Blue Mountains, Cairns and O'Reilly's
A 20-day, small group birdwatching tour to Eastern Australia
Running during southern hemisphere Spring, Limosa's birding tour to eastern Australia provides an incredible opportunity to enjoy some fantastic birding within this vast continental nation.
Featuring a host of Australian endemic birds and mammals, it is a journey that will take you from Brisbane and the famous O’Reilly’s Rainforest Lodge to Sydney and the beautiful Blue Mountains before concluding in the bird-rich rainforests of tropical North Queensland and the marvels of the Great Barrier Reef.
Beginning at the world-famous O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat in the Green Mountains near Brisbane, we can expect to start the holiday with Regent and Satin Bowerbirds, as well as hordes of colourful rosellas and Australian King Parrots. We will also look for Paradise Riflebird, which is one of a handful of Birds-of-Paradise that occur in Australia, and one of the ultimate avian mimics, Albert's Lyrebird.
We then fly to Sydney, with six days to explore the beautiful Royal National Park, Blue Mountains and Capertee Valley. With the spring wildflowers near their peak, we hope to find range-restricted birds such as Eastern Bristlebird, Pilotbird and Ground Parrot, as well as Turquoise Parrot, Yellow-tailed and Glossy Black Cockatoos, Superb Lyrebird, Diamond Firetail and the critically endangered Regent Honeyeater.
We then travel north to Cairns for the final part of our holiday where we enjoy the marvels of the Great Barrier Reef, the exceptional variety of waders along the Cairns waterfront, the rainforests of the Atherton Tablelands and cruise on the Daintree River.
The birds here will be very different to further south and we hope to find the likes of Southern Cassowary, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Golden Bowerbird, Tooth-billed Catbird, Victoria’s Riflebird and the stunning Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher. We also hope to see the unique Duck-billed Platypus as well as kangaroos, wallabies and Sugar Gliders.
Led by Limosa's resident Aussie expert Louis Masarei, this exceptional Eastern Australia birdwatching tour is a perfect opportunity to explore the northeastern part of 'Down Under'.
Tour Dates & Prices
Mon 28th October 2024
Sat 16th November 2024
Tour Cost: 20 Days from £6595 excluding flights
- Limosa Tour Leader
- 16 nights at comfortable hotels and wildlife lodges in Eastern Australia
- All main meals
- Minibus transport
- Two great boat trips exploring the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree River
- All local guide fees, excursions, permits, entry fees, tour-based tips and taxes
- Limosa checklist of birds and mammals
Flights (international and domestic), insurance, Australian eVisitor visa, drinks, airport meals, snacks and other personal expenses
The Land Only Tour Cost is the amount you will pay Limosa.
Despite the end of pandemic restrictions, we have taken the decision to continue to price our holidays as excluding international flights.
To keep the process as simple as possible, we are working very closely with a dedicated agent at Travel Counsellors, Sacha Barbato, who is essentially now our “in house” flight consultant.
Sacha is a highly experienced independent ATOL bonded travel agent, and his contact details are as follows: firstname.lastname@example.org and 01603 360099
He will be able to advise you which flights we are using for this holiday (as it will be important all clients are on the same internal flights) and will be able to book these for you.
This will also give you the option to travel from a regional airport if you prefer.
If, however, you wish to book your own flights then please contact the office and we will advise which internal flights we intend to use.
- A spectacular range of endemics from cockatoos and currawongs to kangaroos and Duck-billed Platypus
- Southern Cassowary, Golden, Satin and Regent Bowerbirds, Albert’s and Superb Lyrebirds
- Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher, Noisy Pitta and Victoria's Riflebird
- The special magic of O’Reilly’s Rainforest Lodge with daily ‘muggings’ by parrots and rosellas!
- The beautiful Blue Mountains and north to the rainforests of tropical Queensland
- Day trip to Michaelmas Cay and the Great Barrier Reef for seabirds, spectacular corals and a myriad of tropical fish
- Early morning birding cruise on the Lower Daintree River
- Chances for some of Australia's unique mammals including Duck-billed Platypus, kangaroos, wallabies, pademelons and Sugar Gliders
- Small group tour with a maximum of eight participants
- Expertly led by Limosa’s resident Australian bird guide and naturalist, Louis Masarei
Depart UK for Australia on evening of Day 1.
