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australia atherton tablelands birding

This 6-day Queensland adventure includes the Great Barrier Reef, the Kuranda Rainforest rail, and 3 days in the wildlife rich habitats of Atherton Tablelands. Ideal for those interested in experiencing the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef, and building up a list of birds and unique Australian wildlife. Expert naturalist guiding included!

2023 Departure Dates & Cost

Private departure on a daily basis are available for 2 or more persons

Tour cost: $1,745 CAD / $ 1,430 USD per person based on twin share

Consider an epic East coast cruise for 18 - 39 year olds

Other extensions available in Australis, New Zealand and the South Pacific


Day 1: Arrive Cairns

australia catherine evans great barrier reed diving

Arrive Cairns. Balance of the day at leisure. Accommodation: CAIRNS PLAZA HOTEL or similar (2 nights)

Day 2: Great Barrier Reef (B,L)

Today you will be taken to the wharf to spend the day on the Great Barrier Reef. One of the world’s largest sailing catamaran takes us to the Outer Great Barrier Reef. On the way out there will be on-board educational presentations by trained biologists. Once at the reef, there is a coral cay to wander about and a choice of ways to explore the reef, guided snorkelling, optional scuba diving, or a semi-submersible for fish and coral viewing. A wonderful seafood lunch is provided before returning to Cairns under sail. Do not forget to bring your bathers, towel, sun hat, and sunscreen. This trip will either be on the Ocean Spirit (out of Cairns) or the Wave Dancer (out of Port Douglas).

Includes: Morning and afternoon tea, tropical smorgasbord lunch, snorkel equipment, use of lycra suit, glass bottom boat coral viewing, marine biologist presentation and guided beach walk. Please bring your camera, Swimming costume and beach towel, Hat, sunscreen and shirt for sun protection, Cash for drinks at the bar, Credit cards for souvenirs, Underwater cameras available for purchase, Underwater digital cameras available to hire at additional charge. You might wish to leave your main luggage behind at the hotel and travel light to Atherton.

Day 3: Cairns - Atherton Tablelands (B,L)

australia atherton tableland birding6:30 am pick up from the hotel to travel up the panoramic Gilles highway while witnessing the dramatic changes in habitats as we gain altitude. Enjoy beautiful views of Goldsborough Valley from the Heales lookout. Other stops enroute. This is a private tour with expert naturalist guide. Learn about the history, flora and fauna of the region with a bird and wildlife expert. A myriad of plants, birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals are found in the region including green ring-tailed possum, long-nosed bandicoots, leaf-tailed geckos, bioluminescent mushrooms and various tree frogs.

While there’s never any guarantee for sightings, and there is no fixed itinerary or route the driver guide follows, on a general wildlife tour, they try to get Lumholtz’s Tree Kangaroo, Platypus, Musky Rat-kangaroo, a few lizards (e.g. Boyd’s Forest Dragon), and of course birds with some Wet Tropics endemic birds and visiting Cranes, etc. We will mainly visit upland rainforest in some national parks, and drive to several sites where we will do short walks in (mainly) rainforest.

Quick stop to pick up supplies for making dinner at the summit. Full cooking and BBQ available. Pick up the keys from the main office and drive to the retreat centre. 5:30 pm drop off. Lunch is not included but the guide will stop at a restaurant. Some snacks are suggested to bring with you.


Summit Rainforest Retreat is a home-away-from home. Spacious, clean, rustic rooms makes it a great place to base yourself. Wake to a chorus of native bird life and enjoy breakfast served on the upper deck. The views are magnificent, looking down on Atherton Township, which is nestled in an emerald valley. The mist-enshrouded mountains, with tropical sunlight glistening on their exposed peaks in the morning, are a delight to behold. The hotel caters for singles, couples and small groups who are travelling and exploring this beautiful part of the world. Owned and operated as a friendly – family business. Accommodation: The Summit Rainforest Retreat / Majestic room twin – 3 nights

Day 4: Atherton Tablelands (B,L)

Day at leisure in Atherton. Enjoy the conservation area that surround the summit lodging. Unwind with a good book. Visit the town and pick up wine or supplies for cooking dinner or using the BBQ. Or there are several local walks that can be done. There are many restaurants in the town of Atherton.

Day 5: Atherton Tablelands (B,L)

australia kelvin marshall wallabies 400x260

A private wildlife day with expert naturalist. An early start from the Summit to Hasties Swamp for birdwatching. Hasties swamp is a large seasonal wetland renowned for its diverse range of resident and migrant birds. Over 220 species have been identified and a large bird hide is present on the site. Hasties includes an aquatic environment of open water, reeds, muddy edges (dress accordingly) and sedge land. The open eucalypt forest surrounding the swamp is a striking contrast to the lush rainforest found elsewhere on the tablelands. Return to the Summit for breakfast (or you may wish to bring breakfast to eat in the field. Talk to your guide).

After a short rest, we will head to Wongable State forest which protects an endangered type of forest known as Mabi forest. Here, in 1903, red cedar seedlings were planted in the forest to replace mature trees that had been logged. Commercial planting of hoop, kauri and Caribbean pine now grow beside the native forest. Wongabel is a great opportunity to enjoy the regions birdlife. We often see endemic birds such as the grey-headed robin, tooth-billed bowerbirds and bowers shrike-thrush. We will have lunch a Jacques Coffee situated at the centre of the coffee plantation with 85000 Arabica trees on rich soils. Enjoy lunch. There is a small gift shop here. After lunch head to a secret location (on private property) known to local wildlife guides and birdwatchers. Return to your accommodation.

Day 6: Atherton - Cairns (B)

After breakfast transfer provided to the bus stop for the local bus to Kuranda “The Village in the Rainforest” and visit the butterfly sanctuary. In the afternoon take a scenic rail journey back to the coast. The train departs at 2:00 pm. Begin in the highlands and descend past waterfalls and cane fields to end the train trip in Cairns.  When the train is not in operation, the transfer will be by road. 

Accommodation for this night not included but can be added. 


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Toll Free: 1.800.690.7887
or 604.886.7300

BC Registration 3401

404 - 999 Canada Place
Vancouver BC, V6C 3E2, Canada

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