Australian Natural Adventures

Custom Australia, New Zealand & Pacific tours and travel



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This tour has been arranged to enable Barkbuster conferees to see a bit more of Australia while there, especially Australia's unique wildlife and the Great Barrier Reef. We've arranged the tour in two modules, one before the conference and one after. Immediately after the conference there's a rest day, but for those interested in birds and marine life there is a regularly scheduled pelagic trip departing Wollongong available. While not part of the two tour modules per se, we can make the bookings for you to guarantee your space.

The first part of the tour begins in Cairns, and ends in Sydney. The second begins in Sydney and ends in Melbourne.


Day 1 – Sunday, September 13: Home City / Los Angeles / Lost In Space
Depart your home city for Los Angeles airport, then depart late this evening on your flight to Sydney. Australia begins when you step aboard your Qantasqantas plane flight. The Australian style is apparent—easy going, casually efficient and very friendly. Qantas is known for its food and service, so sit back and enjoy the meal and a movie. The seats have individual video screens, and a range of entertainment options, and the movies can be Tivo’d if you need to take a break. However, it will be late before a meal is served, especially for those comnig from the east, it is a long flight, and so we personally recommend getting something to eat prior to the flight, placing a Do Not Disturb notice on your seat back and trying to get some sleep. While there are several food outlets in the all gate areas at LAX, the best selection is at the rear of the Tom Bradley International Terminal, at the head of the horseshoe that is LAX (see map) and adjacent to Terminal 4. With Qantas, Brisbane flights depart from Terminal 4, and Sydney flights from the Tom Bradley.     (*D)

Day 2 – Monday, September 14: Lost In Space

Lose today due to the International Dateline, but regain it on your return journey.


Day 3 – Tuesday, September 15: LIS / Sydney /Cairns
Arrive in Sydney (or Brisbane) early this morning, pass through customs and immigration, after which you change to the domestic terminal for your 9.15am Qantas flight 924 to Cairns. On arrival we are met and transferred to our hotel on the Esplanade, looking out over the Coral Sea. Although our rooms may not be ready, we are able to leave your bags there. The rest of the day is free to explore Cairns, a pretty and small tropical city. Our hotel fronts onto the best part of the Esplanade for shorebirds, ranging from big pelicans to small peeps. Tonight we have a welcome dinner to introduce everyone, and to learn more of our plans over the next few days.       (*B,L)


Day 4 – Wednesday September 16: Great Barrier Reef
Today explore 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 great barrier reefNew Guinea. On our trip today we experience two important features—a coral inner-shelf reef, and the sandy vegetated cay formed on one end. Michaelmas Reef lies about 22 snorkeling the reefmiles off the coast just north of Cairns, with Michaelmas Cay on its southern tip. It is an important seabird rookery, which becomes apparent as we 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. Brillianreef fishtly colored fish, giant clams, beche de mer and coral outcrops can all be seen. Easy swimming in shalmichaelmas caylow water brings you 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. We can also glide around the coral in a glass-bottomed boat, dry and with our ordinary cameras, while a marine biologist describes the species seen and some of the processes at work. There are guided snorkel tours, and certified divers have the option of two dives. On our 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 we return to Cairns, under sail if the winds are right.       (B,L)

Day 5 – Thursday, September 17: Cairns /Atherton Tablelands
We depart Cairns this morning with our guide for the next three days, Alan Gillanders. Alan is an expert naturalist who lives on the Atherton Tablelands; in previous lives he worked as a teacher and for the Queensland National Parks Service. We first headfan palms north adaintree crocodilelong the scenic Captain Cook Highway to Mossman Gorge, where a walk in this pristine lowland rainforest introduces us to this complex habitat. The Daintree area is home to the world’s oldest living flowering plants, dating from early in the Age of Dinosaurs, and we’ll see some of these. After the gorge we continue to the Daintree River, where we take a one hour small boat wildlife cruise. We’ll see a number of birds including kingfishers, most likely frit bats, but especially the large saltwater crocodiles, some over 14ft long, that inhabit the river. We then head up into the foothills behind the coast, and notice the vegetation turn from lush rainforest to dry outback. Dependingpademelon on recent activity we’ll make several stops along the way to look for wildlife, iking parrotncluding for the gray kangaroos that frequent the Mareeba golf course. With sunset approaching we’ll find ourselves waiting at the rim of a small extinct volcano, waiting for Sarus Cranes and Brolgas to fly in overhead and wheel down into the swamp at the bottom to roost overnight. Their circling, dangling flight and contact calls backed by the setting sun are a spectacle to remember . Our accommodation for the next two nights is a small ecolodge in the rainforest, with a considerable amount of resident wildlife. Tonight we’ll watch as pademelons – small rainforest wallabies – come out onto the grass by the dozens to feed, and later this evening we may be visited by sugar gliders.       (B,D)


