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Australia | Eastern Blue Mountains, Cairns & O'Reilly's

A 19-day, small group birdwatching tour to Eastern Australia.

Australia Birding Tours with Limosa Holidays: Join Limosa's resident Aussie expert Peter Taylor for this classic ‘best of' Eastern Australia birdwatching tour. Featuring a host of Australian endemic birds and mammals, it’s a journey that will take you from historic Botany Bay and the beautiful Blue Mountains around Sydney, north to Cairns, where we discover the bird-rich rainforests of tropical North Queensland and the marvels of the Great Barrier Reef. Add the magic of 3 nights at famous O’Reilly’s Rainforest Lodge, in the scenic Green Mountains above Brisbane, and our November birding tour to Australia has all the ingredients for a classic wildlife trip Down Under.

Tour Dates

2019

Full

2020

Spaces
6

Leaders
Peter Taylor

Max Group Size: 7
Duration: 19 Days

Ask About Tour

Cost: £6495*

inc flights outbound London-Heathrow-Sydney and returning Brisbane-Sydney-London, with British Airways

Deposit: £800

Single Supp: £695*
Land Only: £5695

* Prices Provisional (tba)

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CK Blue faced Honeyeater E Oz 1113 PTaylor IMG 2212 crop

The striking Blue-faced Honeyeater is an Australian endemic, occurring in the north and east of the continent © Peter Taylor, Limosa Holidays

Australia is truly a world apart. Isolated from the rest of the world’s landmasses for over 60 million years, here evolution has taken a quite separate path. Most famous perhaps are the continent’s two mammal groups: the marsupials and the monotremes - including the peculiar egg-laying Platypus, which we have been lucky enough to see on all our previous trips. Even more remarkable, almost half of Australia’s 650 or so regular bird species are unique to the region - a greater proportion of endemics than is found in any other country.

Journeying from the southern temperate zones up into the northern tropics, our birding tour to Eastern Australia tour commences in Sydney, where a brief visit to Botany Bay followed by a an easy birdwalk in beautiful Royal National Park should provide an excellent introduction to the birds of southeast Australia.

In the New South Wales Southern Uplands, the famous Barren Grounds heathland should be near the peak of its spring wildflower displays. The range-restricted Eastern Bristlebird and Pilotbird frequent this habitat and we’ll make a special effort to find the scarce Ground Parrot - a seldom seen species that's active only at daybreak and dusk. Climbing up into the beautiful Blue Mountains and Capertee Valley, Turquoise Parrot, Superb Lyrebird, Diamond Firetail and the endangered Regent Honeyeater are among a range of specialities to watch for, along with flocks of rowdy and impressively big Yellow-tailed and Glossy Black Cockatoos.

Leaving Sydney, we next fly north to Cairns. One of Australia's top birding spots, shorebirds are outstanding on the Waterfront here, with everything from Great Knot to Beach Thick-knee. We continue inland to try for the elusive Southern Cassowary and superb Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher before searching the bird-rich jungles of the Atherton Tablelands for the likes of Golden Bowerbird, Tooth-billed Catbird and the iridescent Victoria’s Riflebird.

A dawn cruise on the Daintree River may reward us with Little Kingfisher and Great-billed Heron, whetting our appetites for a fitting finale to our stay in tropical North Queensland: a trip out from Cairns aboard Ocean Spirit, to savour the marvels of Michaelmas Cay and the Great Barrier Reef, with their breeding seabirds and exuberant marine life.

Flying south from Cairns to Brisbane, our tour concludes with three nights at the incomparable O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, where the birding is simply superb! Wallaby-like Red-necked Pademelons forage on the lawn, and well-stocked feeders - not to mention inattentive birdwatchers with food in their hands! - attract immaculate Regent and Satin Bowerbirds, along with crowds of colourful Crimson Rosellas and Australian King Parrots.

Our resident Aussie guide Peter Taylor joined the Limosa team in 2008 and has since led all of our Australia tours. Pack your swags and join us for very best of Eastern Australia on this classic, annual birdwatching tour Down Under!

Mareeba Rock Wallaby Granite Gorge Mareeba Australia Peter Taylor Nov 2008 P1050949

There's nothing more Australian than kangaroos and wallabies. Here a confiding Mareeba Rock Wallaby hops up to investigate participants on our Classic Australia tour © Peter Taylor, Limosa

If you wish, this tour can easily be incorporated into your own private visit to Australia. For those who’d prefer to travel out early and rest up a little ahead of the tour, or make their own arrangements to stopover in Australia before or after our tour, we can organise your flights out / back on almost any day you choose. Please ask for details and a quote at time of booking.

