Exploring North Queensland and the Daintree Region is legendary among birders, with so many species ranking off the charts for color, beauty, and song. This is a lush coastal area that combines mountain, rainforest, and ocean birding in Australia’s most fertile area. The driving routes are spectacular and not long, so you have plenty of field time to take it all in. Interspersed with forest and coastal walks are boat trips and an ocean cruise to experience the Great Barrier Reef.

The Cairns Botanic Garden is extensive, housing one of the best tropical plant collections in the world. While Cairns is a bustling and vibrant city, the Atherton Tablelands and Daintree are rural, with quaint, small villages hosting artist studios, renowned wood-carvers, coffee and tea shops, and parks. Crater Lakes National Park preserves two clear-water volcanic lakes and pristine montane rainforest with specialty species including rare mammals. This tour can be a stand-alone for those exploring Australia or is perfect to combine with our Papua New Guinea Trip, adding many exciting species.

Tour Highlights

  • Birdwatch in one of the world’s most special places with a fabulous array of species
  • Enjoy spectacular coastal scenery driving north from Cairns to Daintree
  • Spot shorebirds from the Cairns Esplanade
  • Visit the world-famous Cairns Botanic Gardens, also a birding hotspot
  • Walk a boardwalk trail through giant trees observing birds and ancient Gondwana plant species
  • Discover rare mammals on a night spotlighting trip
  • Stay in forest cottages in the Tablelands, totally surrounded by lush trees and bird song
  • Cruise the Daintree River spotting kingfishers and crocodiles
  • Experience the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef on an all-day cruise

Trip Itinerary

Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary may occur to account for weather, road conditions, closures, etc. and to maximize your experience.

Sun., July 7 : Arrivals in Cairns

Arrive no later than today in Cairns, Australia (CNS). This ocean-front city is backed by lush green mountains, an impressive place to arrive! Settle into your accommodations this afternoon and rest up from travels.

At 6:30 PM join your guide and travel companions for a welcome dinner and orientation.
Accommodations in Cairns (D)

Mon., July 8 : Birding the Local Cairns Area

After breakfast, we take a walk along Cairn’s waterfront Esplanade. This park has lovely flowering trees and in them we look for local bird specialties like Varied Honeyeater, Torresian Imperial Pigeon, Rainbow Lorikeet, Mangrove Robin, Torresian Kingfisher, Rose-crowned Fruit-dove, and Olive-backed Sunbird.

The park also faces the ocean, so we can scan for shorebirds out on the extensive mudflats here, finding species 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. This is a great time of year for migratory waders and seabirds and we have a chance to return here based on timing of tides.

Nearby, the renowned Cairns Botanic Gardens hold several different species and we 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. This garden has outstanding tropical plant collections—more extensive than one visit can do justice to but we begin today! The Gondwana Heritage Garden and Rainforest Boardwalk are both fabulous introductions to places we visit during our tour. The Bamboo collection is extensive, and the freshwater lake always attracts a host of birds.

Late in the afternoon we visit a local park to see whether the resident pair of Rufous Owl is in residence. Enjoy sunset and dinner at a local restaurant.
Accommodation in Cairns (B,L,D)

Tues., July 9 : Cairns to Atherton Tablelands

After a pre-breakfast walk, we head south of Cairns to look for one of Australia’s most amazing and 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 head up towards the famous Atherton Tablelands, where with a few road-side stops we should pick up birds like Yellow-spotted and 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. The Tablelands are about an hour’s drive up the Gillies Range from Cairns.

Reaching our destination for the next four nights near the Crater Lakes National Park we 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.
Accommodations in cabins at a forest lodge near Crater Lakes National Park (B,L,D)

Wed., July 10 – Fri., July 12 : Birding Hotspots of the Atherton Tablelands

Over the next few days, using our base near Crater Lakes National Park, we explore the wide variety of habitats that are within our reach here on the Atherton Tablelands. This is a charming area, with many artist studios and quaint towns dotting the agricultural and wildland setting.

With high altitude rainforest, tropical savannah woodlands, grassland and agricultural fields, wetlands, and swamps to explore, we look at wetland and open area birds like Brolga, Sarus Crane, Great Crested Grebe, Plumed Whistling-Duck, Nankeen Night-heron, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, White-necked Heron, Black-necked Stork, and Buff-banded Rail.

In forested areas of the Atherton Tablelands and the parks two sections (Lake Eacham and Lake Barrine) we look for a host of specialities including 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 and Brown Gerygones, Mountain Thornbill, Chowchilla, Bower’s Shrike-thrush, Double-eyed Fig-Parrot, Black-faced, Pied, Spectacled, and White-eared Monarchs, Shining Bronze-cuckoo, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, and Grey-headed Robin. Marvel at massive Kauri “pines” amid this fascinating and rainforest and enjoy a boat trip on Lake Barrine.

