Australia's Top End: Victoria River to Kakadu - Birding Tour
This tour focuses on the Top End, the most diverse part of the Northern Territory. It is home to some truly spectacular birds, including the gorgeous Gouldian Finch, the delightful Purple-crowned Fairywren, the glistening Rainbow Pitta, and the ultramarine Hooded Parrot, all of which are usually seen, and are not possible on other Australia tours offered. Along with these “prize-winning” birds is a fascinating landscape comprising of wet monsoon forests, dry Eucalypt savanna and stunning sandstone canyons, it truly is a stunningly scenic area. This tour offers up a real taste of the outback along with a number of highly localized species only found in the Top End. It, therefore makes for a great combination with our very popular eastern Australia tour, as both tours have a completely different feel and visit very different areas of this absorbing continent.
23 - 31 October ($6900; single supplement: $680)
This tour links up with Eastern Australia: Top to Bottom
19 - 27 October (Price: TBA)
This tour links up with Eastern Australia: Top to Bottom
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Other Tour Details:
Length: 9 Days
Starting City: Darwin
Ending City: Darwin
Physical Difficulty: Moderate
Focus: Birding, Wildlife, Culture
Group size: 7 + 1 leader
Day 1: Arrival in Darwin. The tour starts at noon
Our first day in the Top End will see us visiting a number of easily accessible birding sites close to Darwin, packing in as many birds as possible before dark. We’ll begin in mangroves near Nightcliff where we will be searching for specialties of this habitat, like Mangrove Fantail, Mangrove Gerygone, Australian Yellow White-eye, Red-headed Myzomela, Black-tailed Whistler, and the rare and local White-breasted Whistler. After it starts to heat up we will head over to Buffalo Creek where we have a shot at the ridiculously loud Chestnut Rail, either feeding on the exposed mud or skulking in the mangroves. The beach that borders these mangrove stands often holds Great-billed Heron among a smattering of regular Aussie shorebirds, like Greater and Lesser Sandplovers, Great Knot, Terek Sandpiper, and Red-necked Stint. Late in the afternoon, we will check in on a local pair of Rufous Owls. We spend the first night in Darwin.
Day 2: East Point and Fogg Dam to Katherine
Dawn will see us at East Point having breakfast in the field with Rainbow Pittas and Rose-crowned Fruit-Doves for company. Later we drive to one of the Top End’s premier wetlands, Fogg Dam. Around the dam itself, we’ll be thrilled with the site of thousands of wetland birds, including Magpie-Geese, Pied Herons, Green Pygmy-Geese, and maybe a Buff-banded Rail or White-browed Crake scurrying out of the reeds. In the monsoon forest, we have further chances at the Top End’s sexiest bird (if needed): the Technicolor Rainbow Pitta. Later, we head southwards to Pine Creek, stopping off at this old gold mining area for the opalescent Hooded Parrot. We overnight in Katherine.
Day 3: Katherine to Timber Creek
Today we’ll drive to Timber Creek for a two-night stay, but not before spending time at dawn around a local waterhole for our first shot at the stunning Gouldian Finch, as well as Long-tailed and Masked Finches too. En-route to Timber Creek there will be chances for more specialties, like Buff-sided Robin and the gorgeous Purple-crowned Fairywren. Two nights will be spent in a motel in the tiny Outback town of Timber Creek.
Day 4: Timber Creek
This town is in the heart of finch country; up to nine species can be found in this area, with the key species being the local Yellow-rumped Mannikin and Star Finch in particular. There will also be chances at Black-tailed Treecreeper, and Bar-breasted and Yellow-tinted Honeyeaters there too, all northern specialties. The small local airfield also sometimes hosts the scarce Oriental Plover, feeding in company with the local Agile Wallabies or more flocks of finches that could also include Zebra and Double-barred Finches, and Chestnut-breasted Mannikin. A second night will be spent in Timber Creek.
Day 5: Timber Creek to Top Springs
An early start will be required to search for the local White-quilled Rock-Pigeon on a nearby escarpment, before we head south to Top Springs, keeping an eye on the skies for Black-breasted Buzzard and the hulking Wedge-tailed Eagle en-route. Along the way, we will also stop in at a wetland area that often hosts a myriad waterbirds, including Brolga (an endemic Australian crane species), Magpie-Goose, Radjah Shelduck and Australian Darter. We will arrive at Top Springs in time for an afternoon search for the rare Gray Falcon and unpredictable Ground Cuckooshrike, as well as Australian Bustard and Australian Pratincole. One night will be spent in a small motel within remote Top Springs, in the heart of Australia’s Outback.
Day 6: Top Springs to Pine Creek
After some further time around Top Springs in the morning, which might yield new species like the striking Spinifex Pigeon, Banded Honeyeater and the “Golden-backed” form of Black-chinned Honeyeater (a likely split), Varied Lorikeet, and Paperbark Flycatcher; we’ll head back north to the edge of Kakadu National Park. In the afternoon, we will concentrate, once more, around the tiny town of Pine Creek, where Hooded Parrots will be the main focus, should we still be missing them following our earlier search there, but can also spend time looking for other Outback species like Red-winged Parrot, Cockatiel, and Broad-billed Flycatcher. A single night will be spent in Pine Creek.
Day 7: To the Kakadu area
We’ll need an early morning start to get up to a spinifex escarpment before the day heats up, and have our best shot at Chestnut-quilled Rock-Pigeon and Partridge Pigeon. In the afternoon, we shall head north to a lodge near Kakadu National Park, stopping for more specialties along the way, such as Silver-backed Butcherbird and Northern Rosella. While Great Bowerbirds are common in the Top End, and are sure to have been seen by then, we will stop off at a fascinatingly decorated bower for the species, if needed. We bird near Kakadu and we will take a leisurely boat trip into the Yellow Waters billabong that is brilliant for birds, like kingfishers and waterbirds. Some of our main target species will be Azure, Sacred, and Little Kingfishers (the latter difficult elsewhere in Australia), 3 species of ibis, Black-necked Stork, Plumed Whistling-Duck, Nankeen Night-Heron, Pied Heron, Comb-crested Jacana, and one of the most revered Aussie animals, the menacing Saltwater Crocodile. The night will be spent near Kakadu.
Day 8: The areas around Kakadu NP to Darwin
Today we head into the heart of Aboriginal country near Kakadu. We will stop in many hotspots surrounding the park. There are a number of local specialties; the beautiful Black-banded Fruit-Dove inhabits the monsoon forest surrounding the base, as does Black Wallaroo, while Sandstone Shrike-thrushes and White-lined Honeyeaters may be found on the rock itself. After a morning in the park, we shall head back to Darwin, and check some mangroves for habitat specialists like Mangrove Fantail and Black-tailed and White-breasted Whistlers if needed, and also check a local park for the massive Rufous Owl if we missed it on the first day. The final night will be spent where it all began, back in Darwin.
Day 9: Departure from Darwin
Depending on flight schedules, we may have time for some birding near Darwin before we depart.
PACE: Moderate. This is a fast-paced trip that tries to maximize the number of sites covered and therefore birds seen. Breakfasts are typically packed and taken in the field at around 5:00am-5: 30am each day. As there are many long drives on this tour to get to the well separated Outback sites, there is limited downtime at hotels in the middle of the day, as this time is usually downtime in the vehicle, with birding stops along the way too. There are drives of b