Day 1: Thursday 12 November 2020 Depart London Heathrow
After relaxing in our airport lounge, we board our flight to Cairns.
Day 2: Friday 13 November Arrive Cairns
We arrive in Cairns, and have some free time to settle in before meeting in the evening for a welcome dinner and orientation. Accommodation: Cairns
Day 3: Saturday 14 November Cairns area
We will meet again this morning for breakfast before taking a walk along The Esplanade to look for local specialties like Varied Honeyeater, Torresian Imperial Pigeon, Rainbow Lorikeet, Mangrove Robin, Torresian Kingfisher, Rose-crowned Fruit-dove and Olive-backed Sunbird. If the tide is right, we will be able to see several different shorebirds out on the extensive mudflats here, such as Far Eastern Curlew, Great Knot, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Terek Sandpiper. There should also be Gull-billed Tern, Australian Pelican, Eastern Osprey and maybe an Eastern Reef Egret or two. Nearby botanic gardens hold several different species and we’ll look for Black Butcherbird, Cicadabird, Brown-backed Honeyeater, Australian Brush-turkey, Australasian Darter, Azure Kingfisher, Radjah Shelduck, Magpie Goose, Bush Stone-curlew, Helmeted Friarbird, Large-billed Gerygone and Orange-footed Scrubfowl.
Late in the afternoon we’ll visit a local park to see whether the resident pair of Rufous Owl is in residence. Accommodation: Cairns.
Day 4 - 7: Sunday 15 - Wednesday 18 November Cairns to Atherton Tablelands
After a pre-breakfast walk, we will head south of Cairns to look for one of Australia’s most amazing & prehistoric-looking birds, the Southern Cassowary. If our good fortune is in, we should see at least one or two of these stately ratites on the roadside at a coastal rainforest location on our way. Other birds seen here recently include Lovely Fairy-wren, Macleay’s Honeyeater, White-bellied Sea-eagle and Pheasant Coucal.
From here we will head up towards the famous Atherton Tablelands, where with a few road-side stops we should pick up birds like Yellow-spotted & Graceful Honeyeaters, Australian Swiftlet, Little Shrike-thrush, Australasian Figbird, Rainbow Bee-eater, Metallic Starling, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Mistletoebird and Masked Lapwing to name a few.
Reaching our destination for the next four nights near the Crater Lakes National Park we will settle in and have a good look around. Surrounded by high altitude rainforest, our accommodation has a plethora of visitors to the gardens and fruiting trees, and birds like Victoria’s Riflebird, Spotted Catbird, Grey-headed Robin, Barred Cuckoo-shrike, Wompoo Fruit-Dove, Superb Fruit-Dove, Pale Yellow Robin, Scarlet Honeyeater, Eastern Spinebill, Red-browed Finch and Olive-backed Oriole are all regular visitors.
Over the next few days, using this as our base we will explore the wide variety of habitats that are within our reach here on the Atherton Tablelands. With high altitude rainforest, tropical savannah woodlands, grassland & agricultural fields, wetlands and swamps to explore, we will be looking at birds like Brolga, Sarus Crane, Great Crested Grebe, Plumed Whistling-Duck, Nankeen Night-heron, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, White-necked Heron, Black-necked Stork, Buff-banded Rail, White-headed Pigeon, Pacific Baza, Spotted Harrier, Lesser Sooty Owl, the rainforest-inhabiting race lurida of Southern Boobook (a possible future spilt - Little Red Boobook), Tooth-billed Catbird, Fernwren, Bridled Honeyeater, Atherton Scrubwren, Fairy & Brown Gerygones, Mountain Thornbill, Chowchilla, Bower’s Shrike-thrush, Double-eyed Fig-Parrot, Black-faced, Pied, Spectacled & White-eared Monarchs, Shining Bronze-cuckoo, Fan-tailed Cuckoo and Grey-headed Robin.
