NEW! Queensland

Fabulous birding and a visit to the Great Barrier Reef

2021 Dates
  • 11 Nov - 22 Nov 2021
Duration12 Days
2021 Price
Price TBC
Max Group Size6 per guide

Australian Bushfires Update - January 2020

Happily neither North Queensland nor Tasmania were affected by recent bushfires, so no changes are required for either itinerary. The bad fires were in south & mid New South Wales and eastern Victoria, nowhere near our destinations. Your safety will always be our primary focus and we have the capacity and expertise on the ground to make informed decisions, and we will of course contact you if the situation changes. Your tour bookings are vital in helping to support the rural businesses and communities of Australia.  Many locations are remote and the businesses in these places often very reliant on visiting nature lovers. Thank you for your support!

This outstanding itinerary takes us to some amazingly significant areas, all with World Heritage status. The Atherton Tableland is a fertile plateau which contains several small remnants of protected rainforest, classified by BirdLife International as one of Australia's Important Bird Areas, with several endemic birds and mammals. Lamington National Park is home to a huge array of wildlife including sub-tropical birdlife, reptiles, frogs, mammals and invertebrates. We also visit the Wet Tropics area, which meets all four of the criteria for World Heritage selection, and is a region of spectacular scenery with rivers, waterfalls and rugged gorges and mountains. These rainforests contain an almost complete record of the major stages in the evolution of plant life on earth, and many species originated when Australia was still part of Gondwana.

Perhaps a highlight will be our visit to The Great Barrier Reef, the largest, most spectacular coral reef system in the world. We are birding here, though giant clams, turtles and an array of colourful fish can be seen as we pass through its coral gardens.

Birds on this tour may include Southern Cassowary, Australian Bustard, Lovely Fairy-wren, Victoria’s Riflebird, Superb Fruit-Dove, Sarus Crane, Plumed Whistling-Duck, Pacific Baza, Spotted Harrier, Lesser Sooty Owl, Southern Boobook, Tooth-billed Catbird, Fairy & Brown Gerygones, Chowchilla, Double-eyed Fig-Parrot, Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Pale-headed Rosella, Blue-winged Kookaburra, Azure Kingfisher, Fairy Martin, Papuan Frogmouth, Scaly-breasted Lorikeet, Helmeted Friarbird, and a chance of rare and localised Great-billed Heron. Mammals and reptiles may include Striped Possum, Long-nosed Bandicoot, Musky Rat Kangaroo, Green Ringtail Possum, Red-legged Pademelon, Agile Wallaby,  Saltwater Crocodile, Amethystine Python & Common Tree Snake.

NEW! Grand Tour in 2020! We now offer a ‘Grand Tour’, which combines the holiday on this page with our Tasmania and South-east Australia itinerary, covering some of the most sought-after wildlife and places on the continent, with transfer from Cairns to Melbourne included.

Should you wish to extend your holiday, perhaps travelling onwards to other parts of Australia or New Zealand or making a stopover en-route, we can arrange flight and hotel options to suit your requirements under our ATOL Licence 6113, please ask.

Enjoy your complimentary pre-flight overnight hotel before your holiday begins. Full details from our office! Read more about our Pre-flight Service here!

Day 1: Thursday 12 November 2020                       Depart London Heathrow
After relaxing in our complimentary VIP Airport Lounge, we board our flight to Cairns.

Day 2: Friday 13 November 2020                      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 2020                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 2020 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 2020                       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 2020                         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 2020                 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 2020                      Depart Cairns 

Depart Cairns airport this morning for your onward travel to London Heathrow (arriving into the UK on Monday 23 November 2020).

Please note: all itineraries are given as a guide only. Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather).

What's included in your holiday price:

  • scheduled return flights from London Heathrow - Cairns, Airport taxes and transfers.
  • ground and boat transportation as outlined.
  • nine nights full-board accommodation, including breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus two overnight flights.
  • the services of your leader/s.
  • field trips as specified.
  • The Heatherlea Pre-Flight Service offers everything you need at the airport, including hotels, car parking, airport lounges, regional flights, and upgrades. Let Heatherlea take the strain! Pre-flight airport hotel and lounge included free of charge subject to terms and conditions. Read more...

Free Field Guide! - 'Birds of Australia' by Ken Simpson and Nicholas Day is included in your holiday price. One copy per room booked.

What's not included in your holiday price:

  • personal insurance, drinks and other personal expenses, visa costs where necessary, optional tips to local guides/other staff, and any other costs not specified as 'included'.

Your Leaders

Max Breckenridge was born in the UK, but has lived virtually his entire life in Sydney, Australia. Max has birded across every state and almost every corner of the Australian landmass. He has an excellent eye, and especially ear, for Australian birds.

Max is incredibly passionate about wildlife conservation. In addition to his focus of study, he has spent much of his spare time volunteering alongside PhD researcher Ross Crates studying the critically endangered Regent Honeyeater and conducting paid bird surveys. Max receives immense pleasure from birding and showing birds to others, and takes pride in writing detailed trip reports. Max will be joined by a leader from the Heatherlea team with more than 9 clients.

