Inala Outback South Australia Tour ( Including Opals and Fossils)

Yellow-Footed Rock Wallaby  - Alastair Stevenson - Inala Nature Tours
Yellow-Footed Rock Wallaby - Alastair Stevenson - Inala Nature Tours
10 days
2022 PRICES AU $8,380 per person sharing ( $855 single supplement )
3 x species of grasswren, Chiming Wedgebill, Cinnamon Quail-thrush, Inland Dotterel, the amazing underground town of Coober Pedy, exclusive access to remarkable geological sites.

PLEASE ENQUIRE ( NO SET DATES CURRENTLY ) We are thrilled to once again offer our highly successful 10-day adventure into the fabled Australian Outback where we will enjoy the birding riches, fascinating mammals, and extraordinary geological relics, of this fascinating region. This tour takes advantage of the sunny yet mild weather in the austral autumn, so you can enjoy this remarkable region in relative comfort. Your guides on this tour will be Dr Tonia Cochran and Peter, with Ben McHenry from the South Australian Museum who will provide commentary on the rare geological wonders of the Outback and give us behind-the-scenes access to an internationally significant fossil site.


Start Location: 
Adelaide SA
Finish location: 
Adelaide SA

Outback South Australia Tour (including opals and fossils)


We are thrilled to once again offer our highly successful 10-day adventure into the fabled Australian Outback where we will enjoy the birding riches, fascinating mammals, and extraordinary geological relics, of this fascinating region. This tour takes advantage of the sunny yet mild weather in the austral autumn, so you can enjoy this remarkable region in relative comfort. Your guides on this tour will be Dr Tonia Cochran and Peter, with Ben McHenry from the South Australian Museum who will provide commentary on the rare geological wonders of the Outback and give us behind-the-scenes access to an internationally significant fossil site.

Day 1. Fri 22 April 2022. Arrive in Adelaide. Private Museum tour fossils and opals
Day 2. Sat 23 April 2022. Adelaide-Port Augusta-Kimba
Day 3. Sun 24 April 2022. Lake Gillies Conservation Park – Gawler Ranges
Day 4. Mon 25 April 2022. Mount Ive Station to Coober Pedy
Day 5. Tue 26 April 2022. Coober Pedy
Day 6. Wed 27 April 2022. Coober Pedy to Andamooka; Arid Lands night tour for native mammals
Day 7. Thu 28 April 2022. Andamooka to Maree
Day 8. Fri 29 April 2022. Lake Eyre to Flinders Ranges
Day 9. Sat 30 April 2022. Flinders Ranges
Day 10. Sun 1 May 2022. Flinders Ranges to Adelaide
Day 11. Mon 2 May 2022. Depart Adelaide airport

B- breakfast; L- lunch; D-dinner. 
Day 1. Friday 22 April 2022. Arrive in Adelaide.

Today we meet at our Hotel in Adelaide at 13.30. After meeting up and storing our luggage there will be an opportunity to meet with Ben McHenry, a geologist/palaeontologist at the South Australian Museum, who will take us on a behind-the-scenes tour. Ben will also meet us again in Coober Pedy and will accompany us on tour from then providing expert interpretation on geology and palaeontology. Ben is also an avid birder!
Accommodation: Hotel in Adelaide (en-suite rooms). Meals included: D.

