Australia: The Introtour - Birding Tour
This is the most easygoing tour that we offer in Australia. What does this mean for tour participants? Firstly, the premier Eastern Australia birding hotspots covered on this tour have all been carefully selected as there are no long drives required. Secondly, the scheduled domestic flights connecting the 3 legs (i.e. Cairns, Brisbane, Tasmania), have been selected to ensure no super early departures or late arrivals occur (unlike those on our Eastern Australia tour, which takes flights designed to maximize more time in the field). Thirdly, this tour is run at a relaxed pace. It is not designed to get the biggest bird species list or largest bird family list (for that see our intense Eastern Australia), but rather to provide a comprehensive introduction to Australian birds and get a decent overview of some of the most impressive species and bird groups in the region. Expect to see representatives from interesting Australasian bird families like, bowerbirds, frogmouths, parrots, cockatoos, megapodes, cranes, kingfishers, bee-eaters, fairywrens, honeyeaters, logrunners, Australasian Robins, and even birds-of-paradise! Fourthly: You may notice that the hand-picked birding sites on this tour are also covered on other Tropical Birding tours in the region (i.e. Eastern Australia tour and Australia Birding with a Camera® tour). However, on this tour an extra night in spent on each of the three legs, (i.e. one more night on the Atherton Tablelands, one extra night at O’Reilly’s, and an additional night on Tasmania). This allows more time to cover each of the major sites than on those tours, leading to a more chilled pace each day in the field. There are also fewer one-night stays than our other Australian offerings. The itinerary is only 16 days, so it shorter than our other Australian birding tours. We are well aware that those that make the long journey to Australia often like to add on personal side trips (e.g. To Kakadu National Park or Ayer’s Rock in the Northern Territory, or to experience the opera house in Sydney). A shorter trip of this nature allows you greater scope for this and our office staff are here to advise of the myriad options Australia has to offer.
Lastly, I should mention that although this is a birding tour, cameras are welcome on this tour, and there will be time for casual photography along the way, due to the relaxed pace. However, if you wish for a more extensive coverage of birds species and mammals to photograph you should consider either our Australia Photo Tour or Australia Birding with a Camera® tour). that both cover more sites and spend more time in the field overall.
As well as birds we will seek mammals too, and it is possible to see Platypus, Koala, kangaroos and wallabies on this tour, although none of these are guaranteed, of course! We will see some Aussie mammals; we are just not sure which ones!
In summary, if you wish to have a relaxed pace tour, offering a very good introduction to Australian birds and mammals then this is the perfect tour for you. You will have ample time to soak in the variety of birds, bird habitats, and mammals offered on this exciting Introtour run by one of our many very experienced guides in the region.
1 - 16 November ($10490*; single supplement $990)
*Internal flights are not included in this price; please contact us for the current cost
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Other Tour Details:
Length: 16 Days
Starting City: Cairns (Queensland)
Ending City: Hobart (Tasmania)
Physical Difficulty: Easy
Focus: Birding, Photography, Wildlife
Group size: 7 + 1 leader
*Sometimes the order in which sites are visited may be switched around due to availability issues.
Day 1: Arrival and afternoon birding in Cairns (Northeast Queensland).
The tour starts at 2pm in Cairns, set within the heart of the Wet Tropics of Northeast Queensland. Unlike our Eastern Australia tour, which often heads far south on our first afternoon, we will stay right around Cairns (within 30 minute’s drive of the city at most). This will allow for a gentle, chilled afternoon, following our long inward bound journeys in recent days. Cairns is an extremely birdy city, and we are likely to see species like Magpie-lark, Rainbow Lorikeet, Torresian Imperial Pigeon, Willie-wagtail and Australasian Figbird with minimum effort! The parks in Cairns hold an abundance of weird and wonderful birds, such as Bush Thick-knee, Orange-footed Megapode, Australian Brush-Turkey and Black Butcherbird to name just a few. In the evening, we will take dinner at a local gastropub, where for the adventurous, crocodile and kangaroo are on the menu, along with more typical Australian pub fare! Two nights will be spent in Cairns.
Day 2: The Birds and Marine Life of the Great Barrier Reef (Northeast Queensland).
