Australian Natural Adventures

Wildlife, Nature & Soft Adventure Tours

Custom Australia, New Zealand & Pacific tours and travel







Day 8 - Darwin / Cairns / Daintree
W e take a morning flight to Cairns (perhaps with a very short airport stop in Gove, far eastern Arnhem Land; we may see finches and honeyeaters here). After our mid-morning arrival in Cairns we meet our new regional guide, Jonathon Munro, and then check the Esplanade for waders such as Curlew Sandpiper, several dotterel species, Eastern Curlew, Terek Sandpiper, Great Knot, Red-necked Stint, and Fairy Tern. We then head north out of Cairns, along the often spectacularly scenic Captain Cook Highway, with its views over the Coral Sea. From the ecotonal forests around Cairns we notice we are moving into areas of heavier rainforest on the hills (it's mostly sugar cane fields along the road). By the time we reach the Mossman River the forest has reached the road in parts, and we drive up the river to take a walk in lowland rainforest, part of the Daintree National Park sector of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. This walk is good for Metallic Starling, often nesting in their communal site at the start of the walk, the beautifully colored and soft-voiced Wompoo Fruit-dove, Yellow Oriole, and Noisy Pitta. Large, brilliant blue Ulysses Butterfly, which look almost identical to South America's Blue Morpho, and the 8" wingspan of the yellow and green Cairns Birdwing Butterfly brighten our afternoon. We overnight in the small village of Daintree, where an after-dark walk might reveal Northern Brown Bandicoots, a ground dwelling marsupial with the shortest gestation period of any mammal, and several species of frogs. Frogmouths might be found, and the repetitive chopping of a nighjar may be heard. Uncommon but possible here is the black and white striped (and appropriately named) Striped Possum.         (B,L,D)

Day 9 - Daintree / Atherton Tablelands
We begin our morning with a wildlife cruise on the Daintree River. The Daintree river, though short, runs from the mid-level rainforest of the foothills through lowland rainforest before becoming tidally influenced as it gets close to the sea and enters mangrove forests. In most areas one or perhaps two species of mangroves are found; here there are over 20 kinds, from large trees to small shrubs. Our specialist boat guide will describe this important ecosystem, the nursery for life on the Great Barrier Reef and much of the coastal seas. We'll see the transition, and note the changing faunal species as well. Saltwater Crocodile, Spangled Drongo, Pied Imperial Pigeon, Great-billed Heron, Black Bittern, and Spectacled Flying Fox all make their home here. One of the most interesting animals here are the mud-skippers, small fish that have developed pseudo-legs that they walk across the mud on; they have also developed the ability to absorb oxygen through their skin and so can stay outr of the water for extended periods of time. Leaving the river we climb up the foothills, we we enter the higher rainforest at Julatten. We'll look for rainforest birds here, especially the rare and difficult to find Blue-faced Parrot-finch. Julatten is a very good area for the long tailed Buff-bellied Paradise-kingfisher and the huge Channel-billed Cuckoo, recently down from New Guinea, just two of our targets. A local creek will be checked for the rare and sometimes elusive Red-necked Crake. We then head south towards Granite Gorge and the southern Atherton Tablelands. Along the way we'll check the wires for Rainbow Bee-eater and White-breasted Woodswallow; after a few miles we'll notice how the rainforest is starting to disappear, then in a very short time much drier country, typical of the Australian outback, appears. With this change in habitat comes a change in species, and the possibility of both Wedge-tailed and Little Eagles opens up, as well as Pale-headed (Yellow-cheeked) Rosella, Squatter Pigeon and other dry country birds. We'll stop at a couple of probably dry creeks along the way to check for specialties, and keep an eye for Common Wallaroo and in the damper areas Pretty-face Wallaby. Lake Mitchell will give us an opportunity to top up on waterbirds. After checking the local golf course for Grey Kangaroo, one of the tee hazards here, we'll pass through even drier country until we arrive at Granite mareeba rock wallabyGorge, a rocky outcrop with permanent water. This attracts wildlife from around the area, and has resident Great Bowerbirds. Our main goal here, though, is a population of Mareeba Rock Wallaby, by now well accustomed to visitors and easily approached for photographs. We're also likely to see Pied Cuckoo-shrike, Blue-faced and other honeyeaters, Red-backed Wrens, lorikeets and other parrots as well. We leave the Gorge and head back towards the rainforests of the Tablelands, stopping briefly at a small lake to look for Osprey and possibly rails. We'll probably see several Agile Wallabies, and note their somewhat different appearance over here in the east.