Day 2. Saturday 23 April 2022. Adelaide-Port Augusta-Kimba.
We’ll depart Adelaide after an early breakfast. Just outside the city we’ll visit the Greenfields wetlands with good chances of Australian Spotted and Baillon’s Crake, as well as a wide variety of waterfowl including ducks, waders and Royal Spoonbill. We then follow the coast north, where we look for the rosinae race of Slender-billed Thornbill and the rosina race of White-browed Scrubwren. We’ll explore the western slopes of the Remarkable Ranges, with chances of birds such as Elegant Parrot, Chestnut-rumped Heathwren and Redthroat. At Port Augusta we visit the beautiful Arid Lands Botanical Gardens, where an array of native flowers and shrubs attract such species as Chirruping Wedgebill, White-winged Fairy-wren and numerous honeyeaters. A nearby coastal lake usually has Banded Stilt. At the end of the day, we arrive at the township of Kimba on the eastern edge of the Eyre Peninsula.
Accommodation: Kimba Motel (en-suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 3. Sunday 24 April 2022. Lake Gillies Conservation Park – Gawler Ranges.
Today we’ll explore Lake Gilles Conservation Park, a mixture of ‘mallee’ eucalypt scrub, open woodland and salt lakes which contains Australia’s eastern-most populations of Western Yellow Robin and Rufous Treecreeper. Other great species we’re likely to encounter here are Hooded Robin, Mulga Parrot, Purple-crowned Lorikeet, Purple-gaped and White-fronted Honeyeater. Later in the day we visit the rugged Gawler Ranges, a spectacular contrast to the coast and home to Short-tailed Grasswren. The park also includes other good birds such as Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo, Black-eared Cuckoo, Crested Bellbird, White-browed and Rufous Treecreeper and Splendid (turquoise race) Fairy-wren. Exploring the various habitats of the park we may encounter Western Grasswren (formerly myall race of Thick-billed Grasswren) in the bluebush-covered plains, while Short-tailed Grasswren (formerly merrotsyi race of Striated Grasswren) inhabit spinifex habitat. Our final destination for the day is Mt Ive Station, a working sheep station where we overnight in comfortable quarters on the property. As this is the only accommodation for hundreds of miles, we will need to share a large bathroom block tonight, a small price to pay for the wonderful birds and scenery!
Accommodation: Mt Ive Station (rooms with shared bathrooms). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 4. Monday 25 April 2022. Mount Ive Station to Coober Pedy.
An ancient landscape of spectacular scenery, historical land marks and solitude awaits us as we explore little-used bush tracks along the edge of the stunning Lake Gairdner. One of South Australia’s vast outback salt lakes, and usually dry, this area has long been regarded as the jewel in the crown of Australia's scenic sights. The stark beauty of the landscape – expanses of salt, red sand dunes, gnarly old trees and seemingly endless plains - is full of contrasts and offers great photographic opportunities. For the interested observer, there are signs of Aboriginal and European history throughout these ranges. Explorer’s campsites, indigenous gravesites, ruins and homesteads are but a few of the reminders of bygone days. If good winter rain has fallen, there will be a profusion of flowering outback plants (including the rare Sturt’s Desert Pea), birds such as Crimson and Orange Chat, Banded Whiteface, Inland Dotterel and a chance of the rare Bourke’s Parrot, and wildlife including plenty of Red, Western Grey and Euro Kangaroos, and with luck the beautiful and endangered Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby. At the end of the day we finally emerge from this area onto the Stuart Highway, which cuts through the centre of Australia, linking the south coast (Adelaide) with the north coast (Darwin). Tonight, we overnight in the opal-mining town of Coober Pedy where the summers are so hot that residents have taken to living in underground dwellings; no matter how harsh the climate, the underground rooms maintain a comfortable, even temperature ranging from 23ºC to 25ºC day and night throughout the year. Here, a unique experience awaits us as we spend the night in an underground hotel, the world's first 4-star luxury property of its type, carved out of opal-bearing rock and complete with mining display and opal gallery. Above ground rooms are also available for those who don’t fancy sleeping “underground” (just let us know at the time of booking).  Accommodation: Hotel in Coober Pedy (en-suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 5. Tuesday 26 April 2022. Coober Pedy.
An entire day is spent around Coober Pedy and we will reunite with Ben from the South Australian Museum who will accompany us for the remainder of the trip. This morning we will search for the endemic and elusive Chestnut-breasted Whiteface, as well as Thick-billed Grasswren before we make for the Breakaways Reserve 32km north of Coober Pedy. In this lovely reserve of colourful hills that have separated from the adjacent range, hence “The Breakaways”, we will stop at two lookout points that highlight the open spaces and colourful environment, leaving an impression of the long gone inland sea that our early explorers dreamt of. As the day progresses the passing of the sun changes the desert colours, creating surreal photogenic scenes. Interestingly, we will also pass the Dingo Fence, a 2m high and 5,300km long wire barrier that stretches across three states to protect sheep farms to the south from our wild dog, the Dingo. The desert-like moonscape along the fence, with its fossilised shells, grey, soft clay dirt and cracks that appear to be bottomless, has been nicknamed the “moon plain”.  Around 110 million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, Coober Pedy and most of northern South Australia was covered by ocean. Later tectonic movements saw the seas recede to the north and the sediments previously deposited were exposed to the air and subjected to deep acidic weathering. Silica, dissolved from these sediments and deposited in cracks and cavities, solidified over time into Australia’s’ multi-coloured national gemstone – the opal. We will have the chance to try our luck at finding this precious gem on a tour of a privately-owned Opal mine. Accommodation: Coober Pedy (en-suite rooms) as for last night. Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 6. Wednesday 27 April 2022. Coober Pedy to Andamooka; Arid Lands night tour for native mammals
Today we’ll travel to William Creek and then down one of Australia’s famous outback tracks, the Oodnadatta Track. It follows an ancient trail used by Aborigines for ochre trading for thousands of years. Artesian mound springs supply water in this arid region. Aborigines relied on this water source, so too did the European explorers who used the route to build the Overland Telegraph and the Old Ghan railway lines in the late 19th century. The track takes us through true Outback country: gibber (wind-eroded stones) plains, rocky hills, and wildflowers after good rain. We will visit one of the famous mound springs along the Track where we will learn of the source of life-giving groundwater in this area – the Great Artesian Basin. This area is also home to Inland Dotterel and Gibberbird, while we also stand a chance of coming across a rare Grey Falcon…! Late afternoon we check in at the quirky but comfortable Andamooka Motel, before our visit to the Arid Recovery Reserve,  a 123 km2 wildlife reserve run by an independent non-profit organisation who pioneer conservation science to help threatened species thrive across the Australian outback. We will take a guided tour through some of the unique habitats of Australia’s arid zone before stopping at a viewing platform to watch the spectacular desert sunset. At dusk, we will travel through the dunes to get up close and personal with some of the Reserve’s amazing animals, including greater bilby, western barred bandicoot, burrowing bettong and spinifex hopping mouse. We will then return to our accommodation in Andamooka.
Accommodation: Andamooka Bottlehouse Motel (en-suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 7.  Thursday 28 April 2022. Andamooka to Maree.
After yesterday’s late-night adventures, a more relaxed departure this morning and then we’ll continue our travels on the Oodnadatta Track. We’ll check a waterhole fed by an artesian bore which has created an oasis in the desert and where many species of birds come down to drink and breed. We may well see the resident pair of Black-breasted Buzzards, or a flock of Inland Dotterels, while Budgerigars and Cockatiels roost in the Coolibah trees or buzz around in the sky. Other birds of note for today include Cinnamon Quail-thrush, Chiming Wedgebill and Rufous Fieldwren. We may even see a herd of feral Dromedaries! At the end of the day, we arrive in sleepy Marree where we spend the night in a beautiful historic outback hotel.  
Accommodation: Marree Hotel (en-suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 8. Friday 29 April 2022.Lake Eyre to Flinders Ranges.
In the morning there is an optional scenic flight over Lake Eyre (around $450 per person own cost for 60-90 minute flight). The rest of the group will enjoy birdwatching at the access track to Lake Eyre with a good chance of Black-breasted Buzzard. Mid-morning we’ll depart and head south calling in at the ghost town ruins of Farina, followed by a brief visit to the impressive indigenous ochre pits near Lyndhurst. This afternoon we will visit the Ediacara Conservation Park where in 1946, geologist Reginald Sprigg discovered fossil imprints in rocks in the Flinders Ranges at the old Ediacara minefield. This discovery was the first time the fossilised remains of an entire community of soft-bodied creatures had been found in such abundance anywhere in the world. This discovery was so significant that fossils were named after him and the Ediacaran Period was named after the location where the fossils were found.  The fossils preserved in the 560 million year old sea-floor sediments throughout the area record the first known multicellular animal life on Earth that predates the Cambrian. This diverse and exquisitely preserved community of ancient organisms represents a significant snapshot of our geological heritage.  We then visit the township of Parachilna overlooking the Flinders Ranges, an impressive range of steep hills and soaring rock formations on the edge of Australia’s outback.  
Accommodation: Wilpena Pound Resort, Flinders Ranges. Meals included: B, L, D. 

