Inala & Naturalist Journeys - Queensland Wet Tropics Tour 5-14th July 2021

Red-winged Parrot - Photograph by Pat Kelly - Inala Nature Tours
Red-winged Parrot - Photograph by Pat Kelly - Inala Nature Tours
Tour date: 
Monday, 5 July 2021 to Wednesday, 14 July 2021
Duration: 
8 days
Price: 
AU$5,400 per person twin share (AU$1,140 single supplement)
Highlights: 
Abundant wildlife in the Cairns area. Atherton Tablelands endemics. Great birds and mammals including Cassowary, Golden Bowerbird, Lumholtz’s Tree Kangaroo & Platypus. Great Barrier Reef trip.
Overview: 

Tropical Queensland offers some of Australia’s most bird-rich landscapes. We have combined some of our favourites in this tour, offering you an excellent cross-section of wildlife experiences, from searching for the magnificent Southern Cassowary, to exploring the lush forests of the Atherton Tablelands searching for upland endemics.

Start Location: 
Cairns QLD
Australia
Finish location: 
Cairns QLD
Australia

Inala and Naturalist Journeys Queensland Wet TropicsTour 
5-14th July 2021

ITINERARY OUTLINE:

Day 1. Mon 5 July 21. Arrive Cairns.
Day 2. Tue 6 July 21. Cairns area.
Day 3. Wed  7 July 21. Cairns to Atherton Tablelands.
Day 4. Thu 8 July 21. Atherton Tablelands.
Day 5. Fri 9 July 21. Atherton Tablelands.
Day 6. Sat 10 July 21. Atherton Tablelands.
Day 7. Sun 11 July 21. Atherton Tablelands to Daintree.
Day 8. Mon 12 July 21. Daintree River Cruise to Cairns.
Day 9. Tue 13 July 21. Great Barrier Reef.
Day 10. Wed 14 July 21. Depart Cairns

DETAILED ITINERARY

B- breakfast, L- lunch and D-dinner.

 Day 1. Monday 5 July 2021. Arrive Cairns.
Arrive in Cairns today. Free time to settle in before meeting at 6:30pm for a welcome dinner and orientation. Participants joining from the Inala Top End Tour will arrive in Cairns from Darwin today and join the group for welcome dinner.
Accommodation: Cairns hotel (en suite rooms). Meals included: D.

 Day 2. Tuesday 6 July 2021. Cairns area.
We will meet again this morning for breakfast before taking a walk along The Esplanade to look for local specialties like Varied Honeyeater, Torresian Imperial Pigeon, Rainbow Lorikeet, Mangrove Robin, Torresian Kingfisher, Rose-crowned Fruit-dove and Olive-backed Sunbird. We will be able to see several different shorebirds out on the extensive mudflats here, such as Far Eastern Curlew, Great Knot, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Terek Sandpiper. There should also be Gull-billed Tern, Australian Pelican, Eastern Osprey and maybe an Eastern Reef Egret or two.  Nearby botanic gardens hold several different species and we’ll look for Black Butcherbird, Cicadabird, Brown-backed Honeyeater, Australian Brush-turkey, Australasian Darter, Azure Kingfisher, Radjah Shelduck, Magpie Goose, Bush Stone-curlew, Helmeted Friarbird, Large-billed Gerygone and Orange-footed Scrubfowl. Late in the afternoon we’ll visit a local park to see whether the resident pair of Rufous Owl is in residence.
Accommodation: Cairns hotel (en suite rooms). Meals included: B,L,D.

