Australia has so much to offer wildlife lovers, from the lush rainforests of Queensland, to the vast Outback and mystical places of Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas). From the temperate forests and mountains of Tasmania, and the white-sand beaches and rolling hills of Kangaroo Island, to the underwater splendours of the Great Barrier Reef. To try to do this vast continent justice, I am offering two back-to-back itineraries, which can be taken alone or together, and which cover the highlights of both northern and southern Australia. The areas included have all been chosen because of the diversity of wildlife they are home to, and the beauty of their scenery.
Timed to experience the best weather in all parts of the country, the first itinerary takes in the wildlife of Queensland and the spectacular scenery of the Red Centre, while the second itinerary takes us in search of the charismatic wildlife of South Australia and Tasmania. A ship-board extension to the Great Barrier Reef completes the adventure.
These itineraries can be taken on their own or back-to-back. A live-aboard extension to the Great Barrier Reef is also on offer.
Day 1; October 15th
Today we begin our wildlife adventure in Cairns, where we start looking for our first mammals: agile wallaby and spectacled flying fox. Birds are also abundant in the lush vegetation around town, including orange-footed scrub-fowl, double-eyed fig parrot, yellow oriole and helmeted friarbird. From Cairns we drive inland, through the Mulgrave Valley to the Atherton Tablelands, an area of lush, rolling dairy country broken by pockets of rainforest, deep volcanic lakes and wetlands. The whole of this beautiful area has been protected as part of the World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics region. This afternoon we reach our lovely lodge, which will be our home for the next three nights. The lodge is set in 100 acres of its own pristine rainforest, and each luxurious “treehouse” has its own feeders which attract a host of mammals and birds. Tonight we meet for our Welcome Dinner.
Days 2, 3 & 4; October 16th, 17th & 18th
We have three full days to explore the sights of the Atherton Tablelands, including visiting Crater Lakes National Park, and the spectacular “Cathedral” and “Curtain” fig trees. The forest around these vast fig trees teems with birds at dawn, and so we visit at first light to hear the almost deafening dawn chorus, including the echoing call of Victoria’s riflebird, chowchilla and eastern whipbird. During the day we look for platypus, musky rat kangaroo (the smallest kangaroo), red-legged pademelon.
The majority of Australia’s mammals are active at night, and so we go spotlighting in search of a host of nocturnal species, including Lumholz’s tree-kangaroo, common and coppery brushtail possums, lemuroid and green ringtail possums, northern brown and long-nosed bandicoots, and sugar gliders, amongst many others.
Day 5; October 19th
This morning we drive north to Granite Gorge, a spectacular granite rock formation, and home to a group of habituated Mareeba rock wallabys. There is also a chance of seeing roosting tawny frogmouths, and topknot and squatter pigeons, while flocks of red-tailed black cockatoos can often be found feeding in the fields around the Gorge. From here we drive to Mareeba Tropical Savanna and Wetland Reserve, which covers 5,000 acres of savanna and wetland. As well as protecting the habitat of more than 200 birds, including brolga and sarus cranes, magpie geese, and Australia’s only stork, the jabiru, the Reserve is also home to over 20 mammal species. During our time here we hope to see spot-tailed and northern quolls, rufous bettong, common wallaroo and unadorned rock wallaby.
Day 6; October 20th
After an early morning walk, we return to Cairns in time to catch our flight to Brisbane. On arrival in Brisbane we drive to Lamington National Park, and settle in to our characterful lodge. Lamington National Park is a World Heritage site, protecting nearly 80 square miles of sub-tropical rainforest which blankets the mountainous McPherson Range.
Days 7 & 8; October 21st & 22nd
We have two days to look for wildlife around Lamington and in the drier country to the west. The National Park is home to some spectacular birds, such as regent and satin bowerbirds, green catbird, crimson rosella and king parrot, as well as the elusive Albert’s lyrebird, and the bizarre mound-building brush turkey. Mammals are also abundant, with red-legged pademelons found grazing on the lawns at dusk, while red-necked pademelons and bandicoots can be found in the forest. Feeders in the restaurant attract possums after dark. Our day in the drier Eucalypt forest gives us the chance of seeing pretty-faced and red-necked wallabies, eastern grey kangaroo, as well as koala and platypus. Birds in this area include glossy black cockatoo, red-backed fairy-wen, and an array of honeyeaters and thornbills. Spotlighting excursions take us looking for common ringtail and mountain brushtail possums, and we also have a chance of sugar, greater and squirrel gliders, as well as tawny frogmouth and boobok owl.