Alternatively, a 'land only' price is shown below (see page 9 of our downloadable Tour Info Pack) for those who prefer to book their own flights, joining the tour in Sydney (on day 3) and leaving it in Brisbane (on day 18).

Days 1 - 3                                       
FLY LONDON-SYDNEY: BOTANY BAY (CAPTAIN COOK MONUMENT) & ROYAL NATIONAL PARK

Our birdwatching tour to Eastern Australia commences with a British Airways evening departure from London Heathrow bound for Sydney, crossing several time zones (and with a refuelling stop in the Far East) before arriving on Australia's east coast on the morning of Day 3.
 
We'll be met on arrival in Sydney by our guide Peter Taylor and pay a brief visit to Botany Bay to see the historic spot where Captain Cook first set foot on these shores in 1770.

From there, a 30-minute drive carries us to the unspoilt coastal wilderness of Royal National Park - the second oldest national park in the world (after Yellowstone, in the USA). We should encounter a host of exciting new birds during an easy bird walk in this massive park, looking out for our first raucous Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, gaudy Crimson Rosellas and stunning Rainbow Lorikeets, along with Red-browed Finches, Australian Magpies, New Holland Honeyeaters and the aptly-named Superb Fairywren. We are also likely to hear the astonishing 'whip-crack' of the shy Eastern Whipbird from deep within the undergrowth, while the big Australian Pelican, Greater Crested Tern and up to three species of cormorant are possible offshore, as regal White-bellied Sea Eagles soar high above.

Afterwards, we continue south to Jamberoo, where we stay two nights. Night Jamberoo

Day 4                                     
BARREN GROUNDS & MINNAMURRA RAINFOREST

Our birding begins in earnest today with a visit to Barren Grounds, where we have a chance of finding the remarkable Ground Parrot. This highland area above the coastal escarpment is similar to European heathland and should be nearing the peak of its wildflower displays about now. Some of the special birds here include Eastern Bristlebird, Pilotbird and Southern Emuwren.

Nearby is the Minnamurra Rainforest Centre, where we can follow the boardwalks through a range of rainforest environments and, if we’re quiet, may well catch sight of Superb Lyrebirds that forage through the litter on the forest floor. Also present here are Large-billed Scrubwrens, the aptly named Top-Knot Pigeon and bizarre Green Catbirds that genuinely miaow!

We'll return at twilight when - with any luck! - the uncommon Ground Parrot becomes active, and we might even be lucky to see a Common Wombat or hear a Greater Sooty Owl. Night Jamberoo

Days 5 - 6                              
THE BLUE MOUNTAINS

Leaving Jamberoo, we head north towards the Blue Mountains, stopping along the way at the spectacular Fitzroy Falls in Morton National Park. Here we will hope for flocks of rowdy Glossy and Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos as well as Gang-gang Cockatoos and a host of smaller birds such as Leaden Flycatcher, Eastern Yellow Robin and Beautiful Firetail.

Our destination this evening is Katoomba, where we stay for two nights.

Next morning, in the vicinity of Mt. Victoria, Blackheath and Katoomba, we'll seek out some of the really localised specialities of the region, including Rock Warbler, Superb Lyrebird and Satin Flycatcher. We'll head down through lush rainforest to the open woodlands of the Megalong Valley for a chance to find enchanting White-winged Choughs, a myriad species of honeyeaters and White-throated Treecreeper. Satin Bowerbird also occurs in these mountains and we'll have the first of many chances to find a bower, most likely seeing the artisan in attendance, guarding its display of bright blue treasures. This area is also renowned for its spectacular scenery, while after dark we can again go spotlighting for mammals such as Common Wombat, Common Brushtail Possum, Common Ringtail Possum and Greater Glider - and the possibility of seeing owls and frogmouths. Two nights Katoomba

Day 7            
CAPERTEE VALLEY, GLEN DAVIS

Today we head out of the Blue Mountains towards Capertee, stopping along the way at the productive Lithgow Sewage Ponds and Lake Wallace. Blue-billed, Pink-eared and the very unusual Musk Duck are amongst a good range of waterfowl we have chances of seeing here.