Day 3-6. Wednesday 7- Saturday 10 July 2021 inclusive. Cairns to Atherton Tablelands.
After a pre-breakfast walk, we will head south of Cairns to look for one of Australia’s most amazing & prehistoric-looking birds, the Southern Cassowary. If our good fortune is in, we should see at least one or two of these stately ratites on the roadside at a coastal rainforest location on our way. Other birds seen here recently include Lovely Fairy-wren, Macleay’s Honeyeater, White-bellied Sea-eagle and Pheasant Coucal.
From here we will head up towards the famous Atherton Tablelands, where with a few road-side stops we should pick up birds like Yellow-spotted & Graceful Honeyeaters, Australian Swiftlet, Little Shrike-thrush, Australasian Figbird, Rainbow Bee-eater, Metallic Starling, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Mistletoebird and Masked Lapwing to name a few.
Reaching our destination for the next four nights near the Crater Lakes National Park we will settle in and have a good look around. Surrounded by high altitude rainforest, our accommodation has a plethora of visitors to the gardens and fruiting trees, and birds like Victoria’s Riflebird, Spotted Catbird, Grey-headed Robin, Barred Cuckoo-shrike, Wompoo Fruit-Dove, Superb Fruit-Dove, Pale Yellow Robin, Scarlet Honeyeater, Eastern Spinebill, Red-browed Finch and Olive-backed Oriole are all regular visitors.
Over the next few days, using this as our base we will explore the wide variety of habitats that are within our reach here on the Atherton Tablelands. With high altitude rainforest, tropical savannah woodlands, grassland & agricultural fields, wetlands and swamps to explore, we will be looking at birds like Brolga, Sarus Crane, Great Crested Grebe, Plumed Whistling-Duck, Nankeen Night-heron, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, White-necked Heron, Black-necked Stork, Buff-banded Rail, White-headed Pigeon, Pacific Baza, Spotted Harrier, Lesser Sooty Owl, the rainforest-inhabiting race lurida of Southern Boobook (a possible future spilt - Little Red Boobook), Tooth-billed Catbird, Fernwren, Bridled Honeyeater, Atherton Scrubwren, Fairy & Brown Gerygones, Mountain Thornbill, Chowchilla, Bower’s Shrike-thrush, Double-eyed Fig-Parrot, Black-faced, Pied, Spectacled & White-eared Monarchs, Shining Bronze-cuckoo, Fan-tailed Cuckoo and Grey-headed Robin.
Mammals in the area we will have a great chance of seeing include Striped Possum, Sugar Glider, Long-nosed Bandicoot, Musky Rat Kangaroo, Green Ringtail Possum, Red-legged Pademelon, Agile Wallaby and Giant White-tailed Rat.
Accommodation: Atherton Tablelands (en suite cabins). Meals included: B,L,D.

 Day 7. Sunday 11 July 2021. Atherton Tablelands to Daintree.
After a final morning’s birding in the rainforest looking for any bird species we may still be missing, we will leave the higher latitude rainforests of the tablelands and head north to the Daintree River region, via a range of open woodland habitats and tropical savannahs. Birds we hope to connect with today include Australian Bustard, Black-necked Stork, Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Squatter Pigeon, White-throated Honeyeater, Grey-crowned Babbler, Noisy & Little Friarbirds, White-throated Gerygone, Red-winged Parrot, Great Bowerbird, Cotton Pygmy-goose, Pale-headed Rosella, Blue-winged Kookaburra and Yellow Oriole.
Our destination for the evening will be the famous Daintree River area and our accommodation will overlook this iconic waterway, where the following morning we will take an early cruise.
Accommodation: Daintree Village. (en suite cabins). Meals included: B,L,D.

 Day 8. Monday 12 July 2021. Daintree River cruise to Cairns.
This morning we will enjoy a boat cruise on the Daintree River where we may enjoy sightings of Azure & Little Kingfisher, Large-billed Gerygone, Black Bittern Pacific Baza, Varied Triller, Shining Flycatcher, Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, Brown-backed Honeyeater and Fairy Martin, as well as a chance of the rare & localised Great-billed Heron. Additional species we may see in the area include Bar-shouldered Dove, Pacific Koel, Papuan Frogmouth, Scaly-breasted Lorikeet, Helmeted Friarbird, Dusky Myzomela & White-breasted Woodswallow.
Reptiles to see include Saltwater Crocodile, Amethystine Python & Common Tree Snake.
We will then make our way back to Cairns where, depending on what species we have yet to see, we will spend the rest of the afternoon exploring.
Accommodation: Cairns hotel (en suite rooms). Meals included: B,L,D.