Mammals in the area we will have a great chance of seeing include Striped Possum, Sugar Glider, Long-nosed Bandicoot, Musky Rat Kangaroo, Green Ringtail Possum, Red-legged Pademelon, Agile Wallaby and Giant White-tailed Rat. Accommodation: Atherton Tablelands.
Day 8: Thursday 19 November Atherton Tablelands to Daintree
After a final morning’s birding in the rainforest looking for any bird species we may still be missing we will leave the higher latitude rainforests of the tablelands and head north to the Daintree River region, via a range of open woodland habitats and tropical savannahs. Birds we hope to connect with today include Australian Bustard, Black-necked Stork, Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Squatter Pigeon, White-throated Honeyeater, Grey-crowned Babbler, Noisy & Little Friarbirds, White-throated Gerygone, Red-winged Parrot, Great Bowerbird, Cotton Pygmy-goose, Pale-headed Rosella, Blue-winged Kookaburra and Yellow Oriole.
Our destination for the evening will be the famous Daintree River area and our accommodation will overlook this iconic waterway, where the following morning we will take an early cruise. Accommodation: Daintree Village.
Day 9: Friday 20 November Daintree River cruise to Cairns
This morning we will enjoy a boat cruise on the Daintree River where we may enjoy sightings of Azure & Little Kingfisher, Large-billed Gerygone, Black Bittern Pacific Baza, Varied Triller, Shining Flycatcher, Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, Brown-backed Honeyeater and Fairy Martin, as well as a chance of the rare & localised Great-billed Heron. Additional species we may see in the area include Bar-shouldered Dove, Pacific Koel, Papuan Frogmouth, Scaly-breasted Lorikeet, Helmeted Friarbird, Dusky Myzomela & White-breasted Woodswallow. Reptiles to see include Saltwater Crocodile, Amethystine Python & Common Tree Snake.
We will then make our way back to Cairns where, depending on what species we have yet to see, we will spend the rest of the afternoon exploring. Accommodation: Cairns.
Day 10: Saturday 21 November Great Barrier Reef
Today’s activity will involve a group tour that departs from Cairns and heads out to the world-famous Great Barrier Reef. Here we will have the opportunity to do a bit of snorkelling or just enjoy the vista that makes up this amazing natural wonder. We will also make a stop at Michaelmas Cay where there are thousands of breeding terns, noddies and boobies. We will be looking for Brown Booby, Great Crested, Sooty, Bridled, Lesser Crested, Black-naped & Roseate Terns, Common & Black Noddies, Great & Lesser Frigatebirds and a variety of shorebirds like Ruddy Turnstone, Pacific Golden Plover and Grey-tailed Tattler. Birds that are seen less often include such rarities as White-tailed & Red-tailed Tropicbirds and Masked & Red-footed Boobies. Accommodation: Cairns.
Day 11: Sun 22 November Depart Cairns, arrive Melbourne
Depart Cairns airport this morning for your flight to Melbourne, accompanied by Heatherlea Guide Phil Knott. Tonight we meet your next local Australian guide at dinner and enjoy an orientation talk. Accommodation: Ciloms Airport Lodge, ensuite rooms.
Day 12: Mon 23 November Melbourne to Lorne via Werribee
We begin this fabulous exploration of south-eastern Australia departing Melbourne mid-morning and making our way to the Western Treatment Plant. Despite its rather unflattering name this world-renowned site is an excellent location to enjoy an introduction to the birds of Australia. We will enjoy exploring a myriad of habitats including saltmarsh, tidal lagoon systems and ephemeral swamps for a range of iconic species like Galah and the stately Brolga. Wetland birds are in abundance here and flocks of over 1000 Pink-eared Ducks are possible. From here we will make our way to the woodlands and granite domes of the You Yangs Regional Park. Pasturelands in the area are home to Eastern Grey Kangaroos and, once in the park, we may be fortunate enough to encounter Koala. This area also boasts many typical Australian bird species including Laughing Kookaburra, White-naped Honeyeater and Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. A further highlight today may be White-winged Chough, one of only two members of the Australian mud-nest builder family. In the mid to late afternoon we will venture onto the Great Ocean Road where we will enjoy a picturesque drive along this rugged stretch of the Victorian coastline. We overnight in a small town in the area. Accommodation: en suite accommodations at Lorne.
