Birdwatching Safari – Top End, Northern Territory

This six-day Birdwatching Safari is an Australian Geographic Travel exclusive tour led by renowned specialist guide, Luke Paterson, holding over two decades of local knowledge and experience.

With a small private group you’ll explore all the major habitats of the Northern Territory’s Top End (Darwin, Kakadu National Park and Katherine) to seek specialty bird species including Gouldian finches, black-banded fruit dove and rainbow pitta. With more than 300 bird species in the region, it truly is a birdwatcher’s paradise.

You’ll get away from the crowds during a privately guided birdwatching cruise on Ramsar-listed World Heritage wetlands and visit several ancient Aboriginal rock art sites, making it a fascinating way to birdwatch. We practise ethical birdwatching guidelines to minimise our impact on the places we visit.

About Luke Paterson

Your guide, Luke Paterson, has a celebrated reputation as one of Australia’s leading specialist bird guides. His multi-award-winning efforts enhance the guest experience through passionate sharing of the natural wonders of the Northern Territory, Luke’s guiding playground for the past 22 years. Luke’s ethical professionalism and great company in the field is admirable, along with his incredible birding skills and acute hearing and sight, earning him a reputation for having ‘hawk-eyes’. At the heart of it all, Luke is a top-notch birder with a keen interest in wildlife and landscape photography and looks forward to hosting and guiding you on Australian Geographic Travel adventures.

At a Glance

Dates7–12 October 2023
12-17 June 2024
18-23 September 2024

(If the dates listed are not suitable, please contact our team [email protected] or call 1300 241 141 to enquire about alternative dates if you prefer to travel with your own private party)

Activity level
This tour demands a reasonable amount of agility as some of the walks are over slippery and uneven ground. We recommend a reasonable level of fitness to carry your own equipment and water, plus stable footing is required for this itinerary in order to make the most of your experience.
Duration6 days, 5 nights
PricesFrom $5,750 per person
From $770 single supplement
Group sizeMin 6, max 12
Featuring regionsDarwin, Fogg Dam, Kakadu National Park, Pine Creek, Katherine, Darwin

Trip Highlights

• Expert guidance by birding specialist, Luke Paterson, to assist you in observing the northern Territory’s rare and iconic birds, some found nowhere else on earth.

• Three-hour privately guided birdwatching cruise at the famous Yellow Water Billabong in Kakadu National Park, exclusive permit-access locations and an immersive visit to the Fogg Dam Heritage site.

• Bushwalks through all of the Top End’s major habitats and Aboriginal country to find difficult birds while enjoying comfortable air-conditioned accommodation and private commercial vehicles.

• Supporting local Aboriginal-owned businesses and conservation.

Birdwatching Highlights MAY Include;

  • 140+ bird species
  • Little kingfisher
  • Rainbow pitta
  • Black-banded fruitdove
  • Gouldian finch
  • Masked finch
  • Great-billed heron
  • White-bellied sea eagle
  • Brolga
  • Magpie goose
  • Partridge pigeon


Day 1 – Darwin to Kakadu National Park

Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Dinner (D), Hotel (H)

Embark on an Australian Geographic special birdwatching tour of the Northern Territory’s Top End with your award-winning local specialist bird guide Luke Paterson.

The tour starts early (pick ups from Darwin hotel at 6am) to travel to the heritage-listed Fogg Dam near the Adelaide River. Enjoy a stunning half day of birdwatching around this thriving wetland with bird hides and nature trails to explore. We’ll take a picnic breakfast and lunch with the birds. Species to look out for include: forest kingfisher, rose-crowned fruit dove, rainbow pitta, lemon-bellied flycatcher, barking owl.

We then set off travelling through the savannah woodlands and head into the World Heritage Kakadu National Park. World famous, Kakadu is a place of undeniable and irreplaceable beauty and wonder. Kakadu, Australia’s largest terrestrial national park is dual world-heritage listed (for both natural and cultural features). It is home to one third of Australia’s bird species (280), ancient living Aboriginal cultures spanning 65,000 years in the region and 1.8–2.5 billion-year old geological features (half the age of the Earth!).

We’ll visit the ever-changing Mamukala Wetland and bird hide on the Ramsar-listed South Alligator floodplains, a fantastic site of mixed habitat for bush and water birds including crimson finch, plumed and wandering whistling, magpie goose, glossy ibis and comb-crested jacana. The site is significant magpie geese on mass and migratory shorebirds including little curlew in the hotter parts of the year (September–November).

For the next two nights you’ll stay in Australia’s first Aboriginal-owned township of Jabiru, originally built to service the closing uranium mine and now the community and park visitors.

Overnight at the boutique Aboriginal-owned Anbinik Kakadu Resort – A/C rooms, private external bathrooms, dinner at local restaurant.

Day 2 – Kakadu National Park

(B, L, D, H)

Today we are up and at it early for a 6km flat walk through sandstone and monsoon forest, home to an array of Kakadu’s endemic birds: black-banded fruit dove, white-lined honeyeater, Arafura shrike-thrush, peregrine falcon and other specialities including the helmeted friarbird (sandstone race). A moderate level of fitness is required for the hot conditions and you’ll need to carry at least 2 litres of your own water plus morning tea. Other wildlife may include: Leichhardt’s grasshopper and black wallaroo (or ‘Barrk’ in the Kundjeymi Aboriginal language).

