Northern Australian Birding & Wildlife

This tour is led by renowned biologist Dr Tonia Cochran who has over 30 years of experience in ecotourism in Australia. She is a qualified Biologist (Bachelor of Science in Botany and Zoology, with Honours and PhD degrees in Zoology) with a broad knowledge of Australian marine and terrestrial fauna and flora, and she draws on her years of field experience and her wide-ranging academic and teaching background to design and lead exceptional birding and wildlife tours throughout Australia.

This Northern Australian sector covers iconic areas such as Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Watarrka (King’s Canyon) in central Australia, Darwin and Kakadu in the Top End and the Wet Tropics area of north Queensland, including a reef trip and rainforest experience. Numerous species of endemic birds as well as other wildlife can be observed.

This tour is the first part of our ‘Best of Australian Bird & Wildlife’ tour, which can be combined with the Southern Australian Birding & Wildlife tour to make it a 28-day experience.

AT A GLANCE

Dates1–15 September 2021
Activity LevelEasy to moderate
Prices$13,875 per person twin share
$17,175 single per person
Group SizeMinimum 10, maximum 12 guests

ITINERARY

Wednesday, 1 September 2021 – Arrival Uluru

Arrive Uluru. Today is set aside as an arrival day (direct flights are available from most capital cities including Sydney and Melbourne and there are free transfers to the hotel. Meet as a group in the foyer of the hotel at 4pm for a pre-departure briefing, before travelling to the famous Uluru (Ayers Rock) to watch the sunset change the remarkable monolith to spectacular and enjoy an Australian barbeque dinner. We will return to our hotel around 9:30pm. 

Accommodation: Ayers Rock Resort – Outback Pioneer Hotel 

Dinner provided.

Thursday, 2 September 2021 – Uluru to Kings Canyon

This morning we will leave at around 6pm and travel to Kata Tjuta (formerly known as the Olgas) to eat our picnic breakfast and watch the sunrise before taking a stroll around this sacred where the remarkable domed geological formations tower 1,500 feet over the flat surrounding landscape. We will then travel to Kings Canyon in Watarrka National Park where we will settle into our cabins on arrival. 

Accommodation: Kings Canyon Resort 

Breakfast, lunch and dinner provided.

Friday, 3 September 2021 – Kings Canyon–Watarrka National Park

We will spend the day exploring Kings Canyon and the Watarrka National Park today. The scenic landscape of rugged ranges, rock holes and gorges act as a refuge for many plants and animals. With over 600 species of plants, Kings Canyon is botanically the richest region in arid Australia, making the park an important conservation area and a major attraction of central Australia. Kings Canyon features ancient sandstone walls sculpted by the elements over the millennia and rising 300 feet to a plateau of rocky domes. There will be an opportunity to walk around the rim of the canyon and take some other shorter walks in the area. There is also an option of taking a helicopter flight over the canyon (not included).

Accommodation: Kings Canyon Resort. 

Breakfast, lunch and dinner provided.

Saturday, 4 September 2021 – Kings Canyon to Alice Springs

Today will be mostly a day of travel towards Alice Springs with stops en route to explore the amazing Australian Outback scenery. One stop will include an area of waterholes off the Stuart Highway on the Hugh River. This fruitful area is usually home to a few patches of water and these, along with the fabled river red gums, attract a range of species. This is an excellent area for parrots, including Major Mitchell’s cockatoo, little corella, budgerigar, galah and cockatiel. On our arrival in Alice Springs we will visit the local botanic gardens, which is home to a multitude of resident birds including Australian ringneck parrot and western bowerbird (the male bowerbird is often seen around his bower trying to attract a mate). Euros and black-flanked rock-wallaby can also be found here in the late afternoon. Our hotel is situated on one side by the (usually dry) Todd River and on the other by a pedestrian mall where Indigenous art can be purchased. 

Accommodation: Aurora Alice Springs

Breakfast, lunch and dinner provided.

Sunday, 5 September 2021 – Alice Springs to Darwin

This morning after breakfast we will make our way to the airport for our onward flight to Darwin (not included in price). The best flight option is a Qantas flight ASP-DRW 09:45–11:45 based on the current 2021 schedule. On our arrival, we will check into our accommodation before spending the afternoon in the Botanical Gardens where we will enjoy our first views of the birds and flora of the area. Possibilities include red-collared lorikeet, orange-footed scrub-fowl, rose-crowned fruit-dove, little bronze-cuckoo, white-breasted woodswallow, magpie goose, Torresian imperial pigeon, rainbow bee-eater, sacred kingfisher and brown honeyeater

Accommodation: Travelodge Resort Darwin

Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.

