Queensland Wet Tropics Tour

Golden Bowerbird - Photograph Jonathan Munro - Inala Nature Tours
Golden Bowerbird - Photograph Jonathan Munro - Inala Nature Tours
8 days
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.

PLEASE ENQUIRE - 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


Day 1.
 Arrive Cairns. Accommodation: Cairns.
Day 2. Explore Cairns area. Accom: Cairns.
Day 3. Cairns to Atherton Tablelands. Accom: Atherton Tablelands.
Day 4. Atherton Tablelands. Accom: Atherton Tablelands.
Day 5. Atherton Tablelands. Accom: Atherton Tablelands.
Day 6. Atherton Tablelands to Daintree. Accom: Daintree River.
Day 7. Daintree River Cruise return Cairns. Accom: Cairns.
Day 8. Depart Cairns. 
B- breakfast; L- lunch; D-dinner. 

Day 1. Arrival in Cairns.
On arrival in Cairns you will transfer through to the hotel. Tonight you will meet your guide and the rest of the group for a welcome dinner and a brief orientation. Depending on group arrival details and availability there may be an option for a short excursion this afternoon.
Accommodation: Cairns (en suite hotel room). Meals included: D.

Day 2. Cairns area.
There is plenty to see in and around Cairns. A wealth of tropical habitats here supports one of the richest assemblages of birds and wildlife in Australia. Not far from the town centre are the Botanical Gardens with adjoining wetlands and conservation areas, offering a fine mix of water and bush birds. Australian Brush Turkey, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Superb and Wompoo Fruit-Doves, Double-eyed Fig Parrot, Australasian Figbird, Black Butcherbird, Green Oriole, the stunning Noisy Pitta and Lovely Fairy-wren may all been seen here as might Spectacled Flying Fox. In the wetlands of the area we will search for Comb-crested Jacana, Radjah Shelduck, Green Pygmy Geese, White-browed Crake and the handsome Crimson Finch. Nearby mangrove habitat is home to Mangrove Robin, Shining Flycatchers and the odd looking Beach Stone-Curlew. After a rewarding first day in the wet tropics, we will make the journey back to our hotel to freshen up before dinner.
Accommodation: Cairns (en suite hotel room). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 3. Cairns to the Atherton Tablelands.
This morning we will leave the hotel early to explore for the stately, but bizarre, Southern Cassowary. This unearthly looking bird spends much of the time searching the forest floor for fallen fruit, fungi and invertebrates and, amazingly enough, has been known to swim and hunt fish! While large and conspicuous, Southern Cassowary can be surprisingly elusive, and the early hours of the morning are best time to look for it. In the area we may also see Black-faced Monarch and Graceful and Yellow-spotted Honeyeater. We will then leave coastal Cairns and make our way west to the tablelands, stopping at a number of sites on the way. In areas of farmland we may see Brolga and Sarus Crane. In the afternoon, we will arrive at our accommodation for the next three nights. The lodge, set in lush rainforest brimming with birds and wildlife, is adjacent to Crater Lake National Park, and is a fantastic base from which to explore the riches of the area.
Accommodation: Lodge in the Atherton Tablelands (en suite hotel room). Meals included: B, L, D.

Days 4 & 5. Atherton Tablelands.
We have a full two days to explore the variety of habitats in the area. We don’t have to go far however to enjoy a marvellous array of tropical species; right within the lodge grounds we may find Wompoo and Superb Fruit Dove, Spotted Catbird, Tooth-billed Bowerbird, White-throated Treecreeper, Macleay’s and Bridled Honeyeater, Yellow-breasted Boatbill, the stunning Victoria’s Riflebird and, by night, Sooty Owl! Several mammals may also be seen at our lodgings including the endearing Long-nosed Bandicoot, Sugar Glider, Northern Striped Possum and Red-legged Pademelon. The tapestry of farmland, woodland and rainforest are a delight to explore, offering a wonderful cross-section of wildlife. In open areas we may see our national bird, Emu, and gallant looking Australian Bustard, while rainforest areas are home to the gaudy Golden Bowerbird, Chowchilla, Fernwren, Bower’s Shrike-thrush and Atherton Scrub-wren. There will also be an opportunity to take a night tour further afield in search of more of the range-restricted endemic mammals in the area which include Green, Lemuroid and Herbert River Ringtail Possums, Coppery-tailed Possums and Lumholtz’s Tree Kangaroo.
Accommodation: Lodge in the Atherton Tablelands (en suite hotel room). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 6. Atherton Tablelands to the Daintree.
This morning we will make an early start, in the hope of finding one of Australia’s most incredible creatures, Platypus! We will then wend our way north towards the Daintree and, while today is a travel day, there is plenty to see en route. We will make a stop or two at a few wetlands where Green Pygmy Geese, Radjah Shelduck, Gull-billed Tern and Black-winged Stilt may be seen. We may also make a stop at Granite Gorge where we hope to enjoy encounters with Squatter Pigeon and the Mareeba Rock Wallaby. Additional species we may see on our journey today include Red-winged Parrot, Red-tailed Black-cockatoo and the chunky Blue-faced Honeyeater. In the late afternoon, we will arrive at our accommodations set on the banks of the fabled Daintree River.
Accommodation: Daintree River (en suite cabins). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 7. Daintree to Cairns.
This morning we will enjoy a boat cruise on the Daintree River where we may enjoy sightings of Azure and Little Kingfisher, Large-billed Gerygone, Varied Triller, Shining Flycatcher 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 and White-breasted Woodswallow. 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 (en suite hotel room). Meals included: B, L,D.

Day 8. Depart Cairns.
This morning the tour will end after breakfast at our hotel. Some of you may however want to extend you stay in the area and enjoy trip to the Great Barrier Reef today (not included in the tour cost). The stunning Michaelmas Cay is just 40km north east of Cairns and offers an array of tropical seabirds and a great section of unspoilt reef where you can enjoy a snorkel. We will happily arrange this outing for you or put you in touch with the service provider. Those guests linking up with Inala’s Red Centre Tour (5-10 July), are recommended to fly to Alice Springs today.
Meals included: B.


Cost: Please enquire

Price includes: All accommodation as per the itinerary, specialist guide and transport, meals, entrance fees and activities as mentioned in the itinerary (except the trip to the Great Barrier Reef on the final day).

Price does not include: International and domestic 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.

For the trip report from the 2017 Cape York Tour that leads into the Wet Tropics Tour click here


Wet Tropics Specials Tour - Trip Report 2017 - Run 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.