Day 6 – Friday, September 18: Atherton Tablelands
As he lives nearby Alan knows this area very well, and so as well as gaining an understanding oflumholtz tree kangaroo this unique rainforest area, you will look for platypus, musky rat-kangaroos, birds and many others. The Curtain Fig and Cathedral figs are both spectacular trees, and the large Red platypusCedar at Gadgarra shows how impressive these trees can be. The walk around Lake Eacham is very enjoyable, and may give good views of large Scrub Pythons sunning on the lakeside grass, eels, and other wildlife. The day's itinerary will be decided in part by Alan's experience, everyone’s interests, and seasonal wildlife activity. After dinner you will spend a couple of hours spotlighting for nocturnal wildlife, including the attractive rare and endemic possums that occur only here, owls, with luck the 8 to 10 inch leg and quite bizarre leaf-tailed gecko, and especially the strange Lumholtz tree kangaroo, which lives in the trees and not on the ground like other kangaroos. Alan is particularly expert at finding these.       (B,D)


Day 7 – Saturday, September 19: Atherton Tablelands / Cairns / Sydney
Arock wallaby granite gorgefter a early morning wildlife search in the lodge area we head back towards Mareeba, bugalahst detour inland to Granite Gorge. This dry area has a good selection of dry country wildlife, especially parrots and bowerbirds. However, the main attraction here is the population of rock wallabies, which have become accustomed to human presence and although wild, are quite tame. They are attractive small wallabies, and it’s usual to see joeys – pouch young – hopping in and out of pouches, or poking their heads and often their legs out. Continue to Kuranda, where we are guided through the wonderful Butterfly Sanctuary; brilliantly colored large butterflies may land on our shoulders, and rest a foot or two away on lskyraileaves and railings. We then head down the mountainside, from 1000ft above sea-level to the coast on the Skyrail, a cable car that offers spectacular views oulusses butterflyut over the Coral Sea as it skims the treetops. There are two boardwalks to stop at on the way down, enabling us to walk in the canopy. At the bottom we are met once again by Alan who takes us to the airport for our 5.15pm Qantas flight 927 to Sydney, arriving at 8.15pm. We are met and transferred to our hotel, overlooking Darling Harbour and close to the new Sydney Aquarium, for the next two nights.       (B*D)


Day 8 – Sunday, September 20: Blue Mountains
three sisters The Blue Mountains are an extremely scenic area of Australian bush just inland from Sydney, and a designated World Heritage Area, and our focus today. We start the tour from our hotel at 8.30am for a full day out to the Blue Mountains. After traveling through Sydney we’ll take morning tea overlooking the tranquil Nepean River, then we head up the mountains to Evans Lookout, the best place to view the wilderness of the Blue Mountains. At Wentworth Falls we take a relaxing walk to the breathtaking falls. Lunch is taken in Leura, a picturesque village in the mountains. After lunch we visit Kblue mountainsatoomba and the Katoomba Waterfall, and the famous Three Sisters rock formation. You may enjoy an optional ride on the Scenic Railway to the forest floor for a walk, then ascend back by the world’s steepest cablecar. We return to Homebush, site of the Sydney Olympics, to board a fast ferry back to Circular Quay. The evening is free to discover Sydney’s excellent dining scene.       (B,L)


Day 9 – Monday, September 21: Sydney
The pre-tour ends after breakfast this morning, and today is available to look around Sydney prior to heading down to Wollongong for the conference. Sydney is a wonderfully cosmopolitan city. In addition to gsydneyreat shops to buy the needed souvenirs and gifts, just a short walk is the Botanic Gardens and the Domain, which has good views of the harblack opalbor, an abundant bird life, and a colony of huge grey fruit-bats, whose wingspans are approximately three feet. The Australian Museum, with its impressive collection of Aboriginal artifacts and art, is close by, and you may wish to take a guided tour of the Opera House; tours leave on the half hour from 9.30am until 4.45pm. You could easily time this so the boys can see you - more or less - from the top of the bridge, and you could nominally photograph them. However, this may also be a good time to think about opals. Sydney is a good place to buy opals, and both Art of Opal and Altmann & Cherny have a good range of loose and mounted opals in all price ranges. Both have opal displays, and information about mining. A visit to the Opera House can be followed by dinner at the fine dining restaurant, or outside at one of the several outdorro cafes. Everything is within walksydney opera houseing distance of your hotel, although Sydney is extremely well-serviced by buses and the underground. Lunch can be taken on a cruise on the harbor, with views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, as well as the boats and ferries of what is often called the most beautiful city harbor in the world. A ten minute walk away is The Rocks, the historical heart of Sydney and adjacent to Circular Quay and Sydney Harbour; many of the buildings are convict-built. As well as a good range of interesting shops, some of Sydney's oldest and most colorful pubs are found here. Those interested can take an optional 90 minute guided walk around The Rocks, learning of Sydney’s, and Australia’s, early history.       (B)