Day 9. Tuesday 13 July 2021. Great Barrier Reef.
Today’s activity will involve a group tour that departs from Cairns and heads out to the world-famous Great Barrier Reef. Here we will have the opportunity to do a bit of snorkelling or just enjoy the vista that makes up this amazing natural wonder. We will also make a stop at Michaelmas Cay where there are thousands of breeding terns, noddies and boobies. We will be looking for Brown Booby, Great Crested, Sooty, Bridled, Lesser Crested, Black-naped & Roseate Terns, Common & Black Noddies, Great & Lesser Frigatebirds and a variety of shorebirds like Ruddy Turnstone, Pacific Golden Plover and Grey-tailed Tattler. Birds that are seen less often include such rarities as White-tailed & Red-tailed Tropicbirds and Masked & Red-footed Boobies.
Accommodation: Cairns hotel (en suite rooms). Meals included: B,L,D.

 Day 10. Tuesday 30 June 2020. Depart Cairns.
Depart Cairns airport this morning for your onward travels.
Accommodation: none Meals included: B.

 Group size: 6-8 participants and 1 Inala guide or 9-12 participants and 2 Inala guides

 Price: AU$5,400 per person twin share (AU$1,140 single supplement)

*The single supplement is priced on each single having their own room and bathroom throughout.

Inclusions: Accommodation for each night of the tour, specialist guiding and transport for day and night tours as outlined in the itinerary, all meals (B, L, D) and activities outlined in the itinerary (including reef trip and Daintree River cruise), National Park entry fees.

 Exclusions: Any international and domestic airfares alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and expenses of a personal nature (snacks, travel insurance, internet, laundry, tips etc).

Please note: 

Meals and drinks: Breakfast generally consists of a continental style breakfast with cereal, fruit and yoghurt and tea/coffee.  Full cooked breakfast is not generally offered at most locations.  Lunch will generally consist of a packed lunch style meal eaten in the field, with sandwich/filled roll, fruit, and a drink.  Dinner usually consists of several options for main with the choice of either an appetiser or dessert. Drinks (soft and alcoholic) are generally not included but at lunches and breakfasts juice may be made available.

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.

Wet Tropics Specials Tour - Trip Report 2017 - Guided and written by Steve Davidson

Day 2. Mon 26th June 2017.  Four of the original nine people had stayed on to complete this the Wet Tropics section of the tour, and after the high intensity birding and traveling of the last ten days it came as a nice change to adopt a more relaxed approach to today’s proceedings. S, and so after a bit of a lie in and a leisurely breakfast we took in a few more of the popular birding sites of the Cairns region. Magpie Goose, Radjah Shelduck, Green Pygmy-goose, Little Bronze-cuckoo (race minutillus), Whimbrel, Far Eastern Curlew, Australasian Darter (with chicks on the nest), Striated Heron, Comb-crested Jacana, Black-necked Stork and a great flock of the iridescent Metallic Starling were some of the birds we found during the day.

A local birder gave us some info on a potential high-tide roost location of a pair of Beach Stone-Curlew, but today they’d chosen to be elsewhere.

Day 3. Tue 27th June 2017. Fully rested and recharged, our group of intrepid birders headed out early today and with a rising tide we were able to lock ontoview a lovely mixed flock of waders down on the mudflats along Cairns Esplanade. Amongst the group were great examples of Greater & Lesser Sand-plovers providing excellent comparison opportunities, as well as a few Pacific Golden Plover, one of which sported substantial breeding plumage, several Red-necked Stint, Bar-tailed Godwit, small numbers of Curlew Sandpiper, Grey-tailed Tattler, lots of Great Knot and a lone Terek Sandpiper. Nearby were several, Gull-billed, Caspian and Great Crested Terns.

Heading south of Cairns to an area of mangroves, vine scrub and fields of sugarcane we found a few birds like Crimson Finch, Collared Kingfisher, Golden-headed Cisticola, Leaden Flycatcher, small flocks of Fairy & Tree Martins and bigger flocks of Chestnut-breasted & Nutmeg Mannikins. The show stealer however was a nicely timed cameo from a brilliant Little Kingfisher, spotted very deftly by one member of the group and staying just long enough for everyone to get ‘scope views’ before disappearing into the mangroves. A special bird indeed and it was very fortunate for us to be in the right place at the right time.

After some lunch, we headed away from Cairns and made our way up towards the Atherton Tablelands, our base for the next few nights. En route we were lucky enough to chance upon another much-wanted bird in the shape of a beautiful Square-tailed Kite as it quartered the treetops close by to us. This is another uncommon, low density species and always a pleasure to see.

