This fantastic tour will concentrate on one of the most biologically diverse and scenically attractive parts of Australia: the northeast. Covering such world-renowned birding sites as Kakadu National Park, Michaelmas Cay on the Great Barrier Reef and O’Reilly’s Guest House, and including trips to see wild Koalas and some aboriginal rock art, this will surely be a trip of a lifetime for any birder.
Days 1–2 Evening departure from London and flight to Darwin.
Day 3 On arrival in Darwin at the start of the tour, we will go straight to our hotel to freshen up and have lunch. In the afternoon we will tour the area, visiting Holmes Jungle, East Point, Knuckey’s Lagoon and Buffalo Creek. Birds likely to be seen include forest species such as Rose-crowned Fruit-dove, Large-tailed Nightjar, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Horsfield’s Bushlark, Lemon-bellied Flyrobin, Arafura Fantail, Green-backed Gerygone, Red-headed Honeyeater and several species of finch; water birds such as Chestnut Rail, Cattle, Little, Intermediate and Great Egrets and Pied Heron; seabirds such as Australian Pied and Sooty Oystercatchers, Pacific Reef-heron and Crested, Little and Caspian Terns; and waders such as Pacific Golden-plover, Marsh, Wood and Terek Sandpipers and Ruddy Turnstone. In the evening we will visit the Botanical Gardens to look for Rufous Owl. Overnight in Darwin.
Day 4 After breakfast we will drive ‘down the track’ from Darwin, heading for Kakadu National Park and stopping at Fogg Dam for Comb-crested Jacana, White-browed and Baillon’s Crakes, Royal Spoonbill, Green Pygmy-goose, Tawny Grassbird, Broad-billed Flycatcher and huge concentrations of waterbirds. The next stop will be at Mamukala Wetlands for waterfowl including large flocks of Magpie Geese. We will visit the East Alligator River at Mangarre and walk in monsoon rainforest, where we should see Rainbow Pitta and view the large Saltwater Crocodiles feeding along the river. We will also climb Ubirr to view the vast floodplains to the north-west. Various raptors to look for in Kakadu include Red Goshawk, Spotted Harrier, Whistling Kite and White-bellied Sea-eagle. Two nights in Cooinda.
Day 5 This morning we will take a cruise on the Yellow Water – one of Australia’s most important areas for waterfowl. It is possible to see up to 70 species here including Grey Teal, Plumed and Wandering Whistling-ducks, Pacific Black Duck, White-necked and White-faced Herons, Rufous Night-heron, Australasian Grebe, Australian Pelican, Australasian Darter, Glossy, Straw-necked and Australian White Ibis, Black-necked Stork, Black-fronted Dotterel, Black-winged Stilt and Paperbark Flycatcher. Azure Kingfisher can be found at various places along the river, and we should also see Forest and Sacred Kingfishers. Later, we will visit Nourlangie Rock to view the famous aboriginal rock art and possibly see White-lined Honeyeater, Black-banded Fruit-dove, Sandstone Shrike-thrush, Black-tailed Treecreeper, Partridge Pigeon, Blue-faced Honeyeater and Helmeted Friarbird. Pacific Baza and Australian Hobby are likely around the lodge.
Day 6 We will make an early start today, heading south out of Kakadu National Park with several stops to look for raptors and finch species, including Double-barred, Masked, Crimson and Long-tailed Finches. We will also be on the lookout for Red-collared and Varied Lorikeets, Dollarbird and Silver-crowned Friarbird. From Pine Creek we will drive south towards Katherine. In the afternoon we will stop at Edith Falls in Nitmiluk National Park, where we will look for the spectacular Gouldian Finch as well as Hooded Parrot, Northern Rosella and other finches. There is also a nice selection of honeyeaters including Banded and Rufous-throated Honeyeaters. We will also have an opportunity to take a cooling swim here. Two nights in Katherine.
Day 7 Today we will visit the spectacular Katherine Gorge in the Nitmiluk National Park, taking a boat trip to observe various forms of wildlife including Freshwater Crocodiles and, we hope, Great-billed Heron. In the afternoon we will bird around Katherine and Chinaman Creek looking for Chestnut-backed Buttonquail, Red-backed Kingfisher, Peaceful Dove, Little Corella, Apostlebird and Grey-crowned Babbler.
Day 8 We have a 200-mile journey back to Darwin today. En route we will visit the spectacular Litchfield National Park with its weathered sandstone and perennial rivers. Many spectacular birds are found here including Blue-winged Kookaburra and Red-tailed Black-cockatoo. Overnight in Darwin.
Day 9 We will catch a morning flight to Cairns where, on arrival, we will look for Shining Flycatcher, Mangrove Robin, Large-billed Gerygone, Collared Kingfisher, Striated Heron, Varied Honeyeater and Olive-backed Sunbird when we stop at Jack Barnes Mangrove Boardwalk on the way to the hotel. After lunch we will walk to the famous esplanade to look for waders. Although it is too early in the year to see large numbers, we should see several Asiatic species that have over-wintered, such as Whimbrel, Grey-tailed Tattler, Lesser and Greater Sand-plovers and Grey Plover, together with Beach Thick-knee, Rainbow and Scaly-breasted Lorikeets, Pied Imperial-pigeon, Australian Swiftlet, Spangled Drongo, White-breasted Woodswallow and Australasian Figbird. In the late afternoon we will visit the Centenary Lakes area, where we will look for Black Butcherbird, Hornbill Friarbird, Rainbow Bee-eater, Yellow-bellied Sunbird, Green Oriole and a range of honeyeaters. As evening draws in, we will look for Papuan Frogmouth. Two nights in Cairns.
