Australian Natural Adventures

nature travel, wildlife tours, adventure travel and general travel to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific

 

Custom Australia Tour for

NANCY GASEN

 

AUSTRALIA

November 2005


Day 1 - South Carolina / Los Angeles / Lost in Space
Fly from South Carolina to Los Angeles; transfer to the Tom Bradley International Terminal for your Qantas flight to Sydney, Australia. Australia begins the moment you step aboard your Qantas flight. The Australian style is apparent—easy going, casually efficient and very friendly. Qantas is known for its excellent food and in flight service, so sit back and enjoy the hospitality, meal and a movie.

Day 2 – Lost in Space
Day lost due to the International Dateline, but regained on the return journey.

Day 3 – Sydney / Cairns
Arrive in Sydney, Australia early this morning. Pass through customs and immigration and transfer to the domestic terminal for your flight to Cairns, far North Queensland. On arrival in Cairns transfer to your waterfront hotel, the Tradewinds Esplanade. The hotel is located on Cairns Esplanade, and directly opposite the best shorebird viewing site. At any time of the day the exposed muddy areas are prime feeding for hundreds of shorebirds, from large pelicans to medium curlews to tiny, busy Terek Sandpipers. After your lunchtime arrival the rest of the day is free to relax. don't, however, be tempted to have a nap or even lie down - you need to stay awake until at least 8pm to sleep well enough tonight to fall into the local time zone. As well as your hotel restaurants there are many others nearby.

Day 4 – Great Barrier Reef
Today you 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 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 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 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. For those interested, there are guided snorkel tours led by a marine biologist; for those who are certified, scuba diving is an option, or a non-certified introductory dive. 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. There is time after your return this evening to visit Cairns, or you may wish to relax poolside at the hotel.

Day 5 – Cairns / Kuranda, Atherton Tablelands
This morning is free to look around Cairns, or perhaps visit the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. Although designed in part as a tourist venture, the 16 year old concept began and remains today a means of introducing non-aboriginal people to the world’s oldest living culture, while at the same time showing by example to the Aboriginal people themselves that their culture, often ignored and looked down upon by its own people, is of great value and interest to others throughout Australia and the world. Activities here include the Aboriginal History Theatre, the Creation Theatre, the original Tjapukai Dance Theatre, a didgeridoo demonstration, spear and boomerang throwing, and descriptions of traditional foods and medicines. Although the park is a little hard to describe, I know you will enjoy it and learn a lot about Aboriginal life.

Early this afternoon you will be picked up for an afternoon/evening tour to the rainforest of the Atherton Tablelands. These World Heritage listed rainforests, at an elevation of about 2,500 ft, are home to some of Australia’s rarest and most unusual animals, including four kinds of very restricted possums, gliders, and the definitely weird tree kangaroo, a kangaroo which has adapted to a life in the trees, rather than on the ground. Your guide will take you to a small stream to wait for platypus, the egg-laying mammal unique to Australia, all the time describing the plants and dynamics of the surrounding rainforest. A variety of rainforest birds and other animals, perhaps including the leaf-tailed gecko - eight inches long and colored and shaped like a piece of bark - will be found and seen. After dinner out, a couple of hours will be spent spotlighting for nocturnal animals, always a highlight of the day. The return to Cairns will be late, around midnight, but the long day will remain in your memory for years to come.

Day 6 – Atherton Tablelands
This morning pick up your rental car and drive about one hour up to Kuranda, a little northwest of Cairns. The views along the way across the Coral Sea are quite wonderful. About two thirds of the way up you move into rainforest, as the dry forest of the rainshadow gives way to the wetter higher altitude. Just before you arrive at the village itself turn right to your accommodation for the next three nights, Cassowary House. This small guest house is run by birders, and many species, from cassowaries to delicate sunbirds frequent the gardens. A variety of mammals also can usually be seen here, including the tiny Musky Rat-kangaroo, the smallest of the kangaroos. Your hosts will welcome you to their house, and advise you of where best to are for wildlife and scenery. The rest of the day can be used to explore the area, which includes rainforest and the granite-based forests of small creeks.

Day 7 – Atherton Tablelands
You may wish to spend part of the day with a private tour led by Phil, your host, to see some of the more elusive birds of the area, or continue your personal discoveries. Nearby is Granite Gorge, a good place for Rock Wallabies, Sandy Wallabies and Great Bowerbirds, among others. Mareeba Golf Course is another good stop, with its resident mob of Grey Kangaroos. It’s a convenient stop on the way to the Mareeba Wetlands, where many waterbirds can be seen and learnt about.

Day 8 - Atherton Tablelands / Cairns
Continue today exploring the Atherton Tablelands, returning this evening to Cairns. The southern Tablelands, around Millaa Millaa and Ravenshoe are about 1000ft higher than the Kuranda/Mareeba area, and the rainforests and waterfalls have their own qualities, and even wildlife species. Return to your hotel on the Esplanade at your leisure, and return your car. During your stay in Cairns you may wish to vist 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.

Day 9 - Great Barrier Reef
This morning you are picked up for your second reef trip, this time to the outer edge, where the experience is quite different. There are different corals, fishes and other marine life. You will be on a smaller boat, Tusa, and visit a number of sites. Again, all snorkeling equipment (including wet suits) 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.

 

 

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