Australia 2015

Australia has so much to offer wildlife and nature lovers, from lush rainforests to desert, mountains to spectacular coastline.  To try to do this vast continent justice, I am offering three back-to-back itineraries, which can be taken alone or combined together.  From the temperate forests and mountains of Tasmania, to the white-sand beaches and rolling hills of south Western Australia, to the splendours of the Kimberley region and Kakadu National Park.  The areas included have all been chosen because of the diversity of wildlife they are home to, and the beauty of their scenery and cultural sites.

Timed to experience the best weather across the country, the first itinerary takes in the wildlife and stunning scenery of Tasmania, while the second itinerary combines the wonders of Kakadu National Park with a cruise aboard a small expedition ship from Darwin to Broome, exploring the magical Kimberley region.  The final itinerary takes us in search of the charismatic wildlife of south-west Australia.

These itineraries can be taken on their own or back-to-back. 

 Southern Australia

 Day 1;                        April 11th

Our adventure in Tasmania starts in the port city of Hobart.  Tonight we meet for our Welcome Dinner, and then begin our exploration with a spot-lighting excursion in search of Eastern barred bandicoot and Tasmanian bettong.

Day 2;                        April 12th

After exploring some reserves around Hobart in search of Tasmanian scrubwren and pink robin, we drive south and take the ferry to the wildlife paradise of Bruny Island.  The crossing of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel only takes about 15 minutes, but we have the chance of seeing little penguins and dolphins.  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, as well as tawny-crowned honeyeater, olive whistler and yellow-tailed black cockatoo.  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 3;                        April 13th

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 4;                        April 14th       

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, looking for yellow wattlebird, black currawong and crescent honeyeater.  As dusk falls we spotlight for eastern barred bandicoot, Tasmanian pademelon and eastern quoll.

Day 5;                        April 15th

Today we drive through the central highlands towards the breathtaking Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park.  We have a full day to explore the beautiful Cradle Mountain National Park.  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.  Birds include scrubtit, Tasmanian thornbill and Tasmanian scrubwren.  Tonight we go out spotlighting looking for eastern and spot-tailed quolls, and the elusive Tasmanian devil.

Days 6 & 7;               April 16th and 17th

Our lodge for the next two nights, set in a beautiful valley close to Cradle Mountain, is the best place to see the unique Tasmanian devil, and hopefully a spot-tailed quoll, both of which sometimes come around the lodge after dark.  Our lodge 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.  Tasmanian devils are the largest extant carnivorous marsupials (the Tasmanian tiger (or Thylacine) having been last seen in the wild in 1933).  Devils are fascinating to watch up close as they squeal and squabble over food.

Day 8;                        April 18th

Today we drive to the north coast to Narawntapu National Park, 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 kangarooBennett’s wallaby, common wombat and Tasmanian bettong.

Day 9;                        April 19th                                           

Today we bid farewell to Tasmania, and transfer to Devonport airport for our onward flights.

 Trip pricings:

Wildlife Quest trips are budgeted for small groups. To avoid having to cancel trips with fewer members, we charge more for smaller groups to cover the fixed costs of the trip.

Southern itinerary – cost per person sharing (USD):           

 8 participants                            $  5,495.00 4 participants                         $  7,495.00
 7 participants                            $  5,995.00 3 participants                         $  7,995.00
 6 participants                            $  6,495.00 2 participants                         $  9,995.00
 5 participants                            $  6,995.00 Single supplement                 $    995.00

 

Northern Australia & Kimberley cruise

 Day 1;                        April 19th

We arrive in Darwin, and take an afternoon tour of the city, including a visit to the mangroves looking for waders and mangrove birds, such as collared kingfisher, red-headed honeyeater, mangrove robin, yellow white-eye and, possibly, chestnut rail.  In nearby monsoon forest we hope to see rainbow pitta, rose-crowned fruit dove, yellow oriole and green-backed gerygone.

