#1 Inala Cape York Specials Tour 24 June -1 July 2024

Spotted Cuscus - Alfred Schulte - Inala Nature Tours
Spotted Cuscus - Alfred Schulte - Inala Nature Tours
Tour date: 
Monday, 24 June 2024 to Monday, 1 July 2024
8 days
AU $ 6,300 per person sharing - Single supplement AU $800
Enjoy searching for specials and endemics in far north Queenland's top birding destinations: Iron Range National Park, Lakefield National Park and surrounds The rich diversity of species includes: Golden-shouldered Parrot, Red Goshawk, Palm Cockatoo, Eclectus Parrot, Magnificent Riflebird, Yellow-billed Kingfisher and many more!


This tour visits some of the most remote, bird-rich areas in Australia. In the country's far north eastern corner, the distinctive Cape York peninula juts out into the tropical water of the Coral Sea and is home to the largest unspoilt patch of rainforest on the continent. We begin this adventure birding the Iron Range National Park for a host of species found nowhere else in Australia including Palm Cockatoo, Frill-necked Monarch and White-faced Robin. We then move on to explore the riches of Lakefield National Park where Golden-shouldered Parrot and Red Goshawk will be likely highlights. 
Simply put, this tour is hard to beat: it covers the highlight areas in this region, we travel at a comfortable pace and we have a maximum of 9 participants per tour with two Inala guides. Join us an unbeatable Cape York birding experience! 


Start Location: 
Cairns QLD
Finish location: 
Cairns QLD

#1 Inala Cape York Specials Tour ( Drive Up - Fly Back )
Special and endemic birds of the Cape York Peninsula 24 June - 1 July 2024

This tour visits some of the most remote, bird-rich areas in Australia. In the country's far north eastern corner, the distinctive Cape York peninsula juts out into the tropical water of the Coral Sea and is home to the largest unspoilt patch of rainforest on the continent. This adventure includes 4 full days birding in the Iron Range National Park for a host of species found nowhere else in Australia including Palm Cockatoo, Frill-necked Monarch and White-faced Robin. We also explore the riches of Lakefield National Park where Golden-shouldered Parrot and Red Goshawk will be likely highlights. And we also bird in the area around Julatten, a region widely regarded for it's abundance of species. Simply put, this tour is hard to beat: it covers the highlight areas in this region and we travel at a comfortable pace. This tour is also one of our best sellers and you are welcome to join us on this next trip.


Day 1. Mon 24 June 24. Arrive Cairns. 
Day 2. Tue 25 June 24. Cairns to Musgrave. 
Day 3. Wed 26 June 24. Musgrave-Lakefield National Park. 
Day 4. Thu 27 June 24. Musgrave to Lockhart River. 
Day 5. Fri 28 June 24. Lockhart River. 
Day 6.  Sat 29 June 24. Lockhart River. 
Day 7. Sun 30 June 24. Lockhart River. 
Day 8. Mon 1 July 24. Lockhart River to Cairns, depart. 


B- breakfast; L- lunch; D-dinner.

Day 1. Monday 24 June 2024. Arrive Cairns.  
Today we will arrive at Cairns to settle into our accommodation before a welcome dinner where you will meet your guide and the rest of the group. Own arrangements for flights, airport transfers and activities today. . 
Accommodation: Cairns (en suite rooms). Meals included: D.  

Day 2. Tuesday 25 June 2024. Cairns to Musgrave.  
This morning we commence our journey north through a vast area of tropical woodland. En route we’ll be on the lookout for species like Pheasant Coucal, Grey-crowned Babbler, Banded Honeyeater, Little & Black-faced Woodswallow, Silver-crowned & Little Friarbirds, White-winged Triller and Double-barred Finch. In the mid to late afternoon we will arrive in Musgrave on the edge of the spectacular Lakefield National Park. We will settle into our accommodations and if time permits enjoy some birding in the area.   
Accommodation:  near Musgrave (cabins). Meals included: B, L, D.  