Day 9; October 23rd
This morning we return to Brisbane, and fly to Yulara (the airport for Ayer’s Rock). We have time to settle into our accommodation, before later this afternoon we head towards the Rock to enjoy the “Sounds of Silence” dinner. Our journey begins on a sand dune, before a path takes us to an uninterrupted, three hundred and sixty degree view of this vast landscape. In front of us is the fabled Uluru (Ayer’s Rock), while behind us are the domes of Kata Tjuta (the Olgas). Here we witness possibly the most spectacular sunset on the planet, before enjoying dinner under the stars in the desert Outback. After dinner attention turns to star-gazing, as we are taken on a journey through the mystical tales of the spectacular southern skies. This is truly a magical experience, and will set the tone for our time here.
Day 10; October 24th
This morning we will be out early to witness sunrise over Ayer’s Rock. This incredible monolith changes with the light, and looks different throughout the day. It’s easy to understand why the Aboriginal people (the Anangu) believe it to be a sacred place. In order to fully appreciate Uluru, we walk around its base, exploring the many hidden waterfalls and canyons. Our local guides introduce us to the geology of Uluru and describe how the plants and wildlife have adapted and survived in such a forbidding environment. We also learn about the creation time stories of the Aboriginal people who have called this place home for many thousands of years.
After lunch we travel to the Olgas (Kata Tjuta), which is also a very sacred place to the Aboriginal people. As we walk through the massive conglomerate domes of Walpa (Olga) Gorge our local guides describe the geology of the 36 domes that make up the Olgas, and also how local people have made use of the plants which grow in this area.
Day 11; October 25th
Today we bid farewell to the Red Centre, and to those of our group who are not continuing on to the southern itinerary. For those continuing on we fly to Kangaroo Island, via Adelaide where we meet the rest of our group. For those who are leaving us, we bid them farewell at Ayer’s Rock airport.
This itinerary can be taken on its own, or back-to-back with the southern Australia itinerary which follows.
Day 1; October 25th
Our adventure in Kangaroo Island and Tasmania starts in Adelaide, where we meet the group coming from Ayer’s Rock. This afternoon we fly from Adelaide to Kingscote airport on Kangaroo Island, and check in to our lovely hotel. Tonight we meet for our Welcome Dinner.
Days 2 & 3; October 26th & 27th
We have two days in which to discover the amazing wildlife of Kangaroo Island. During our exploration we drive all over the island, visiting all the best wildlife sites by day and by night. One of the highlights is the spectacular Flinders Chase National Park, which covers the entire west of the island. Wind-sculpted granite boulders offer wonderful photographic opportunities, while rolling heathland, coastal cliffs and golden beaches provide sanctuary for a variety of mammal and bird species. Flinders Chase is home to a colony of New Zealand fur seals which frolic in the pounding surf around Admiral’s Arch.
We also look for the much less common Australian fur seals. Seal Bay on the south coast is home to a breeding colony of Australian sea lions, and we may see the massive males fighting each other to keep hold of their harems of females. Other mammals we hope to see are koala, short-beaked echidna, Tammar wallaby, Kangaroo Island kangaroo (a subspecies of the mainland’s Western grey kangaroo), Kangaroo Island brushtail possum, and a host of birds, including little (fairy) penguin, Australian pelican, Cape Barren goose, and the endangered glossy black cockatoo.
Day 4; October 28th
This morning we leave Kangaroo Island, and fly to Hobart, Tasmania. Hobart is an historic port city, and we take a tour to explore the city highlights, including the rejuvenated waterfront. This evening we go spot-lighting in search of Eastern barred bandicoot and Tasmanian bettong.
Day 5; October 29th
Today we drive south, and take the ferry to the wildlife paradise of Bruny Island. Bruny Island was first sighted by Abel Tasman in 1642, and is of great significance in the exploration of the southern oceans, with Captains Flinders, Cook and Bligh all having anchored off South Bruny Island. We land on North Bruny Island and drive south via the isthmus (known as “the Neck”) which joins the two parts of the island. We are on the look out for Tasmanian pademelon, the endemic white morph of Bennett’s wallaby, and the Tasmanian short-beaked echidna. At dusk we visit a colony of little penguins, and watch them coming in from a day’s fishing, before continuing on a night drive. Night drives are spectacular on Bruny Island, with the chance of seeing both dark and light morphs of eastern quoll, golden brushtail possum and long-nosed potoroo.