Day 2;                        April 20th                   

After breakfast we drive to Kakadu National Park, stopping en route to visit Fogg Dam, which is an important site for water birds, including  magpie goose, brolga and comb-crested jacana, as well as reptiles, including saltwater crocodiles.  This afternoon we visit Ubirr Rock, taking in the spectacular Arnhem Land escarpment along the way.  This provides the opportunity to view several fascinating Aboriginal rock art sites, which date back thousands of years.  Ubirr Rick is also home to a colony of short-eared rock wallabies, which emerge from their shady hiding places in the late afternoon.  In addition to the artwork, these areas are also wonderful for wildlife, and we look for sandstone species, such as chestnut-quilled rock pigeon, helmeted friarbird (sandstone form), white-lined honeyeater and sandstone shrike-thrush.  Our destination is the wonderfully named area of South Alligator.  After dinner we go spotlighting in search of tawny frogmouth, barking owl and Australian owlet-nightjar.

Day 3;                        April 21st

Today we continue our exploration of Kakadu, visiting Mamukala wetland to look for plumed and wandering whistling ducks, radjah shelduck, black-necked stork and green pygmy-goose.  This afternoon, as the temperatures cool, we take a two hour cruise on the famous Yellow Waters lagoon: a spectacular opportunity to see a host of water birds and saltwater crocodiles, and to enjoy the wildlife and scenery in the beautiful late afternoon light.

 Day 4;                        April 22nd

This morning we visit Nourlangie Rock, which is also famous for its Aboriginal rock art.  We have a chance of finding black wallaroo as they emerge from their overnight resting places in the rocks.  The birds in this area are also wonderful, including banded fruit-dove, variegated fairy-wren, weebill and great  bowerbird.  A nearby billabong is home to great-billed heron. black bittern, little and azure kingfishers, and bar-breasted honeyeater.  Leaving Kakadu we drive to Pine Creek to look for hooded parrot, gouldian finch, northern rosella and red-backed kingfisher, among many others.  Our destination is the town of Katherine.

Day 5;                        April 23rd

Early this morning we take a cruise through Katherine Gorge to marvel at the two gorges and the Aboriginal rock art.  We then journey back towards Darwin, stopping off at Litchfield National Park en route.  Our final stop is at Howard Springs, where we look for little shrike-thrush, spangled drongo and lemon-bellied flycatcher.  Orange-footed scrub-fowl can also be found here, tending their mound nests.   In the cool of the afternoon agile wallabies graze near the city, and there is a chance of seeing a dingo lurking nearby.  As evening draws near we join in a favourite Darwin pastime of watching the spectacular sunset over the Timor Sea.

 Day 6;                        April 24th

After breakfast we join the Coral Princess to begin our exploration of the coastline from Darwin westwards to Broome.  Leaving Darwin Harbour we cross Cambridge Gulf and sail into Western Australian waters.  This afternoon we have an informative introduction to the Kimberley before the Captain’s Welcome Cocktails.

Day 7;                        April 25th   

Today we discover the first of the Kimberley’s ‘big’ rivers, the mighty King George.  Aboard Xplorer, our specially designed excursion vessel, we explore scenic gorges, and in our inflatable zodiacs we cruise close to the base of magnificent King George Falls, the tallest single-drop waterfalls in Western Australia, towering some 80 metres above the river below. Later we visit secluded Tranquil Bay for beach walking and exploration.

 Day 8;                        April 26th

This morning we take a walk across salt flats to view the wreckage of a US Air Force DC3, which crash landed on the beach during World War II.  Later we visit Jar Island and discover the island’s outstanding rock art gallery, including some fine examples of the Kimberley’s mysterious Bradshaw Paintings (Gwion), dating back some 20,000 years.

Day 9;                        April 27th

After anchoring in Winyalken Bay we travel ashore to explore the maze of natural sandstone caves known as Hathaway’s Hideaway.  Later, helicopters are available for optional scenic flights over the Mitchell Plateau for close up views of the mighty four-tiered Mitchell Falls (additional expense).  This evening we enjoy a spectacular Indian Ocean sunset as we indulge in a gourmet Beach BBQ.               