Day 3. Wednesday 26 June 2024. Musgrave and Lakefield National Park.  
Today we have a full day to explore the riches of Lakefield National Park and surrounds. Gallery rainforest, open tropical woodland, grasslands, and extensive wetlands, home to vast numbers of waterbirds, are the main habitats we will explore today. With a number of target species in mind we will make a pre-breakfast foray for one of our star birds of the trip, the stunning Golden-shouldered Parrot. Interestingly, this endangered and brilliantly coloured bird makes its nest in termite mounds, a landscape feature of this area. As with the Iron Range, this area is rich in species, many of which are only found (or easiest to find) here. Red Goshawk, Black-backed Butcherbird, Bar-breasted, Rufous-throated, Yellow-tinted and Scarlet Honeyeaters, Red-browed Pardalote, the distinctive Cape York race of Brown Treecreeper, Northern Fantail, Emu, Great Bowerbird, Pale-headed Rosella, Red-winged Parrot and Lemon-bellied Flycatcher are all species we may find. Finches are a feature here too, with possible species including the delightful Star Finch and Masked and Black-throated Finches. Wetlands species includes the likes of Magpie Goose, Green Pygmy-goose, Radjah Shelduck, Comb-crested Jacana and Wandering Whistling-duck. Not forgetting mammals we will be on the lookout for Antilopine Wallaroo, Agile Wallaby, and if we are fortunate, Cape York Rock Wallaby.  
Accommodation: near Musgrave (cabins). Meals included: B, L, D. 

Day 4. Thursday 27 June 2024. Musgrave to Lockhart River.  
This morning we continue north and while we have a big drive today there will be plenty to see en route, and we will make regular stops for comfort breaks and birds. Passing through endless miles of great birding habitat, we will spend the day on the blandly named Peninsula Development Road, one of the most remote roads in Australia, and the only road connecting the settlements of Cape York to the rest of the country. This afternoon we will reach the fabulous Iron Range National Park via the rich heathlands of the Tozer’s Gap area. We will settle into our accommodations and if time permits enjoy some birding in the area.   
Accommodation: Lockhart River (en suite cabins).  Meals included: B, L, D. 

Days 5 - 7. Friday 28, Saturday 29 & Sunday 30 June 2024. Iron Range National Park.  
We have 3 full days to explore this rich corner of Australia. Our time will be spent searching for the many area specials, as well as several interesting mammals and reptiles. We will bird a diverse mosaic of habitats from verdant monsoon rainforest and tropical woodland, to wetlands and a variety of coastal habitats. The selection of birds is impressive with no shortage of outstanding species including two members of the Bird-of-paradise family - Magnificent Riflebird and Trumpet Manucode – and other showy species like the raucous Palm Cockatoo, Red-cheeked Parrot, Eclectus Parrot, Yellow-billed Kingfisher and Frill-necked Monarch. Additional range-restricted species include White-streaked, Tawny-breasted and Green-backed Honeyeaters, Yellow-legged Flycatcher, Fawn-breasted Bowerbird, Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo, Northern Scrub-robin and White-faced Robin. The area is also rich botanically, and several fig tree species are found here attracting frugivores like Wompoo, Superb and Rose-crowned Fruit-Doves, and the endearing Double-eyed Fig-parrot. Another regular, but often nocturnal, visitor to fig trees is the delightful Spotted Cuscus, an arboreal marsupial with woolly fur, and bizarre orange eyes. Other nocturnal mammals we may find are Striped Possum, Rufous Spiny Bandicoot and Sugar Glider, and we will be sure to spotlight for Rufous and Masked Owl, Marbled Frogmouth and Large-tailed Nightjar.  
Accommodation: Lockhart River (en suite cabins as for last night).  Meals included: B, L, D.  

Day 8. Monday 1 July 2024. Depart Lockhart River for Cairns.
This morning we will depart Lockhart River on a flight to Cairns (flight included in tour cost). Make your own arrangements for your departure from Cairns.  
Accommodation: none. Meals included: B.  


Tour Price: AU$ 6,300 per person sharing based on a minimum of 4 paying participants with one specialist guide/driver in one vehicle and up to 8 people with 2 guides in 2 x 4WD vehicles.)  Single supplement: AU $800 

Price includes: All accommodation as per the itinerary, specialist guide and transport, the flight from Lockhart River to Cairns and meals, entrance fees and activities as mentioned in the above itinerary. (These prices are based on the current rate of GST and may need to be adjusted if there are significant changes.) 