Day 6; October 30th
Bruny Island is also famed for its marine wildlife, and today we take a cruise out to visit a colony of Australian fur seals. During the cruise common and bottle-nosed dolphins are regularly seen, together with humpback and southern right whales, as well as seabirds including shy albatross, short-tailed shearwater and Australian gannet. On land Bruny Island is home to all twelve of Tasmania’s endemic birds, including the beautiful green rosella, Tasmanian native hen, and bizarrely named forty-spotted pardalote, as well as endangered species, such as hooded plover and swift parrot.
Day 7; October 31st
We say goodbye to Bruny Island today, and take the ferry back to the mainland before driving to the east coast of Tasmania, and to Freycinet National Park. Scenically the National Park is spectacular, comprising a rugged stretch of coastline, with azure bays framed by white sand beaches, and topped by granite peaks known as “the Hazards”. The area also has abundant wildlife, and we will look for Bennett’s wallaby, Tasmanian pademelon, brushtail and ringtail possums and sugar glider, not to mention flocks of yellow-tailed black cockatoo, New Holland honeyeater, eastern spinebill and elegant black swans.
Day 8; November 1st
One of the highlights of Freycinet National Park is Wineglass Bay, which has been voted one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, and today we have the opportunity to hike to a panoramic viewpoint over the area, as well as continuing our search for the local wildlife.
Day 9; November 2nd
This morning we drive westwards across the island to Mount Field National Park, home to beautiful Russell Falls which was created the first nature reserve in Tasmania in 1885. The National Park is home to some of the tallest remaining Eucalypt (swamp gum) forest in Tasmania, as well as to a host of wildlife. During the afternoon we take a walk through this stunning forest, where ancient tree ferns shade the ground, and the gum trees tower overhead. As dusk falls we spotlight for eastern barred bandicoot, Tasmanian pademelon and eastern quoll.
Day 10; November 3rd
Today we drive through the central highlands to the breathtaking Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. En route we stop off at Trowunna Wildlife Park and Rehabilitation Centre, which has been instrumental in breeding Tasmanian devils which are free of the facial tumour disease which has decimated up to 50% of their population. Tasmanian devils are the largest extant carnivorous marsupials (the Tasmanian tiger (or Thylacine) having been last seen in the wild in 1933), and are fascinating to watch up close as they squeal and squabble over food. Trowunna is also home to kangaroos, pademelons and wombats which were injured or orphaned, and now are able to come and go as they please. This afternoon we reach our beautiful lodge in Cradle Mountain National Park.
Day 11; November 4th
Cradle Mountain is part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, and its jagged peaks reflected in the tranquil waters of Dove Lake truly epitomise the feel of this wild landscape. Ancient rainforest, alpine heathlands, buttongrass and stands of colourful deciduous southern beech (Nothofagus) give us a range of habitats to explore as we hike in the National Park, while icy streams, stands of ancient pines mirrored in the still waters of glacial lakes and a wealth of wildlife ensure that there is always something to marvel at and photograph. Wombats are fairly tame here, and we have a good chance of getting photographs of them during the day. Tonight we go out spotlighting looking for eastern and spot-tailed quolls and the elusive Tasmanian devil.
Day 12; November 5th
From Cradle Mountain we continue our journey northwards to the hidden valley of Loonganna. Loonganna is home to a private nature reserve nestled under the mighty peaks of Black Bluff Mountain. The reserve protects a wonderful variety of wildlife, including platypus, Tasmanian devil, spot-tailed quoll, and a glow-worm grotto. Birds include wedge-tailed eagle, white goshawk, Tasmanian native hen, superb fairy wren and a host of others. Night is when the reserve really comes to life, as Tasmanian pademelons come out to graze on the lawns, and Tasmanian devils and common brushtail possums come to feed on scraps left out on our cottage verandahs. This is a great opportunity to get up close and personal with the devils.
Day 13; November 6th
Today we drive to the north coast to visit our last National Park – Narawntapu -which covers an area of coastal scrub bordering the Bass Strait. Dubbed the Serengeti of Tasmania, Narawntapu is one of the best places in Tasmania to view wildlife. With a variety of habitats in the park, ranging from sandy beaches to heathland, birdlife is varied and prolific and we will look for ducks, waders, sea birds, honeyeaters and, in the dry eucalypt forests, black cockatoos and green rosellas. The park also boasts a rich array of mammals that come out at dusk to graze on the grasslands, including Forester kangaroo, Bennett’s wallaby, common wombat and Tasmanian bettong.
Day 14; November 7th
Today we bid a sad farewell to Tasmania, and transfer to Devonport airport for our flights home.