Arrive Brisbane in the early morning, Drive into the Green Mountains and Lamington National Park. O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat (2 nights)
Return to Brisbane and fly to Sydney. Head to Royal National Park. Jamberoo (2 nights)
Barren Grounds, Fitzroy Falls and Minnamurra Rainforest Centre
We explore the beautiful Blue Mountains visiting the Three Sisters, Blackheath and Megalong Valley. Katoomba (2 nights)
Bird specialities of Lithgow and Capertee Valley. Capertee (2 nights)
We return to Sydney and fly north to Cairns, in tropical North Queensland. Cairns (2 nights)
Full day trip to Michaelmas Cay and the Great Barrier Reef
Head into the Atherton Tablelands and visit the Lake Eacham crater lake. Chambers Rainforest Lodge, Lake Eacham (2 nights)
We visit Centenary Lakes, Cattana Wetland and Redden Island. Mossman (1 night)
We enjoy an early morning birding cruise on the Daintree River and explore Daintree National Park and Mt Lewis. Kingfisher Park (3 nights)
We depart Cairns, arriving in the UK the next day.
Isolated from the rest of the world's landmasses for over 60 million years, evolution in Australia has taken a very separate path. Whilst the continent’s two mammal groups, the kangaroos, wallabies and other marsupials, plus egg-laying monotremes such as the Duck-billed Platypus, are rightly famous, just as remarkable is that almost half of Australia’s regular bird species are found nowhere else, there are a greater proportion of endemic birds here than any other country in the world.
Our epic journey starts in Brisbane from where we head into Lamington National Park and the Green Mountains for two nights at the world-famous O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat. The birding at this well-known location is simply superb and an amazing introduction to the wildlife of this continent sized nation. Here, the well-stocked feeders (plus any inattentive birdwatchers with food in their hands!) attract Regent and Satin Bowerbirds, along with hordes of colourful Crimson Rosellas and Australian King Parrots. With wallaby-like Red-necked Pademelons foraging on the lawn, it should be a spectacular start to our holiday.
We then fly to Sydney, where over six days we plan to explore the beautiful Royal National Park, Blue Mountains and Capertee Valley. The spring wildflowers on the Barren Grounds heathlands in the New South Wales Southern Uplands should be near the peak of their displays and this is where we hope to find range-restricted birds such as Eastern Bristlebird and Pilotbird. We will also make a special effort to find the scarce Ground Parrot - a tricky species that is active primarily 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 we will look for along with flocks of rowdy Yellow-tailed and Glossy Black Cockatoos.
Leaving Sydney, we fly north to Cairns which is widely considered to be one of Australia's top birding spots. Our visit to tropical North Queensland will have many highlights including a boat trip to enjoy the marvels of Michaelmas Cay and the Great Barrier Reef where there are amazing numbers of breeding seabirds and spectacular marine life. We will also want to pause to enjoy the shorebirds along on the Cairns waterfront, with the chance for everything from Great Knot to Beach Thick-knee before we explore the rainforests near Cairns.
Our itinerary will also take us onto the bird-rich Atherton Tablelands where we will look for the likes of Golden Bowerbird, Tooth-billed Catbird and the iridescent Victoria’s Riflebird and with luck, may also find the huge Southern Cassowary.
On another day, we plan to cruise on the Daintree River where the possibilities include Little Kingfisher and Great-billed Heron, before concluding with a stay at Kingfisher Park where the stunning Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher breeds. We will hope to round off our holiday with the likes of Double-eyed Fig Parrot, Lesser Sooty Owl, Emerald Dove, Pied Monarch and Yellow-breasted Boatbill.
Led by our resident Aussie guide Louis Masarei, our carefully crafted itinerary aims to show you the very best of Eastern Australia on this classic birdwatching tour to ‘Down Under’!
This tour can easily be incorporated into a longer visit to Australia. For those who would prefer to travel out early and rest up a little before the tour or make their own arrangements to stopover in Australia or elsewhere before or after our tour, this is easy to achieve and our recommended flight agent will be able to assist you. Please contact the office for further details.
Days 1 - 4
FLY UK-BRISBANE, O’REILLY’S RAINFOREST RETREAT
Our Australian guide, Louis Masarei, will be at Brisbane airport to meet the group in the early morning (of day 3) and leaving the heat of Queensland’s Gold Coast lowlands behind, we will climb into the cooler upland rainforests of the bird-rich Lamington National Park where we will spend two nights at the world-famous O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat in the beautiful Green Mountains.
With its fine network of forest trails, O’Reilly’s offers excellent opportunities to see a whole range of rainforest specialities including Noisy Pitta, Green Catbird and Australian Logrunner.
Another special bird is the stunning black and gold Regent Bowerbird which is a fitting emblem for the lodge and we can also expect to find the dark blue Satin Bowerbird that loves to adorn its bower with bright blue objects. Both species can be ridiculously easy to see at O'Reilly's as they often visit the feeding areas and may even perch on you!
It is almost impossible to avoid getting 'mugged' by hordes of colourful Crimson Rosellas and Australian King Parrots during the day so always make sure you keep any food items firmly under wraps!
Two of the local rainforest specialities are Albert's Lyrebird and Paradise Riflebird and we hope to find both of these, whilst at slightly lower elevations, the dry eucalypt forests hold a wealth of other species including the almost surreal Glossy Black Cockatoo and delightful Whiptail Wallaby.
