Australian Natural Adventures

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Itinerary for

Dennis Dang & Christina Ferris

September 16 - October 16, 2005


Day 1 - Friday, September 16: Los Angeles / Lost In Space
Begin your South Pacific journey at 10.50pm flying from Los Angeles on United Airlines UA839. Although your Business Class service includes a meal, due to the late departure I would, however, recommend having dinner at the airport – there are a wide range of options upstairs, at the end of the ticket counters – then just relaxing on the plane. *M

Day 2 - Saturday, September 17: Lost In Space
Lose today due to the International Dateline, but regain it on your return journey.

Day 3 - Sunday, September 18: Sydney / Cairns
You arrive in Sydney this morning at 6.25am, pass through customs and immigration then transfer tThala Beach Lodgeo your flight to Cairns, Qantas QF922 which departs at 8.40am and arrives at 11.50am. The Cairns flight departs from Sydney's domestic terminal, and you will take the terminal shuttle bus to that terminal – directions are clear in the international terminal for this. On arrival in Cairns you will be met and transferred to your hotel, Thala Beach Lodge, located on ther Mossman River, and surrounThala Beach Lodge room verandahded by the rainforest of the Daintree National Park.  Birds and other wildlife will be seen from the verandah of this world-class lodge, and from the open air restaurant overlooking the river. This afternoon relax in this tsunbird queenslandropical paradise. Probably the best eating fish in Australia, and one of the best in the world, is Barramundi, and you should make sure this is a feature of one of your meals here. Start with an appetizer of Mud Crab or Moreton Bay Bugs (both far better than they sound), followed by Barramundi done as simply as possible. A dry Australian Sauvignon Blanc, perhaps from the Margaret River area of Western Australia, or a crisp Victorian white, will be a perfect accompaniment.              *B

Day 4 - Monday, September 19: Great Barrier Reef
Today you picked up at your hotel to be 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 thdiver and fan coral Great Barrier Reef Australiae coast of Queensland, nearly to Papua New Guinea. This morning you are picked up for your second reef trip, this time to the outer edge, where the experience is quite different to that which you will experience later in the week. There are different corals, fishes and other marine life. Your boat, Poseidon, will visit a number of sites. Again, all snorkeling equipment (including wet suits) and dive gear is provided, and an excellent lunch. The two reefs trips – a cay and the outer reef – will give you a much fuller appreciation of this natural wonder than a single visit could.            L

spectacled flycatcher on nest Queensland AustraliaDay 5 – Tuesday, September 20: Thala - Daintree areablack-necked stork Queensland Australia
This morning you are picked up for a half day of birding with Del Richards. You'll travel to local areas with this expert birder to find the specialties of the area, and the more common fare as well. Both upland and lowland habitats will be covered. You'll return to the Lodge around lunchtime, and enjoy the facilities here once again.

Day 6 – Wednesday, September 21: Thala Beach/ Atherton Tablelands
This morning pick up your rental car at the Lodge and head north to Daintree Village (see map), about 50 minutes away. Proceed to the jetty in the centre of this small village, where you will board Chris Dahlberg’s boat for a wildlife cruise on the river. As well alowland rainforest Queenslands many rainforest and mangrove birds, Chris will be looking for Saltwater Crocodiles and perhaps Flying Foxes. The cruise lasts about 2 hours. Return to Thala, check out, and then drive south through Cairns to Yungaburra on the Atherton Tablelands (see map, but you should also pick up an area tourist map at Thala). Turn off the highway at Gordonvale, about 20km south of Cairns – it’s a major intersection, and there are signs to Atherton and other Tablelands towns. The road up to the Tablelands offers some wonderful views, and Yungaburra is the first town you come to at the top. This will take about 1 ¾ hours. both. Your accommodation tonight is Chambers Rainforest Lodge, deep in the rainforest. John, your host, is a wealth of knowledge about the area (and a bit of a character), and will assist you while there. As the lodge is self-catering, with a small kitchen area, you should pick a few supplies on your way – Cairns will be easiest for this, although there is a store in Yungaburra, near the lodge. Of course, you will most likely eat at one of the several nearby restaurants, but having a few snacks, and/or a bottle of wine, on hand is always a good idea. The lodge grounds are rich in wildlife, from birds to mammals, many of which are unafraid and will visMareeba rock wallaby Granite Gorge Queensland Australiait your cabin. At 2.30pm you will be met by Alan Gillanders, a local naturalist guide, for an afternoon evening wildlife finding expedition. As well as gaining an understanding of this unique rainforest area, you will look for platypus, musky rat-kangaroos, birds and many others. After dinner you will spend a couple of hours spotlighting for nocturnal wildlife, including the rare and endemic possums that occur only here, owls, and possibly the strange Lumholtz tree kangaroo. You will return to the Lodge about 10pm. Don't forget that it will be cooler up on the Tablelands, especially at night.