Day 9. Saturday 30 April 2022. Flinders Ranges.
Today we spend a full day today exploring the Flinders Ranges. With rugged mountain scenery, peaceful gorges and a huge array of wildlife and flora, the Flinders Ranges National Park is recognized as one of the finest landscapes in Australia. The centerpiece, Wilpena Pound, is a magnificent natural amphitheatre of mountains. Nearby, spinifex-grass covered hills are home to the elusive and highly localized Short-tailed Grasswren and the diminutive Elegant Parrot. Wedge-tailed Eagle often soar over the grassy slopes. Rocky gorges which traverse the ranges are inhabited by Elegant Parrot and Grey-fronted Honeyeater. From west to east, our route leads us back through time along the Brachina Geological Trail which follows the gorge cut deeply through the ancient geological layers of the Ranges by the Brachina Creek. Highlights will include an early Cambrian archaeocyatha (ancient sponge) reef, a chance to literally straddle the PreCambrian/Cambrian boundary plus a further chance to see Ediacaran fossils in situ. Deeper through the gorge we will see the remains of 640 million year old glaciers and a visit to the Golden Spike – the place where the Ediacaran geological period was formally declared. We’ll also take time to visit a 645 million year old stromatolite reef (produced by the activity of ancient cyanobacteria). With luck we’ll also observe and photograph a colony of the endangered, beautiful Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby. We will also drive through the magnificent Bunyeroo Gorge and stop at the site of a 600 million year old meteor impact. We’ll have ample opportunity to observe and photograph the landscape and its inhabitants including the three local species of Kangaroo.
Accommodation: Wilpena Pound Resort in the Flinders Ranges. (en-suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.  