The Capertee Valley is well known amongst Australian birders as a stronghold for a number of rare and threatened bird species. A fabulous variety of specialities here could include the smart but endangered (and tricky to find!) Regent Honeyeater, the superb Turquoise Parrot, Diamond Firetail, Hooded Robin, Speckled Warbler, Little Lorikeet, Black-chinned, Fuscous and Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters, White-browed Babbler, White-backed Swallow and many more. We should also encounter some fascinating reptiles, perhaps finding a Bearded Dragon or the huge Lace Monitor.

After lunch we continue to explore the valley, arriving back in time to watch the array of honeyeaters, parrots and pigeons coming to a waterhole for their afternoon drink. Here we should also see good numbers of Eastern Grey Kangaroos, with perhaps Red-necked Wallabies and Wallaroos also becoming active as the setting sun turns the majestic cliffs gold and red.

Our accommodation tonight is at lovely Glen Davis. We stay in a historic grand hotel, which has been beautifully renovated with amazing views from each room of the towering escarpments of the ancient Wollemi National Park. Not all rooms are en suite here, but the hotel is in such a magnificent setting that we think you’ll agree it is more than worth it. In addition, this is the only way to experience sunset and sunrise right in the valley - and it gives us more chance of seeing kangaroos, too! Night Glen Davis

Day 8         
FLY SYDNEY TO CAIRNS, DRIVE TO MOSSMAN

Today is mainly a travel day, so after an early walk around historic Glen Davis and a hearty breakfast, we’ll be on the road. Traffic permitting, we'll return to Sydney via the celebrated Harbour Bridge, which dwarfs the equally famous Opera House.

From Sydney, we catch an early afternoon flight north to Cairns, in tropical North Queensland.

Time permitting, on arrival at Cairns there may be time for a quick visit to Cattana Wetlands, a man-made system of interconnected pools where we may find our first Green Pygmy-geese, the prehistoric looking Orange-footed Scrubfowl and flocks of Metallic Starlings and Helmeted Friarbirds. From there, we head directly to our overnight stop in Mossman, a short drive up the coast. Night Mossman  *1 see footnote, page 8

Days 9 - 10                        
DAINTREE RIVER CRUISE & KINGFISHER PARK, JULATTEN

We begin with an early morning cruise on the Lower Daintree River - a wildlife experience not to be missed. Birds we'll be looking for here include Great-billed Heron, Papuan Frogmouth and Little Kingfisher. The massive Saltwater or Estuarine Crocodile also frequents this spot!

After breakfast, we cross the Daintree River and search the forest on the northern side for the elusive and entirely unpredictable Southern Cassowary before heading inland towards our next stop: Kingfisher Park, at Julatten.

Named after the beautiful Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher that breeds within the grounds, Kingfisher Park is a comfortable birdwatchers retreat set within a patch of remnant rainforest. Boasting a remarkable diversity of birds, the likes of Double-eyed Fig Parrot, Lesser Sooty Owl, Emerald Dove, Pied Monarch and Yellow-breasted Boatbill are among more than two hundred tropical Australian species recorded at or around the lodge.

Accommodation at Kingfisher Park is in comfortable but simply furnished cabins, each with a veranda looking out over the rainforest grounds. We spend two nights at this superb wildlife spot!  Two nights Julatten

Days 11 - 12                                  
ATHERTON TABLELANDS, LAKE BARRINE & LAKE EACHAM

We take an easy drive south into the Atherton Tablelands and visit the crater lakes of Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham. This rich volcanic area harbours some of the best rainforests in Australia, festooned with epiphytic ferns and mosses where mighty birdwing butterflies flit through the shady understorey and enormous strangler figs drape their roots over their host trees. The stocky Tooth-billed Catbird, aptly named Golden Bowerbird and beautiful Wompoo Fruit Doves calling their name are among a wealth of rainforest birds to watch for.

We stay at a superbly situated lodge amidst pristine rainforest, where iridescent Victoria's Riflebirds display and Red-legged Pademelons graze the lawns. We plan to go spotlighting in the forests after dark, searching for nocturnal birds and mammals - including a chance of seeing the shy and elusive Duck-billed Platypus as it swims out along a favoured stream at dusk. Two nights Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodge

Day 13                                   
CAIRNS WATERFRONT & CENTENARY LAKES

After some final birding around Yungaburra today we return to Cairns this afternoon, where we’ll stay for the next two nights.