We will arrange a transfer vehicle from Sydney to Wollongong departing at 5pm; Conferees not particpating in the pre-conference tour are welcome to use this transfer as well. Please note this is not included in the tour but will be at additional expense. Alternatively trains depart Central Station regularly for Wollongong and the fare is approximately $AU10. As this is a commuter line trains get full weekdays at peak hours; look for a departure that stops at selected stations only for a shorter trip such as the 5.12 or 5.42pm. It's a scenic ride, so choose a seat upstairs on the left side of the train.   


Day 10 – Tuesday, September 22: Wollongong
Bbarkbustersegin the Barkbusters conference today.

Days 11 and 12 – Wednesday, September 23 & Thursday, September 24: Wollongong
Your Conference continues.

Day 13 –Friday, September 25: Wollongong
Today is the Garden Party at the home of Sylvia and Danny Wilson, Barkbusters founders. Those returning to the US at this point will return to Sydney and overnight (depending on flight time; it may be possible to overnight in Wollongong). Those participating in the southern portion of our nature tour will stay in Wollongong.


Day 14– Saturday, September 26: Wollongong
Today there are three options for today.

Option 1: Pelagic and whale trip. The waters offshore from Wollongong are a haven for pelagic seabirds, aroyal albatrossnd in September also see migrating whales passing by. A full list of the speciminke whalees seen on the 2008 September trip can be seen here:, but highlights of the 25 species seen included nine species of albatross, five species of shearwaters, two petrels and fairy prion. Another 20 or so species have also been seen over the years. Humpback, Antarctic Minke and Pygmy Killer Whales, and Common Dolphins are frequently seen on September trips. The trip leaves at 7am and returns about 4pm. Cost is approximately $75.

Option 2: Wollongong has a strong art presence, many interesting private galleries and shops, and nice parks. A full and relaxing day can be had exploring this city, especially the historic downtown precinct. The City Gallery is in the heart of the city, forming part of this cultural precinct. It is recognized as the best regional gallery in Australia for its innovative and thought-provoking exhibitions and programs.

Option 3: Monday arrivers, and others, may wish to explore Sydney, a little over an hour away.

Day 15 – Sunday, September 27: Wollongong/ Sydney / Melbournepenguins phillip island
flinders street station and tram We transfer back to Sydney airport for our 9am Qantas flight 419 south to Melbourne, arriving at 10.30am. If we can’t check into our centrally located hotel we will be able to leave our bags until check-in. About 2.45pm we are picked up to travel south to Phillip Island, about 1.5 hours away. As the sun sets we watch Fairy Penguins waddle up the beach, straight past our feet and into their burrows, after a days’ foraging at sea. A Ranger is at hand to answer questions. This is a wonderful wildlife experience, and you are very close to these delightful creatures. Prior to watching the penguins we’ll spend some time in the interpretive center to learn more about the life of these, the world’s smallest penguin.


bruiser the koalaDay 16 – Monday, September 28: Melbourne / Brisbane Ranges area/ Melbourne
Today is bound to be a highlight of our entire trip. This morning we are picked up for our private ogrey kangaroosuting to the open eucalyptus forests and hills just west of Melbourne. Our guide has been following and studying koalas here for many years, and knows them personally. We’ll be looking for these iconic Australian animals, as well as kangaroos, wallabies, emus and much else; parrots are common, from large white cockatoos to small and colorful red-rumped parrots. After lwatsons with dingoesunch we head just a little north, to the Dingo Discovery Sanctuary and Research Centre. Here Lyn and Peter Watson have set up a sanctuary and research area for dingoes, and we’ll meet them, learn of their work, and meet some of their charges. As well as being dingo experts both Peter and Lyn are national and international dog judges. After our return to Melbourne we enjoy a farewell dinner.       (B,L,D)




Day 17 – Tuesday, September 29: Melbourne / Los Angeles
Sadly we leave Australia today and fly back to Los Angeles on Qantas flight 93 at 10.15am, but taking many memories and permanent souvenirs. You are transferred to the airport for your morning flight back to the US (some participants may need to fly back to Sydney if they are not ticketed to depart from Melbourne). Due to the International Dateline, we arrive back into Los Angeles at 7.30am this same morning, in plenty of time to catch our flights to our home cities.      (B,*M,*B)

(B: Breakfast; L: Lunch; D: Dinner; M: Meal; S: Snack; * in flight meal)



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