Mammals in the area we 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. Some mammals are best seen on night walks with spotlighting.

Our meals are at the lodge, some picnic lunches, and in local restaurants as we explore the area.
Accommodations at a forest lodge near Crater Lakes National Park (B,L,D)

Sat., July 13 : Atherton Tablelands to Daintree

After a final morning’s birding in the rainforest looking for any bird species we may still be missing, we 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. We drive north along the coast, making stops to explore forested areas, including some patches with ancient Gondwana species. Views of the coast are superlative!

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 and 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 is the delightful Daintree River area and our accommodations overlook this iconic waterway, where the following morning we take an early cruise.

You may never want to leave Daintree! Settled by timber-cutters in the 1870s, today this artisan community is surrounded by fruit farms, small sustainable cattle farms, and pristine rainforest so prized by visiting birders. Local craftsmen are known for their wood-carving. The Daintree River flows through town, along with verdant local gardens attracting both birds and butterflies.

Our meals while here are at delightful local restaurants with some picnic lunches.
Accommodations in cabins at Daintree Village (B,L,D)

Sun., July 14 : Daintree River Cruise | Return to Cairns

This morning we enjoy a special birding boat cruise on the Daintree River where we should find both Azure and 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 and 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.

Reptiles to see include some huge Saltwater Crocodile, Amethystine Python, and possibly Common Tree Snake. The waterway lets us safely explore a lush tropical realm!

We then make our way back to Cairns where, depending on what species we have yet to see, we spend the rest of the afternoon exploring as we drive south along the scenic coast.
Accommodations in Cairns (B,L,D)

Mon., July 15 : Great Barrier Reef

This morning we depart from Cairns and heads out by fast boat (about three hours) to the world-famous Great Barrier Reef. Here we anchor and in quiet waters where we have the opportunity to do a bit of snorkelling or just enjoy the vista that makes up this amazing natural wonder.

On the boat cruise, we also make a stop at Michaelmas Cay where there are thousands of breeding terns, noddies, and boobies. We look for Brown Booby, Great Crested, Sooty, Bridled, Lesser Crested, Black-naped, and Roseate Terns, Common and Black Noddies, Great and 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 and Red-tailed Tropicbirds and Masked and Red-footed Boobies.

Tonight, participants joining the main Papua New Guinea tour that our route is designed to pair with arrive and join the group for dinner. Share your exciting sightings of the past week as we prepare for part two of a grand adventure!
Accommodation in Cairns (B,L,D)

Tues., July 16 : Departures from Cairns

Book your international flights out today at leisure. (B)

  • Blue-faced Parrotfinch, Australia, Queensland's Wet Tropics, Australia Wildlife Tour, Parrot
  • Sugar Glider, Australia, Queensland's Wet Tropics, Australia Wildlife Tour, Parrot
  • Comb-crested Jacana, Australia, Queensland's Wet Tropics, Australia Wildlife Tour, Parrot
  • Double-eyed Fig Parrot, Australia, Queensland's Wet Tropics, Australia Wildlife Tour, Parrot

Cost of the Journey

Cost of the journey is $5790 DBL / $6605 SGL per person, based on double occupancy, from Cairns. Tour cost includes accommodation 9 nights of the tour (one overlaps the start for those going on to PNG), specialist guiding and transport as outlined in the itinerary, all meals (B,L,D) and activities outlined in the itinerary (including the Great Barrier Reef trip and Daintree River cruise), National Park entry fees, GST (=VAT) taxes. Cost does not include round-trip International airfares to Cairns (CNS), drinks from the bar (alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages) and expenses of a personal nature (phone, snacks, internet, laundry, tips etc). *Referenced price is based on exchange rate on 11/14/23. Subject to change if there is more than a 5% increase.

Travel Details

Please plan to make air travel plans only after the minimum group size has been met. We will send you a confirmation email as soon as the trip has been confirmed.

Arrival and Departure Airport: Cairns Airport (CNS)

Arrival Details: Please plan flights to arrive July 7, 2024 in time for a 6:30 PM welcome dinner. 

Departure Details: Please plan flight departures on July 16, 2024 at your leisure.