Considered by many to lie at the centre of Australia's very best birding area, Cairns offers wonderful wetland birding right on the doorstep. Its celebrated waterfront is a splendid wader habitat, where shorebird possibilities include Terek and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Grey-tailed Tattler, Great Knot and Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers. Nearby Centenary Lakes can also be highly productive, with a variety of honeyeaters and the sinister Black Butcherbird to watch for, while Orange-footed Scrubfowl scratch about for food on the tangled forest floor. Night Cairns

Day 14                                 
PELAGIC BOAT TRIP TO MICHAELMAS CAY & THE GREAT BARRIER REEF

From Cairns we take one of the renowned Ocean Spirit cruises today, out to the largest continuous stretch of coral on earth: the Great Barrier Reef.

Passing Black-naped Terns, which appear stunningly white against the bright blue tropical waters, we go ashore on Michaelmas Cay, a sandy islet crammed with breeding seabirds, including ‘wide-awake’ Sooty Terns and Brown Noddies. Brown Boobies loaf on buoys near the island and Great Frigatebirds hang menacingly overhead.

Despite all these wonderful birds, for some the chance to snorkel over the reef itself - or simply to view the shimmering colours and vast range of underwater life from a glass-bottomed boat - may perhaps be the ultimate experience. It will be with great reluctance that we leave this window on to another world, with its multi-hued fish and corals, noddies and tropical islets, and return to the mainland for dinner and a second overnight stay in Cairns. Night Cairns

Days 15 - 17                    
REDDEN ISLAND, FLY CAIRNS-BRISBANE, O’REILLY’S RAINFOREST RETREAT
Just north of the city, Redden Island, on the shores of the Coral Sea, is a jewel of a reserve comprising mangroves, beaches and eucalypt woodlands. The lovely Rose-crowned Fruit Dove and Little Bronze-cuckoo are possible here, and we have a good chance of the huge but secretive Great-billed Heron along the creek.

We depart Cairns around lunchtime on a flight south to Brisbane. Leaving the heat of southern Queensland’s Gold Coast lowlands behind, we are soon winding up into the cooler upland rainforests of the bird-rich Lamington National Park, in the beautiful Green Mountains. We spend our final three nights here, staying at the world famous O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat.

With its fine network of forest trails, O’Reilly’s offers excellent opportunities to see a whole range of rainforest specialities, such as Noisy Pitta, Green Catbird and Australian Logrunner. This is wonderful bowerbird country too, with the stunning black and gold Regent Bowerbird a fitting emblem for the lodge, and the dark blue Satin Bowerbird that loves to adorn its bower with bright blue objects. Both species are ridiculously easy to see at O'Reilly's as they come readily to the feeding areas - and may even perch on you! It's impossible to avoid getting 'mugged' here by hordes of colourful Crimson Rosellas and Australian King Parrots during the day - keep any food items firmly under wraps! While Sugar Gliders and the abundant Red-necked Pademelons take their place at night.

Two of the local rainforest specialities here are Albert's Lyrebird and Paradise Riflebird. At slightly lower elevations, O’Reilly’s dry eucalypt forests hold a wealth of new of species - both birds and mammals - including the surreal and rather eerie but elusive Glossy Black Cockatoo and the delightful Whiptail Wallaby.

In short, the O'Reilly's experience is simply fabulous and richly deserves its reputation as one of the world's best birdwatching lodges. We think you’ll agree with us, there’s no finer place to finish our classic Eastern Australia tour! Three nights at O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat

Day 18                                         
RETURN TO BRISBANE, FLY LONDON

Following an early breakfast this morning, we say a reluctant farewell to remarkable O'Reilly's Rainforest Lodge and wind back down through the Green Mountains to Brisbane.

Bidding a final "G’day mate!" to Peter, we check-in for our late morning flight from Brisbane to Sydney with onward connection there to our British Airways flight home.

Day 19                                         
ARRIVAL LONDON
Early morning arrival at London Heathrow, where our birdwatching tour to Australia concludes.



