Inala Queensland Wet Tropics Tour 7-16 July 2024

Southern Cassowary - Dennis Braddy - Inala Nature Tours
Southern Cassowary - Dennis Braddy - Inala Nature Tours
Tour date: 
Sunday, 7 July 2024 to Tuesday, 16 July 2024
8 days
AU$5,905 per person twin share. AU$1,215 Single supplement
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.

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
Finish location: 
Cairns QLD

Inala Queensland Wet TropicsTour 
7-16 July 2024

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.

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.


Day 1. Sun 7 Jul 24. Arrive Cairns.
Day 2. Mon 8 Jul 24. Cairns area.
Day 3. Tue 9 Jul 24. Cairns to Atherton Tablelands.
Day 4. Wed 10 Jul 24. Atherton Tablelands.
Day 5. Thu 11 Jul 24. Atherton Tablelands.
Day 6. Fri 12 Jul 24. Atherton Tablelands.
Day 7. Sat 13 Jul 24. Atherton Tablelands to Daintree area.
Day 8. Sun 14 Jul 24. Daintree River Cruise to Cairns.
Day 9. Mon 15 Jul 24. Great Barrier Reef cruise.
Day 10. Tue 16 Jul 24. Depart Cairns.


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

Day 1. Sunday 7 July 2024. 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 Cape York Tour will arrive in Cairns today and join the group for welcome dinner.
Accommodation: Cairns hotel (en suite rooms). Meals included: D.

Day 2. Monday 8 July 2024. 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, Hornbill 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. Tuesday 9 to Friday 12 July 2024 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, Rufous (Little) Shrike-thrush, Australasian Figbird, Rainbow Bee-eater, Metallic Starling, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Mistletoebird and Masked Lapwing. 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. We will have a great chance of seeing a range of mammals including 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. Saturday 13 July 2024. 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 area, home to what is thought to be the oldest rainforest in the world.
Accommodation: Daintree area (en suite cabins). Meals included: B,L,D.

Day 8. Sunday 14 July 2024. 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. Monday 15 July 2024. Great Barrier Reef.
Today we will head 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 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 on the Great Barrier Reef 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 16 August 2024. 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
Tour Price: AU$5,905 per person twin share. Single supplement: AU$1,215

These prices are based on the current rate of GST and may need to be adjusted if there are significant changes.

 We would be pleased to offer a discounted price for participants who also choose to join an adjoining tour/s, please contact the office for details.

 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 Daintree River cruise and Great Barrier Reef trip), National Park entry fees. (These prices are based on the current rate of GST and may need to be adjusted if there are significant changes.)

Exclusions: any international and domestic airfares (best to book those as a group ticket your end as for this year), alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and expenses of a personal nature (snacks, travel insurance, internet, laundry, tips etc).

 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.

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

Inala Queensland Wet Tropics Tour  - Trip report  5 - 14 July 2021               

Guided and written by Matt Cornish


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. Mt Lewis area, Cairns. 
Day 10. Wed 14 July 21. Depart Cairns 

Day 1. Monday 5 July 21. Arrive Cairns. 
Today everyone arrived and met in Cairns and settled into their hotel. 

Day 2. Tuesday 6 July 21. Cairns area.  We met at the hotel this morning and we explored the Greater Cairns region. Today was a good day of walking to dust off the cobwebs and warm up those binoculars.  

Highlights included a Little Kingfisher darting in and out of Lotus plants, a Grey Goshawk at the bushland of a wetlands and a Lifer for some, the Mangrove Robin on the Esplanade. One of group’s target birds was the Torresian Kingfisher, we heard three individuals but didn’t manage to lay eyes on one….yet… 

 Day 3. Wednesday 7 July 2021. Cairns to Atherton Tablelands. Our day started with a drizzly morning before we ventured south. Here we managed many great sightings including crimson finches, Australian pipits and an Australian Pratincole.  

 As the rain started to settle in we travelled south to the Eubenangee Swamp National Park, the rain was heavy but we managed to quickly tick off a male shining flycatcher and a black-necked stork. 

Continuing south, we made a quick stop at the very famous Etty Bay, it didn’t take long before we found a male Southern Cassowary crossing the road, actually, maybe he found us…We spent over 10 minutes with this bird standing directly behind our vehicle, some amazing photographic opportunities!!!  

Our next stop was the Atherton Tablelands so we headed west up the Palmerston highway, for the next hour, the fog was thick and the rainfall was intense, birding was put on hold for the time being.  