Day 10. Sunday 1 May 2022. Flinders Ranges to Adelaide.
This morning we visit the indigenous cave paintings at Arkaroo Rock.  This is a significant cultural site for the Adnyamathanha people of the Flinders Ranges and the walk takes us to a rock shelter with paintings featuring ochre and charcoal images that depict the Yura Muda (Dreaming, or creation story) of Ikara (Wilpena Pound). There is also some great birding in the area. From here, we leave the Flinders Ranges and head south once more towards Adelaide. We travel through the scenic Clare Valley, a well-known wine region where, at this time of the year, the lush green pastures and flowering wattles make for a very scenic landscape. We stand a good chance of seeing Adelaide Rosella, Brown and Rufous Songlarks and a variety of raptors.  We return to Adelaide late afternoon where we will settle into our hotel and have a final dinner together.
Accommodation: Hotel in Adelaide (en-suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 11. Monday 2 May 2022. Depart Adelaide. Depart Adelaide.
No activities have been scheduled for today. Breakfast (included) this morning can be taken at your leisure after which you can spend the day exploring the city and nearby River Torrens and/or Botanical Gardens, re-visit the Natural History museum to reconnect with the things we’ve learnt, or simply go to the airport to head home.
Accommodation: none. Meals included: B.


Group size: 6-8 participants, 2 specialist guides and a geologist.

Tour Price: AU $8,380 per person sharing.

Single supplement: AU $855

Price includes: 10 nights’ accommodation, specialist guide and transport, meals, entrance fees and activities as mentioned in the itinerary.

Price does not include: Airfares, alcoholic beverages, snacks, internet, laundry or other items of a personal nature.

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.

Click here for a google doc with the answers to the most frequently asked Group Tour Questions

22 April – 2 May 2022 Outback South Australia Tour (including opals and fossils)

Trip Report prepared by Dr Tonia Cochran, Inala Nature Tours 29 May 2022. 

Day 1. Friday 22 April 2022. Arrive in Adelaide.
We started our adventure by meeting in the reception area of our Adelaide hotel and walking together to the South Australian Museum to meet with Senior Collections Manager of Earth Sciences, Ben McHenry, who took us on a fascinating behind-the-scenes tour of the collections. We visited galleries which exhibited a collection of giant 110 million year old opalised skeletons of marine reptiles and shells that have been collected from Coober Pedy and Andamooka, two places we were scheduled to visit during the trip. We also visited the Ediacara fossil gallery as a prelude to our visit to the Flinders Ranges, the Megafauna gallery to view giant birds, mammals and reptiles that lived in South Australia over the past 100,000 years and the minerals gallery where the $1 million ‘Fire of Australia’ opal resides, amongst other outstanding gems from the state. Our tour ended in Ben’s laboratory where we were able to see one of the purest opal specimens ever found: The ‘Virgin Rainbow’ an opalised belemnite (internal structural rod of an extinct squid-like marine animal), another specimen which has been valued at over $1 million. We finally dragged ourselves away, armed with hardhats, high vis vests and picks (which we would need for future prospecting in the opal fields), back to our hotel where we gathered for our welcome dinner and met Peter, our local South Australian guide.