Day 7 - Thursday, September 22: Atherton Tablelands
Today continue to explore the Tablelands with Alan. The Curtain Fig and Cathedral figs are both spectacular trees, and the large Red Cedar 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 by Alan's experience, seasonal wildlife activity, and your own interests. This evening dinner can be had in one of several restaurants in Yungaburra, or you can make your own and enjoy the verandah of your lodge with the wildlife. You should make sure you are there just after sunset for John's own wildlife exposition.

Day 8 - Friday, September 23: Atherton Tablelands / Cairns
After an easy morning - there are several nice walking tracks on the property - make your way back to Cairns. We suggest you talk to Alan about the things you haven't seen, and take the day to continue to look around. Perhaps a drive to the ex-logging town of Ravenshoe, where has become something of an arts and crgrey kangaroos Australiaafts center, and even driving to the Tully Falls lookout, for views across to the now-trickling (due to a dam) but once mighty Tully River. The river still creates a major waterfall, and extensive flooding, if there's heavy rain during the Wet, and provides year-round Class 4 whitewater rafting. The sugarcane season will have begun, and your drive will take you past several farms. Although the cane is no longer burnt prior to harvest, you will see the small trains - "trams" - making their way about the fields. They also cross the roads, so take car at the indicated tram crossings. Your accommodation for the next two nights is the Tradewinds Hotel in Cairns. You can walk out of the rear of the hotel to the Esplanade, which runs along the bayfront. The hotel is directly opposite perhaps the best part of the Esplanade for shorebirds, including Terek Sandpipers, stints, plovers and godwits; terns, pelicans and others are also here. Low tide today is at 1.37pm, and the best time for viewing is from about 15 minutes after the low tide for the next hour. Many lorikeets, honeyeaters and other colorful, and noisy, birds frequent the trees of your hotel and the Esplanade; a large tree over the restaurant is a favored egret roost. It is a very short and pleasant walk through the new Esplanade Fogarty Park to the main downtown area, past cafes, shops and restaurants. One recommended restaurant is the Red Ochre Grill, where a range of native Australian plants and meats such as crocodile are a specialty.

Day 9 - Saturday, September 24: Great Barrier Reef
On your 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, 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. Immediately offshore in waist-deep water, the first of the corals can be seen. For those not used to snorkelling, 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 andterns and noddies Michaelmas Cay Queensland Australia 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 glide around the coral in a semi-submersible submarine, 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 led by a marine biologist, and if you are interested you may take a non-certified introductory scuba dive at additional cost. 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 105 foot luxury, motor-sailing catamaran.       L

Day 10- Sunday, September 25: Cairns / Darwin
goanna by Jobart Most of today is free to relax and perhaps visit some of the art galleries in pandanus fruit by Jobarttown. Several, including the Cairns Regional Art Gallery, include local and Aboriginal artists in their exhibitions. There are several other galleries in Cairns, several of which specialize in wildlife and nature art, and photography. If you didn't get a chance to visit the opal showroom in Sydney, you may wish to visit to the Outback Opal Mine, where as well as buying opals you can learn from a educational film and display how and where they are mined. A call to this interesting store and museum will have them coming to collect you, and drop you off later, at no obligation. Taxi to the airport late this afternoon for your Qantas QF800 6.15pm flight to Darwin, arriving at 8.15pm. Pick up your rental vehicle - a smaller 4WD - and drive the short distance to your hotel, Saville Park Suites, located on Darwin's Esplanade.


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