HEATHERLEA PRE-FLIGHT SERVICE
Enjoy a complimentary pre-flight overnight hotel before your holiday begins. Read more about our famous Pre-flight Service including car parking in the UK, VIP Lounge and destination Bird Guide here!
Day 1: 22 November 2025 Depart London
After relaxing in our complimentary VIP Airport Lounge, we board our flight to Cairns.
Day 2: 23 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: Holiday Inn Harbourside, Cairns
Day 3: 24 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: Holiday Inn Harbourside, Cairns
Day 4: 25 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: Holiday Inn Harbourside, Cairns
Day 5: 26 November Cairns to Mossman
Today we travel north along the Captain Cook Highway to the small town of Mossman, our jumping off point for tomorrows Daintree River Cruise. Mossman nestles in a patchwork of sugar cane field and backs onto steep and inaccessible rainforested mountains. Here we should get out first opportunity to look for the spectacular Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher, a species that migrates south from New Guinea to breed in tropical NE Queensland over the summer. Accommodation: Mossman Demi View Motel.
Day 6: 27 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.
After the cruise, we will head into the Cairns Hinterland for a change of scenery and an opportunity to encounter a new set of species! Accommodation: The Cape Gateway Motel, Mareeba
Day 7: 28 November Mareeba
Today we will visit open woodland habitats and tropical savannahs dotted with termite mounds, a different landscape from the rainforests on the coasts. 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, Rainbow Bee-eater, Dollarbird, Golden-headed Cisticola and Yellow Oriole. We also have a chance of encountering the endearing Mareeba Rock-wallaby, a small hill dwelling species restricted to this area. Agile wallaby are frequently seen here and we will also keep a lookout for well – camouflaged Frilled lizards, which bask on tree trunks, boulders and termite mounds. Accommodation: The Cape Gateway Motel, Mareeba
Day 8, 9 and 10: 29 & 30 November and 1 December Mareeba to Atherton Tablelands
Heading south, we cross into the Atherton Tablelands. The landscape changes rapidly with eucalypt woodlands giving way high altitude rainforest, tropical savannah woodlands, grassland & agricultural fields, wetlands and swamps. After reaching our destination for the next three nights near the Crater Lakes National Park, we will settle in and have a good look around. With so much to explore, we will be looking for 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.
Surrounded by high altitude rainforest, our accommodation has a plethora of callers 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 and Eastern Koel are all regular visitors.
Mammals in the area include Lumholtz’s Tree Kangaroo, Striped Possum, Sugar Glider, Long-nosed Bandicoot, Musky Rat Kangaroo, Green Ringtail Possum, Red-legged Pademelon, Agile Wallaby and Giant White-tailed Rat.
On one of the days, we will drive down to the region known as the Cassowary Coast 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 that we stand a chance of seeing here are Beach Stone-curlew, Lovely Fairy-wren, Macleay’s Honeyeater, White-bellied Sea-eagle and Pheasant Coucal. Accommodation: Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges, Atherton tablelands
Day 11: 2 December Depart Cairns
We will say farewell to the Atherton Tablelands today and head back to Cairns Airport where we depart on our flight to Melbourne. Tonight we meet your next local Australian guide at dinner and enjoy an orientation talk. Accommodation: Ciloms Airport Lodge, ensuite rooms.
Day 12: 3 December Melbourne to Lorne via Werribee
This morning we will travel to the south-west of Melbourne and wend our way through the shorelines and various swamps of western Port Phillip Bay, where we’ll aim to pick up a few wetland and grassland birds like Sharp-tailed, Curlew & Marsh Sandpipers, Red-necked Stint, Red-kneed Dotterel, Black-fronted Dotterel, Red-capped Plover, Pacific Gull, Hoary-headed Grebe, Australasian Gannet, Pied, Little Pied, Great & Little Black Cormorants, Australian Pelican, Crested, Fairy & Whiskered Terns, Australian Shelduck, Red-necked Avocet, Banded & Pied Stilts, Royal & Yellow-billed Spoonbills, White-fronted Chat, Striated Fieldwren, Horsfield’s Bushlark, Brown Songlark, Australian Pipit, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Golden-headed Cisticola, Zebra Finch, Swamp Harrier, Wedge-tailed Eagle, White-bellied Sea-eagle and Black, Brown & Peregrine Falcons. 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: The Anchorage Lorne
Day 13: 4 December Lorne
Another day in this beautiful area gives us the opportunity to venture into the Great Otway National Park, an area of cool temperate rainforest with ancient Antarctic Beech, Mountain Ash and tall tree ferns. Birds of these forests include Eastern Yellow Robin, Golden Whistler, Crimson Rosella, Superb Fairywren, White-browed Scrubwren and Satin Bowerbird. 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. During the day, we’ll maintain a lookout for Koala. Accommodation: Lorne
Day 14: 5 December Lorne to Halls Gap
Today we leave the coast behind us and make our way inland across the Western Volcanic Plains with their shallow salt lakes, 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: Grampians Motel
Day 15: 6 December Halls Gap
Today 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. Accommodation: Grampians Motel
Day 16: 7 December 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 or Morepork are also possible in the reserve. Accommodation: The Old Woolstore Hotel, Hobart
Day 17: 8 December 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: Lufra Hotel, Eagleneck
Day 18: 9 December 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: The Old Woolstore Hotel, Hobart
Day 19: 10 December 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: Explorers Cottages, Bruny Island.
Day 20: 11 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: Explorers Cottages, Bruny Island.
Day 21: 12 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: Curringa Farm, Hamilton
Day 22: 13 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. Both Tasmanian Devils and Spotted-tailed Quolls are regularly seen on the verandas here providing an excellent opportunity to view and photograph these elusive creatures. Accommodation: Mountain Valley Wilderness Lodge, Cradle Mountain
Day 23: 14 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, including 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: Mountain Valley Wilderness Lodge, Cradle Mountain
Day 24: 15 December Cradle Mountain area to North Coast
We depart the Cradle Mountain area after breakfasting 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: Hawley House, Port Sorell
Day 25: 16 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: Hawley House, Port Sorell
Day 26: 17 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, landing in the UK on Day 27, Thursday 18 December 2025.