More holiday information:

Flights: Many of our guests may choose to spend more time in Australia, heading out before the trip starts and meeting us at the airport or remaining behind after to visit other parts of Australia. We can arrange flights accordingly, please speak to the office for more details.
Visas are required for all travel to Australia.The requirements for these have been updated in recent years. British citizens can obtain the following types of electronic visitor visa: An online e-Visitor visa direct from the Department of Immigration & Citizenship.There is no visa application charge or service fee for this. Information about this type of visa can be found online here:
Health: You should seek medical advice before travelling, and although there are no compulsory inoculations required, please ensure that any relevant vaccination you may require is up to date.  Please visit the below sites for further details and discuss with your Travel Nurse or GP Practitioner before you travel.
Meals and drinks: Breakfast generally consists of a continental style breakfast with cereal, fruit and yoghurt and tea/coffee.  Full cooked breakfast is not generally offered at most locations.  Lunch will generally consist of a packed lunch style meal eaten in the field, with sandwich/filled roll, fruit, and a drink.  Dinner usually consists of several options for main with the choice of either an appetiser or dessert. Drinks (soft and alcoholic) are generally not included but at lunches and breakfasts juice may be made available.
The itinerary: Whilst we aim to follow the itinerary as planned, please note that the itinerary provided should only be used as a guideline. Depending on individual trip circumstances, weather, and local information, the exact itinerary may not be strictly adhered to. The guides reserve the right to make changes to the itinerary as they see fit.
Weather: The tour runs in late spring. Temperatures at this time of year can vary although mild to warm weather can be expected. Sunny days are followed by mild tropical evenings and average temperatures range from 17 - 26°C. Days are dry but can be windy.
Daily Routine: While this is not a fast paced tour, we will take advantage of the heightened birding and wildlife activity of early mornings and afternoons and enjoy some evening spotlighting excursions. On travel days we will do our best to break longer journeys with comfort stops. Most days will start with an early breakfast followed by an excursion and then a picnic lunch to maximise time in the field. We typically then enjoy an afternoon excursion and have a bit of downtime in the late afternoon/early evening before dinner. Many excursions are optional.
Biting insects: Although biting insects are not regularly encountered on this tour, mosquitoes (malaria free) may be present at certain places. Wasps and bees occur but are generally not a nuisance. There are a number of species of biting ants (jack jumpers and inchmen) that can inflict painful bites however incidents with these insects on tour are extremely unusual.
Walking: There is no demanding walking on this tour with the birding/wildlife locations easily accessible on foot. Guests can expect comfortable walking at the pace of a stroll and while walking is mostly on flattish trails and dirt tracks there will be the occasional hill and uneven terrain.
Accommodation: Accommodation is chosen for its proximity to good wildlife viewing areas and are generally in comfortable cabin/bed-and-breakfast type establishments.

Other birding and wildlife holidays in Australia

Why choose Heatherlea for your birding and wildlife holiday?

Our overseas holidays are planned with care to offer great birding and wildlife, led by capable Leaders who really look after you. Every holiday is run the 'Heatherlea Way', and we hope our Overseas Adventures remind you of the quality and care so many of you enjoy in Scotland. That means rewarding and exciting days in the field, and good quality accommodation and meals, with a real flavour of the country we are visiting. Heatherlea always seek to include the personal touches that make all the difference.

Heatherlea holidays are not ‘dawn to dusk’ expeditions. Our less-intensive approach is ideal for those who want to relax whilst experiencing the best wildlife watching, and wherever possible we organise early or late activity on an optional basis. We also take sensible breaks when in very hot places and regular comfort breaks on every holiday whenever possible. All itineraries are planned carefully around the best wildlife opportunities, and you won’t miss out on memorable wildlife, whilst enjoying relaxed, informal days that are great fun.

The really important part of any wildlife holiday is the experience for you, our valued customer. Heatherlea invest in many things to offer you the best possible service;

  • We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for over 30 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
  • Heatherlea overseas holidays have a maximum of 12 clients per trip, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
  • Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance Departure Taxes and tips to hotels.
  • All elements of our holidays are sold under our own licence, ATOL 6113. Under ‘Flight-Plus’ legislation it is a legal requirement of any tour operator to hold an ATOL licence for the supply of any overseas holiday where a flight is involved, if that holiday includes either overseas accommodation and/or car hire. It can be a criminal offence for an operator to book flights as part of a package without an ATOL licence. Heatherlea also hold full Tour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
  • Heatherlea is your complete wildlife holiday provider. Our ‘Back Office’ team can organise all your pre-flight and other travel needs. Our specialists will help you book the right services, at the best price. Book holiday extensions through us, and your ATOL protection is extended further. We don’t charge extra for this service.
  • Heatherlea is a limited company, registered in Scotland, and registered to pay VAT (applies to all holidays within the European Union).

Trip Reports

Coming Soon

About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: 01479 821248