Day 10;                      April 28th

Today we discover the rock art gallery on Bigge Island featuring fine examples of both Wandjina and Bradshaw art.  From here we explore Careening Bay which was named by early explorer Phillip Parker King after his ship ‘HMC Mermaid’ was careened for repairs during his second voyage of discovery in the Kimberley, and we visit a remarkable boab tree bearing the inscription “HMC Mermaid – 1820″, still clearly visible almost 200 years later.

Day 11;                      April 29th

This morning we cruise the mighty Prince Regent River aboard Xplorer to breathtaking King Cascades, an unusual and picturesque waterfall cascading over terraced rock formations. Enjoy a picnic lunch at beautiful Camp Creek, where there is also time for a cooling dip in the freshwater pools.

Day 12;                      April 30th

Today we savour a truly unforgettable moment as Montgomery Reef ‘rises’ out of the ocean as the tide ebbs. Join our Expedition Staff aboard the Xplorer and zodiacs to experience this natural phenomenon up close and discover the reef’s diverse marine life including turtles, manta rays and reef sharks. Later, cruise through scenic Doubtful Bay.

Day 13;                      May 1st

Cruising through Kuri Bay, home of the south sea pearl industry, we travel ashore at imposing Raft Point and visit a secluded and very interesting Aboriginal rock art gallery to view Wandjina art and some of the Kimberley’s most well-preserved Bradshaw Paintings (Gwion). Later, we explore Red Cone Creek and enjoy a leisurely swim at Ruby Falls.

Day 14;                      May 2nd

Today we sail through the Buccaneer Archipelago, home to over 800 islands. In Talbot Bay the region’s 12 metre tides create an amazing spectacle, the unique Horizontal Falls, described by Sir David Attenborough as “one of the greatest natural wonders in the world”.  The amazing power of the falls is revealed when the region’s 12 metre tides turn, forcing millions of litres of water to rush through the narrow gaps between cliffs.  We board the zodiacs for an exhilarating ride through the falls.  Later, we explore Silica Beach on Hidden Island with its stunning white sands and crystal clear waters.

Day 15;                      May 3rd  

We cruise through Pender Bay and, subject to weather and tides, visit the Lacepede Islands, a series of low islands consisting of coarse sand and coral rubble lying atop a platform reef. This nature reserve has been identified by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area as it supports up to 18,000 breeding pairs of brown boobies and roseate terns, possibly the largest such population in the world. From the zodiacs we explore the island’s lagoon, keeping an eye out for many species of marine birdlife including Australian pelicans, frigatebirds, egrets, gulls and terns.  The islands are also renowned as Western Australia’s most significant breeding grounds for the Green Turtle, often seen nesting on the islands.  This evening we reflect on this wonderful expedition as we enjoy the Captain’s Farewell Cocktails.

Day 16;                      May 4th  

Today we arrive in Broome and bid farewell to our lovely boat.

Trip pricings:

Wildlife Quest trips are budgeted for small groups. To avoid having to cancel trips with fewer members, we charge more for smaller groups to cover the fixed costs of the trip.

Northern itinerary & Kimberley cruise – cost per person sharing (USD):          

 8 participants                            $  12,495.00  5 participants                         $  13,995.00
 7 participants                            $  12,995.00  4 participants                         $  14,995.00
 6 participants                            $  13,495.00  Single supplement                 $    4,995.00

NB, this price is for a standard cabin, twin-share.  If you would like to upgrade to a stateroom please let us know, and we can let you know the upgrade options.


Western Australia

Day 1;                        May 4th  

Today we fly to Perth to explore the south-west of Australia.  This area is home to many endemic mammals and birds, as well as beautiful scenery.  We overnight in Perth.