Eventually we made it to our accommodation, nestled in the highland rainforest just adjacent to Crater Lake National Park, and settled in for a brief siesta in the quiet of the afternoon. 

Later on, we sauntered out for a look around and in the process were extremely fortunate to come across a Platypus, foraging in a quiet creek. This bizarre animal, one of two egg-laying monotremes in Australia, was a much- wanted critter for the group and we were all pretty chuffed.

After a celebratory dinner, we gathered for a bit of spotlighting around the property at which were accommodated, and had wonderful views of Striped Possum, Sugar Glider, Long-nosed Bandicoot and Red-legged Pademelon. We heard but did not see both Lesser Sooty Owl and Southern Boobook.

Days 4 Wed 28th 2017. An early morning walk around the edge of Lake Eacham in the rainforest produced some lovely sightings of a few new birds for the trip, and all before breakfast.  In a fruiting fig with branches hanging low we watched very closely a small group of Double-eyed Fig-parrot, out best views yet of the Wet Tropics subspecies macleayana. In the same tree was a pair of the uncommon and unobtrusive Barred Cuckoo-shrike, as well as a furtive Scarlet Honeyeater and Varied Trillers. Nearby was another local endemic – Bower’s Shrike-thrush, a species restricted to highland rainforests.

Following breakfast, we visited some more rainforest remnants, with highlights being a superb male Victoria’s Riflebird high in the canopy, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Eastern Spinebill, regionally endemic Mountain Thornbill, Spotted Catbird, Dusky Myzomela, the elusive and often-missed Atherton Scrubwren (another endemic to the region), Bridled Honeyeater and Brown Gerygone.

With a short diversion for morning tea it was a most obliging family of Lumholt’z’s Tree Kangaroo that made our cuppa all the more enjoyable, with the half-grown joey on full display with its parents.

Around midday we went down to Hastie’s Swamp, and in the elevated bird-hide there we watched hordes of waterbirds whilst eating our lunch. Most prolific were the hundreds of Plumed Whistling-Ducks, followed by White-eyed Duck, Pacific Black Duck, Dusky Moorhen, Australasian Swamphen and with a bit of searching we also picked out a couple of Pink-eared Duck. An Azure Kingfisher was perched on a twig over the water, and despite seeing quite a few over the course of the tour it is not a bird anyone tires of.

Day 5: Thur. 29th June 2017. Unfortunately, today dawned with heavy skies and rain, and it was several hours before we got a break in the clouds. Walking through the rainforest around Lake Barrine, however, produced another of our highly-prized targets, a garrulous and cacophonous group of Chowchilla, and these terrestrial passerines provided excellent views for everyone. Back in the picturesque town of Yungaburra we had our first Australian King Parrots of the tour, but the rest of the day was slim pickings due to the rain setting in again; and a visit to Mt Hypipamee National Park, another area of highland rainforest, failed to produce the hoped for Southern Cassowary, despite it having been seen that very morning…

Rain continued into the evening and unfortunately put paid to our plans to go on a spotlighting drive. Hitting the sack early we all hoped for a clearer day tomorrow.

Day 6. Fri 30th June 2017. With very little rain overnight and clouds clearing today was a far more promising prospect, and a pre-breakfast walk around Lake Eacham produced some Double-eyed Fig-parrots again, as well as a vocal Shining Bronze-cuckoo, Wompoo Fruit-Dove and a calling Superb Fruit-Dove that just couldn't be seen despite being reasonably close.

At Lake Tinaroo, we lucked onto a nice party of Wandering Whistling-duck, as well as over one hundred Sarus Crane in a neighbouring field, and some Australian Wood Duck nearby.

Leaving the highlands, we made our way north and out onto the flatter, drier country toward Mareeba. In Atherton township, we saw our first and only White-headed Pigeon, whilst at Granite Gorge National Park a few Squatter Pigeon put in a welcome appearance. This species has become more difficult to find in recent years, and the gorge is thankfully still a reliable place to view them. A mammalian highlight at this place is the many resident Mareeba Rock-wallabies, and the rather tame animals provided plenty of camera fodder. Other birds we picked up here included Pheasant Coucal, Olive-backed Oriole, Double-barred Finch, Spangled Drongo and some semi-wild but rather beautiful Peafowl.