Travel Tips: If you arrive early to rest up from your travels, you can book an early night at our first night tour hotel, the Holiday Inn Cairns Harbourside. You can book online and send us the confirmation number, with the goal being you won’t have to switch rooms. We’ll explore Cairns a bit on our tour, but there are still plenty of things to see! There are many beautiful beaches around Cairns for the ultimate in relaxation. If you want to learn more about marine life, the Cairns Aquarium showcases animals and habitats endemic to Tropical North Queensland. With over 16,000 animals, 9 different ecosystems, and a turtle rehabilitation center, there is plenty to explore. The aquarium is a 20-minute walk from the hotel or a quick ride in a taxi or Uber. If you want to stretch your legs after the long flight, the Cairns Esplanade path is right in front of the hotel and goes along Cairns Harbour.

Visa Requirements: US residents traveling to Australia are required to have an electronic travel authority visa (eTA), which can be applied for online here.

Items of Note

Book both this tour and our tour to Papua New Guinea and receive a $200 discount per person.

Meals and drinks: Breakfast generally consists of a continental style breakfast with cereal, fruit and yogurt and tea/coffee. Full cooked breakfast is not generally offered at most locations. Lunch generally consists 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 appetizer or dessert. Drinks (soft and alcoholic) are generally not included but at lunches and breakfasts juice may be made available.

The itinerary: While 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.

Map for Australia: Queensland’s Wet Tropics

Essential Information +

This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have Read more

This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have the best experience possible. If you only read one section, this one is key!

Ahead of Your Tour

  • U.S. citizens must have a passport that is in good condition and at minimum is valid at the time of entry through your scheduled return to the U.S. We suggest at least 3 months validity beyond end of tour to allow for unexpected delays in return travel. 
  • A visa is required for U.S. travelers. See important details in the Passport & Visa section below. If you are from another country, please contact the Embassy of Australia website for guidelines.
  • Please check current CDC recommendations for travel to Australia and consult with your doctor about general travel vaccinations you should have as precaution for travel. See the “General Health and Inoculations” section below.
  • Travel insurance in case of serious medical emergency is strongly recommended. Full health coverage and repatriation is available through Allianz Travel Insurance.
  • Plan your flight reservations arriving into and departing from Cairns International Airport (CNS). Send a copy of your itinerary to the Naturalist Journeys office please.
  • Soft sided luggage/duffel bags are easiest for packing the vans. Pack essential medications in your carry-on luggage, as well as one day of clothing and optics in case of luggage delay.

Arrival into Cairns International Airport (CNS)

Please note. If you are delayed in travel, please FIRST call the number of our Australia operator and as backup call our office, or the staff person indicated in our list of contacts, as an emergency contact. Quite a few of your guides will set up a WhatsApp connection so you can also reach your guide by phone.

The arrival airport for this tour is the Cairns International Airport (CNS). Please plan arrivals for no later than 6:30 PM on the first day of the tour. Your operator and/or guide will have your travel information and will pick you up at the airport. This ocean-front city is backed by lush green mountains, an impressive place to arrive! Settle into your accommodations this afternoon and rest up from travels. Please note that at the time of writing, face masks are encouraged but not required for all passengers on international flights into Australia.

Please check the Travel Details section of this tour for additional information and updates.

Departures from Cairns International Airport (CNS)

The departure airport for this tour is the Cairns International Airport (CNS). You may plan your departure at your leisure on the final day of the tour. Please do keep in mind that you have to be at the airport about three hours ahead of your scheduled international flight on this return, so we do not advise booking early morning flights; late-morning is fine. We will provide transfers or arrange for taxis to the airport for all departures as needed for the departure day.

Those continuing to Papua New Guinea (highly recommended!) will take a group flight to Mt. Hagan to start birding the highlands.

Please check the Travel Details section of this tour for additional information and updates.

Passports, Visas & Documents

Guidelines and regulations can change. It is always advisable to double-check documentation requirements 60-90 days ahead of traveling. Information for U.S. citizens can be found at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Australia.html. If you are from another country, please contact the Australia embassy website for guidelines.

At the time of writing, to enter Australia, U.S. citizens must have a passport that is in good condition and at minimum is valid at the time of entry through your scheduled return to the U.S. We highly suggest at least 3 months validity beyond the end of the tour to allow for unexpected delays in return travel. You should have at least one blank page per stamp. The blank pages need to say “Visas” at the top. Pages marked “Amendments and Endorsements” will not be accepted. We advise that you bring your eContact list of hotels for use at immigration as well.

A visa is required for U.S. travelers to Australia. There are several different subclasses of visas, so be sure to look at the requirements of each. Australia’s Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) Subclass 601 visa is a temporary visa for travelers with an eligible passport to stay up to 3 months at a time per year. It requires minimal paperwork and costs AUD $20. Be sure to apply with sufficient time for your visa to be processed before your departure date.