If you are worried the long flight in may still be bugging you, worry not, for we have a very tranquil activity for this day to help you cope with that! We will take a boat out to a small sandy island on the Great Barrier Reef. The island is home to thousands of nesting seabirds in this season, and we are sure to get close ups of birds like Brown Booby, Sooty Tern, and Brown Noddy, and have chances at others like Great Frigatebirds and Lesser Crested Tern too during our landfall on this tiny island. After we have finished on the island, we will take a light lunch on board the boat, then visit Hastings Reef for the snorkelers of the group to enjoy. Snorkeling gear is provided on board the boat, and anyone who want to experience the tropical marine life of the Great Barrier Reef can do so at no extra cost; (if you do not wish to snorkel you can relax on the air-conditioned boat). The boat trip typically wraps up around 3:30-4pm, after which we will return to the hotel and wind down before an evening dinner at one of the many diverse restaurants in Cairns.
Day 3: Cattana Wetlands & Lake Morris Rainforest (Northeast Queensland).
Just a short drive north of Cairns we will visit the wonderful Cattana Wetlands. The ponds in the reserve hold species like Australian Darter, Green Pygmy-Goose, Magpie-Goose and sometimes Royal Spoonbill, while the paperbark trees are home to Helmeted Friarbirds, Little Bronze-Cuckoos, Olive-backed Sunbirds, and Brown-backed and Yellow Honeyeaters. One of the joys of birding the Cairns region is the myriad sites on offer, and mélange of bird habitats available that are close to one other. After we have finished birding this Tropical Wetland, we will turn our attention to Tropical Lowland Rainforest. While the birding is more challenging than open habitats covered on this tour, Australia offers some of the easiest rainforest birding on the planet, and we will seek star species like Macleay’s Honeyeater, Pied Monarch, and Wompoo Fruit-Dove while we bird a quiet road passing through a pristine example of this habitat on the outskirts of Cairns. In the afternoon, we will make our way along the coast north to Daintree, where we will overnight there or in the nearby town of Mossman. On the drive up we will drop in on a pristine beach to see if it is occupied by a Beach Thick-knee.
Day 4: Daintree River Cruise to the Edge of the Outback (Northeast Queensland).
Once again, this day will illustrate the mosaic of habitats within easy reach of each other in this mega birding area. Our day will start with an early morning river cruise from Daintree village. This passes through lowland rainforest and even mangrove, while by the end of the day we will have arrived on the edge of the Outback, where Open Eucalypt Savanna will be the dominant habitat. This will all have happened while having driven less than 2 hours! Our cruise will search for handsome Shining Flycatchers or cryptic Papuan Frogmouths nesting low over the calm, clear waters, and we will hope for one of the rarer treats on this cruise too, like Black Bittern, Little Kingfisher, or the huge, though unobtrusive, Great-billed Heron. After a few hours on the river we will return to Daintree village and take a substantial sit-down breakfast at a local café.
We will have the entire rest of the day to make it from there the two hours to our hotel for the next two nights in Mareeba. However, there are multiple birding sites on the way to enjoy. In the afternoon, we will have swapped Lowland Tropical Rainforest environs for Open Eucalypt Savanna, a dominant habitat within the Outback of Australia. An afternoon visit to Granite Gorge Nature Park will be made to see the incredibly tame, wild Mareeba Rock-Wallabies, as well as their equally obliging Squatter Pigeons. The property also hosts Great Bowerbirds, and we will check in to see any active bowers at the time of our visit. That evening we will dine at a local gastropub, which has been a big hit with Tropical Birding groups over the years!
Day 5: Julatten and Mount Carbine (Northeast Queensland).
This will be another day of extremes in habitats. In the morning, we will venture west to the Julatten area to explore remnants of Monsoon Vine Forest and Subtropical and Montane Rainforest on nearby Mount Lewis, but in the afternoon, we will have switched back to Open Eucalypt Savanna on the edge of the Outback. The morning targets will include species like Bower’s Shrike-Thrush, Chowchilla, Tooth-billed Catbird, and the gorgeous Golden Whistler. However, the afternoon could not be more different, as we seek Australian Bustard in grassy areas of savanna, and visit a wonderful, bird-friendly caravan park, where Blue-winged Kookaburras, Galahs, Pale-headed Rosellas, and Red-winged Parrots can all count themselves as regulars, as well as Tawny Frogmouths, a bold, cryptic nocturnal bird that can often be seen there in broad daylight. A bower or two of the Great Bowerbird, decorated with silver, gray or red items may also be seen there. We will return to Mareeba for a second night, checking for Eastern Gray Kangaroos boxing on the local golf course or Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos coming into roost within the nearby savanna late in the day.
