#3 Cape York Specials Tour 5-12 Aug 2024

Brian Jones - Golden Shouldered Parrot - Inala Nature Tours
Brian Jones - Golden Shouldered Parrot - Inala Nature Tours
Tour date: 
Monday, 5 August 2024 to Monday, 12 August 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!

NEW DATES - DUE TO DEMAND 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

#3 Inala Cape York Specials Tour ( Fly up, Drive back )
Special and endemic birds of the Cape York Peninsula 5-12 Aug 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 5 Aug 24. Fly Cairns to Lockhart River.
Day 2. Tue 6 Aug 24. Lockhart River.
Day 3. Wed 7 Aug 24. Lockhart River.
Day 4. Thu 8 Aug 24. Lockhart River.
Day 5. Fri 9 Aug 24. Lockhart River to Musgrave.
Day 6. Sat 10 Aug 24. Musgrave-Lakefield National Park
Day 7. Sun 11 Aug 24. Musgrave to Cairns.
Day 8. Mon 12 Aug 24. Depart Cairns.


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

Day 1.  Fly Cairns to Lockhart River, Iron Range National Park.
This morning we will board a flight to Lockhart River on the boundary of one of Australia’s most treasured, yet remote, birding destinations: Iron Range National Park. This park protects the largest area of lowland rainforest in Australia and is home to a host of range restricted species found nowhere else in the country. The forests and woodlands of the Iron Range teem with birds and, hemmed by white-sand beaches and turquoise waters, there can be few places on earth as delightful to bird. On arrival in Lockhart River we will settle into our accommodation and make our way into the forest to enjoy our first thrilling afternoon birding in Cape York.
Accommodation: Lockhart River (en suite cabins).  Meals included: L, D.

Days 2 - 4. 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 also 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 5.  Iron Range National Park to Musgrave.   
This morning we begin the journey south leaving this fabulous park via the rich heathlands of the Tozer’s Gap area. 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 with the rest of the country. 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 6. 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 (or easiest) found 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 7.  Musgrave to Cairns.
Today we continue the journey south through this 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. We will then head towards Cairns, arriving late afternoon.
Accommodation: Cairns (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 8.  Depart Cairns.
Tour ends this morning, please make your own arrangements for your departure after breakfast at a time that suits your flight arrangements.
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
Single supplement: AU$800

Price includes: All accommodation as per the itinerary, specialist guide and transport, the flight from Cairns to Lockhart River and meals, entrance fees and activities as mentioned in the above itinerary.

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

Please note: 
The itinerary: Whilst we aim to follow the itinerary as planned, please note that the itinerary provided should only be used as a guideline.  Depending on individual trip circumstances, weather, and local information, the exact itinerary may not be strictly adhered to.  The guides reserve the right to make changes to the itinerary as they see fit.

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’s Cape York ( Fly Up - Drive Back ) Queensland Tour Trip report  8-15 June 2021

Guided and written by Steve Davidson, Inala Nature Tours 

The 8-day tour across the incomparable lowland rainforests of Iron Range National Park and onto the vast Cape York Peninsula was nothing less than a complete success, with multiple targets achieved and a plethora of other critters out and about to assault the senses. The tour commenced at Lockhart River airfield, with the group having caught a flight from Cairns early on the 8th June.

Trip summary

Day 1. Tue 8 June 21. Fly Cairns to Lockhart River.
Day 2. Wed 9 June 21. Lockhart River.
Day 3. Thu 10 June 21. Lockhart River.
Day 4. Fri 11 June 21. Lockhart River.
Day 5. Sat 12 June 21. Lockhart River to Musgrave.
Day 6.  Sun 13 June 21. Musgrave-Lakefield National Park
Day 7. Mon 14 June 21. Musgrave to Cairns.
Day 8. Tue 15 June 21. Depart Cairns.

Day 1. Tuesday 8 June 2021 and our intrepid band of five hit the ground running. With bags dumped we set off, starting our birding in some vine scrub alongside a tropical lagoon, picking up the first of our Iron Range endemics in the form of Fawn-breasted Bowerbird, a pair of the astonishing Frill-necked Monarch, singing White-streaked Honeyeater, and a brief but unsatisfying view of a Yellow-billed Kingfisher as it left the premises. We saw a female Cicadabird here also, our only one of the trip, as well as Azure Kingfisher, Fairy Gerygone, Lemon-bellied Flyrobin and a beautiful male Shining Flycatcher.