Price does not include: International and domestic airfares except the Lockhart River to Cairns flight, alcoholic beverages, snacks, internet, gratuities, laundry or other items of a personal nature.  


Remoteness: Please note that for much of this tour we will be birding in a wonderful yet remote part of Australia. Most of the roads are unsealed and rough and travel will be in 4WD vehicles. If you have medical conditions or health concerns, it is important you make us aware of these in advance of this tour.  

Click here for a separate online doc that answers many of the frequently asked questions about Small Group Tours 


Inala Nature Tours Trip Report
Cape York Tour #1, 20-27th June 2023
Guided by Steve Davidson and Yu Ota
Report written by Steve Davidson

This is the first excursion by road up to Cape York for Inala Nature Tours in 2023, with two nights around Musgrave and Rinyirru (Lakefield) NP en route, plus an extended 4 night stay in the Lockhart River & Katini-Payamu (Iron Range) NP area. This route consistently delivers some of the really special birds and wildlife of the region, with targets such as Palm Cockatoo, Eclectus & Red-cheeked Parrots, Magnificent Riflebird, Yellow-billed Kingfisher, Red Goshawk and the critically endangered Golden-shouldered Parrot. This year was no different, in fact we managed to see all of the specialties of the region (minus the near-mythical Black-eared Catbird), plus a bonus over-wintering Black-winged Monarch and a Rufous Owl on one of our nocturnal rambles. It was a tour to remember, made all the more enjoyable by a fantastic group of people, excellent catering and wonderful country.

Day 1, 20th June, Cairns to Artemis Station:
Our group of 10 (8 guests and two drivers) all met and shared dinner & conversation the previous evening in Cairns, before reconvening early this morning with bags packed and ready for the drive north. Hitting the highway north of Cairns we had a brief view of Grey Goshawk in flight as well as noting a few Australian Swiftlets over cane fields, before we climbed the range to Kuranda and beyond, toward Mareeba. At a roadworks stop we picked up Blue-winged Kookaburra & a party of Red-backed Fairywren, and drive-by sightings included Royal Spoonbills, Black & Whistling Kites and Brown Falcon. Short stops at Lake Mitchell, Mt Molloy & Palmer River produced Magpie Goose, Great, Intermediate & Cattle Egrets, Red-winged Parrot, Great Bowerbird, Striated Pardalote and Apostlebird. Honeyeaters included the abundant Blue-faced, plus Yellow, Dusky and a single Cryptic. After Lakeland we saw several Red-backed Kingfishers on overhead wires, and in Laura our first Cape York endemic in the form of the strikingly patterned Black-backed Butcherbird. A pair of Brolga, a Black-necked Stork, Wedge-tailed Eagles and a bunch of White-necked Herons later, we arrived late afternoon at Artemis Station - our lodgings for the night and home to a small population of critically endangered Golden-shouldered Parrots. Pulling up to the station and disembarking from the vehicles, we stretched legs and milled about for a bit. And then, with a stroke of serendipity, our first GSP flew in - a young male, before 3 more also alighted, with an adult male, adult female and another young male. Wow, these birds are something else… The birds fed for a while and then promptly left, but not before us folks had had our fill. It was a fabulous experience, made more so by a damn delicious home-cooked meal, prepared by our hosts the station owners that night, with some perfectly-cooked roast pumpkin and excellent conversation. Text BoxAn early night beckoned, as there was Rinyirru (Lakefield) NP to explore the next day…