After dark, we may get an opportunity to see Sugar Gliders and there are good chances of Red-necked Pademelons.
The “O'Reilly's experience” is simply fabulous and it richly deserves its reputation as one of the world's best birdwatching lodges and after two fabulous nights here, we are confident that you will agree that there is no finer place to start this tour! Two nights at O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat
FLY BRISBANE TO SYDNEY, ROYAL NATIONAL PARK
We will reluctantly leave O'Reilly's after an early breakfast and return to Brisbane airport for the c.95 minute flight to Sydney. On arrival, we will head for the second oldest national park in the world, Royal National Park, which is a short drive to the south of the city.
This offers the opportunity to look for more of Australia's native birdlife with numerous honeyeaters, wattlebirds and thornbills amongst the possibilities. We are likely to hear the astonishing whip-like crack of the Eastern Whipbird from deep within the undergrowth but finding this species can sometimes be a little trickier. The regal White-bellied Sea Eagle, however, is invariably easier to locate and we stand a good chance of seeing one soaring overhead. Night Jamberoo
BARREN GROUNDS AND MINNAMURRA RAINFOREST
Our birding will start with a visit to Barren Grounds which is a highland area above the coastal escarpment which is similar to a European heathland. The wildflowers should be nearing their peak and some of the special birds we will look for include Eastern Bristlebird, Pilotbird and Southern Emu-wren.
Nearby at the Minnamurra Rainforest Centre, we can follow the boardwalks through a range of rainforest environments and, with luck, may catch sight of Australia's second species of lyrebird, the Superb Lyrebird, which can found foraging through the leaf litter on the forest floor.
Also present are Large-billed Scrubwrens, the aptly named Top-Knot Pigeon and Green Catbird that genuinely does 'miaow'!
We plan to return at twilight when the uncommon Ground Parrot becomes active and might even be fortunate enough to see a Common Wombat or hear a Greater Sooty Owl. Second night Jamberoo
THE BLUE MOUNTAINS
Leaving Jamberoo, we head north towards the Blue Mountains, with our first planned stop being at the spectacular Fitzroy Falls in Morton National Park where we hope to find flocks of rowdy Glossy and Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos. Gang-gang Cockatoos and a host of smaller birds such as Beautiful Firetail, Leaden Flycatcher and Eastern Yellow Robin.
After spending the night at Katoomba, the following morning we intend to explore around Mount Victoria, Blackheath and Katoomba, where we hope to find some of the specialities of the region, including Superb Lyrebird, Rock Warbler and Satin Flycatcher.
We will then head down through the lush rainforests to the open woodlands of the Megalong Valley where White-winged Choughs, a myriad of species of honeyeater and White-throated Treecreeper can be found. Satin Bowerbird also occurs in this region and this will be the first of several chances to find a bower, where we will hopefully also see the ‘owner’ in attendance, guarding his display of bright blue treasures. Two nights Katoomba
We will leave the Blue Mountains heading for Capertee, with intended stops to look for wildfowl such as Blue-billed, Pink-eared and the very unusual Musk Duck.
The Capertee Valley is a stronghold for a number of rare bird species and the fabulous variety of specialities could include the critically endangered Regent Honeyeater. Other possibilities include Turquoise Parrot, Diamond Firetail, Hooded Robin, Speckled Warbler, Little Lorikeet, Black-chinned, Fuscous and Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters, White-browed Babbler and many more.
As we continue to explore the valley, we may visit a waterhole to watch an array of honeyeaters, parrots and pigeons coming in for a drink. There could also be good numbers of Eastern Grey Kangaroos, with Red-necked Wallabies and Wallaroos also possible as the setting sun turns the majestic cliffs golden red. Two nights Capertee
FLY SYDNEY TO CAIRNS, CAIRNS WATERFRONT
Today is mainly a travel day and we will have to make a very early start to return to Sydney where we catch a morning flight north to Cairns, in tropical North Queensland.
This is often considered to be at the centre of one of Australia's very best birding area and depending on our flight schedule, there may be time for a visit to the famous Cairns waterfront after we arrive. This is a superb place for waders and the possibilities include Terek and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Grey-tailed Tattler, Great Knot and both Greater and, the recently split, Siberian Sand Plover. Night Cairns
PELAGIC BOAT TRIP TO MICHAELMAS CAY AND THE GREAT BARRIER REEF
We will take a cruise to visit the largest continuous stretch of coral on earth: the Great Barrier Reef. Passing Black-naped Terns, which appear gleaming white against the tropical blue sea, we plan to go ashore on Michaelmas Cay, a sandy islet crammed with breeding seabirds. There should be good numbers of Sooty Terns and Brown Noddies and with Brown Boobies and Great Frigatebirds overhead, this is a truly magical place.
