Australian Natural Adventures

Wildlife, Nature & Soft Adventure Tours

Custom Australia, New Zealand & Pacific tours and travel






Day 14 - Michaelmas Cay and Great Barrier Reef
Today we are introduced to one of the natural wonders of the world—Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, a series of reefs extending for about 1,250 miles along the coast of Queensland, nearly to Papua New Guinea. On our trip today you experience two important features—a coral inner-shelf reef, and the sandy vegetated cay formed on one end. Michaelmas Reef lies about 22 miles off the coast just north of Cairns, with Michaelmas Cay on its southern tip. It is an important seabird rookery, which becomes apparent as you approach the mass of birds swirling constantly above the cay. The four primary species are Crested, Lesser-crested and Sooty Terns, and Common Noddy. Lesser Frigatebirds are usually present, occasionally Greater, as are Silver Gulls, Brown Boobies and Ruddy Turnstones. The cay, most of which is off limits, is a National Park within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. However, the birds are very tolerant of visitors and stand thickly along the beach, allowing us to approach them within a few yards and less. Immediately offshore in waist-deep water, the first of the corals can be seen. For those not used to snorkeling, there is no easier introduction—just walk up to your waist, and bend over. Brilliantly colored fish, giant clams, beche de mer and coral outcrops can all be seen. Easy swimming in shallow water brings us over coral “bombies,” heads of coral with their assortment of fishes, and hard and soft corals. Parrot fish glean algae from the coral, and small and medium predators search for food. Schools of fish twist and flash between the outcrops. An occasional sea turtle may be seen. You can also glide around the coral in a glass-bottomed boat, dry and with your ordinary cameras, while a marine biologist describes the species seen and some of the processes at work. There are guided snorkel tours. On your trip out, one of the marine biologists explains the development of this and other reef systems and gives us an introduction to many of the animal species that you see. Lunch is a tropical smorgasbord. In the afternoon you return to Cairns, under sail if the winds are right. Your transport to the reef is a 95 foot motor-sailing catamaran. There is time after your return this evening to visit Cairns, or you may wish to relax poolside at the hotel. We dine tonight at Ochre Restaurant, specializing in native Australian bush foods.                          (B,L,D)

Day 15 - Cairns / Melbourne
We have the first part of this morning to relax, perhaps do some laundry, or make another visit to the Esplanade for shorebirds. At lunchtime we fly the length of Australia to Melbourne, arriving at 5pm, and transfer to our hotel. The evening is free to explore some of Melbourne's famous restaurant scene.         (B,L,D)

Day 16 - Sunday, October 10: Melbourne / East Gippsland
You are picked up today by Echidna Walkabout, to travel to East Gippsland, along the way passing the internationally acclaimed RAMSAR wetlands of the Lakes District of East Gippsland. During the journey you cross by ferry to an island sanctuary in the wetlands with a thriving colony of Koalas, where a walk through the forest finds many of these delightful animals in the wild. Dinner tonight is in a local restaurant in the small country town of Orbost, where you spend the next three nights in a B&B. After dinner travel deep into a eucalypt forest, spotlighting in search of 3 species of rare gliding possums, and with a little luck owls may be seen.          (B,L,D)

Day 17 - Monday, October 11: East Gippsland
Today travel high into the mountains of East Gippsland firstly into the towering eucalypt forests where giant gum trees soar into the sky - the tallest flowering plants on earth. Your guide provides detailed information of the formation of these mighty forests, and helps you search for Lyrebirds, parrots and honeyeaters. Next take a walk in the fascinating transitional zone between the eucalypts and the rainforests before moving into a great stand of lowland rainforest. Birdlife is abundant. Finish a nature-filled day with a classic Aussie outdoor barbecue.                        

Day 18– Tuesday, October 12: East Gippsland
Your activities today are at a great river estuary on the Wilderness Coast. You’ll walk beside forest-lined lakes and rivers of a wilderness estuary in search of Black Swans, Musk Ducks, White-breasted Sea Eagles, kingfishers and other significant and sometimes rare birdlife. At a quiet beach with a complex dune system beach and ocean-going birds are frequently seen. After a picnic lunch take a walk through the nearby coastal forest in search of bush birds and huge goanna lizards. At the end of the day you visit a refuge for injured and orphaned Australian wildlife and learn about their rehabilitation.            (BLD)

Day 19– Wednesday, October 13: East Gippsland / Phillip Island/Melbourne
This morning you depart East Gippsland after a relaxing breakfast and make our way back to Melbourne, stopping along the way for new wildlife (or better views) and special places. Dusk will find us waiting on the beach at Phillip Island for the Fairy Penguins to waddle ashore and up to their dune burrows, after spending the day feeding at sea.          (B,L)