Day 10 We will spend most of the day at sea on a catamaran visiting the seabird colony on Michaelmas Cay on the world famous Great Barrier Reef. Masked Booby, Great and Lesser Frigatebirds, Black and Common Noddys, Bridled, Lesser Crested, Black-naped and Sooty Terns can all be seen amongst 14 species of seabird. The island is unique, and we will also have a chance to see coral, Giant Clam and many fish, or to enjoy an optional guided snorkelling tour with a marine naturalist.
Day 11 After breakfast we will explore the northern parts of Cairns, including Mount Whitfield, before heading north to Mossman Gorge. Metallic Starling, Bar-breasted, Brown-backed, Dusky, Lewin’s and Yellow Honeyeaters, Common Cicadabird and Chestnut-breasted and Nutmeg Mannikins are all possible. We will continue to Daintree Village by river, with various birding stops along the way offering the possibility of Southern Cassowary. Overnight in Daintree Village.
Day 12 Before breakfast, we will take a two-hour boat cruise to see Estuarine Crocodile and a good selection of birds including Little Kingfisher, Radjah Shelduck and Double-eyed Fig-parrot. Later in the morning we will head up the range to Julatten and Kingfisher Park, a rainforest reserve that caters exclusively for birdwatchers and naturalists. Abundant birdlife includes Red-necked Crake, Noisy Pitta, Victoria’s Riflebird, Pacific Emerald Dove, Wompoo Fruit-dove, Grey and Pale-yellow Robins, Grey Whistler, Yellow-breasted Boatbill, Bush Thick-knee and Pied Monarch. After dark we will try some spotlighting for Lesser Sooty and Barking Owls and nightjars. There is also the possibility of Platypus along the stream. Two nights in Kingfisher Park
Day 13 This morning we will drive along a road that ascends Mount Lewis to try to see the rare Blue-faced Parrot-finch as well as many other species including Golden and Tooth-billed Bowerbirds, Mountain Thornbill, Fernwren, Bower’s Shrike-thrush, Chowchilla, White-throated Treecreeper and White-cheeked Honeyeater. After lunch we will drive north through a more arid area towards the old Wolfram mining town of Mount Carbine, looking for Squatter Pigeon, Australian Bustard, Northern Fantail and Black-throated Finch.
Day 14 Today we head south again to the Atherton Tablelands, passing Lake Mitchell and Mareeba Wetlands with their many waterbirds. We will stop briefly at Big Mitchell Creek to look for White-browed Robin and at Granite Gorge Nature Park for Pale-headed Rosella, Pheasant Coucal, Red-winged Parrot and Great Bowerbird. Mareeba Rock-wallaby can also be seen here. We will then pass through some drier areas and the Atherton Township to several fine rainforest areas including Wongabel State Forest where possible species include Painted Buttonquail, Superb Fruit-dove, Eastern Yellow Robin, Spotted and Striated Pardalotes, Olive-backed Oriole and abundant raptors. Overnight at Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodge.
Day 15 Birding hotspots on today’s list include Hasties Swamp, Mount Hypipamee (The Crater) National Park, Lake Eacham and Lake Barrine, where we will take a birdwatching cruise. Species we might see in these varied habitats include Dusky Moorhen, Hardhead, White-headed Pigeon, Brown Cuckoo-dove, Atherton Scrubwren, Lovely Fairywren, Macleay’s and Bridled Honeyeaters, Brolga and Sarus Crane. In the late afternoon we will drive back to Cairns. Overnight in Cairns.
Day 16 We take a morning flight to Brisbane, where we will visit various birding spots including Boondall or Tinchi Tamba Wetlands and Brisbane Koala Bushlands to see wild Koala. Birds we may see en route include Pied Butcherbird, Little Friarbird and perhaps Glossy Black-cockatoo. Continuing, we will enter the Lamington National Park where we will be staying at the famous O’Reilly’s Guest House, an internationally known birding spot set in upland rainforest. Birds here include the spectacular Regent Bowerbird as well as Satin Bowerbird, Green Catbird, King Parrot, Crimson Rosella and various fruit-doves. The beautiful mists of these mountains and the friendly people will make this a memorable stay. Three nights at O’Reilly’s.
Days 17–18 O’Reilly’s is set in over 20,000 hectares of varying virgin forest, from the temperate beech on high ground down through sub-tropical rainforest around the guesthouse to dry Eucalypt forest in the lower valleys. The park provides food and shelter for Australia’s largest array of sub-tropical wildlife including many reptiles and mammals. There are spectacular views over mountain ranges and cascading waterfalls in this World Heritage Site. Oh, and the birds: Australian Brush-turkey, Wonga and Topknot Pigeons, Albert’s Lyrebird, Eastern Spinebill, Australian Logrunner, Olive-tailed and Russet-tailed Thrushes, Paradise Riflebird, Striated Thornbill, Marbled Frogmouth and Sooty Owl are just some of the specialities that await us during these two full days.
Day 19 Sadly, we must leave O’Reilly’s to return to Brisbane to catch our international flight home, with arrival back in the UK on Day 20.
General information The climate can vary from cold in the mountains to hot and humid in the rainforest. There will be a moderate amount of walking, mainly on good terrain, but on hot days this can be quite tiring. There are no special medical requirements and insects are not a major problem. E-visas are required for most nationalities. Distances are quite long, but the roads are good and driving is relaxed, with plenty of opportunities to stop. Accommodation standards are good, with all motel and lodge rooms having en-suite facilities. Expect to see around 260 species.
Group size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 6; maximum group size: 8 with 1 leader or 12 with 2 leaders.