Day 2, 21st June, Artemis Station & Rinyirru NP:
After a pre-dawn breakfast courtesy of the good folks at Artemis Station, we headed straight toward Rinyirru NP, with birding (of course) whilst en route. Our first roadside stop produced a party of Grey-crowned Babbler, White-throated Gerygone and squadrons of Red-winged Parrot overhead. Weebill was heard too. Moving on past Musgrave Roadhouse we headed east toward Rinyirru, where strategic halts at creek crossings gave us Lemon-bellied Flycatcher, Brown-backed & Bar-breasted Honeyeaters, Red-browed Pardalote, Black-breasted Buzzards, Double-barred Finch and a pair of the most gorgeous finch known to humankind - Black-throated Finch. Absolute stunners… And that was merely a warm up. Our next wayside stop gave us Australian Hobby, Yellow-tinted Honeyeaters and Little Woodswallow, but the next bird was as explosive as it was stunning - a perched Red Goshawk, expertly found by none other than one of our guides Yu Ota. This cracking raptor gave us extended scope views from different angles as it serenely sat high in a eucalypt by the roadside, allowing numerous fantastic photo opportunities. What a find, and somewhat sobering to think it’s our rarest raptor, indeed one of Australia’s rarest birds. To break the tension, we went to a wetland a bit further on, in order to ease back and look at normal, marginally less fantastic (but still very cool) birds for a bit. Here there were several Magpie Geese, lots of Green Pygmy-goose, Plumed Whistling-Duck, a Whiskered Tern, Comb-crested Jacana doing their thing, and Australasian Darter. In the woodland around the margins we found both Yellow & Olive-backed Oriole, Leaden Flycatcher, White-throated Honeyeater and a few Rufous-banded Honeyeaters. A Brown Goshawk made a brief appearance as it got mobbed mercilessly by Blue-faced Honeyeaters. A Feral Pig was seen too. Moving along we stopped for a random flock of 24 Radjah Shelduck in a lagoon by the road, and then at Saltwater Creek for lunch. Here we were joined by Fairy Gerygone, Mistletoebird, Graceful Honeyeater, several Rufous-banded Honeyeaters and a lone Grey Fantail. A final push out onto the virtually treeless Nifold Plain and we stopped when a harrier was seen. Piling out we watched as a superbly crisp adult Spotted Harrier floated closer to us as it quartered the grassland, then the roadside, then almost up to the back of our parked vehicles. It was incredible! It eventually floated away whereupon we turned our attention to the flock of Star Finch coming in to drink at a waterhole. These tiny, spotty, red-headed finches were the main reason we’d driven this far, so it was a bonus to see them. Also here were several Diamond Dove, Black-throated Finches, Fairy Martins, Brown Falcons, a pair of Brolga, White-necked Heron, another Spotted Harrier, Black-necked Storks, a lone Black-faced Woodswallow, and then, to cap it all off, a flock of Australian Pratincole swept through… it was a fantastic little session. Heading back involved a fair bit of distance so we got underway, the drive punctuated only by a pair of Australian Bustard on the roadside, and another Australian Pratincole on the airstrip at Musgrave Station. Late in the day we had a wonderful hour with a small group of Golden-shouldered Parrots at Artemis Station, including one adult male that sat quietly for ages in a tree. A superb end to an amazing day…

Day 3, Artemis to Lockhart River Cabins, Katini-Payamu NP:
Today was a bit of a driving day and so after another lovely breakfast at Artemis Station we said goodbye to Sue & Tom and hit the long road north. Not a lot of birds were seen as there was a fair bit of distance to cover, however we did drop in to Archer River Roadhouse to visit the lagoon at the rear of the property, and see if there were any Spotted Whistling-Ducks present. Sadly, this time there were none, so we pressed on. We turned off the Peninsula Development Road north of Archer River and headed east, eventually making it to the more open, heathland country just west of the Iron Range itself. Here we managed quick views of our first White-streaked Honeyeater as it darted from tree to tree. We had a quick look at Mt Tozer and Tozer’s Gap before plunging down the escarpment and into the rainforest proper of Kutini-Payamu NP. Screeching to a halt when an Eclectus Parrot flew over the road, we were soon watching a female at her nest hollow in a giant rainforest tree, thanks once again to the eagle eye of Yu Ota. A brilliant find! Also here we had a Pacific Baza flying over. Down at Lockhart Airfield we checked in to the accommodation and had a brief rest, before heading out at 5pm for some rapid-fire birding. And indeed it was - we had fantastic scoped-up views of two Palm Cockatoos, a male Eclectus Parrot who perched nearby, a brief Fawn-breasted Bowerbird, a pair of Hornbill Friarbird, Graceful Honeyeater and Australasian Figbird. A fine meal, ably delivered by Sheree & Greg from Portland Roads Cafe, completed a long but brilliant day.