After a midday break, we moved into the rainforest of Iron Range NP proper, which gave us incredible views of a pair of Double-eyed Fig-parrot feeding on cauliflorous figs on the trunk of a roadside Cape Fig, Ficus nodosa. They were quite unconcerned by our close presence and continued to munch away. As we drove slowly through what can only be described as a little bit of paradise, we started picking up a few more of the special birds here, with fly-over Eclectus Parrot, Red-cheeked Parrot, Tawny-breasted Honeyeater, Cryptic Honeyeater, Yellow-breasted Boatbill and Orange-footed Scrubfowl. Northern Scrub-robin called from deep within the forest but was loathe to present itself. Dinner at Out of the Blue Café in Portland Roads is as always, an amazing experience, both gastronomically and visually; the sun setting over the Coral Sea was just beautiful. Our night drive back to our accommodation was punctuated by multiple sightings of Papuan Frogmouth, a Sugar Glider and best of all a Large-tailed Nightjar, perched up nicely in the spotlight.

Day 2 Wednesday 9 June 2021 saw us back into the rainforest, and early morning as always, produced the most activity. In our first couple of hours, we saw an incredible male Magnificent Riflebird feeding close to the roadside in a fruiting tree, Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo, a party of four Green-backed Honeyeater, Yellow-legged Flycatcher, Rufous Shrike-thrush, Little Bronze-cuckoo, Yellow-spotted Honeyeater, Varied Triller, Black Butcherbird, Spectacled Monarch, Wompoo Fruit-dove and 3 separate Yellow-billed Kingfishers which unfortunately were heard only.

Down at Lockhart River township there was a lovely adult Brahminy Kite, plus nesting Eastern Osprey way up in the telecom tower, Large Sand-plover, Lesser Sand-plover and Red-capped Plover down on tidal flats, while Lesser Crested, Gull-billed and Great Crested Terns loafed on the rocks.

Later in the day we stopped en route to Portland Roads again at a nearby campground, and had Eastern Reef Egret, Bar-shouldered Dove and Sacred Kingfisher on the offshore rocks. Just out to sea past those very rocks was a big feeding flock of birds consisting of Brown Booby, Common Noddy, Sooty Tern and Black-naped Tern. A Lesser Frigatebird pirated its way through at one point, chasing a Great Crested Tern. At nearby Chilli Creek we had brief views of a Palm Cockatoo. Once again dinner at the Portland Roads Café was no less than sumptuous…

Day 3. Thursday 10 June 2021 started super early with a visit to the site we’d heard the Northern Scrub-robin previously. The plan was to sit tight and wait and see if the robin would go about its normal early morning activities on the forest floor and thus allow us unfettered views.  The plan worked, with the result being an amazing experience for us observers of an adult Northern Scrub-robin mere metres away, allowing incredible looks at this normally extremely difficult species. Also here was a pair of impossibly cute White-faced Robin and more views of Yellow-legged Flycatcher.

Trumpet Manucode called off in the middle distance, a phenomenon that was to become ominously repetitive… Later that afternoon we had our first Tropical Scrubwrens in the rainforest understorey, plus a reasonably good view of a pair of Eclectus Parrots nest prospecting.

That night a gobbling and clacking Marbled Frogmouth was eventually located with the spotlight, allowing some great views as it sat there glowering.

Day 4 Friday 11 June 2021 involved a somewhat subdued program as some low-level cloud and accompanying drizzle & rain had set in, which stymied our efforts somewhat. We did, however, see another Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo, as well as the amazing sight of a pair of Red-cheeked Parrot that chose to land right in the gardens at Iron Range Cabins just as we finished lunch, merely 10 metres away from us. These are tough birds to get at the best of times, so this was particularly rewarding.

At night we tried a bit more spotlighting, but the rain meant we had to beat a hasty retreat despite an Australian Owlet-nightjar calling not too far off in the scrub.

