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NEW! Queensland

Fabulous birding and a visit to the Great Barrier Reef

2025 Dates
  • 22 Nov - 03 Dec 2025
Duration12 Days
2025 Price
Price TBC
Max Group Size6 per guide

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.

This tour can be combined with our holiday to Tasmania, read more on our 'Grand Tour' page.


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!

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 - 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'.


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:http://www.border.gov.au/Trav/Visa-1/651-
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 /early summer. Temperatures at this time of year can vary although it it expected to be hot and humid. Sunny days are followed by mild tropical evenings and average temperatures range from 17 - 30°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. At most sites we accommodate all guests in en suite facilities but at some locations there may be shared bathrooms. These sites offer us the best chances of sought after wildlife so we wouldn't want to miss them!

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).

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About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: +44(0)1479 821248