Late in the afternoon we made it to Malanda in time for a sneaky little  birding stop. We were treated to a huge array of birdlife including Pink-eared ducks, a Swamp Harrier, roughly six million plumed whistling ducks and several hardheads. Heading off to our nearby rainforest accommodation we stopped roadside to observed over 100 sarus cranes and brolgas, all feeding and socialising in a road side farm paddock. 

 As the sun set it was time to make our way to an incredible wildlife lodge, here we were met with the calls of Victoria’s Riflebirds, spotted catbirds and many more rainforest species that filled the rainforest chorus.  

Day 4. Thursday 8 July 2021. Atherton Tablelands. With the weather forecast looking average at best we made the decision to head west, and I mean really far west! We set our sights on the dry savannah country.  As soon as the dry woodland consumed the landscape the rain dissipated and the calls of bush birds filled the air.  

Exploring a promising side road we absolutely cleaned up! Red winged parrots, Striated pardalotes, weebills, squatter pigeons, pale headed rosellas and many more outstanding sightings ensured our trip list was growing at a rapid pace.  

Continuing our journey west we stopped and had one of the most stunning Golden Whistler encounters you would dream of. 

Our next stop with Mount Surprise where sat under a beautiful tree and enjoyed some lunch and a refreshing drink, as it turns out the local Apostle birds had the same idea! Over 15 Apostle birds surrounded us optimistically for any form of food to fall to the ground, this also made a great photo opportunity.  

With the day slowly getting away from us, we decided to put our heads down and continue our journey.  32c and a full sky of sun it wasn’t the best birding conditions however we didn’t have a whole lot of choice, either way, we arrived at our destination.   Sightings at the dam included a stunning paperbark flycatcher, a young nankeen night heron, yellow tinted honeyeaters, rufous throated honeyeaters, black faced wood swallow, hoary-headed grebe, green pygmy geese and many more.  

With the afternoon coming our way now was time to make our way back to our accommodation to end another day of incredible birding.  

Day 5. Friday 9 July 2021. Atherton Tablelands. At the very beginning of the tour, the group made it very clear their number 1 bird target was the Golden Bowerbird, one of the most elusive and sensationally stunning birds in Far North Queensland, the true jewel of the Wet Tropics. Well…. Today was the day! 

We started our cold, damp and foggy morning by heading to Mount Hypipamee where we met with my good friend and fellow tour guide. With his assistance we ventured into the dark and thick rainforest in search of the elusive Golden Bowerbird. 

It only took 5 minutes before we managed to find two bowers, they both appeared to be recently active. 

As we stood still and waited quietly, the most stunning and vibrant male Golden Bowerbird flew in and landed 1m from us This was the first ever sighting for many of the famous wet tropics endemic however it only got better from here. 

We slowly made our way further into the rainforest when we witnessed the male bowerbird slowly collecting sticks, twigs and lichens to build a new bower. We set up the camp chair and watched this spectacle for over 45 minutes. This truly was one of the most incredible bird sightings I have ever had. One of the group described the moment beautifully, “This wasn’t a sighting, it was an exhibition”. 

After eventually leaving the dense confines of the Rainforest we started walking back towards the car when we laid eyes on a Wet Tropics endemic, the Bower’s Shrikethrush as it delivered its stunning call from just above our heads.  

After sharing some marvellous photos and plenty of laughs, my friend made his way back to Cairns. We ventured off to explore the high altitude rainforests and woodlands. Over the next 8 hours we managed to find a huge array of species including Grey butcherbird, Collared Sparrowhawk, Swamp Harrier, Pacific emerald dove, Fan-tailed cuckoo, Fuscous Honeyeater, Pied Monarch and many more. 

As the night time fell we decided to take a walk, our target was the endemic Lesser sooty owl. We sat in darkness and heard two Sooty owls calling to each other, that distinct bomb dropping scream however we didn’t manage to lay eyes on. 

Day 6. Saturday 10 July 2021. Atherton Tablelands. With yet another mystic foggy morning upon us, once again it was time to hit the road. Today we stayed within the confines of the Malanda, Yungaburra and Atherton areas. 

This morning’s sightings included Spectacled Monarch, Spotted catbird, Victoria’s riflebird, Whiskered tern, Australian Reed-warbler, Top-knot pigeons and great crested grebe and even a platypus. 

In the afternoon we decided to head out towards the dryer country and try our hand at a different habitat.  

It didn’t take long until we were rewarded with an incredible Emu sighting along with sightings of Brown Goshawk, red-backed fairywren, Black-necked stork, Osprey, Black-shouldered kite and even a pair of Wedge-tailed eagles.  