Day 2. Saturday 23 April 2022. Adelaide-Port Augusta-Kimba.
We departed early this morning after a hearty breakfast and travelled northwards to the mangrove-fringed foreshore of Port Gawler where we had beautiful views of a pair of Sacred Kingfishers, White-browed Scrubwren and Brown Thornbill. Several Black-shouldered Kites were seen perched along the roadside and we also saw Slender-billed Thornbills and White-fronted Chats in the low coastal heathland and samphire.   We stopped for morning tea at Port Wakefield before heading to the Arid Lands Botanical Gardens at Port Augusta, where we ate a beautiful lunch in the café before exploring the gardens to see and photograph a range of native flowers and shrubs and the birds that live there. The Green Birdflower (Crotalaria cunninghamii) and several Eremophila species were flowering, attracting Purple-crowned Lorikeets, White-fronted Honeyeater, Red Wattlebirds. A group of White-browed Babblers entertained us with their antics, while Welcome Swallows swooped around the café where they had nests attached to the building, and Fairy-wrens poked amongst the shrubs. Some of our group also saw Shingleback Skink basking in the sun. Others saw a Bearded Dragon on the road. We then birded a bit in the vicinity of Iron Knob, flushing a Little Buttonquail, catching a quick glimpse of a Western Grasswren, Southern Whiteface and seeing our first small flocks of Budgerigars; Western Grey Kangaroos were also seen. Another major attraction was the local public toilet which was artfully decorated with a mural of the local wildlife and clearly marked as to its purpose. Our accommodation tonight was in the township of Kimba on the eastern edge of the Eyre Peninsula.

Day 3. Sunday 24 April 2022. Lake Gillies Conservation Park – Gawler Ranges.
Today explored three different areas in the Lake Gilles Conservation Park, a mixture of ‘mallee’ eucalypt scrub, open woodland and salt lakes. Here we saw Western Yellow Robin, Rufous Treecreeper and Blue-breasted Fairy-wren, which is the eastern-most range of these species. We also saw Emus, Chestnut-breasted and Inland Thornbills, Crested Bellbird, Jacky Winter, Striated Pardalote (race substriatus), Gilbert’s Whistler, the eastern subspecies of Western Whistler (Pachycephala fuliginosa fuliginosa)  and more Southern Whiteface as well as Mulga Parrot, Blue-bonnets, Australian (Port Lincoln) Parrots, White-eared, White-fronted, Spiny-cheeked, Singing and Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters. There were also some very impressive Golden Orb Weaving Spiders (Nephila sp) in their equally impressive webs whose silk is reported to be up to 100 times tougher than synthetic products of equal diameter. After a visit to the ‘Big Galah’ and morning tea in Kimba, we drove to a working sheep station, Mt Ive Station, our destination for the day for a late lunch. Some of the group had a tour of the shearing sheds where they learned about farm life on the property. Then we were off to Lake Gairdner, a nearby vast salt lake which actually contained water after recent rains, after a quick stop enroute to admire some flowering Sturt’s Desert Pea (Swainsonia formosa). We were astounded to see groups of Emus walking in the shallow water and salt on the lake and vast numbers of Dragonfly nymph-cases attached to the bushes next to the lake, where they had shed their skins after their mass emergence. A more macabre spectacle was the millions of insect and other invertebrate bodies trapped in the salt as it evaporated, entombing them in the pale pink saline sculptures around the edge of the lake. Western Grey Kangaroo, Euro (Wallaroo) were also seen today. Then back to the shearer’s quarters where we were staying, for a slap-up dinner produced by Peter and Tonia which was washed down with ample quantities of local wine.

Day 4. Monday 25 April 2022. Mount Ive Station to Coober Pedy.
Until this point the trip was proceeding as planned, but predicted heavy rainfall in the area had us a bit concerned about getting out of Mt Ive Station using the little-used bush tracks along the edge of Lake Gairdner. We left early after a cooked breakfast (again prepared by chefs Peter and Tonia) and an ANZAC day dawn service being held at the station for staff and visitors alike, and decided to proceed on our original route (a 469km journey) rather than back-track to Port Augusta via the sealed road which was a far longer journey of 729kms). Followed closely by ominous black clouds and rain squalls, we managed to work our way precariously along the slippery wet roads, daring to stop only for a quick pit-stop at Kingoonya before arriving safely at Glendambo just as the road crews were closing the road behind us. Whew! We had a celebratory morning tea and birded at a nearby shallow ephemeral lake which still contained water where we saw Pink-eared Duck, Grey Teal, Pied Stilt and Red-necked Avocet, Red-kneed Dotterel and Black-tailed Native-hen. We then worked our way northwards to the opal-mining town of Coober Pedy knowing that we were once more safely on sealed roads. We stopped twice to bird enroute, seeing Chiming  Wedgebill, Crested Bellbird , Common Bronzewing, Red-capped Robin and flushing another Little Buttonquail. The highlight of the day for most people was a small flock of Bourke’s Parrot which Peter had heard had been in the area months before. Lucky for us they were still there! We arrived at Coober Pedy just on dark, where we once again met with Ben from the South Australian Museum who had flown from Adelaide to reunite with our group for the rest of the tour. Some of the group slept in the ‘underground rooms’ for which the town is famous, at the world's first 4-star luxury hotel of its type, carved out of the local opal-bearing Bulldog Shale rock.