Great Barrier Reef extension:
This extension is scheduled to run before the northern itinerary, but dates can also be arranged for the cruise to be taken after the southern itinerary.
Day 1; October 11th
This afternoon we board our small luxury ship for our Barrier Reef adventure. As we depart Cairns and cruise Trinity Bay, there is time to settle in and discover our “home” for the next four nights. In the evening, join our crew and travelling companions on the top deck to enjoy a glass of champagne as we cruise northward, passing Double Island and the pretty beachside village of Palm Cove. Admire a spectacular sunset over the World Heritage-listed rainforest of the Macalister Range.
Day 2; October 12th
We have the morning to discover historical Cooktown. It was here that the famous explorer Captain James Cook took refuge during his voyage of discovery after claiming Australia as a British colony in 1770. We have the option to visit Cooktown’s fascinating historical museum, featuring original artefacts from Cook’s ship – Endeavour, including the original anchor and cannon, jettisoned overboard after Endeavour struck a reef and began taking on water. Cooktown is steeped in history with most stone buildings dating back almost a century.
This afternoon we visit one of the remote uninhabited islands of the Great Barrier Reef. Join our marine biologist for a glass bottom boat tour over the colourful coral gardens and discover some of the 1500 species of tropical fish that call the reef home, or take our first snorkelling opportunity for an up-close view of the hundreds of varieties of coral growing on this section of reef. Our experienced crew will be on hand to provide assistance, advice and guided snorkelling tours for less experienced swimmers.
Day 3; October 13th
This morning we awake moored beside beautiful Lizard Island. The energetic may join our guides on a walk to “Cook’s Look” on the island’s peak (hiking shoes or boots are recommended). It was from here, the highest lookout on this part of the reef, that Captain Cook was able to navigate a safe passage back through the treacherous waters after repairing the Endeavour near Cooktown over 200 years ago. A photographer’s delight, the views from the lookout over the World Heritage-listed reef and surrounding tropical islands are magnificent.
Lizard Island’s fringing reef, in the shallow waters just metres off the beach, offers some fantastic snorkelling opportunities. Discover giant clams and a profusion of fish, relax on the beach, join the Marine Biologist for a glass bottom boat tour, or for the ultimate Great Barrier Reef experience, accompany our Dive Instructor on an unforgettable SCUBA dive. This afternoon we cruise to Ribbon Reef No 9, a spectacular and seldom visited part of the reef where our activities will include more snorkelling opportunities and glass bottom boat tours with the Marine Biologist.
Day 4; October 14th
The Great Barrier Reef is not actually one continuous reef, but a series of thousands of individual coral cays stretching over 1800 miles between the town of Bundaberg and the tip of Australia at Cape York. We spend today visiting two of the most spectacular sections of the reef, Ribbon Reef No 3 and Rachel Carson Reef. Explore the coral gardens and marine life with guided snorkelling and glass bottom boat tours. Our Marine Biologist will explain the natural history and evolution of the reef and help you discover the local wildlife, which includes sea turtles, giant clams, rays and over 200 different species of native birds. This evening we enjoy our final memorable night cruising the Great Barrier Reef.
Day 5; October 15th
This morning we arrive back in Cairns, and disembark from our boat ready to start the northern itinerary.
Included in all the itineraries:
- All accommodation
- All transfers and transportation, including transfers for the group flights to and from the airport at the start and end of the tour
- All park entrance fees
- All meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner)
- Drinking water
- Services of Holly Faithfull and local guides throughout
- Tips for local guides, porters etc
- International air fare to and from Australia
- Domestic flights within Australia (prices for these change on a daily basis, and we are happy to help with bookings)
- Beverages, other than drinking water
- Items of a personal nature, such as phone calls, laundry etc
- Airport departure tax
- Trip cancellation or interruption insurance
What is the trip like?
Australia is an easy place to travel, with just normal good health necessary. Flexibility, sense of humour, and open-mindedness are always required, since changes to the itinerary can happen. Wildlife viewing takes place during nature walks, by boat and in vehicles. The walks cover a variety of terrain and are usually on well-marked trails. Accommodations range from luxurious hotels to comfortable lodges, all with private bathrooms, electricity, hot/cold water.
Since the itineraries are covering the whole of the continent, the temperature in Australia will vary from hot and humid during the northern itinerary, to potentially cold and rainy in Tasmania during the southern itinerary. We are travelling in springtime in order to avoid the excessive heat of northern Australia in summer, and the cold weather of southern Australia in winter.