Day 4-7: Lockhart River & Kutini-Payamu NP:
Over the next full 3 days we had the opportunity to explore the whole region, with rainforest, tropical woodland, coastal environments and some minor waterways to look at. From our accommodation at the airport we could walk along Lockhart River Rd, with rainforest & vine scrub on one side, and more open grassy woodland on the other. This combo always provides good birding, and so it did over the course of our stay, with more looks at Eclectus Parrot, Palm Cockatoo and a single young, male Red-cheeked Parrot. A White-browed Robin remained frustratingly unseen, as did a calling Red-backed Buttonquail. Try as we might we couldn’t tempt it out onto the road… We had good comparisons between Yellow-spotted & Graceful Honeyeaters, plus the larger and chunkier Tawny-breasted Honeyeater. Yellow-billed Kingfishers were calling but remained elusive. We tried another spot further along where we heard another one and bang! In it came, sitting atop a tall tree in all his buzz-cut, punk-haired glory - a male Yellow-billed Kingfisher! At the West Claudie River bridge plenty of action ensued on a number of visits, with a powerhouse of Iron Range specialties burning into our retinas and collective memories. Top of the list was a stunning adult Black-winged Monarch, a bird that normally only visits in the Wet season and should have been in PNG right now. Following closely were two Trumpet Manucode that were visiting a fruiting tree, a party of Green-backed Honeyeaters, a very furtive Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo and a female Red-cheeked Parrot allowing unfettered & extended views. Other birds here included White-eared Monarch bathing in the river, Spectacled Monarch, Fairy Gerygone, great views of Wompoo Fruit-doves, Grey Whistler and Rufous Fantail. In the dense rainforest proper one morning we spent time tracking down (and finding!!!) a singing Northern Scrub-robin. What a coup, made only sweeter by then finding a singing Yellow-legged Flyrobin close by, and every one of us enjoying scope views. Such difficult birds normally. The robin triumvirate was brought home in screaming fashion with a White-faced Robin in the same location. We’d reached dizzying heights. In dense rainforest along Gordon Creek we birded a couple of times also, and this area delivered us the amazing spectacle of two amorous male Magnificent Riflebirds chasing a female. The birds twisting and cavorting through the trees in front of our eyes was something to behold, their chrome gorgets gleaming and modified wing feathers ruffling like taffeta. A male Yellow-breasted Boatbill was only barely the runner up; this tiny imp really packs a punch of yellow… The Lockhart River wastewater treatment ponds had a lone Pied Heron, Radjah Shelduck, a very vocal pair of Fawn-breasted Bowerbirds that showed well, Pheasant Coucal and best of all - 6 Spotted Whistling-duck, a species we’d been searching for the whole week… The scintillating Frill-necked Monarch was the next local specialty to fall, as were some very tricky Tropical Scrubwren. Lovely Fairywren, Shining Flycatcher, Beach Stone-Curlew, Eastern Reef-Egret, Northern Fantail, Varied Sittella (of the highly attractive subspecies striata), Varied Triller, Leaden Flycatcher, Blue-winged Kookaburra, Forest Kingfisher, Lemon-bellied Flycatcher, Grey Whistler, the distinctive subsp superciliosa of Grey Shrike-thrush, Rufous Shrike-thrush, Silvereye (the striking subsp vegetus), and Mistletoebird all provided an excellent supporting cast, and rounded out the diurnal birds. Spotlighting over two nights and with nocturnal birds on the agenda, we managed to find several Papuan Frogmouth, a single Marbled Frogmouth (finally…), and a fantastic Rufous Owl on our second-last night - the first individual of this species the two guides had ever seen in Katini-Payamu NP (over a combined 30 trips!). Also found on our second night were both Spotted and Australian Scrub Python and a Brown-headed Snake. Our final morning and it was blowing an almighty gale down at Quintell Beach, so all we added to the trip list was a lone Caspian Tern. However, that didn’t detract from what has been an incredible 7 days of wildlife watching in one of the country’s best locations (that’s the author’s opinion anyway…) with a fantastic and extremely affable group of people.

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