Day 5. Tuesday 26 April 2022. Coober Pedy.
Early this morning we met local opal miner Kenneth, who accompanied us for a bit of birding to find the rare Chestnut-breasted Whiteface (where there were also some awesome trapdoor spider holes), before taking us to his open-cut opal mine for the chance to try our luck finding this precious gem. Ben explained the process of opal formation, Australia’s’ multi-coloured national gemstone and its connection with the vast ancient Eromanga Sea. Some of the finest and most valuable white opal in the world comes from Coober Pedy. Corinne also found and photographed a flock of Orange Chats while the others fossicked with their hard hats, high vis vests and picks and White-backed Swallows circled above us. We then visited Kenneth’s house for lunch where we were privileged to tour his house, which he has carved himself into the side of a small hill. Most of the local residents live in such underground dwellings to avoid the heat of the summers as no matter how harsh the climate, the underground rooms maintain a comfortable, even temperature ranging from 23ºC to 25ºC day and night throughout the year. We couldn’t access the Breakaways as planned because of road closures in the area due to yesterday’s heavy rain, but we instead visited another opal mine to view some of the machinery used in opal mining which included a ‘noodler’ and huge excavators and tunnelling machines. We then visited the local Sewage treatment plant where we saw a confiding Australian Spotted Crake with young, Black-fronted and Red-kneed Dotterels and Little Grassbird. We then visited the local Serbian Church and met a few of the locals, before heading to an opal shop where some of the group purchased some treasures. Jenny bought lovely opalised specimens of two of the area’s bivalves- a mussel (Eyrena tatei) and a cockle (Cyrenopsis  sp).

Day 6. Wednesday 27 April 2022. Coober Pedy to Andamooka.
The plan was to leave very early this morning and travel to William Creek (around a 2 hour drive) for a scenic flight over Lake Eyre. Unfortunately, the heavy rain of the past days had closed the road and we heard stories of stranded motorists having water and food air-dropped to them. Not wishing to join the marooned and unable to access the Oodnadatta Track, we retraced our steps on the sealed road back to Glendambo and then through Woomera to Andamooka via Roxby Downs. Our first stop was Bon Bon Station where we stopped to look at some Gibber Plains, not being able to access the Moon Plains yesterday, where we learnt about their formation from Ben. We also stopped to examine some Native Apricots (Pittosporum angustifolium) which were heavily in fruit, and at the waterhole at Glendambo again where an Australasian Grebe had joined the other waterbirds seen previously, and we picked up Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo and Red-capped Robin at our tea spot. On arrival at Andamooka, we had a late lunch and were then warmly welcomed by our hosts on arrival at our modest hotel before heading to a property near Roxby Downs to meet with Nathan and Genevieve, members of the research team from the Arid Recovery project. While we were unable to access the huge fenced area where the native mammals have been released, we were able to walk along a gully where we found lots of agates, two Earless Dragons and viewed a nearby lake with a spotting scope where we saw Pied and Banded Stilt and Red-necked Avocet. Back to our accommodation where we ate dinner on the veranda with our hosts.

Day 7.  Thursday 28 April 2022. Andamooka.
This morning after a huge home-cooked breakfast, we visited an underground opal mine owned by Ben’s friend Gabby and son Leif who gave us a tour of the accessible parts of the mine (some tunnels had been flooded by the unseasonal rains) accompanied by Ragnar the dog and gained a fascinating insight into the daily life of miners in the town that is so reminiscent of the ‘wild west’. We were then supposed to head to Marree, but again recent rains and lack of road access enforced another change in plan, and we decided to stay another day at Andamooka. We visited Chimney Hole Dam and found some giant ostracods and a water snail (Newcombe’s Pouch Snail, Isidorella newcombi)  in the water. Rosy Dock (Acetosa vesicaria) which was introduced by the early Cameleers was also common in the area and obviously enjoying the rare moisture. We spent the afternoon touring the private museum at our accommodation (some of our group purchasing very reasonably-priced opals) followed by a delicious BBQ dinner provided by our hosts, which we accompanied with more of the local wines and beers and plenty of talking with the hosts and the local publican. Some of us then walked to the nearby Observatory for a stargazing tour with the aid of a telescope and plenty of local knowledge, followed by some night noodling, which involved shining a UV light on the ground to pick up opal which fluoresces at these wavelengths. 