As a precaution for lost or misplaced documents you carry on your person during travel, we highly recommend you keep hard and digital backup copies on your phone (either photo or PDF scan), as well as a hard copy left with your emergency contact at home. The recommended important documents to copy include, but are not limited to; your passport ID page, travel visa, the front and back of your credit card(s), the airline barcode on your luggage. This will greatly expedite getting new ones if necessary – we hope everyone will always keep travel documents close so that losing them will not be an issue.

General Health & Inoculations Information – Be Prepared!

Health requirements for entry to any country can change. It is always advisable to double-check the country’s health requirements and recommendations 60-90 days ahead of traveling. A helpful website for planning is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for Australia or by phone (800) CDC-INFO or (800) 232-4636.

We will share your health information with your guide. This information will be kept confidential but is very important as we want to be best prepared in case of medical emergency. 

Vaccinations: Bring your up-to-date vaccination records with you. At the time of writing there were no required vaccinations to enter Australia. However, the CDC recommends that all travelers be up to date with routine vaccinations and basic travel vaccines (such as Hepatitis A and Typhoid) before traveling to any destination. Please check with your doctor for recommendations at least 4-6 weeks before departing on your trip. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) webpage for Australia is helpful for planning or contact them by phone at (800) CDC-INFO or (800) 232-4636.

Prescriptions: It is a good idea to pack any meds you take regularly in your carry-on luggage.  Bring an extra pair of glasses or contact lenses. Bring an adequate supply of any prescription medications you use, a copy of the prescription and a list of generic names of your medicines as “back-up” in case it is necessary to purchase drugs while abroad. You’ll want to keep medications in their original, labeled containers. 

Allergies: To be prepared for environmental triggers to allergies or breathing difficulties, please bring your allergy and/or asthma medication(s).  If you have severe allergies talk to your doctor about carrying an EPI pen and notify your guides. It is also recommended to carry with you an up-to-date record of known allergies, chronic medical problems and Medic Alerts so that, if necessary, emergency treatment can be carried out without endangering your health.

Common Ailments: We recommend that you bring a travel-sized first aid kit and a supply of standard over-the-counter medications for prevention or treatment of common ailments (such as diarrhea, constipation, stomach upset, cough, congestion, head or body aches, motion sickness, insect bites and sunburn); as well as ointments, moisturizer, sunscreen, oral rehydration salts, band-aids, moleskin for blisters, cotton swabs, nail clippers, and tweezers, etc.

Altitude sickness: If high altitude will be encountered on your trip, it can affect some and, if there is a concern, be prepared. The most general symptoms are headache and occasionally fatigue and dizziness. You’ll want to take it easy, particularly at first. The likelihood of these symptoms can be reduced by resting, drinking plenty of water, avoiding alcohol and taking aspirin. If you have worries about the altitude, ask your physician about medications (such as Diamox) that may be right for you. For more information, see https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2024/environmental-hazards-risks/high-elevation-travel-and-altitude-illness.

Weather & Climate

The climate of Queensland is sub-tropical and is divided into two distinct seasons: the wet and humid season from October to May, and the relatively drier season from June to September. Year-round, the average temperature hovers around a pleasant 85°F. In the mornings and at night, the temperatures can drop into the high 60s or 70s. Though the tour will be visiting the area during the dry season, rainfall is always a possibility. It is best to come prepared with raingear, that can also double as a windbreaker.

Annoyances & Hazards

You will want to protect yourself from the sun. Defend yourself with sunscreen with a high protection factor, sunglasses, clothing that covers your arms and legs, and a broad-brimmed hat that covers the back of your neck, ears, and face.

You will also want to prevent mosquitoes and bug bites. We don’t expect large numbers of insects since you will be traveling to Australia during the spring season, but it’s always good to be prepared. The CDC recommends using insect repellent that contains 20% or more DEET. They make wipes now that are very handy for quick application. Please, do not apply sunscreen or insect repellent inside the vehicles.

Please listen to your guide’s cautions about venomous reptiles and insect. Australia has a host of (fascinating) species of concern, though these are rare to encounter, some areas may require more precaution.

Food & Drinks

Water and food standards in Australia are like those in the U.S. Tap water is safe to drink and food in Australia should not cause any health issues. You will want to take water with you while out in the field to stay hydrated. We encourage refilling your bottles to use as little plastic as possible. There are water bottles now with filters that are great for travel.

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 is usually two course and consists of several options for main with the choice of either an appetizer or dessert. Drinks (soft and alcoholic) are generally not included but at lunches and breakfasts juice may be made available.