Day 2;                        May 5th  

Today we leave Perth and travel to the Darling Range to look for some of the south-west endemic bird species.  Notable species include Western wattlebird, Swan River honeyeater, Western yellow robin and red-tailed black cockatoo.  Our quest for endemic birds and wonderful scenery takes us to Dryandra State Forest, where blue-breasted fairy-wren, Western spinebill, red-capped parrot and crested shrike-tit can be seen.  We also look for mammals, including Tammar wallaby, Western grey kangaroo, numbat and short-beaked echidna.  After dinner we return to Dryandra to spotlight for tawny frogmouth, common brushtail possum and, with luck, Western brush wallaby and woylie (brush-tailed bettong).  We can also visit the extensive fenced enclosure within Dryandra State Forest where the Department of Conservation’s amazing efforts at breeding a variety threatened species has been very successful.   We may encounter bilby, boodie (burrowing bettong), mala (rufous hare- wallaby), marl (Western-barred bandicoot) and mernine (banded hare-wallaby).

Day 3;                        May 6th  

We spend the day at Dryandra State Forest continuing our explorations.  This woodland covers an area of 28,000 hectares (more than 60,000 acres), and is among the largest and most valuable areas for nature conservation in this western “wheatbelt” of Western Australia.  This evening we return to Dryandra to look for more nocturnal mammals and birds.

Day 4;                        May 7th  

After breakfast we travel towards the Stirling Range, stopping en route to look for banded stilt and red-necked avocet.  In the afternoon we visit the mallee heath around Fitzgerald River National Park in search of mallee whipbird, shy heathwren, Southern emu-wren and purple-gaped honeyeater.  With luck we may even see the rare malleefowl.

Day 5;                        May 8th  

We spend most of today in the Stirling Range looking for some special birds, including Regent parrot, purple-crowned lorikeet, and the endemic Carnaby’s black cockatoo, Western spinebill, and the near endemic Western whipbird. We also take a quick stop at beautiful Porongurups National Park to look for fan-tailed cuckoo, red-eared firetail, white-breasted robin, red- winged fairy-wren and Baudin’s black cockatoo in the tall karri forest.  We arrive at Cheyne’s Beach in the late afternoon and take a walk to look for the elusive noisy scrub-bird.  Noisy scrub-bird was believed to have been extinct until it was rediscovered in 1961!

Days 6 & 7;               May 9th & 10th  

We have two full days to explore this lovely area, visiting several different reserves, including Betty’s Beach, Two People’s Bay Nature Reserve and Lake Seppings.  During our time here we look for Western bristlebird, Western whipbird, brown quail, Southern emu-wren, the endemic red-eared firetail and red-winged fairy-wren.  Mammals include quenda (Southern brown bandicoot), quokka, bush rat, and even possibly a brush-tailed phascogale.

Day 8;                        May 11th  

After breakfast we begin the journey back to Perth with a diversion to look for Western corella, and another chance for Baudin’s black cockatoo and red-tailed black cockatoo.  We arrive in Perth in the late afternoon and overnight here.

Day 9;                        May 12th  

Today is the end of our time in Australia, and we bid a sad farewell to this wonderful, wildlife-packed continent.

Trip pricings:

Wildlife Quest trips are budgeted for small groups. To avoid having to cancel trips with fewer members, we charge more for smaller groups to cover the fixed costs of the trip.

Northern itinerary – cost per person sharing (USD):           

 8 participants                            $  5,295.00  4 participants                         $  7,295.00
 7 participants                            $  5,795.00  3 participants                         $  7,795.00
 6 participants                            $  6,295.00  2 participants                         $  9,795.00
 5 participants                            $  6,795.00  Single supplement                 $     995.00

 

NB, These itineraries can be taken on their own, or back-to-back with the other Australia itineraries.  If you would like to continue on and explore other parts of Australia, such as the rainforests of Queensland and New South Wales, or the Red Centre and Ayer’s Rock, let us know since we have some wonderful itineraries covering these areas as well.

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 itineraries
  • 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

Not included:

  • International air fare to and from Australia
  • Domestic flights within Australia (prices for these change on a daily basis, and we are happy to make these bookings when you confirm on any itinerary)
  • 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.

Climate

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 autumn in order to avoid the excessive heat of northern Australia in summer, and the cold weather of southern Australia in winter.

 

 

 

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