Monday, 06 September 2021 – Darwin to Jabiru (Kakadu)

This morning we start the day with a visit to Fogg Dam. This well-known site is an excellent area for waterbirds including magpie goose, green pygmy-goose, pied heron, glossy ibis, the stately brolga, white-browed crake and the quirky comb-crested Jacana. En route to Kakadu we will enjoy a stop at the Adelaide River crossing for lunch where we may see mangrove golden whistler and a variety of flycatchers like shining, leaden, restless and broad-billed flycatchers. On arrival in Kakadu we will enjoy a short walk to local lagoon not far from our cabins to enjoy sunset. After dinner, we may enjoy some spotlighting for nocturnal species such as barking owl, tawny frogmouth, large-tailed nightjar and Australian owlet-nightjar

Accommodation: Kakadu Crocodile Hotel, Jabiru

Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.

Tuesday, 7 September 2021 – Jabiru to Cooinda

This morning we will make a stop at the impressive Mamukala
Wetlands
where, if conditions are right, we can enjoy thousands of birds of many species. Plumed and wandering whistling ducks, Radjah shelduck, black-necked stork, magpie goose and green pygmy-goose are possible bird highlights and File snakes and long-necked turtles can also be found here, a traditional hunting ground for the local indigenous people. There will also be an option to visit Ubirr, a site of rock outcrops in Kakadu that is home to some impressive aboriginal rock art. The art depicts creation ancestors and animals of the area, including several fish and turtle species, wallabies and possums. In the late afternoon, short-eared rock wallabies may be seen emerging from their shelters. Bird specialties found here include sandstone shrike-thrush, chestnut quilled rock pigeon, Partridge pigeon (red-eyed form) and rufous-throated honeyeater. In the late afternoon, we will enjoy a rewarding sunset cruise on the Yellow Waters Billabong, Kakadu’s best-known wetland. This impressive wetland of channels, swamps and floodplains is a delight to explore and is home to crocodiles a-plenty and a variety of waterbirds including nankeen night-heron, black-necked stork, little kingfisher and purple swamphen. Raptors such as white-bellied sea-eagle, whistling and black kites are also commonly seen here and we will see plenty of Crocodiles in the water and on the banks. 

Accommodation: Cooinda Lodge Kakadu

Breakfast, lunch and dinner provided.

Wednesday, 8 September 2021 – Cooinda to Darwin

This morning we will make an early visit to Nourlangie rock where we have a reasonable chance of seeing the range-restricted black wallaroo, banded fruit-dove, white-lined honeyeater, little woodswallow, black-tailed treecreeper and helmeted friarbird. We will then enjoy a last look around Kakadu before making our way out of the park and heading back to Darwin. On the way back we will visit Howard Springs Nature Park where large fish such as (delicious!) barramundi as reptiles like yellow-faced turtle can be viewed. We will also be searching for the elusive rainbow pitta. We will return to Darwin late afternoon. 

Accommodation: Travelodge Resort Darwin

Breakfast, lunch and dinner provided.

Thursday, 9 September 2021 – Darwin to Cairns

Darwin is surrounded by a fantastic diversity of habitat types that we will spend the day exploring for a range of interesting birds and mammals. Mangrove and monsoon forests are especially rich, hosting an impressive range of possible highlights includes the elusive Chestnut Rail, Rufous Owl, Orange-footed Scrub-fowl, Rose-crowned Fruit Dove, the striking Rainbow Pitta, Forest Kingfisher, Red-headed Myzomela, Mangrove Robin, Green Oriole, Blue-faced Honeyeater, Green-backed Gerygone, Spangled Drongo, Blue-winged Kookaburra, Great Bowerbird, Pheasant Coucal, Pied and Silver-backed Butcherbird and Red-collared Lorikeet. Little Red Flying-fox and Agile Wallaby are possible mammal highlights

In the afternoon we will make our way to the airport and fly to Cairns (not included in price). The best flight option is a Jetstar flight DRW-CNS 17:40–20:35 based on current 2021 schedule. On our arrival in Cairns, we will transfer to our hotel on the Esplanade overlooking the Coral Sea.

Accommodation: Holiday Inn Harbourside, Cairns (Harbour View Room)

Breakfast, lunch and dinner provided.

Friday, 10 September 2021 – Cairns to Atherton Tablelands

This morning there will be an option of visiting the intertidal sand flats, which are famous for migratory waders and nearby mangroves to see a variety of birds like mangrove robin, shining flycatcher and beach stone-curlew. We will then leave coastal Cairns and make our way to the Atherton Tablelands, stopping at several sites on the way. In areas of farmland we may see brolga and sarus crane. In the afternoon, we will arrive at our accommodation for the next two nights. The lodge, set in lush rainforest brimming with birds and wildlife, is adjacent to Crater Lake National Park, and is a fantastic base from which to explore the riches of the area. The lodge grounds are home to an abundance of birdlife including wompoo and superb fruit dove, spotted catbird, tooth-billed bowerbird, white-throated treecreeper, Macleay’s and bridled honeyeaters, yellow-breasted boatbill and Victoria’s riflebird (a member of the bird of paradise family). Several mammals may also be seen here in the evening including long-nosed bandicoot, sugar glider, northern striped possum and red-legged pademelon

Accommodation: Chambers Rainforest Lodge in the Atherton Tablelands (en suite cabins)

Breakfast, lunch and dinner provided.