Packing, Clothing & Laundry

Dress is very informal and laundry services are available for a fee at our lodges. While some people will change for dinner, it is usually just to a drier or cleaner version of what they wore during the day. Again, the climate is warm to hot, so you will be comfortable in lightweight clothing.

Please, pack light. We are serious about this – we move around a lot; you just do not need much to cope with tropical life. Please do not bring anything more than you must. Lay out your hopeful things to take and then do a serious paring down! 

TRAVEL TIP: Imagine NOT getting your suitcase. Wear your most important shoes for the field and have one day’s clothing change (including a change of underwear!). And please DO NOT pack any essential medications, or your vital optics, in your checked luggage!

Spending Money

People often ask how much spending money to bring. Part of the answer depends on how much you want to shop. Typical items people purchase include: local souvenirs and T-shirts, opals jewelry, Akubra hats, boomerangs, Aboriginal artworks, maps, and natural history books. There are MANY temptations in Australia.

The official currency of Australia is the dollar. Its value differs from the U.S. dollar. U.S. dollars are not legal currency and will not be an acceptable form of payment. For the current exchange rate, please refer to online converter tool like www.xe.com, or your bank. We advise you carry a mix of different types of payments, such as the local currency, an ATM card, and a credit card.

You may wish to exchange money before you leave on your trip. You can do so through your bank or an exchange office. Possible locations are your departing airport in the U.S., a travel agent, or a AAA office. It might be helpful to arrive with some local currency just in case you run in an “out of order” ATM or a local bank holiday.

You can also exchange your money in Australia. The easiest way is to withdraw funds from a local ATM. ATMs are widely available throughout Australia and will typically offer you the best exchange rate. The ATM will give you local money and your bank will convert that into U.S. Dollars. Many banks charge a fee of $1 - $5 each time you use a foreign ATM. Others may charge you a percentage of the amount you withdraw. Check with your bank for departure. You must become familiar with how to use your ATM card and PIN number ahead of the journey. If you plan to exchange cash in country, bring large U.S. bill ($50 or $100) in good condition that will give you the better rate when exchanging to local currency.

Credit cards are commonly accepted throughout Australia. We suggest you have more than one card available, if possible. You may want to bring more than one brand of card (one Visa, and one MasterCard; American Express is less accepted, and Discover is not used). Not every shop will accept every card. Some smaller shops and restaurants require cash, so it is always a good idea to ask before making a purchase. Also, we recommend that you advise your bank or credit card company that you will be traveling to Australia to avoid questions, card freezes, or charges. If you have a choice of cards, bring one with no foreign exchange fees.

Traveler’s checks are not widely accepted. They can be difficult to exchange. We do not advise you use them.


Tipping throughout the tour is at your discretion. Some guidelines follow. At larger (mostly city) hotels, tip maids and bar service as you would at home. At eco-lodges, there is typically a staff tip box in a public area; the going rate per person is $6-$10 a day, which is shared among staff for maid service, and general staff service at the lodges. Gratuities for group meals are already included. Your Naturalist Journeys host will take care of smaller tips such field trip services by boat drivers, night drive outings, single activities. Your additional tip is encouraged for birding tour guides and drivers who are with you for several days or the full trip; $10-$15 per day per guest is standard for guide service, and half that for a driver. If you have more than one local guide at a location, they will share the daily amount. We encourage tipping for the local teams hosting you; anything extra for your Naturalist Journeys host is at your discretion.

Please note recommended tips are quoted in U.S. dollars. Tips for Australians should be converted and paid in Australian dollars.

Cell Phones & Internet Service

If you plan on using your cell phone on this trip, please check with your wireless provider to see if your phone and service will work in your destination country. Ask for “international roaming” to be turn on your phone. Or you can buy a local SIM card at the airport and insert this in your mobile phone (just make certain your phone can accept one). Renting an international phone may also be an option.

If your phone can connect to Wi-Fi, you may be able to make voice and video calls free of charge. Please contact your cell phone provider for further details. Another option if you have access to Wi-Fi, is to use smartphone apps like Skype, WhatsApp, or Viber to send text messages, and make voice calls, or video calls. Many smartphones, tablets, or laptops come with one of these apps pre-installed or you can download for free. If bringing a laptop or tablet, get a good dustcover to protect it at all times.

Make sure if you do NOT want to use your cell phone that you turn off your cellular data. You could incur huge charges if you are not on Wi-Fi. Putting your phone in airplane mode if you mainly use it for photos will save the battery as well.


The standard Australian voltage is 220/240 V and frequency is 50 Hz, using the power plug and socket type I, 3 pin system. The U.S. uses 110 V with plug and socket type A & B.

