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 7) 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 early on the morning of Day 3.
We'll be met on arrival in Sydney by our guide Peter Taylor and head directly to Botany Bay and the historic spot where Captain Cook first set foot on these shores in 1770. Here, the Kamay-Botany Bay National Park offers a gentle but excellent introduction to Australian birdlife. Avian delights might include stunning Rainbow Lorikeets, Red-browed Finches, Australian Magpies, New Holland Honeyeaters and the dazzling Superb Fairywren.
As we head south towards Jamberoo (our destination for the first two nights), we’ll pause to enjoy an easy bird walk amid the unspoilt coastal wilderness of Royal National Park - the second oldest in the world (after Yellowstone, USA). We should encounter some exciting new birds in this massive park, looking out for our first raucous Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and gaudy Crimson Rosellas along with numerous honeyeaters, wattlebirds and thornbills. We are likely to hear the astonishing whip-crack of the 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, and regal White-bellied Sea Eagles soar high above. Night Jamberoo
BARREN GROUNDS & MINNAMURRA RAINFOREST
Our birding begins in earnest today with a visit to Budderoo and the 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 Gerygones, 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. In the evening, we can also go spotlighting for arboreal mammals, including Sugar Glider - and we might even be lucky to see or hear a Greater Sooty Owl. Night Jamberoo
Days 5 - 6
THE BLUE MOUNTAINS
We begin the day with an optional pre-dawn start for those who want to try again for the exceedingly elusive Ground Parrot. The nearby rainforest will also give us another opportunity to look for Australian Logrunner and other tricky species we might have missed before.
Leaving Jamberoo, we head north towards the Blue Mountains, where we first visit Kings Tableland. This is ‘cockatoo country’ par excellence and 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 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, Pilotbird and Flame Robin. We'll head into the lush rainforest of the Megalong Valley for a chance to find the lovely Rose Robin, Russet-tailed Thrush and Red-browed Treecreeper. Satin Bowerbird also occurs in the area 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
CAPERTEE VALLEY, GLEN DAVIS
Today we head out of the Blue Mountains towards Capertee, stopping along the way at the productive Lithgow Sewage Ponds with chances of Blue-billed, Pink-eared and the very unusual Musk Duck amongst a good range of waterfowl.
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
FLY SYDNEY TO CAIRNS, CAIRNS WATERFRONT
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. Time and traffic permitting, we'll return to Sydney airport via the celebrated Harbour Bridge, which dwarfs the equally famous Opera House.
From Sydney, we catch an afternoon flight north to Cairns, in tropical North Queensland, where we spend the next two nights. Flight schedules permitting, on arrival at Cairns this afternoon there may be time for an initial visit its famous Waterfront - a splendid wader habitat, where shorebird possibilities include Terek and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Grey-tailed Tattler, Great Knot and Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers. Night Cairns
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
CENTENARY LAKES, REDDEN ISLAND, CATTANA WETLANDS & MOSSMAN
Considered by many to lie at the centre of Australia's very best birding area, Cairns offers wonderful wetland birding right on the doorstep. Centenary Lakes can be highly productive, with a variety of honeyeaters and the sinister Black Butcherbird to watch for, while Orange-footed Scrubfowl scratch about the tangled forest floor.
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 will also visit nearby 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 here, we head directly to our accommodation in Mossman, a short drive up the coast. Night Mossman
Days 11 - 12
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 13 - 14
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 looking for nocturnal mammals and birds, and also have 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
Days 15 - 17
FLY CAIRNS-BRISBANE, O’REILLY’S RAINFOREST RETREAT
After some final birding around Yungaburra this morning, we return to Cairns and catch a lunch time 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 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, 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 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 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
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 catch a morning flight from Brisbane to Sydney with onward connection there to our British Airways flight home.