Day 8. Friday 29 April 2022. Andamooka to Ikara-Flinders Ranges.
This morning we headed off after another delicious and huge home-cooked breakfast to visit Olympic Dam (where the road was closed) for a bit of birding. Some of the low areas were deceptively wet with quick-sand like consistency which  we negotiated with various degrees of success and muddiness. We then headed southwards back to Port Augusta for a picnic lunch at the Arid Lands Botanic Gardens and another look around there for birds, before heading  to Pichi Richi Pass near Quorn to view some 600 million year old mud cracks then the Kanyaka ruins. Species we saw today included Red-rumped Parrot, Blue Bonnet, Mulga Parrot, Budgerigar, Emu, Diamond Dove, with three species of macropod (Western Grey Kangaroo, Euro and Red Kangaroo). We reached our destination near Wilpena Pound in the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park late afternoon, with a rather noisy dinner at the onsite restaurant.

Day 9. Saturday 30 April 2022. Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park.
This morning after breakfast, we took a walk around the lodge grounds before 5 members of our group took a 1 hour scenic flight over Wilpena Pound, a magnificent natural amphitheatre of mountains. We then spent the rest of the day exploring Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park with its stunning landscape of ancient mountains and gorges. We explored Bunyeroo Gorge, stopping at the Razorback Lookout which gives a panoramic overview of the geological layers within the area, before viewing some 580 million year old volcanic debris from a meteor impact site at present day Lake Acraman, located 280km to the west.  We then stopped to take photos at the iconic ‘Twin Gums’ site where two ancient River Red Gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) frame the road, before following the Brachina Geological trail westwards. Here we stopped to view  Yellow-footed Rock-wallabies, two with adorable joeys at foot who were doing very well after the rainfall in the area earlier in the year. We then viewed some Ediacaran fossil specimens in situ (Dickinsonia and Parvancorina) in the ancient 560 million year old sea-floor sediments now known as the Rawnsley Quartzite, which are the first known multicellular animal life on Earth that predates the Cambrian. A lovely Mistletoe was in flower here. We then straddled the Cambrian/ Precambrian Boundary (around 540 million years) where we saw ancient fossilised burrows, before stopping at a 510-530 million year old Archaeocyatha sponge reef. We then headed briefly to Parachilna and Blinman before heading back into the eastern end of the Brachina Geological trail to see the Ediacaran Global Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP) ‘Golden Spike’, the place where the Ediacaran geological period was formally declared and the only such reference point to geological time located in the southern hemisphere; more famous geological reference points such as the Jurassic, Triassic, Cambrian etc are all located in the northern hemisphere. Our final stop was a 645 million year old stromatolite reef (produced by the activity of ancient cyanobacteria) before we returned to our lodge for dinner. After dinner we took a walk around the lodge grounds where we heard Southern Boobook, Tawny Frogmouth and Australian Owlet-nightjar and saw several more Yellow-footed Rock Wallabies. Other notable species we saw today included Grey-fronted Honeyeater, Laughing Kookaburra, Australian (Port Lincoln) Ringneck, Emu,  Collared Sparrowhawk, Red-capped Robin, Fairy and Tree Martins and Purple-backed Fairy-wren as well as Red and Western Grey Kangaroos.

Day 10. Sunday 1 May 2022. Flinders Ranges to Adelaide.
Our first stop this morning was Arkaroo Rock where we did some early morning birding and plant hunting. Bird species included Redthroat, Southern Scrub-robin, Red-capped robin, Brown-headed Honeyeater, Yellow-plumed Honeyeater,  Striated Pardalote, Inland Thornbill and Weebill. We also saw flowering specimens of the Inland Spyridium (Spyridium phlebophyllum), various Acacias, the Northern Cypress Callitris glabophylla and the hop bush (Dodonaea lobulata). This is a significant cultural site for the Adnyamathanha people of the Flinders Ranges and Eve, Gill, Inge and Tonia walked to the first rock shelter with paintings featuring ochre and charcoal images that depict the Yura Muda (Dreaming, or creation story) of Ikara (Wilpena Pound). From here, we left the Flinders Ranges and headed south once more towards Adelaide, passing through Jamestown for lunch and the scenic Clare Valley, a well-known wine region where the lush green pastures and flowering wattles made for a very scenic landscape. Crimson (Adelaide) Rosella and Rainbow Lorikeets were seen en route.  We returned to Adelaide late afternoon for our final dinner together where we said our farewells as a group.

During this tour we saw 116 species of birds, 3 species of reptile, 4 macropod species and travelled a total of 3,162 kilometres (1,965 miles). Many thanks to everyone for their flexibility and maintaining their sense of humour as we ducked and weaved around storm clouds, unseasonal rain and road closures on our hastily-revised tour. Despite the changes we had some fabulous experiences and great memories. Many thanks to Ben and Peter for their added expertise, and Jenny, Brian and Inge for sharing their lovely images.