Day 13: Tuesday 24 November Lorne to Port Campbell
This morning we will continue our journey along the Great Ocean Road. As we travel west we will be sure to keep our eyes peeled for one of Australia’s best-known mammals, the Koala. This coastal stretch is not only scenic, it also happens to be one of the best places in the world to see these endearing mammals. We will also visit an area of open coastal heathland where we hope to find the endemic Rufous Bristlebird and the delightful Southern Emu-wren. Accommodation: en suite motel accommodations Great Ocean Road, Port Campbell.
Day 14: Wednesday 25 November Port Campbell to Halls Gap
Today we we leave the coast behind us and make our way inland to our destination for the next two nights, Halls gap in the Grampians. This rugged range of sandstone mountains in Victoria’s north-west rises dramatically from the Western Plains and is one of the most scenic areas in the state. Accommodation: en suite motel accommodations at Halls Gap in the Grampians for the next 2 nights.
Day 15: Thursday 26 December Halls GapToday we have a full day to enjoy the offerings of the Grampians. Tall Eucalyptus forests, fern-lined gullies and dry woodlands are some of the habitats we will encounter as we explore the area for wildlife. In addition to the stunning vistas and waterfalls the area boasts over 200 bird species, well over 800 indigenous plant species and at least 30 mammal species. Today we are sure to enjoy a bounty of memorable sightings as the Grampians are an excellent site for a number of sought after species including Emu, Australia’s national bird, Painted Honeyeater, Speckled Warbler, Black-eared Cuckoo, Little Lorikeet, Long-billed Corella, Zebra Finch and Yellow-faced Honeyeater. Mammals we may encounter include Black and Red-necked Wallaby and Eastern Grey Kangaroo. While in the area we will enjoy a night excursion where we may encounter Brush-tailed and Ring-tailed Possum and, if we are very fortunate, Sugar Glider! Tawny Frogmouth and the impressive Powerful Owl are also possible.
Day 16: Friday 27 November Halls Gap to Melbourne and fly to Hobart
Today is a travel day but if time permits we will enjoy a brief walk before we make our way to Melbourne where we will connect with our flight to Hobart. On arrival we will settle into our hotel in Tasmania’s charming and quaint capital. After dinner, we will offer an optional night tour where we will be sure to see Brush-tailed Possum and Tasmanian Pademelon.
Here we will search for Southern (Tasmanian) Bettong and Eastern-barred Bandicoot both of which originally had a south-eastern Australian distribution and now almost exclusively occur in Tasmania. Tawny Frogmouth and Southern Boobook are also possible in the reserve. Accommodation: en suite hotel in Hobart.
Day 17: Saturday 28 November Hobart and drive to Eaglehawk Neck
This morning we will enjoy some exploring in the Hobart area before making our way south to Eaglehawk Neck. In particular we will enjoy the scenery and birding on Mount Wellington which, at a height of 1270m (around 4,150 feet), affords spectacular views of the city and surrounding landscape on a clear day. Here we will also take a walk through a fern glade with towering tree ferns where we have our first chance to see the endemic and rather shy Scrubtit as well as Tasmanian Scrubwren and the stunning Pink Robin. Further endemic highlights we will look for today include Green Rosella, Tasmanian Native Hen, Black Currawong and the oddly adorned Yellow Wattlebird. Red-necked Wallaby is not uncommon in Tasmania and we may well encounter these endearing macropods as we explore the mountain.
In the afternoon we will enjoy the scenic drive to Eaglehawk Neck on the Tasman Peninsular where we will explore areas of interest enjoying the spectacular sea cliffs and breathtaking scenery typical of the area. Accommodation: en suite hotel Eaglehawk Neck.