From this point on we're in the distribution of several unique rainforest mammals, some of which can be seen in the day, and we'll be keeping a careful eye for these. Jonathon lives in the upland rainforest, so is very aware of activity cycles, as well as likely being in this very spot in the last week or so - and pretty much everywhere else we travel here. There's no better way to find wildlife than to have up to date local knowledge. Our lodging is in the rainforest for the next two nights, and this evening we take advantage of this by searching for nocturnal wildlife near our lodgings. Pademelons, small rainforest wallabies, enjoy the grass around our cabins, Sugar Gliders will often visit, and Long-nosed Bandicoots frequent the forest edge, while the Northern Brown Bandicoots hunt for grubs in the open.         (B,L,D)

Day 10 - Atherton Tablelands
After a morning bird walk likely to find Victoria's Riflebird, Common Koel, Eastern Yellow Robin, Golden Whistler and other rainforest specialties we sit by a rainforest creek to look for platypus; we have very good luck with this and have several excellent locations. We spend the day on the Tablelands, using Jonathon's local knowledge and expertise to seek out much of the wildlife found here. This area of the Tablelands has the most endemic species of all animal classes anywhere in Australia, and many of these are our targets. Musky Rat-kangaroos, the smallest and most primitive living kangaroo is common here, and if lucky we'll see the normally nocturnal Yellow-footed Antechinus, a small carnivorous marsupial that becomes partially diurnal now, its breeding season. Two endemic bowerbirds, the Tooth-billed Catbird and Golden Bowerbird are specialties here, and we'll visit a bower of the latter, over seven feet tall, where it will likely be quite active. Olive-breasted Sunbird, King Parrot, Spotted catbird, Top-knot and White-headed Pigeon, and the endemics Atherton Scrubwren and Bower's Shrike-thrush should all come our way. Tonight will be a major mammal event, as we'll spend several hours spotlighting for mostly endemic rainforest marsupials such as Green Ringtail Possum, Herbert River Ringtail Possum, Lemuroid Possum, Lumholtz Tree-kangaroo and Coppery Brushtail Possum. At the ecotone of the rainforest and Eucalypt forest we'll look for Greater Glider, Fluffy Glider and Common Ringtail. Rufous, Lesser Sooty and Boobook Owls are possible, and Barn Owl is likely. The ten inch long and quite bizarre Leaf-tailed Gecko, prehistoric looking Boyd's Forest Dragon, and Amethystine, Children's and Carpet Python are also possible.         (B,L,D)

Day 11 - Atherton Tablelands / Undara National Park
After most of the morning on the Tablelands we head southwest to Undara National Park a few hours away and a world apart from the lush rainforest. The morning and travel through the transitional zone should find us Mistletoebird, Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, Double-barred Finch, Scarlet Honeyeater and Australian (Richard's) Pipit. With a bit of luck Australian Bustard will pop up somewhere along the way. As we reach the dry country birds such as the gregarious Apostlebird, Torresian Crow, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, White-winged Triller and Galah appear. Common Wallaroo and Whiptail Wallaby may also be seen. We arrive at the Park mid to late afternoon, and settle in to our accommodation - converted train cars in the Australian bush! After a beautiful bush sunset and an Aussie BBQ around the campfire we'll take a short walk to look for wallabies and other mammals, and the monotonous tone of the Large-tailed Nightjar will likely send us to sleep.          (B,L,D)

Day 12 - Undara
Undara National Park was created about 20 years ago from a cattle property owned since the 1860s by the Collins family. Their property included the Undara Lava Tubes, the longest lava tubes in the world. The Collins far-sightedness led to them offering their property as a National Park, and since its inception in 1990 they have continued as the custodians of this wonderful place. You can still meet Bram and Gerry Collins when at Undara. The lava tubes were formed about 190,000 years ago when a volcano's lava flow followed a dry river bed. The flow extended about 100 miles, an exceptional length, and as the crust of the flow formed the inner lava continued, eventually creating a tube over 60 miles long. Several other tubes were also formed. The tubes are huge; in parts the roof is about twenty feet above our heads. Caves created by erosion and roof collapse provide important damp microclimates in this dry area, and some are important bat roosts. Snakes such as the small Stimson's Python and Brown Tree Snake take advantage of this steady source of food. (As it is the bat breeding season parts of the tubes are closed to protect the nursery caves at the time we'll be there.) The rocky nature of the tubes has protected small patches from fire, and a few rainforest remnant plant species can be seen hanging on to a precarious existence. Our stay here will include visiting the tubes, and exploring the dry Eucalypt forest for dryland and arid species. If it's a particularly dry year in inland Australia a surprising range of arid zone nomads can turn up at Undara. Tonight we'll spotlight further afield for Rufous Bettong, Spectacled Hare-wallaby (both small wallabies), Black Flying-fox, Northern Brown Bandicoot, Common Wallaroo and possibly Black-headed Python. Rufous Whistler, White-browed Robin, Grey-crowned Babbler, various honeyeaters, various thornbills, Striated Pardalote, Red-backed Fairy Wren will all likely be added to our list, and we'll turn a few rocks for geckoes and other reptiles.        (B,L,D)

Day 13 - Undara / Cairns
After a morning walk at Undara we return to Cairns today, filling in gaps along the way. We've left dinner free tonight to try out one of Cairns many good restaurants, especially the local South-east Asian Fusion influenced ones, .         (B,L)



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