird are patches of bald skin with no feathers, yet still splashed with shockingly vivid colors. The male Bird of Paradise uses its outrageously gaudy appearance to attract and court the female of its choice, and many will perform a “courtship dance” which involves fluffing out their feathers, displaying them in their full splendor.Females, on the other hand, are for the most part brown and dull-colored, with smaller or no ornamental plumes, helping them to maintain camouflage when caring for their young.  Most birds of paradise live in tropical forests and swamps, with a few species recorded inhabiting mangrove forests.

Because of the Birds’ unique and stunning colors, they have for centuries been hunted, their feathers used for decoration and supposed mystical powers. There was once a myth that the birds had come from the gods and never touched the earth, and this myth only served to accentuate the value of the birds until their feathers were in such demand that the species nearly reached extinction. Birds of Paradise are currently listed as endangered species, but this has not stopped the illegal trade and export of the birds on the black market.

The Lesser Bird of Paradise, (Paradisaea minor,) is perhaps one of the best known among the many species of Birds of Paradise. Its body has a coat of reddish-brown, and crowned with a head of bright yellow. Male birds sport a dark, emerald green throat and a pair of bright yellow and white long tail feathers. These birds are native to the northern forests of Papua New Guinea as well as the surrounding islands such as at Raja Ampat’s Misool island and in Yapen.

Cendrawasih Merah, or the Red Bird of Paradise, (Paradisaea Rubra,) gets its name from its dominant color being a deep crimson red with wisps of white slashing through, and a bright green head. Males have dark patches around the eyes, twirling black cork-screw tail wires, and ornamental red plumes atop their head that may take as long as 6 years to attain. The female is similar, but with a brown face and no plumes. The Red Bird of Paradise is found in lowland forests and is endemic to the islands of Waigeo and Batanta in Raja Ampat, West Papua. It shares its habitat with another bird of paradise, the Wilson’s Bird of Paradise. The Red Bird of Paradise is depicted on the front side of the 1992 edition Rupiah 20,000  Indonesian banknote.

Lawes Parotia, (Parotia Lawesii,) has a similar shape to that of a male turtledove, but with a velvet black coat, silvery white forehead, blueish nape and golden green breast. The shape of the birds’ feathers reflects light in such a way that two different colors are visible: bright blue-green and orange-yellow. When the bird moves, the colors switch sharply between these two colors, and systematic moves involving these are made to attract females during courtship. 3 ornamental wires adorn the head of the male Lawe’sParotia, together with black flank feathers that spread in a skirt-like display. The iris of the birds may switch from blue to yellow according to its mood. The bird is endemic to south and southeastern Papua New Guinea, and is named after the New Guinea pioneer missionary, Reverend William George Lawes.

King of Saxony Bird of Paradise (Pteridophora Alberti,) is a relatively small Bird of Paradise, measuring only approximately 22 centimeters in length. Males are black and yellow with a black bill and green mouth. As with all birds of paradise, it needs something weird and unique. In the case of the King of Saxony, it is two ridiculously long enamel blue brows, measuring 40 centimeters in length that can be erected at will. These ornamental plumes are so disproportionate that when the first specimen was brought to Europe, it was thought to be a fake. Although males have long been hunted for their lengthy plumes, the King of Saxony is fairly common within its habitat and is the least endangered of all the Bird of Paradise species. The species thrives around the mountains of Papua New Guinea.

Wilson's bird of paradise, (Cicinnurus respublica,) is a small, yet elaborately colored bird. The male is red and black with a yellow mantle about its neck, a light green mouth, blue feet and two curving violet tendrils for a tail. Its head is naked, with bright blue skin and a double cross shape. The colors of the bird are so vivid, that it is visible clearly amidst the fields and even at night. The female is a brownish bird with a bare blue crown. The Wilson’s bird of paradise is endemic to Indonesia, and found on the islands of Waigeo and Batanta in Raja Ampat, off the coast of West Papua.


To get there:
Sawinggrai  Village in Raja Ampat is one of the best places to visit to observe these rare and mysterious birds. To get there, first fly to Sorong Airport in West Papua, Indonesia. This is a domestic airport with available flights from Jakarta, Makassar, Surabaya, Manado, Ambon, and other smaller cities around Indonesia.  

(For the full Sorong flight schedule, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sorong_Airport)

From Sorong, take a motorboat from the Sorong Fishery Port to Waisai, capital of the Raja Ampat district. From Waisai, you can continue your journey by longboat to Sawinggrai.

To Stay
The nearest temporary shelters here are The Kri Eco Resort and The Sorido Bay Resort managed by Papua Diving. In Yenbuba, there is also one owned by Dedy Mayor. If you are interested in living in an eco resort, try to visit Misool Eco Resort, where cottages are almost totally built from salvaged wood. Here you will find colorful fish and reef in shallow water, just right across your eco-friendly cottage.

Misool Eco Resort can be accessed online at www.misoolecoresort.com

Kri Eco Resort and Sorido Bay Resort can be accessed online at www.papua-diving.com

For the best time to visit, drop by at any time of year, except December through February. These months are the spawning months for the female birds, and therefore the males will not be seen dancing.

There are no commercial food stalls or restaurants in Sanwinggrai village, so be sure to bring enough food and drinks for the duration of your visit.

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