Day 6: Mount Hypipamee, Hasties Swamp & Yungaburra (Northeast Queensland).
Today, we will head up to the Atherton Tablelands, where multiple habitats await, again! We will start out in something similar to the morning before, Subtropical and Montane Rainforest, although this time we will be hoping for one of the rarer forest birds of the tour, the gorgeous Golden Bowerbird. We will visit a traditional bower site for this species by walking inside the forest. This species constructs a maypole bower and decorates it with fresh pieces of white lichen. While there, we will also have the chance to see White-throated Treecreeper, Gray-headed Robin, and also visit the impressive crater, a short walk from the parking lot. This is a volcanic pipe, which extends to the water’s surface 58 meters (190ft) below the viewing platform, and a further 85 meters (280ft) below that!
Once again, we will be in easy reach of other habitats, as next we will visit Hasties Swamp, a Tropical Wetland closer to the town of Atherton (where we will take lunch in one of the excellent cafes in town). Hasties typically hosts species like Plumed and Wandering Whistling-Ducks, Hardheads, Australasian Swamphens, and Australasian Grebes on the swamp itself, while the surrounding vegetation often holds Sacred Kingfisher, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Red-backed Fairywren, and Chestnut-breasted Munia. Our final stop of the day will be at Peterson’s Creek in Yungaburra, where we will search for Platypus in the late afternoon, which is the optimum time of day for them to become active. That night we will move into some very impressive surroundings indeed and spend the first of two nights in Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges set within verdant montane rainforest close to Lake Eacham.
Day 7: Lake Eacham and the Curtain Fig Tree (Northeast Queensland).
Today, we will begin by exploring right outside of our rooms, on the property of the lodge, where Spotted Catbirds and Victoria’s Riflebirds are often doorstep stars! The rest of the day will be flexible, so that we can explore any of the sites we have not been too yet. However, we are sure to include a stop in at Curtain Fig Tree, a very impressive, massive fig tree, which also provides good birding with species like Pied Monarch and Wompoo Fruit-Dove possible there. On this night, or the one before, we will visit the lodge’s viewing platform, where honey sometimes attracts nocturnal visitors like Striped Possum, and Krefft’s Glider. A second night will be spent at Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges.
Day 8: Return to Cairns via Etty Bay (Northeast Queensland).
For our final birding day in the Wet Tropics, we will head back to Cairns via Etty Bay, a beach which flanks Lowland Tropical Rainforest that is home to several habituated Southern Cassowaries. Let’s hope they are around for the time of our late afternoon visit. As this is the best time to see the cassowaries, we may not reach Cairns until 6:30-7pm on this night. A single night will be spent at our previous hotel in Cairns.
Day 9: Cairns to O’Reilly’s (Southern Queensland).
In the morning we will travel to Brisbane in Southern Queensland via a 2-hour flight from Cairns. If there is time, we will check a local park in Brisbane for Koala, before heading to O’Reilly’s, which we will get to by late afternoon, in readiness to explore the over the next two, full, days. Three nights will be spent at the glorious O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, with good wines on the menu from their own, local vineyard.
Day 10-11: O’Reilly’s & Lamington National Park (Southern Queensland).
Unlike all of our other Australian tours, we will have TWO full days to explore the wonderful surrounds of O’Reilly’s and neighboring Lamington National Park. O’Reilly’s is something of an Australian icon when it comes to birds and birding and is well recognized as one of the most productive birding sites in the country. The set of birds it has there are fascinating, and many of them are easy to find without significant effort. The lodge has feeding areas for Regent Bowerbirds, Satin Bowerbirds, Australian King-Parrots, and Crimson Rosellas for starters, and it is not uncommon for other birds to get in on this act, like the barrel-chested Wonga Pigeon, and handsome Red-browed Firetail. Other species, like White-browed and Yellow-throated Scrubwrens, and Eastern Whipbirds can be remarkably tame there too. Aside from these, there is plenty of other avian highlights to look forward to, like Rose Robin, Green Catbird, Albert’s Lyrebird, a masterful mimic, as well as the colorful Noisy Pitta. Early in the morning, or late in the day, cute Red-necked Pademelons, a wallaby that appears like a shrunken kangaroo, can be found right around the cabins. It should also be where we get our first looks at the delightfully abundant Superb Fairywren, which is sure to feature multiple times later on the tour.