*1  ITINERARY FOOTNOTE:
Please note that for logistical reasons it is sometimes necessary to reverse the above running order of the central portion of this tour (Days 8-14 inclusive). In this event (e.g. our November 2018 and 2019 tours), we will still be spending the same number of nights at each hotel so the places visited, excursions planned, and the birds and wildlife to be seen will be unaffected by the change. Our revised Outline Itinerary will then run as follows:

Day 8
... Fly Sydney to Cairns. Wader watching along Cairns famous Waterfront. Cairns (2 nts)

Day 9
Full day aboard "Ocean Spirit" sailing out to Michaelmas Cay and the Great Barrier Reef

Day 10
We visit Centenary Lakes, Cattana Wetland and Redden Island. Night Mossman

Days 11-12
We take an early morning birding cruise on the Daintree River and explore Daintree National Park. Kingfisher Park (2 nts)

Days 13-14
South to the Atherton Tablelands and visit Lake Eacham. Evening watch for Duck-billed Platypus. Chambers Rainforest Lodge, Lake Eacham (2 nts)

Day 15
Returning to Cairns, we fly south to Brisbane, etc...

Satin Bowerbird OReillys AUS 2007 K ELSBY webck011212

At world famous O'Reilly's we'll find a wealth of rainforest specialities, including the handsome male Satin Bowerbird that loves to adorn its bower with bright blue objects © Dr Kevin Elsby, wildlifeontheweb.co.uk

What To Expect

Comprehensive 19-day, small group birdwatching tour to Eastern Australia. After visiting Botany Bay and the beautiful Blue Mountains at Sydney, we fly north to Cairns to discover the rainforests of tropical North Queensland and the seabirds and sights of the Great Barrier Reef. Mix in the magic of famous O’Reilly’s Rainforest Lodge, in the Green Mountains above Brisbane - plus a host of Australian endemic birds and mammals along the way - and you have the best of 'Oz' on this classic Eastern Australia tour!

November is the ideal time to visit Eastern Australia. The climate is tropical in the north (Cairns to Brisbane), where it is hot and sunny all year round (25-33C/77-91F). It can be humid at times, especially at the coast; typically cooler and more pleasant early and late in the day in the hills, as well as further south with temperatures in Sydney ranging from 16-23C (61-74F). November is one of the driest months of the year but some rain possible over the coast and hills.

Some wonderful photographic opportunities on this tour - birds, mammals, butterflies and scenery, especially at such places as O’Reilly’s Rainforest Lodge.

Birds

270-310 species

Mammals

15-25 species

Accommodation

We stay at a varied selection of comfortable Aussie hotels, motels, lodges and cabins. All rooms are en suite except for our one night at lovely Glen Davis and two at Kingfisher Park, where all bedrooms are separate but some bathrooms may be shared with another room.

Meals

All main meals are included in the tour price, commencing with lunch following arrival in Australia on Day 3 and concluding with breakfast there on Day 18. Aussie food is good!

Walking

Easy walking, no more than a mile or two at any one time. Sturdy thornproof walking shoes or boots with corrugated soles for grip are recommended.

Travel

We fly with British Airways, outbound from London-Sydney and returning Brisbane-Sydney-London.

Our tour price also includes domestic flights within Australia, from Sydney to Cairns and Cairns to Brisbane.

Ground Transport  By Toyota minibus or similar. Private coach transfers to and from O’Reilly’s, where our birding excursions are on foot and/or in O’Reilly’s own 'wildlife bus'.

Boat Trips

Our tour cost includes two ‘must-do’ boat trips: a dawn wildlife cruise on the Daintree River and an all-day pelagic visit to Michaelmas Cay and the Great Barrier Reef with Ocean Spirit Cruises (North Queensland).

TOUR EXTENSIONS  
Should you wish to extend your visit to Australia before and/or after our tour, this is easy to do. Internal flights are nowhere near as expensive as they once were and although Limosa does not itself offer 'tailormade' arrangements (these are best made through a specialist travel agent, such as Austravel, Trailfinders or Travelbag), it is usually possible for us to arrange your flight out and back to the UK on different dates and/or from a different city than the one in which our tour ends.

For those who prefer to make their own arrangements for flights, we offer a land only price enabling you to join / leave our tour in Sydney / Brisbane. If you are planning to book your own flights however, please be sure to contact us first to check that the times fit with the current itinerary!

 

Sooty Terns Michaelmas Cay Great Barrier Reef Australia Don King Nov 2008 PICT0393

We'll take a boat trip out to the Great Barrier Reef and go ashore at Michaelmas Cay, a sandy islet crammed with breeding seabirds, including crowds of ‘wide-awake’ Sooty Terns with their chicks © tour participant Don King

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