You will need a power plug adapter and a voltage converter (or make sure your devices can be used with 220/240 Volts). Adaptors can be purchased ahead of time, and are generally available at major airports. More information can be found at https://www.power-plugs-sockets.com/us/australia/.


The Queensland area of Australia observes Australian Eastern Standard time, with no daylight savings time. Check www.timeanddate.com before leaving home for your conversion.


Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at clientservices@naturalistjourneys.com or telephone us toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey!


Pace & Protocols +

Pace of the Tour & What to Expect You will receive a Schedule-at-a-Glance and list of Read more

Pace of the Tour & What to Expect

You will receive a Schedule-at-a-Glance and list of hotels (our eContact List) a few weeks before your departure. This will serve as an outline for each day and alert you to any recent changes made in the schedule or to our hotels, if needed.

Our journeys are set up to follow the rhythm of nature. Our focus is on birding and nature; we offer full, well-planned field days and often get up early for that magical time around dawn. We generally follow the published itinerary, but we stay flexible to the weather, wildlife opportunities and the interests of the group. Your guide will keep you apprised of the next day’s schedule at each evening meal, noting what to bring and what to prepare for. Questions and/or concerns are welcome.

The pace of our Naturalist Journeys tours is moderate; to fully participate you should be able to get in and out of vehicles several times a day, and walk 1-3 miles over uneven terrain. It is important to participate with a flexible attitude as adjustments may be made in our schedule to make the most of our time in the field or for other purposes at your guide's discretion. We are not a “listing” bird company that drills down on target species, but at times we do wait for those special species unique to the places we visit. During the day, we take time to stop for photos and for educational opportunities to learn about conservation projects, landscapes, and geology. We appreciate other taxa as well as birds, with mammals often the biggest draw but plants and butterflies are also very popular. Our clients often lend their own expertise to the mix.

We like to make meals a fun and memorable part of the experience, too. Breakfasts are often at hotels, and we carry snacks, fruit, and water in the vans each day. Lunches are a mix of picnics in the field (weather dependent) and a chance to dine with locals at small cafes and restaurants. For dinner, we pride ourselves in our homework to keep up with the best choices for dining, choosing restaurants with atmosphere that specialize in local foods. On occasion we keep dinner simple to go back out in the field for sunset wildlife viewing or night walks. In some remote locations, our choices are limited. If you are tired, room service for dinner may be an option you can choose.

Naturalist Journeys International Trips: Guide Role

Naturalist Journeys supports ecotourism and the development of excellent local guides. Once we know our international partners and guides well, we can send out small groups working directly with these trusted partners, adding a Naturalist Journeys guide to assist the local expert when we have a group of 6-7 or more. This helps us keep your costs down while retaining tour quality. The local guide is your main guide. You can expect your Naturalist Journeys guide to be well-researched and often they are experienced in the destination, but their role is not to be primary, it is to help to organize logistics, help you find birds, mammals, and interesting other species in the field, keep reports, help facilitate group interactions, and to keep the trip within Naturalist Journeys' style. Local guides live in the countries we travel to, know the destinations intimately, and are often the strongest force for conservation in their countries. They open many doors for us to have a rich experience.


Smoking is not permitted in any vehicle or in any situation where the group is participating in an activity together, such as a vehicle excursion or a guided walk. Please respect all designated smoking areas at hotels and restaurants.


As a courtesy to each other, we ask that all travelers please rotate seating. On international trips we may all be in one small bus, on some trips we are in vans, particularly the roomy Sprinter Vans when available. Some areas require us to be in smaller 4-wheel drive or safari vehicles. Rotation allows you to sit with different drivers and alternate front and back seating.

Photo Release & Sharing

We take many group photos and will share photos with the group. And after your tour, we will organize a chance to share photos via Dropbox or Google Photos. Please note that this is our policy and if you prefer to be excluded, we need to know ahead of your tour.

By registering for this tour, you agree to grant to Naturalist Journeys and its authorized representatives’ permission to record on photography film and/or video, pictures of my participation in the tour. You further agree that any or all of the material photographed may be used, in any form, as part of any future publications, brochure, or other printed materials used to promote Naturalist Journeys, and further that such use shall be without payment of fees, royalties, special credit or other compensation.

Travel Insurance

You are traveling in remote areas. Naturalist Journeys strongly recommends you have full medical and evacuation insurance from a company such as Allianz, for all international travel. If you do not have medical coverage or evacuation coverage on your existing travel insurance policy or for some reason elected not to take that out, we advise getting an evacuation plan with Global RescueWorld Nomads, Medjet, Allianz (they can do evacuation only) or a similar company. These plans are typically $300-$400 for a year for multiple destinations. This coverage may be a part of a larger Travel Insurance policy but can also be purchased on its own.


Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at clientservices@naturalistjourneys.com or telephone our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey.


Packing List +

Please pack light! Soft luggage is much easier for us to pack than a more rigid Read more

Please pack light!

Soft luggage is much easier for us to pack than a more rigid hard sided piece, so if you have the choice, please use your soft luggage. Be sure to have your name and address on the inside of the bag, as well as on the luggage tag on the handle. It is our hope that you can pack in one checked suitcase that does not exceed 45 pounds. Be sure to pack your personal medication, airline tickets, passport, binoculars, camera, and other essential items in your carry-on bag. You will want a day pack for field trips, so this is an ideal carry-on. Please reconfirm your airline’s baggage weight and size restrictions about a week or so before departure.

In general, the weather during your stay should be warm to hot (75-90°F), but at least 20° cooler in the early morning and evening. Check your favorite weather website like, www.weather.com, closer to your departure to better predict what the weather will be on your adventure.

Dress is comfortable and informal throughout the trip. Dressing in layers is the best way to be comfortable. Lightweight long-sleeved shirts and long pants make ideal field clothing as they are more protective from sun and vegetation. But if you like to wear them, by all means bring some shorts. Also, choose clothing you don’t mind getting dirty or muddy and things that are comfortable and easy.

Note on clothing colors and insect repellent: We recommend muted colors of tan, brown, khaki, grey or green, as they are spotted less easily than white or bright colors, though camouflage clothing is not recommended. It is possible to purchase field clothing permeated with insect repellent such as the Craghoppers Insect Shield collection. Another approach is to purchase Permethrin spray (online or from REI) to treat your field clothing and socks before your departure.

Clothing & Gear

  • Lightweight long pants, 2 pair
  • Lightweight long-sleeved shirts – 2 or 3
  • Shorts (optional)
  • T-shirts or equivalent (1 per every other day recommended – remember you may buy some there!)
  • Personal underclothing
  • Socks – lightweight and easy to wash and dry
  • Comfortable walking/hiking shoes such as tennis shoes
  • Lightweight hiking boots. Please note that forest trails will be on uneven terrain and may be muddy - good tread and support are essential!
  • Sandals for evenings, travel days, and for wearing on boats (optional, TEVA style are great)
  • Lightweight raincoat or poncho
  • Lightweight jacket, fleece fabric is ideal
  • Comfortable clothes for evening (a cleaner version of your field clothes or a skirt, sundress, etc.)
  • Bathing suit
  • Hat with broad brim
  • Bandana (optional, great for cooling off when you are hot and sweaty. They even make them with a gel inside for several hours of cooling.)
  • Field vest (optional), a great source is Big Pockets

Equipment & Miscellaneous

  • Airline tickets or e-ticket verification
  • Photo ID
  • Passport, visa (if required), travel insurance info, money & credit cards.
  • A secure pouch to carry the items above on your person at all times (such as a secure, under-clothing document pouch)
  • As a backup: copies of all the above (phone and/or paper) packed in a separate location than on your person, plus a set given to your emergency contact at home as a backup. For passport, copy of the  ID and entry stamp pages.
  • Small daypack or fanny pack for carrying your field gear
  • Umbrella – compact and not brightly colored
  • Walking stick – we find that many travelers appreciate a walking stick on trails, sporting goods stores carry collapsible models that pack easily in your suitcase (optional)
  • Small flashlight with fresh batteries
  • Alarm clock
  • Sunscreen/lip balm
  • Sunglasses with neck strap
  • Insect repellent (something containing DEET)
  • Toiletry articles
  • Binoculars
  • Spotting scope and tripod (optional)
  • Camera and extra batteries, memory cards, lens cleaning supplies and your instruction manual (optional)
  • Water bottle (or plan to refill one bought on location)
  • Notebook or journal and pen (optional)
  • Field guides (optional)
  • Laundry soap if you plan to do hand washing
  • Earplugs – in urban and even rural areas barking dogs and traffic noise can be annoying
  • Rechargeable power bank (optional)
  • Snorkeling gear if at a beach lodge (available on sight as a rental, additional cost. If a regular snorkeler, you will want to bring your own mask and snorkel, perhaps rent fins)


WE DO NOT RECOMMEND TRAVELING WITH PRECIOUS OR VALUABLE JEWELRY – don’t tempt anyone and don’t bring things you’d regret losing - your mind will be at ease!