As we have three nights at O’Reilly’s, there will be time to have an optional night session on one of the final two nights there after dinner together. This may see us run into one of the local mammals, like Mountain Brushtail Possum, or one of the night birds, such as Marbled Frogmouth or Southern Boobook.
Day 12: O’Reilly’s to Tasmania.
After a final few hours around O’Reilly’s we will return to Brisbane airport and fly south to Tasmania. We will aim to take a scheduled flight that gets us to Hobart by late afternoon, so we are in bed nice and early for our exciting first day on Tasmania the following day.
Day 13: Hobart & Mount Wellington to Bruny Island (Tasmania).
This day will start right around Hobart visiting two fantastic sites close to Tasmania’s laid-back capital. First there will be the Hobart Waterworks Reserve, where mammals like Tasmanian (Rufous-bellied) Pademelon might feature alongside endemic birds like Tasmanian Native-Hen and Black Currawong. Mount Wellington offers spectacular vistas over the city of Hobart, but also some stellar birds like Flame Robin and Crescent Honeyeater within the alpine heathland near the summit. In the afternoon we will travel over to beautiful Bruny Island for a two-night stay, arriving at our hotel in the late afternoon. On one of our nights in Bruny Island, we will head out in search of nocturnal critters. At The Neck, we can wait for Short-tailed Shearwaters and Little Penguins to come ashore at dusk, while after dark the island offers exciting “mammaling” opportunities with Eastern Quoll and the local, all-white, form of Bennett’s Wallaby both regular.
Day 14: Bruny island (Tasmania).
Bruny Island is a magical place, that offers the full crop of the dozen endemic birds of Tasmania, and some very attractive other specialties all within a variety of beautiful landscapes. Clean white beaches, rocky headlands, wet temperate rainforests, wet sclerophyll forests, and lowland heathlands can all be found on the island, and all will hold alluring birds for us. The beaches are home to Pied and Sooty Oystercatchers, hulking Pacific Gulls, and nesting Hooded Plovers. In. the quiet, calm bays that link these togethers, Black Swans are a common sight. The heathland is home to Beautiful Firetails, Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos, sharp-dressed black-and-white New Holland Honeyeaters, Flame Robins, and White-fronted Chats, while the rainforest boasts the pretty Pink Robin and unobtrusive Scrubtit. In groves of distinctive stringybark trees within the wet sclerophyll forest the endemic Strong-billed Honeyeater can be found. We will also visit areas where large White Gums can be found, the lair of the endangered Forty-spotted Pardalote, and we will be on the lookout for white blossoms within the eucalyptus trees lining the beach at Adventure Bay, a favored hangout for migrant Swift Parrots that migrate from mainland Australia to Bruny Island to breed.
Day 15: Bruny Island to Hobart (Tasmania).
After some further time on Bruny Island, we will take the car ferry back to the Tasmanian mainland, where there may be time to sneak in another local site around Hobart before the day’s end to seek birds like Musk Lorikeet or endemics such as Yellow-throated Honeyeater, and Yellow Wattlebird, one of the largest of all the honeyeaters. A final night will be spent back in the same Hobart hotel we used on day 12.
Day 16: Departure from Hobart (Tasmania).
There is no birding planned on this day and you are free to depart Hobart’s small international airport at any time that suits you.
PACE: Easy to Moderate. Unlike our Eastern Australia tour, this one is taken at a relaxed pace, with less one-night stays than that tour, and all the domestic flights have been planned to avoid very early departures or late arrivals (unlike that tour too). This tour aims to get a good sample of the habitats, birds, and other wildlife of the region, and does not try and get every bird, unlike the Eastern Australia tour! Starts will still be early, mostly around 6:00am, although there may be just a few optional 5:30am starts. Throughout the tour we expect to arrive at all of the lodges/hotels before dark. We will generally aim to get back/reach the hotels by 6:00-6:30pm, with the one exception to this being on Day 8, when we MAY not reach the hotel until 7pm (this depends on a bird, so can still be earlier than this).There are some optional late-night searches for mammals and birds that are available on a few nights only (Most likely on Day 6 at Chambers Lodge, on Day 11 at O’Reilly’s, and Day 14 on Bruny Island). Two boat trips are taken on this tour, one for most of the day to the Great Barrier Reef on Day 2, and another for 2-3 hours on the morning of Day 4.