Day 18: Sunday 29 November Southern Ocean Pelagic or visit Port Arthur and surrounds and Hobart
This morning you will have a choice of embarking on a pelagic trip or exploring the nearby Port Arthur Historic site. For the seafarers amongst us we board a charter vessel (weather permitting) making our way into the vastness of the Southern Ocean in our quest for pelagic birds. High species diversity and the nearness of the continental shelf have earned Tasmania an international reputation as a great place to see pelagic species. Not long after we depart Pirate’s Bay we will encounter Short-tailed Shearwater in considerable number as well as our first albatrosses. This is one of the finest places on the planet to see a diversity of albatross species with Wandering, Black-browed, Shy, Southern Royal and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatrosses all possible. With land still in sight we will reach the continental shelf and begin to chum off the back of the boat. Possible petrels include Great-winged, the striking White-headed, Gould’s, and Mottled. Shearwater diversity is also good with Hutton’s, White-chinned, Buller’s, Sooty, Short-tailed (common in Tasmanian waters) and Fluttering Shearwater all possible. Wilson’s, Grey-backed and White-faced Storm Petrels and Fairy Prion are also regularly seen. There are often surprises in store and with 30 plus species possible in these waters there is bound to be something new for everyone. Mammals we may encounter include Australian Fur-seals, Hump-backed Whale and Bottlenose Dolphin.
For those who prefer not to do a pelagic the nearby historic site of Port Arthur serves as an excellent alternative. This site was once home for hundreds of beleaguered convicts and the excellent displays and well-preserved buildings bring the site to life. We will enjoy several rewarding hours exploring the grounds taking in not just the history but the variety of birds (and a mammal or two!) that inhabit this vast historic site. After a rewarding day on the peninsular we will make our way back to Hobart arriving in the early evening. Accommodation: en suite Hobart Hotel.
Day 19: Monday 30 November Hobart and Bruny Island
Depending on our timing and conditions we may opt to start our day in reserves around Hobart or alternatively venture directly down to Bruny Island.
Bruny Island, situated about 40km south of Hobart, is separated from the Tasmanian mainland by the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and accessed by a vehicle ferry. The ferry trip takes approximately 15 minutes where we will enjoy some wonderful scenery and possibly Little Penguins or dolphins alongside the ferry. This afternoon we will visit Bruny’s southern coastline to view the second oldest lighthouse in Australia where we will search for species such as Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, Olive Whistler and Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoo. Here we also have a chance to see the Tasmanian subspecies of Short-beaked Echidna, one of Australia’s two egg-laying mammal (montreme) species. Tonight after dinner we will visit the Little Penguin and Short-tailed Shearwater rookery to view these species at their burrows. Accommodation: Cottage style on Bruny Island.
Day 20: Tuesday 1 December Bruny Island
Today we have a full day to explore Bruny and the variety of habitats found on the island; from coastal beaches, where there is a possibility of finding Hooded Plover, Australian Pied and Sooty Oystercatchers, to rainforest areas where we will search for the endemic Scrubtit and Tasmanian Thornbill. We will also make an effort this day to find all the remaining Tasmanian endemics with Strong-billed Honeyeater, Dusky Robin and Forty-spotted Pardalote likely highlights. Most of these can be seen at the Inala Private Reserve, Dr Tonia Cochran’s privately owned 500 acre sanctuary on south Bruny Island. If we are fortunate we may encounter the striking white morph Grey Goshawk that is regularly seen on the Inala Reserve. We will also take the time to enjoy some interesting flora, including Tasmanian endemic species and relics from the ancient Gondwanan Supercontinent. Tonight we will enjoy another night trip for the chance to see a range of Tasmania’s nocturnal marsupials (including Eastern Quoll and “normal” as well as white morph Red-necked Wallaby and Brush-tailed Possums) as well as searching for Tawny Frogmouth and Morepork (formerly Southern Boobook). Accommodation: Cottage style on Bruny Island.