After lunch and a freshen up we’ll spend the rest of the day in Kakadu’s northern ‘stone country’ bordering Arnhem Land, home to impressive ancient Aboriginal rock art along with chestnut-quilled rock pigeon, rainbow pitta, partridge pigeon, Wilkins rock-wallaby and sandstone shrike-thrush.

Overnight at the boutique Aboriginal-owned Anbinik Kakadu Resort – A/C rooms, private external bathrooms, dinner at local restaurant.

Day 3 – Kakadu National Park to Pine Creek

(B, L, D, H, 3-hour private birdwatching cruise)

Take advantage and absorb every minute of this morning’s sunrise aboard your three-hour, privately charted boat on the famous Ramsar-listed wetlands of Yellow Water Billabong. You’ll be treated to exclusive access bird guiding by Luke Paterson to seek Kakadu’s top birds and apex predator, saltwater crocodiles, cruising amongst lotus lilies – a highlight experience on many birdwatcher’s bucket lists.

Key birds include little, azure and sacred kingfishers, great-billed heron, black bittern, radjah shelduck, white- bellied sea-eagle and brolga, as well as many others. You may also encounter golden tree snakes, freshwater crocodiles, freshwater turtles and non-native species, such as wild buffaloes and brumbies (horses) remnant from pastoral days.

Back on the road we’ll scan the bush for silver-backed butcherbird, black-breasted buzzard, brolga and the mighty rare red goshawk. You’ll also get the chance for a refreshing dip in a quaint freshwater plunge pool, using Luke’s restricted-access tourism licences in southern Kakadu, and enjoy a healthy picnic lunch.

Tonight you’ll stay in the historical goldrush town of Pine Creek and have an afternoon birdwatching session around the region seeking colourful parrots, including the endemic hooded parrot and much-loved red-winged parrot, northern rosella and cockatiel.

Overnight Pine Creek Railway Resort – A/C ensuite room, dinner at local restaurant.

Day 4 – Pine Creek and Katherine regions

(B, L, D, H)

A pre-dawn departure sees us stalking pristine waterholes in search of the glorious and desirable Gouldian finch. The red-faced, black-faced and even extremely rare yellow-faced forms are found dotted throughout northern Australian savannahs and are a real highlight for all.

We then head to the dry township of Katherine seeking apostlebird, yellow-tinted honeyeater and zebra finch.

Back at the hotel enjoy some time to relax or swim during the heat of the day or feel free to wander the nearby water gardens or railway and gold-rush museum before exploring for bush birds including great bowerbird, red-backed fairywren, rufous whistler, grey-crowned babbler and red-backed kingfisher.

Overnight Pine Creek Railway Resort – A/C ensuite room, dinner at local restaurant.

Day 5 – Pine Creek to Darwin

(B, L, D, H)

Today sees us travelling back to the tropical regions of Darwin, passing through savannah woodlands, riparian vine thickets and mangroves.

Birds of interest include buff-sided robin, varied lorikeet, red-tailed black cockatoo, Torresian kingfisher, Australasian figbird, tawny frogmouth and red-headed honeyeater.

Freshen up at your hotel before dinner in a local restaurant.

Overnight Darwin Mercure Airport Hotel – A/C ensuite room

Day 6 – Darwin’s Urban Region

(B, L)

Your last day of tour will focus on birding around the incredibly diverse habitats of Darwin’s urban region. You’ll conclude this exclusive 1400km Australian Geographic journey by participating in a citizen-science activity to survey and record endangered migratory shorebirds in the Shoal Bay Key Biodiversity Area along Darwin’s coastal flats. Luke has a professional background in ecological wader surveys and is very handy when answering your identification questions.

You’ll visit sites for some of our birding specialist’s favourite Northern Territory bird species including rufous owl, chestnut rail, barking owl, osprey, beachstone and bushstone curlew, black bittern, great knot, eastern curlew, Terek sandpiper, black-tailed godwit, Pacific-golden plover and many more.

After bidding farewell you can make your way to the airport or Luke will drop you at your hotel if you are staying on in Darwin.


  • 6 days award-winning local specialist bird and photographic guide
  • 6 days exclusive touring
  • 5 night’s A/C ensuite accommodation
  • All meals stated in itinerary: 6 x breakfasts, 6 x lunches, 5 x dinners
  • Modern, comfortable, air-conditioned commercial tourist vehicle with professional driver
  • 3-hour private cruise
  • Exclusive-access waterfall sites
  • Citizen scientist surveys
  • Airport transfers
  • Unlimited water refills
  • Emergency communications and first aid kits, sunscreen and repellents
  • All national park entry fees, touring licences, permits and accreditations


  • Airfares, visas
  • Travel insurance
  • Evening and alcoholic beverages
  • Tips and gratuities
  • Items not listed in itinerary

See our terms and conditions when booking.

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