There are no especially long drives on this tour (unlike all of the other Australia birding tours). Most of the drives on this tour are under 2 hours, although there may be one or two that reach three hours (NOTE: these are direct drive times and do not include stops for birding within the travel times). All of the drives on the Cairns leg (i.e. Days 1-8) are 2 hours or less. On the Brisbane leg, on Days 9 and 12, the drives may reach 3 hours in length). On the Tasmania leg (i.e. Days 13-15), the drives will all be 90 minutes or less. Almost all of these drives will end up taking longer than stated here as they will be broken up with birding stops along the way.
PHYSICAL DIFFICULTY: Easy. Most of the birding will be done from roads and mostly flat, well-maintained trails. There are no very long walks/hikes, and the few times we are on trails they are well maintained ones, which are not difficult, and are only undertaken for short distances (3km/2 miles or less).
There are no especially high-altitude sites; the highest points of the tour will be on one day on the Cairns leg (Day 5), and during one of the days in Tasmania, both of which may reach around 1270m/4165ft only.
CLIMATE: Highly variable. In the Cairns area, it is tropical and humid, with highs of around 86°F/30°C, and humidity generally reaching around 75%. There is typically little or no rain at this time of year on the Cairns leg, as it is the dry season. However, even in this season, there is a chance for rain in the highlands part of this leg (i.e. around 3 days). Temperatures in Brisbane are typically between 57°F/14°C and 75°F/34°C at this time of year. The Brisbane leg principally covers a mountain site (O’Reilly’s) where the climate can be significantly cooler (40-46°F/5-8°C) than in Brisbane in this season. On average there are about 4 rain days per month in this season for the Brisbane leg. Tasmania will be the coldest part, with temperatures typically 48°F-64°F/9°C-18°C, but may be significantly cooler in the early mornings, when temperatures can drop to near freezing. There are around 8 days per month of rainfall in Tasmania in this season. Thus, in general, you will be visiting during the Australian springtime, which is largely a dry time of year, but some rain can be expected, being most likely in Tasmania, or for several days in Queensland.
ACCOMMODATION: Good throughout. All accommodations have private bathrooms, full-time hot water, and 24-hour electricity. All of the hotels on this tour have Wi-fi.
TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS: A valid passport is required for entry into Australia. It should be valid for at least six months past the time of your scheduled return. An electronic visa is required for citizens of the USA, Canada, the UK, South Africa, and most Western European countries. This can be done through an app or online application.
WHAT’S INCLUDED?: Accommodation from the night of day 1 through to the night of day 15; meals from dinner on day 1 to dinner on day 15; safe drinking water throughout; most hotels in Australia provide a kettle and tea and coffee; Tropical Birding tour leader with scope and audio gear from the afternoon of day 1 to the night of day 15; transfer by taxi to the airports at the start and end of the tour (if these are on the official arrival and departure days); ground transport for the group to all sites in the itinerary in a suitable modern vehicle driven by the tour leader; one boat trip to the Great Barrier Reef on Day 2 (this will be shared with other people); one private two-three hour boat cruise on the Daintree River on Day 4; entrance fees to all birding sites mentioned in the itinerary; a printed and bound checklist to keep track of your sightings (given to you at the start of the tour – only electronic copies can be provided in advance).
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED?: Optional tips to the tour leader; international flights; domestic flights (THESE WILL BE BOOKED BY THE TROPICAL BIRDING OFFICE TO ENSURE THE GROUP ALL HAVE THE CORRECT FLIGHTS); any Covid tests required; excess baggage fees; snacks; additional drinks apart from those included; alcoholic beverages; travel insurance; excursions not included in the tour itinerary; extras in hotels such as laundry service, internet, minibar, room service, telephone calls, and personal items; medical fees; other items or services not specifically mentioned as being included.
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