Saturday, 11 September 2021 – Atherton Tablelands

Today we will explore the tapestry of farmland, woodland and rainforest for a wonderful cross-section of wildlife, which will include several national parks: Crater Lakes National Park (comprising two volcanic lakes: Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham), Mt Hypipamee NP and Curtain Fig NP. We will search for a range of bird species, including several bowerbirds, Victoria’s riflebird and chowchillas and most importantly, southern cassowary! There will also be an opportunity to take an evening tour in search of more of the range-restricted endemic mammals in the area which include green, Lemuroid and Herbert River ringtail possums, coppery-tailed possums as well as Lumholtz’s tree kangaroo. We may also see platypus

Accommodation: Chambers Rainforest Lodge in the Atherton Tablelands (en suite hotel cabins)

Breakfast, lunch and dinner provided.

Sunday, 12 September 2021 – Atherton Tablelands to Daintree

This morning we will travel northwards, stopping en route at some wetlands where a multitude of waterbirds may be seen. We will also visit Granite Gorge where we hope to enjoy encounters with squatter pigeon and the Mareeba rock-wallaby. Additional species we may see on our journey today include red-winged parrot, red-tailed black-cockatoo and Australian bustard, which prefer the dry savannah country in this region, and which makes a stark contrast to the rainforest areas of the Tablelands and the coast. In the late afternoon, we will arrive at our accommodation set on the banks of the fabled Daintree River

Accommodation: Daintree Riverview Cabins (en suite cabins)

Breakfast, lunch and dinner provided.

Monday, 13 September 2021 – Daintree to Cairns

This morning we will enjoy an early morning boat cruise on the Daintree River where we may enjoy sightings of azure and little kingfisher, large-billed gerygone, varied triller, shining flycatcher and fairy martin, as well as a chance of the rare and 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 and white-breasted woodswallow. We will then make our way back to Cairns where we will spend the afternoon visiting the Botanic Gardens and adjoining wetlands and conservation areas which offer a fine mix of water and bush birds. Australian brush turkey, orange-footed scrubfowl, Australasian figbird, black butcherbird, green oriole, the stunning noisy pitta and lovely fairy-wren may all been seen here as might spectacled flying-fox. In the wetlands we will search for comb-crested jacana, Radjah shelduck, green pygmy geese, white-browed crake and the handsome crimson finch

Accommodation: Holiday Inn Harbourside, Cairns (Harbour View Room)

Breakfast, lunch and dinner provided.

Tuesday, 14 September 2021 – Cairns

This morning we will transfer to the Cairns wharf to start our day trip to the Great Barrier Reef. We will cruise towards to stunning Michaelmas Cay which is situated on the Outer reef about 25 miles offshore from Cairns. This coral cay is an important nesting area for an array of tropical seabirds, including brown booby, sooty, bridled and black-naped tern, common and black noddy, lesser frigatebird, Pacific golden plover and ruddy turnstone. More uncommonly masked booby, wandering tattler, roseate tern and great frigatebird are seen. The cay is also surrounded by tropical coral reef where we will have the opportunity to snorkel. We will return to our hotel late afternoon and join a farewell dinner for those who are only joining this section of the tour. 

Accommodation: Holiday Inn Harbourside, Cairns (Harbour View Room)

Breakfast, lunch and dinner provided.

Wednesday, 15 September 2021 – Depart Cairns

This morning the tour will end after breakfast at our hotel. Those guests linking up with the Southern Australian Birding & Wildlife Tour will travel to Cairns airport to fly to Brisbane to continue our adventures (flights not included in price).  

Breakfast provided.

WHAT’S INCLUDED:

  • 14 nights’ accommodation
  • Daily breakfast, 13 x lunch, 14 x dinner
  • Transport and specialist guiding for day and night tours as outlined above
  • Activities and entry fees as outlined in the itinerary  
  • National park entry fees
  • Goods and services tax.

COSTS DO NOT INCLUDE:

  • Domestic flights
  • Pre-registration, late check-out or day use at hotels other than specified above
  • Guide services other than specified
  • Meals/beverages other than specified
  • Tips and gratuities
  • Personal expenditure.

COVID-19

  • Accommodation and meals: Strict hygiene conditions apply to the way accommodation is prepared for your stay and in the serving of meals.
  • Vehicles, hygiene & social distancing:  all activities will involve careful adherence to cleanliness. Hand sanitiser will be available in many locations and in all land-based vehicles and water-based vessels. Social distancing will always be an issue on board vehicles and vessels; it would be sensible for you to bring your own facemasks and hand sanitiser. We may not fill all seats in a vehicle to allow for social distancing.
  • The government approved COVID-19 Safety Plan is in place and all suppliers are Covid Clean accredited.

TERMS & CONDITIONS
BOOKING FORM