Australian Natural Adventures

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


Custom Australia Tour for





December 5 to December 20, 2004

Day 1 - Sunday, December 5 - Birmingham/ Los Angeles / Lost in Space
Fly from Birmingham to Los Angeles; transfer to the Tom Bradley International Terminal for your 10.20pm United Airlines flight to Sydney, Australia.

Day 2 - Monday, December 6 - Lost in Space
Day lost due to the International Dateline, but regained on the return journey.

Day 3 – Tuesday, December 7 - Brisbane / Cairns
Arrive in Sydney, Australia at 8am this morning. Pass through customs and immigration and transfer to the domestic terminal for your Virgin Blue flight to Cairns, far North Queensland. On arrival in Cairns you are met and transferred to your waterfront hotel, the Tradewinds Esplanade. The hotel is located on Cairns Esplanade, and directly opposite a shorebird viewing site. At any time of the day the exposed muddy areas are prime feeding for hundreds of shorebirds, from large pelicans to tiny, busy Terek Sandpipers. The walk in either direction along the Esplanade is a delight; to the right it's just a short distance into Cairns proper. 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 at your hotel, there are many restaurants nearby.

Day 4 – Wednesday, December 8 - 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 – Thursday, December 9 - Cairns
This morning you are picked up at 8.45am to 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. On arrival the reception desk can best arrange your day, and make sure you don't miss any of the events. During your stay in Cairns you may wish to visit 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. The Mine will come and pick you up at your hotel and return you, at no cost, and with no obligation to make a purchase. We've included a brochure that gives you a small free opal gift. You could also arrange for the Tjapukai return bus to drop you there, and have the Mine return you to your hotel.

Day 6 - Friday, December 10 - 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.


Day 7 – Saturday, December 11 - Cairns / Sydney
Today fly to Sydney at 10.10am, arriving at 2.10pm, and take a taxi - they are just outside the terminal - to your hotel, the Harbour Rocks in The Rocks, the historical and now the most vibrant and interesting area of Sydney. The hotel is a converted 19thC woolshed, originally built for the important Australian wool trade. Your hotel’s location is ideal, as close by is the Circular Quay area, home to the many ferries that cross the harbour, the Sydney Harbour Bridge itself, and the beautifully designed, and placed, Opera House. At the Visitor Centre, located in Cadman's Cottage, one of Australia's oldest houses, Cadman's Cottage, you can get a brochure for a self-guided walking tour of this historic area. There are many small restaurants around the Quay, and is a wonderful place to eat and watch the evening light over the Opera House. If you wish, you can arrange a guided tour of the Opera House - your accommodation can assist you with this.


Day 8 - Sunday, December 12 - Sydney
The Rocks is the historical part of Sydney that dates from the earliest settlement, and has many historical buildings; this morning several of the streets are turned over to the Rocks open-air market. Goods available range from food to crafts to tacky rubbish; locals and visitors alike cruise the many stalls. The rest of the day is free to explore this vibrant and friendly city. In addition to great shops to buy the needed souvenirs and gifts, just a pleasant walk is the Botanic Gardens, which has good views of the harbour, 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 artefacts and art, is within walking distance of the Gardens. If you wish you can take a guided tour of the Opera House – your hotel can arrange this. The best way to really see Sydney Harbour is on a ferry. While there are tours that utilize the ferries, usually with lunch or morning tea, the cheapest way to do this is to simply buy a return ticket to one of the up-harbour places such as Homebush (where the Olympics were held). You’ll see a map of all the places they go at Circular Quay. The ferries have a snack/meal bar, and you can just get an easy lunch or snack there, sit back, and enjoy the ride. The ferry to Manly goes in the other direction, and as it passes the Entrance, where the harbor enters the Pacific, can get interestingly rough at times. This ferry will pass the Opera House and various other landmarks, and is also a good run. As it's summer, and darkness comes late, (sunset is at 7pm; astronomical twilight at 8.44pm) a ferry ride could be a nice way to enjoy dinner, returning to the Quay, when the Opera House, Bridge, and the city itself is lit up.


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