Coming down of the mountains we headed further north toward the coastal village of Daintree, but sadly the rain caught up to us again mid afternoon and the rest of the day was a wash out.

With a Daintree River Cruise booked for the following morning things were looking pretty grim, however dinner at the Daintree pub was a cracker and we all had a top night.

 Day 7. Sat 1st July 2017. The good cheer and happy vibes from the previous evening must have influenced the weather deiieties, for this morning dawned clear and rain free. And just in time for our cruise on the Daintree River.  Lurking around a few quiet backwaters over a two- hour period provided us with some up close and personal experiences with a lot of wildlife, and in no real order we managed fantastic views of Pacific Baza, Shining Flycatcher, stunning Azure Kingfisher, a very brief fly-by from a Little Kingfisher, nesting Large-billed Gerygones, a magnificent pair of Papuan Frogmouth, our first Grey Whistler for a week and a very cool White-eared Monarch. Reptiles stole the show however and we had a great close look at a four-metre male Saltwater (or Estuarine) Crocodile, as well as another smaller female nearby, a beautifully patterned Amethystine Python that has become adept at snaffling roosting Cattle Egrets, and a most pulchritudinous Common Tree Snake. It was an excellent way to spend the morning, and afterwards we had a bang-up breakfast from the Daintree pub, which apparently opens for breakfast…

In the afternoon, we made our way back down south along the coast, aiming for Cairns. At a few spots along the way we looked, albeit unsuccessfully, for Beach Stone-curlew.

It wasn’t until we checked into our Cairns accommodation and went for an afternoon walk in the botanical gardens, and subsequently bumped into a local birder, that we learned there was pretty much a sure-fire spot to find Beach Stone-curlew in the area. So, with the light beginning to fade and rain threatening yet again, we made a last-minute dash to see if we could lock onto the birds. And sure enough, right on dark, on a rising tide we found our birds, a pair of Beach Stone-curlew way across an inlet and causing us to really stretch the old optic nerve through the spotting ‘scope to make the birds out in the gathering gloom. We avowed to get back there tomorrow if time allowed…

Day 8. Sun 2 July 2017. Today we had an early breakfast and struck out for the south, as there was a decent drive ahead. We all had high hopes however as really we'd saved one of the best birds for last, the Southern Cassowary. South of Cairns there are a few reasonably reliable sites for this amazing bird, and with one particular spot in mind, we made good time.

Some traffic works slowed us a wee bit, but eventually pulled into the spot, an area of rainforest that tumbles down a headland to the beach, and literally within two minutes had spotted a cassowary! The bird, a small male, was first seen casually sauntering along the beach, eventually turning back into the scrub and disappearing into the rainforest. A truly amazing bird and not one we'd expected to see quite that easily. So we had a coffee at a nearby café while pondering our next move, which unanimously involved deciding to look around a bit more to see if we could see any more Southern Cassowary…and see more we did, with a large female spotted casually crossing a paddock filled with cows, and not far from that an immature bird in someone’s backyard on the edge of the rainforest.  It was a fantastic excursion and well worth the drive down from Cairns.

With a smidgen of time up our sleeves we dashed back to the Beach Stone-curlew spot of the previous evening, and there in plain view and substantially closer than they had been was the pair of stone-curlew, loafing on a sandbar not far from the car park.

And thus did the tour close, with the guide and author of this report leaving the group this very afternoon, having to catch a flight back to Melbourne. The remaining tour participants however were staying on and had been booked on a reef cruise the next day, going out to Michaelmas Cay for a viewing of the nesting seabird colonies there and a spot of snorkelling over the Great Barrier Reef.

Day 9. Mon 3 July 2017. From all accounts, the trip out to Michaelmas Cay was considered a successful day, and despite the somewhat rough conditions on the water and an overcast day, several hundred nesting seabirds were observed. The vast majority were Sooty Tern, with lots of Common Noddy also, and smaller numbers of Black-naped Tern, Bridled Tern, Brown Booby, Great Frigatebird and Great Crested Tern.

Thank you all for your support of Inala and for coming on this wonderful tour.  We hope you stay in touch now that you are part of the Inala family.

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