Day 20 - Melbourne / Coastal Victoria
We take it relatively easy today, as we have had a somewhat lengthy drive yesterday, and have a longish one tomorrow, so part of today is spent around the wetlands, heaths and scrubs of the Victorian coast, not far from the city.  We make a late start and first meet our local guide Paul Hackett, and head to Werribee, where we visit the euphemistically named Western Treatment Plant, otherwise known as the Werribee Sewerage Farm. However, this is actually a farm where treated water is used to raise cattle and some crops, and the normal trappings of sewage farms - smells and sometimes "look the other way" ponds - are nowhere around. This is Victoria's top rarity spot and one of it's best birding areas; it is one of Australia's top ten birding sites. As well as the ponds the farm runs down to the Corio Bay shoreline, where shorebird hides have been constructed. Up to 32,000 migrating shorebirds have been counted taking advantage of this area in summer, one of the highest densities anywhere. The Water Works not only allows birding here, but has birding lists and information on its website, and actively supports monitoring, research and conservation efforts. We expect to find a wide range of waterfowl here, especially the southern specialties such as Chestnut Teal, Blue-billed Duck, Australasian Shoveler, Freckled Deck, Hardhead, Musk Duck, Pink-eared Duck, and occasionally Australian Shelduck. Marsh Harrier is commonly seen over the fields, and Red-necked Avocet breeds here, as dopes Orange-bellied parrot, a rare and highly endangered species that our guide has been monitoring as part of a research program.   We 'll look for the extremely rare and highly endangered Orange-bellied Parrot, and other wetland & coastal species such as Red-necked Stint, Fairy Tern, Pacific Gull, and Sooty and Pied Oystercatchers. Coastal heaths are home to Southern Whiteface, Blue-winged Parrot, Chestnut-rumped Heathwren, Striated Fieldwren and Southern Emu-wren. Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos are likely, as are Bronzewing Pigeons. The beautiful Flame Robin will be on our search list, and perhaps the exquisite Pink Robin will put in an appearance. We're confident of having close looks at Koalas in the nearby ranges, along with Emus, Eastern Grey Kangaroos and perhaps Swamp Wallaby. Several species of dragon lizards, including the large and well-known Bearded Dragon, and the foot-long skink called a Bluetongue may also be seen, and perhaps goannas (monitor lizards). We return to Melbourne about 4pm, and the rest of the afternoon and evening is free to explore the city.        (B,L)

Day 21 - Melbourne / Wyperfeld National Park
A longish drive this morning of about four hours as we head through the basalt plains of Victoria to the semi-arid mallee and wyperfeld national parkdesert country. While this will be an opportunity for a bit of a break and a rest, or for catching up on notes, our guides will be keeping an eye out for anything of interest; the restricted Long-billed Corella will be one such bird. We should arrive at the Park early to mid afternoon, and as it will be reasonably hot we'll time ourselves to match the animals' activity cycles. We usually find them starting to move about again by about 4pm (sunset isn't until about 8pm), and we'll concentrate on shaded areas and water holes for our afternoon searches. Wyperfeld is an area rich in reptiles, especially colorful dragons, skinks and geckoes - we rarely see snakes here - and these will complement our birding and mammaling. Depending on how the rains have been the desert could be rich with flowering shrubs and ground orchids, which will add an extra dimension to our time here.         (B,L,D)

Day 22 - Wyperfeld National Park
We have a full day here today, and tomorrow morning, and so will pace ourselves to take full advantage of the early morning and late afternoon, the times of peak activity. Once again the vagaries of the Australian rainfall will have a large influence on what's about, but most of our target birds breed here, so it's just a matter of finding them. However, at over 860,000 acres there's plenty of room to hide. Fortunately Devil's Pools provides (most of the time) one of the only reliable water sources, so many species visit here and it tends to concentrate the breeders somewhat. Both Western Grey and Red Kangaroos call Wyperfeld home, and they too have a fondness for waterholes in the evening, which also attract Spotted Nightjars after dark. Sand Goannas, up to five feet long, are not uncommon. Malleefowl, the rare and restricted megapode that uses sand and the heat of the sun to incubate its eggs breeds here, and we will see mounds and expect to see birds working them. Smaller birds common here include Masked Woodswallow, Red-capped Robin, and Varied Sittella, but parrots will almost certainly be today's highlight for most participants. The Park's list included Regent Parrot, Mulga Parrot, Purple-crowned Lorikeet, Little Corella, Bluebonnet, Elegant Parrot, and Mallee Ringneck, all colorful in their own right, but the large, white and pink Major Mitchell Cockatoo is hard to beat in the evening light. The world's second largest bird, the Emu, shouldn't be hard to find, and Spotted Harrier, Crimson Chat, Brown Treecreeper, Spiny-cheekd Honeyeater, Striped Honeyeater, Boobook Owl, Redthroat, Shy Heathwren, and Southern Scrub-robin are just a few of the other species found here. An night-time drive and walk should reveal several reptiles, including surprisingly colorful geckoes, and perhaps Burton's Legless Lizard, which looks like a small snake. Small carnivorous marsupials and native mice are also possible.           (B,L,D)

Day 23 - Wyperfeld / Blanchetown
Depending on our guides thoughts and our sightings so far we'll either continue in Wyperfeld this morning or head a little way north to Hattah Kulkyne National Park, and drier area of mostly desert. This is probably the best place to find the rare Mallee Emu-wren, and also very good for Regent Parrot and Major Mitchell Cockatoo if we have no luck in Wyperfeld. We eventually head west, crossing the South Australian border and enter one Australia's oldest wine-growing region. Tonight we stay at simple cabin accommodation on the Murray River at Blanchetown.     (B,L,D)

Day 24 - Blanchetown / Adelaide
This morning main event will be to visit a breeding area of the Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat. Unlike its eastern cousin, these wombats are primarily diurnal, and so can be seen during the day, although at this time of the year the early hours are preferred. They live in burrows in sandy areas, and both Brookfield and Moorundie Reserves are important parts of the species' conservation in South Australia. We're on the Murray River here, Australia's largest, and riverine species will also be seen. From Blanchetown we head south, continuing through wine country and taking advantage of stops along the way, to Adelaide, where we fly to Sydney this evening.   (B,L,D)



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