Fakfak Birdwatching: Belah Rotan Bird of Paradise

    I never thought I would have the chance, but I finally set foot here in Fakfak last year. It is a regency situated on the land of Papua and is part of West Papua Province; it is only an hour’s flight to get there from Sorong. The fact that the runway at the Torea Airport is only 19 meters long makes it one of the shortest in Indonesia. It also means that the landing process of the aircraft on the runway itself is already an experience.

    • • •

    That morning, we set off before 6 am to try our luck to see the endemic birds of Papua in the Nature Reserve Park of Fakfak. The birdwatching area is not that far from the town where our hotel is—about 20 mins by car. I am not an avid birdwatcher; however, thinking of we get to trek through the jungle to reach the birdwatching sites somehow has already excited me enough.

    Back to that morning when our ranger, Aponk, picked us up from our hotel. Not long after seeing trees on both sides of the road, indicating we were already entering the Nature Reserve Park, our mobile network reception started fading as our car kept moving. We are disconnected from the world for a few hours. Trust me; it isn’t as bad as it sounds – taking a break from the world.

    He pulled up and parked the car at the side of the road where the ranger post was only a stone’s throw away. I saw a poster pasted on one of the wood panels, showing information about the type of wild animals we can expect to see in this nature preserve area on one of the wood panels of the house. 

    There are at least four birdwatching sites, and certain birds favour each site. There are the Papuan Pitta and Hooded Pitta site, Magnificent or Belah Rotan Bird of Paradise site, Magnificent Riflebird (Towa Cemerlang) site, Maleo Nest, and Lesser Bird of Paradise (Paradisaea minor) site. This is not it. There are many other birds found around here, too.

    Magnificent Bird of Paradise Birdwatching Site in Fakfak Nature Reserve Park

    That day, we visited the Magnificent Bird of Paradise site, locally known as Cendrawasih Belah Rotan. We started trekking from the ranger house into the jungle. The trail was muddy in some areas but mostly dry and solid. Even though there are a couple of up-and-down slopes, I think they are still considerably gentle for our calf and thigh to pass.

    Less than half an hour’s walk gets us to a little hideout built by the ranger for birdwatching. It was a hut fully covered by leaf – to camouflage with the environment so the birds would not notice we were there. All of us hid inside the hut with our cameras set up. There is a small bench where we can sit while we wait for the birds to come.

    Belah Rotan Bird of Paradise is a smaller bird that likes to hang around on the ground or the lower level of tree branches. Hence, it is less likely we could see the birds in their habitat if we watched them without the hidden hut.

    Like any other wild animal sighting, it usually takes a while until we finally see what we want to see. Not to forget, sometimes, luck and fate play a part, too. And I like that those two factors were on our side that day. We saw the birds we were looking for! They were small and quite a distance from our hideout, but we could see them with the help of our binoculars and camera.

    Belah Rotan could be the same size as Wilson’s Bird of Paradise as they are closely related. Both of them have the similar feature of long thin curvy tails. Likewise, to other Bird of Paradise, only the males have the distinguishing feature like this. Even though they look alike, Belah Rotan Paradise has golden brown, light brown and yellow colours on its body, while the Wilson Bird of Paradise is dominated by red colour.

    [The Belah Rotan Bird of Paradise photos are courtesy of @aponkrusdy]

    Our ears capture the birds chirping sounds; our skin, our ears feel and hear the breeze; The refreshing smell of the woods and soil. The best, we see what the universe presents to us – nature, the people, the living. We left the site shortly after that and returned to the ranger post.

    The Cassowary, the Symbol of West Papua Province

    While we were sipping a hot drink prepared by Aponk and Paul at the post, one Cassowary Bird was walking out from the jungle and approaching the ranger house. It kept its safe distance from us as we did, too.

    They said that this wild Cassowary has been curious since it was very young – it came out from nowhere and liked to roam around the empty land near the trail. This flightless and ground-nesting bird has gotten used to human presence. Probably, only this one, mind you.

    Aponk told me that he once encountered eggs laid along the trail. Although he was thrilled to see one, he didn’t take long to flee the scene after a few quick snapshots. He understood that the egg presence means the cassowary mama is also nearby.

    Like most animals, cassowaries may be typical shy birds; they become aggressive when threatened. I think we would have reacted similarly when we were in the same situation. Nevertheless, the cassowary bird is a beauty. The big eyes, the colourful head from the crest to the neck, and the long black-feathered body are stunning.

    And have I mentioned that Cassowary is also the symbol of West Papua Province?

    • • •

    I have a friend who is truly a birdwatcher. He will travel his way worldwide, capturing the birds with his camera. Even some of the photos he took have been used for printed publication. He told me once that he had to cover up using camouflaged thick cloth and sometimes tents and wait patiently among the bushes not to shoo the birds away. I think I am getting what he meant already after this birdwatching activity in Fakfak.