Day 21: Wednesday 2 December Bruny Island to Mount Field
This morning we will depart Bruny early for Mount Field National Park. This is an excellent area to experience a range of habitats, from fern gullies with waterfalls to alpine heathland to cool temperate rainforest boasting some of the tallest Eucalyptus in Australia, some of which are well over 80 meters in height. While in the area we will enjoy a short walk around a high altitude lake fringed with fascinating sub alpine flora and it is here that we have a chance of seeing the bizarre looking Platypus, the other species of Australian monotreme. In the late afternoon we will make our way out of the park to a nearby settlement where we will overnight. Accommodation: Bed and breakfast near Mount Field.
Day 22: Thursday 3 December Mt Field area to Cradle Mountain
This morning we will leave the Mt Field area and travel towards Cradle Mountain National Park. While this will mainly be a day of travel we will enjoy some lovely scenery and stop en route to bird and stretch our legs. There will also be an option to visit a Wildlife Sanctuary where some of Tasmania’s rarer mammal species can be seen. We will arrive at our accommodation near the National Park in the late afternoon. This accommodation has been chosen as it offers a chance of seeing one of Australia’s most threatened and charismatic mammals in the wild and at close range. Having become increasingly rare this is one of the only places left where one has a reasonable chance of seeing Tasmanian Devils. Here the owner places meat down for the devils at dusk and, with any luck, they will come in to feed after dark. Spotted-tailed Quolls also come to the verandas to feed. This is an excellent opportunity to view and photograph these elusive creatures. Accommodation: Cabin style near Cradle Mountain.
Day 23: Friday 4 December Cradle Mountain area
Today we have a full day to explore Cradle Mountain. This is a good area to search for Tasmania’s endemic bird species like the retiring Scrubtit, Black Currawong and Tasmanian Thornbill. In addition to the great birding we will enjoy some of the interesting plants found here. Notable are ancient rainforest species and Gondwana relics such as Pencil and King Billy Pines, Myrtle and the famous Fagus (Nothofagus gunnii) which is Tasmania’s only deciduous tree. This is also a good area to view Common Wombat and if we are fortunate we may see Platypus. If time permits we will visit the replica of “Waldheim”, the home of the Austrian Gustav Weindorfer, whose love of the area inspired the establishment of the national park. Tonight we have another chance to see Tasmanian Devil. Accommodation: Cabin style near Cradle Mountain.
Day 24: Saturday 5 December Cradle Mountain area to North Coast
We depart the Cradle Mountain area after breakfast this morning and travel towards Tasmania’s northern coastline. En route we will stop at some additional places where Platypus are seen on a regular basis as well as visiting Narawntapu National Park. The park boasts some impressive marsupial lawns (well grazed areas frequented by marsupials) that hold some of the highest densities of Common Wombat, Tasmanian Pademelon and Red-necked Wallaby in Tasmania and is often referred to as the “Serengeti of Tasmania”. Eastern Grey (Forester) Kangaroos can usually be seen feeding during the late afternoon. After dinner there will be another optional night tour to search for Southern Brown Bandicoot and Long-nosed Potoroo. Accommodation: B & B near the National Park.
Day 25: Sunday 6 December Port Sorell area
Today will be a relaxing day with options to enjoy the lovely coastal walks from our accommodation or to head to Narawntapu National Park again. Accommodation: B & B near the National Park.
Day 26: Monday 7 December North Coast to Launceston, Flight to Melbourne, return flight to UK.
If time permits we will visit some wetlands en route where there is a chance to view a number of wetland species including Purple Swamphen, Australian Shelduck, Black-fronted Dotterel and the retiring Little Grassbird. We travel to Launceston after breakfast where we will transfer to our flight home.
Day 27: Tuesday 8 December
Arrive back into London Heathrow