Australian Natural Adventures

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


Itinerary for

Phyllis & Dick Memmer

October 25 - November 8, 2004


Day 1 - Monday, October 25: Prescott / Los Angeles / Lost In Space
Begin your South Pacific journey at 1.18pm flying from Prescott to Phoenix on America West flight AW6825, arriving at 2pm, where you transfer to AW32 departing at 4.14pm and arriving into Los Angeles at 5.45pm. In Los Angeles collect your bags, then you may wish to take the airport terminal shuttle to the Tom Bradley Terminal, which is at the head of the horseshoe of LAX terminals. However, as you have plenty of time, and you will be sitting down for over 14 hours, you can also walk. America West usually arrives at Terminal 1, so you will turn right when you exit to head towards the Tom Bradley. Check in early for your Qantas flight QF12, leaving at 10.30pm to Australia, which begins the moment you step aboard your Qantas plane. 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. 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.

Day 2 - Tuesday, October 26: Lost In Space
Lose today due to the International Dateline, but regain it on your return journey.

Day 3 - Wednesday, October 27: Sydney / Cairns
You arrive in Sydney this morning at 6.05am, pass through customs and immigration then transfer to your flight to Cairns, Qantas QF922 which departs at 7.55am and arrives at 11.05pm. 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, Tradewinds Esplanade. 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, so many wading birds can be seen feeding, and lorikeets and other colorful and noisy birds frequent the trees. 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 4 - Thursday, October 28: Great Barrier Reef
Today you picked up at your hotel at 7.35am 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 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. 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. There is time after your return this evening to visit Cairns, or you may wish to relax poolside at the hotel.

Day 5 – Friday, October 29: Cairns / Atherton Tablelands
This morning you are picked up by your naturalist guide for the next three days, Del Richards, to start an journey through the rainforests amd rivers of Australia's tropical north. You begin by exploring the rainforests of the Atherton Tablelands. These World Heritage Wet Tropics 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. Much of the area visited over the nest three days is designated World Heritage, as is the Great barrier Reef just visited. Leaving Cairns about 8-8.30 am and heading south, you will turn inland to drive up the Gillies Range, affording often spectacular views of the coast ranges and the Coral Sea. At the top of the Range, about 2500ft above sea level a small road leads to the Cathedral Fig, a huge specimen of a strangler fig tree. Your guide will describe to you how over time the structure of the tree develops. The smallest and most primitive kangaroo, the Musky Rat-kangaroo, can often be seen here, as well as fruit pigeons and brush turkeys. You thenThe Chambers travel the short distance to Lake Barrine for a walk to see the Twin Kauris and then a light lunch before a one-hour cruise around Lake Barrine. This informative cruise usually manages to find Amethystine Pythons, over 12 ft long, sunning along the bank. A visit is made to the Curtain Fig near Yungaburra, and a search for water fowl on Lake Tinaroo. Your accommodation tonight is The Chambers Rainforest Lodge, a small ecolodge in the heart of the rainforest. Here there is time to relax and enjoy the peace and wildlife which is plentiful here. Dinner tonight at a traditional Aussie pub, then meet with specialist guide Alan Gilanders for a night out spotlighting for mammals and owls. The area visited for this is especially good for the strange Tree Kangaroo, which has taken to life in the rainforest trees. 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.

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