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: 22nd 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 international flight back to the UK (arriving into London on Day 12, Wednesday 3 December 2025). Those joining the SE Australia & Tasmania section of the tour will depart on a flight for Melbourne for the next leg of their adventure!