Kangaroo Island Extension
2 -5 May 2022

 Day 11 (= day 1). Monday 2 May 2022. Depart Adelaide/Adelaide to Kangaroo Island.

Three members of the group (Jenny, Brian and Inge) continued on with Tonia to Kangaroo Island. We headed out to the airport early, to find that our flight had been delayed by over one hour. Despite our later than expected arrival time at Kingscote airport, we still managed to make the most of the day, being greeted on our arrival by our local guide Tim and owner of the travel company Craig. Tim soon whisked us off to the residence of local entomologist Richard and his partner Janine who is an installation artist. We first visited Richard’s private collection of over 60,000 local insect specimens and learned about the very specific requirements and conservation efforts of some species such as the Green Carpenter Bee. We then visited Janine’s studio where we saw some of her amazing works which are inspired by nature and are crafted from natural objects including shells, leaves and pieces of bone. We then had a lovely picnic lunch accompanied by a family of Superb Fairy-wrens and a pair of Scarlet Robins, before heading to Seal Bay to view the Australian Sealions in the afternoon, with Sooty Oystercatchers and Pacific Gulls on the beach. We spent a relaxing hour or more watching the antics of the male Sealions chasing females and each other, with the larger bulls intervening as required. Near the visitor centre we watched Crescent and New Holland Honeyeaters drinking water from a leaking sprinkler, with Eastern Spinebill, and Silvereyes foraging in the bushes. Later in the afternoon we visited Duck lagoon where we saw several waterbirds including Black Swan, Pacific Black Duck, Grey Teal, Australasian Grebe, Australian White Ibis and Yellow-billed Spoonbill, with White-eared Honeyeater in the surrounding eucalypts, before travelling to another site to view Glossy-black Cockatoos coming into drink in the late afternoon sun and settling down to roost for the night. Here we also saw our first Koala and Kangaroo Island form of Western Grey Kangaroo. At dusk we visited Craig’s house, to see a variety of fossils that were found on Kangaroo Island that were given to him by South Australian Museum geologists. These included some 537 million year old Cambrian Trilobites. We then checked into our hotel on the waterfront at Kangaroo islands ‘capital city’ Kingscote where we had dinner.

Day 2. Tuesday 3 May 2022. Kangaroo Island.
We were collected by Tim on the waterfront outside the hotel after breakfast this morning; a fur seal glided past in the shallows as we waited. We travelled to Flinders Chase National Park where we spent the morning. Our first stop was the old visitors centre which was burnt in the 2019-20 summer bushfires that swept through the area, burning 96% of the National Park. Plants in flower here included the fan flower Scaevola aemula and Thomasia petalocalyx. We were pleased to see the regrowth after the fires and the presence of species like Koalas, Cape Barren Geese and Crimson Rosellas. We then visited Admiral’s Arch at Cape de Couedic, where we viewed Long-nosed and Australian Fur Seals basking on the rocks and playing in the shallows and Australasian Gannets and Pacific Gulls flying out to sea. We could also see Crested terns on the rock-stacks. Inge and Tonia were very lucky to see a Kangaroo Island Dunnart scuttling around the rocks and amongst the low vegetation next to the path. Apparently, this species has only been seen from trail camera images since the fires, and it was heartening to see that such small, endangered species could survive such ferocity. We then visited Remarkable Rocks a 500+ million year rock formation which has been sculpted by wind and sea-spray. We then headed to a privately owned sheep farm at Parndana, where we had a wonderful seafood BBQ lunch of local whiting accompanied by local wines, beers and soft drinks. Special plants in this area included Isopogon ceratophyllus and Banksia marginata (both members of the family Proteaceae) and the Yacca or Grass Tree Xanthorrhoea semplanata tateana. We then patrolled the northern  coastline from Stokes Bay to Kingscote looking for Kangaroo Island Kangaroos and Tammar Wallabies and admiring the male flowers of the Casuarinas (Allocasuarina verticillata), before returning to Kingscote in time for dinner.

Day 3. Wednesday 4 May 2022. Fly Kangaroo Island to Adelaide and depart.
We were collected from our hotel this morning for our transfer back to the Kingscote airport and flight back to Adelaide. On arrival at Adelaide, our little group parted company, departing for their various destinations.

A total of 41 bird species and 7 mammal species were seen during our short stay on Kangaroo Island.


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