    I was amused and amazed at the same time while listening to his story. Yeah, I am that person who is easily amazed by people who are so cool with what they love to do and go all out for it. I hope I can be like them one day.

    So, have you ever done birdwatching before?

    This article was selected as “Top Travel Blog 2024” by the educational publisher Twinkl

    Dukung Birdwatching Cagar Alam Fakfak di Ajang Nominasi API Awards 2023

    Setiap tahunnya ribuan usulan nominasi diajukan dan hanya ada 10 nominasi yang lolos setiap kategorinya setelah melalui tahap pertimbangan dan penyeleksian yang ketat oleh tim API. Dan tahun ini, aktivitas birdwatching di cagar alam Fakfak berhasil masuk menjadi salah satu nominasi 10 besar!

    Yuk, mari kita dukung supaya Cagar Alam Fakfak semakin dikenal orang dan semakin banyak pula yang mengetahui keindahan alam di Fakfak dan tentunya juga pentingnya menjadi kelestariannya.

    Metode Voting

    #1 Instagram
    – Follow akun @ayojalanjalanindonesia
    – Like dan comment foto nominasi “Birdwatching Cagar Alam Fakfak”

    #2 YouTube

    – Follow channel @APIAward
    – Watch, like dan comment video nominasi “Birdwatching Cagar Alam Fakfak – Kabupaten Fakfak (7B)”

    Setiap view, like, dan comment = masing-masing 1 poin

    #3 SMS

    Ketik SMS “API 7B” dan kirim ke 99386
    1 SMS = 2 poin (boleh kirim SMS sebanyak-banyaknya)

    Hasil voting sementara setiap bulannya akan diupdate di sini. Happy voting!


    1. What an incredible trip to make. I don’t know the specific types of birds of paradise but they are truly beautiful. The cassowry bird is incredible and something I only seen in a documentary. This would be a lovely experience to have and surrounded by incredible nature too.

    2. Wow! Your bird watching expedition to Fakfak must have been a fantastic and unforgettable experience, especially seeing the majestic Belah Rotan Bird of Paradise. It’s not every day that one can get to see such a beautiful bird in its natural habitat. This elusive bird is recognized for its stunningly colorful plumage and unique courtship behaviors, making it a really rare and fascinating sight.

    3. What a wonderful experience! I have never been on a birdwatching trip before, but I did stumble upon bird watching hides at some points during hiking. The one I spend most time in was in Spain, over a lagoon populated by pink flamingos. The Cassowary Bird looks so beautiful, and so big. It’s understandable that the momma bird would have been trying to protect the eggs, therefore becoming aggressive if encountered. How lucky you were to see the Belah Rotan Bird of Paradise. The male’s curvy tail is so cute and intriguing in the same time.

    4. Our daughter is an ornithologist and is always interested in birds we find on our travels. She would love that Fakfak has at least four bird watching sites. I am sure she would be excited to see all the new species of birds. And she definitely has the patience to wait for them. Great photos to share.

    5. I love birdwatching and spying animals in general. You’re totally right about luck and fate playing a role in how successful you are in seeing what you want. It looks like you had a great time in a lovely place!

    6. The Fakfak bird watching sanctuary is really an extraordinary place for bird watching in the midst of nature and it’s great that you could watch the Belah Rotan Bird of Paradise up close from a secret hideout. Also you could spot the Cassowary, a really beautiful bird with a colorful stripes on its head. Nice to know how it has got used to human presence. Birdwatching in such a lush green jungle setting is indeed a one of a kind experience we would all love to indulge in. Also something similar to what your friend had with camouflaged leaves would be a great experience.

    7. I enjoyed reading about your interesting adventure in bird watching. I am impressed that there was a hut hideout built by the ranger covered with leaves to camouflage and you could sit inside with cameras set up – ready to shoot the birds as they appear. I love those colorful yellow and brown birds. The wild Cassowary looks absolutely stunning with it multicolors and beauty. You are so lucky to see this bird. I have never done any birdwatching and perhaps it is time I do one with lots of snacks and patience. 🙂

    8. Wow! This is amazing. I haven’t really tried bird watching as I am not really sure if I have the patience for it but seeing this magnificent creatures up close is definitely worth it.

      This is the first time I have heard about a Cassowary and seen pictures of it.I think its colors are really beautiful.

    9. The Belah Rotan Bird of Paradise looks so pretty with its unique tail. I like its vibrant colors. Somehow the curious Cassowary reminded me of a turkey. I can only imagine how beautiful was the jungle orchestra when you did birdwatching. I wish I had time to visit West Papua last summer.


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