Day 5 Saturday 12 June 2021 saw us back for one last try for Yellow-billed Kingfisher. This failed to materialize, however there was a lone Spotted Whistling-duck and a pair of Radjah Shelduck at the lagoon, which was a pleasant surprise. It was time to make our way out of the national park, head inland to the Peninsula Development Road and then south. As we passed over the Iron Range itself we had the bizarre sight of a trio of Great Frigatebird soaring high overhead on thermals. A little further on we saw our first Black-backed Butcherbird in the drier tropical woodland on the other side of the range. It was a slow old drive and it seemed there was an endless succession of creek crossings and dips, however spurred on by a majestic Australian Bustard crossing the road in front of us we eventually made it to Archer River Roadhouse for lunch, where there were more Spotted Whistling-ducks, a few Plumed Whistling-ducks, Red-winged Parrot, Black-fronted Dotterel, Blue-faced Honeyeater and Intermediate Egret. Pressing on we headed further south, bouncing our way over the rougher parts of the PDR and enjoying the newly minted bitumen when we could. We stopped at Musgrave Roadhouse for a break, before pushing on to our final destination – Artemis Station. No sooner had we met our hosts, dumped our bags and grabbed our bins than we were feasting our eyes on the main attraction here, the incredible Golden-shouldered Parrot. A male and female made a grand appearance for us right on dusk, to end a long and eventful day. Dinner was a rather social and enjoyable event with some great convo and equally great home-cooked food.

Day 6. Sunday 13 June 2021 allowed us a full day to explore the wilds of this art of Cape York Peninsula, and we headed east from Artemis and Musgrave into the vast and amazingly varying Lakefield NP, with an amazing array of habitats ranging from gallery and riparian forest, melaleuca swamps, grassy woodland and tropical wetlands through to vast open grassland plains dotted with a thousand and one termite mounds. Needless to say we made plenty of stops along the way. We go onto some great birds, and in no particular order saw Black-throated Finch, Square-tailed Kite, Black-breasted Buzzard, Black-necked Stork, Little Woodswallow, Red-tailed Black-cockatoo, Comb-crested Jacana, Green Pygmy-goose, Diamond Dove, Red-backed Kingfisher, Bar-breasted, Yellow, & Banded Honeyeaters, Red-backed Fairywren, Magpie Goose and Red-browed Pardalote. Bird of the day had to go to the incredible Red Goshawk though – a fantastic sight as it was first seen chasing lorikeets, then perched in full view for what were eventually walk-away views. A great moment indeed with arguably our rarest raptor.

Back at Artemis that night we once again had a rather uproarious time at dinner, after a beautiful sunset and the added treat of a pair of Ghost Bats flying around at dusk.

Day 7. Monday 14 June 2021, the last day of our tour, started well with our host Sue showing us an active nest of a pair of Golden-shouldered Parrot, replete with 2-3 chicks safely ensconced in their termite mound home. And we once again saw the adult birds nearby with several small parties about the place, including adults and last year’s progeny. Other birds in attendance were Silver-crowned Friarbird, Great Bowerbird, Grey-crowned Babbler, Pale-headed Rosella and both Black-backed Butcherbird and Pied Butcherbird. A fitting way to end our time here at this most amazing property.

Making our way south we picked up our first Wedge-tailed Eagle of the trip. In Julatten we stopped at some flowering eucalypts on the roadside where there was a plethora of different honeyeaters. We quickly picked up Bridled, Lewin’s, Graceful, White-cheeked, Scarlet, Macleay’s and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, as well as some fly-by Scaly-breasted Lorikeets

At Lake Mitchell were several Magpie Geese, Australasian Darter, Australasian Grebe and Little Pied Cormorant.

Sadly, the tour had ended, however after checking into our final hotel stay we toasted its absolute success that night over a pretty fancy Balinese dinner nearby. It had been quite spectacular in terms of the number of birds seen – 175 species no less, which is an above-average haul for this trip. With a few cool mammals and reptiles thrown in, plus some really great company, this tour is one to remember and included one of the guests 600th Australian Bird, a very impressive milestone.

Day 8. Tuesday 15 June 2021 we sadly parted company and went our separate ways.

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