With the night time sneaking in, we headed off for some of the best Pizza and Pasta I have ever had! 

After dinner we had another crack at the Lesser Sooty Owl. One lap around the boardwalk and we heard calls but no sightings. In the carpark however we witnessed the Wet Tropics Endemic Green ring-tailed possum feeding just about our heads and a couple of other Coppery brush-tailed possums.  

We decided to do one more lap of the boardwalk and we struck GOLD! A single Sooty owl sitting and hiding in his own plumage about 5m above the boardwalk, one more Wet Tropics endemic ticked off the trip list! 

Day 7. Sunday 11 July 2021. Atherton Tablelands to Daintree. This morning we had to say goodbye to the high altitude rainforest and head north towards Mareeba and on towards the Daintree National Park. We started the morning by heading to a location at rocky creek, filled with long grass, flowering natives and freshwater creeks. 

With a few honeyeater species still outstanding we ticked off Scarlet honeyeater, White-throated honeyeater, Yellow Honeyeater, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, White-cheeked and Dusky Honeyeaters.  We also managed sightings of red-winged parrots and double-barred finches. 

After Mareeba we swung our way through Julatten and down the range to Mossman. Stopping by a local farm we found Royal Spoonbills, Rajah Shelducks, White bellied sea eagles and two stunning Brahminy kites.  

Day 8. Monday 12 July 2021. Daintree River Cruise to Cairns. With an early start we made our way down to the Daintree village boat ramp.  We spent the next two hours cruising the upper Daintree river in search of some of the more elusive water birds in Far North Queensland.  

To our surprise we managed to find four little kingfishers, two Azures and an uncountable number of Sacred and Forest Kingfishers.  

We were extremely fortunate enough to also locate a temporary resident White-throated nightjar and the crown jewel of the river, a Great-billed Heron. The White-throated nightjar being a lifer for several in the group and myself. 

After the cruise we headed back for breakfast before we hit the road. 

Travelling south we decided to explore Port Douglas with someone having their eye on some resident vagrant Eclectus parrots. It didn’t take long before we found a very vocal female preparing her nest in a large paperbark tree. 

During our time in Port Douglas we also found Great-crested terns, dusky moorhens, Pacific reef herons and a little egret.  

After a feed of nachos for lunch we made our way back to Cairns with one goal in mind, that Kingfisher that got away.  We prepared ourselves for an onslaught of mozzies and sandflies then walked over to the nearby mangroves. Instantly we heard the call of the Torresian Kingfisher but it took us over 20 minutes before a pair flew to the edge of the Mangroves system, calling proudly in front of us. Another lifer ticked for some before we settled down for the night.  

Day 9. Tuesday 12 July 2021. Mt Lewis area, Cairns. My choice for today involved a day up in the famous Mount Lewis, in search of the remaining Wet Tropics endemics. 

Leaving Cairns we travelling north along the coast road with the Rainforest on one side and the reef on the other, with glorious views on either side.  

We made our way up to the high altitude rainforest of foggy Jullaten. Climbing through the fog we continued higher and higher in altitude into the famous Mount Lewis. It was tough conditions with the weather today but we still managed to find yellow throated scrubwren, Atherton scrubwren, Mountain thornbill and an incredible sighting of a family of Chowchillas.  

After leaving Mount Lewis I threw in a surprise by taking the group to see a friend who runs a local wildlife care centre. We began driving to her property when we pulled up under some large gum trees and had some lunch. While chowing on some food we were surrounded with birdlife including a great bowerbird, an Australian Hobby and some white-naped honeyeaters. 

We then went and visited and had the pleasure of meeting some birds of prey that are currently in care after receiving injuries. Some of the residents in care included a Rufous owl, a southern boobook owl, Papuan frogmouth and a nankeen kestrel. We spent two hours there learning all about Raptor care and rehabilitation, this was a truly invaluable opportunity.  

As the afternoon crept up on us we travelled back towards Cairns via a coastal woodland walk that delivered Lovely Fairywrens, Varied Triller, Striated Pardalote, a Fan-tailed cuckoo and numerous honeyeater species.  

The day was coming to an end so we made our way back to Cairns where we enjoyed dinner at one Cairns’ finest Italian restaurants and of course an ice-cream dessert while laughing, chatting and sharing our favourite moments from the past 8 days.  

In total we managed to find 196 bird species with 11 of the 13 Wet Tropics endemics with the Tooth-billed Bowerbird and Fernwren the only endemics that eluded us.  

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