Despite all the wonderful birds, the chance to snorkel over the reef or to view the vast range of underwater life from a glass-bottomed boat may be the ‘ultimate experience’ for some.
It will certainly be with great reluctance that we leave this window on to another world of multicoloured fish, corals and noddies and return to the mainland for dinner and a second overnight stay in Cairns. Second night Cairns
ATHERTON TABLELANDS, LAKE BARRINE AND LAKE EACHAM
Leaving the coast behind us, we will make the easy drive up 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 where the trees are festooned with epiphytic ferns and mosses and huge birdwing butterflies fly through the shady understorey. There will be enormous strangler figs draping their roots over their host trees and the birds we will look for include Tooth-billed Catbird, the aptly named Golden Bowerbird and beautiful Wompoo Fruit Dove.
We stay at a superbly situated lodge located amidst pristine rainforest, where iridescent Victoria's Riflebirds display and Red-legged Pademelons graze on the lawns.
We plan to go spotlighting after dark to look for nocturnal mammals and birds but will also have a chance of finding the shy and elusive Duck-billed Platypus, as it swims out along a favoured stream at dusk. Two nights Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodge
CENTENARY LAKES, REDDEN ISLAND, CATTANA WETLANDS AND MOSSMAN
We intend to start our day with a visit to Centenary Lakes which is often highly productive for a range of honeyeaters. We will also hope to find Orange-footed Scrubfowl which can sometimes be seen scratching about for food on the tangled forest floor.
Just north of the city, Redden Island, is a jewel of a reserve comprising mangroves, beaches and eucalypt woodlands. The appropriately named Rose-crowned Fruit Dove and Little Bronze Cuckoo are both possible and we have a good chance of finding the huge but rather secretive Great-billed Heron.
We may also visit Cattana Wetlands, a man-made system of interconnected pools, where there could be Green Pygmy Geese, as well as flocks of Metallic Starlings and Helmeted Friarbirds before heading up the coast to our accommodation in Mossman. Night in Mossman
DAINTREE RIVER CRUISE AND KINGFISHER PARK, JULATTEN
We begin with an early morning cruise on the Lower Daintree River which is a wildlife experience not to be missed. Our focus will primarily be on looking for Great-billed Heron, Papuan Frogmouth and Little Kingfisher but we may also see the massive Saltwater Crocodiles which frequent this river.
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 destination, Kingfisher Park, at Julatten.
Named after the beautiful Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher that breeds in the grounds, Kingfisher Park is a comfortable retreat set within a patch of remnant rainforest. Boasting a remarkable list 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 species which have been recorded at or around the lodge.
Our accommodation is in comfortable but simply furnished cabins, each with a veranda looking out over the rainforest grounds. Three nights Julatten
RETURN TO CAIRNS, FLY TO UK
Following breakfast, we bid a reluctant farewell to Kingfisher Park and slowly wind our way back down through the forested hills to Cairns airport where we plan to arrive in the mid-afternoon.
Bidding a final goodbye to Louis, we begin our journey back to the UK.
ARRIVAL IN UK
Arrive back in the UK, where our birdwatching tour to Eastern Australia concludes.
WHAT TO EXPECT
A comprehensive 20-day, small group birdwatching tour to Eastern Australia looking for a host of Australian endemic birds and mammals.
We begin with the magic of the famous O’Reilly’s Rainforest Lodge in the Green Mountains above Brisbane before visiting the beautiful Blue Mountains near Sydney. We then fly north to Cairns to explore the rainforests of tropical North Queensland and the seabirds and sights of the Great Barrier Reef.
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, although it is 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 is possible over the coast and hills.
Some wonderful photographic opportunities on this tour (ie birds, mammals, butterflies and scenery), especially at places such as O’Reilly’s Rainforest Lodge.
We stay at a varied selection of comfortable Aussie hotels, motels, lodges and cabins. Rooms are ensuite except for our three nights at Kingfisher Park, where all bedrooms are separate but some bathrooms may be shared with another room.
All main meals are included in the tour price, commencing with lunch following arrival in Australia on Day 3 and concluding with lunch on Day 19. Aussie food is good!
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.
Despite the end of pandemic restrictions, we have taken the decision to continue to price our holidays as excluding international flights.
To keep the process as simple as possible, we work very closely with a dedicated agent at Travel Counsellors, Sacha Barbato, who is essentially now our “in house” flight consultant.
Sacha will be able to advise you which flights we are recommending for each holiday, and he will be able to book these for you.
This may also give you the option to travel from a regional airport if you prefer.
By 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'.
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 (North Queensland).
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 offer 'tailormade' arrangements, Managing Director Chris Collins has spent many months exploring Australia and is happy to share his knowledge with you, so please don’t hesitate to call us.
View a gallery of images for this tour below, click on an image to view as full size with caption