Medical & First Aid Items

  • Heath insurance and vaccination records (kept in personal pouch with other travel documents)
  • Personal medications (and copy of vital prescriptions) and any medical alerts
  • Extra pair of eyeglasses or contacts and a copy of eyeglass prescription
  • Motion sickness preventatives if likely to be needed on bus, van drives, etc.
  • Personal first aid kit and medications for general ailments
  • Band-aids, moleskin to protect against blisters
  • Antibacterial soap in small container for quick handwashing


Suggested Reading List +

There are many titles of interest for Australia; the following are a few that we Read more

There are many titles of interest for Australia; the following are a few that we have enjoyed that can get you started.

Top Picks

The Australian Bird Guide

Merlin App – Australia All Pack. A phone-based birding app from Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology. Before departing the U.S., download the app for free, then from within the app, download the “pack” for Australia All.

Field Guides 

Regional Field Guide to Birds – Central East Coast and Ranges 

A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Australia 

The Field Guide to the Bird of Australia

Field Guide to the Birds of Australia 

The Slater Field Guide to Australian Birds 

Field Guide to Australian Birds

A Naturalist’s Guide to the Mammals of Australia  

A Naturalist’s Guide to the Reptiles of Australia 

Wildflowers of Australia and Oceania

History & Culture

Where Song Began

Chasing Kangaroos: A Continent, a Scientist, and a Search for the World’s Most Extraordinary Creature

In a Sunburned Country

A Traveller’s History of Australia

Australia – Culture Smart! The Essential Guide to the Customs & Culture


Pizzey and Knight Birds of Australia: https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/pizzey-and-knight-birds-of-australia/id714625973?mt=8

The Morcombe & Stewart Guide to Birds of Australia: https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/the-morcombe-stewart-guide-to-birds-of-australia/id397979505?mt=8

Your guide will also have a selection of reference books and materials for participants to share. As an Amazon Associate, Naturalist Journeys earns from qualifying purchases, and may get commissions for purchases made through links on this page at no added cost to you.


Useful Links +

Learn more about your destination at these external websites, carefully researched for you. Read more


Encyclopedic Overviews 

Nature, Wildlife & Biology

Queensland Bird Checklists

Species of Queensland – iNaturalist.org

Cairns Checklist

Atherton Tablelands

Species of Great Barrier Reef Region – iNaturalist.org

Southern Cassowary

Great-billed Heron

Mammals of the Wet Tropics

Conservation, Parks & Reserves

Birdlife Australia

Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland

“To Save Its Remarkable Nature, Queensland, Australia Commits Millions of Dollars for Conservation” – Article, Pewtrusts.org

Wet Tropics of Queensland

Wet Tropics Management Authority

Cairns Botanic Gardens

Crater Lakes National Park

The Daintree Rainforest – Rainforest Rescue

Daintree National Park

Geology & Geography

Atherton Tablelands

Queensland Tropical Rainforests

Geology of the Wet Tropics

Daintree River

Great Barrier Reef

History & Culture

Cairns Indigenous Culture and History

Cairns Art and Culture (with link to map of locations)

Indigenous Heritage of the Wet Tropics of Queensland

Wet Tropic’s valued landscape is thanks to the Stewardship of the Rainforest Aboriginal Peoples

Helpful Travel Websites

Cairns International Airport (CNS)

National Passport Information Center

Homeland Security Real ID Act

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

U.S. Department of State International Travel Information – Australia

Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) - Australia

Canada Travel Advice and Advisories - Australia

Travel Health Pro (UK) - Australia

Foreign Exchange Rates

ATM Locator

Electricity and Plugs - Australia

Date, Time, and Holidays – Cairns, Australia

Photo credits: Banner: Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Radjah Shelduck, David Clode on Unsplash; Flying Fox by Alex Vargo; Blue-faced Honeyeater, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Splendid Fairy Wren by Greg Smith; Koala by Alex Vargo; Great Barrier Reef, by Carles Rabada on Unsplash; Rainbow Lorikeet, Photo by Trevor McKinnon on Unsplash; Southern Cassowary, Photo by Luca Ambrosi on Unsplash; Victoria's Riflebird, via shutterstock; Radjah Shelduck, Photo by David Clode on Unsplash; Eastern Gray Kangaroo, Alex Vargo (ALVA); Grey-headed Flying fox, ALVA; Australian Bustard; Naturalist Journeys Stock; Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove, Pat Kelly (PAKE); Southern Cassowary, photo by Luca Ambrosi on Unsplash; Rainbow Lorikeet, photo by Nelson Tavares on Unsplash; White-tailed Tropicbird, Sandy Sorkin (SS); Victoria’s Riflebird, shutterstock; Blue-faced Parrotfinch by Alfred Schulte; Sugar Glider, ALVA; Comb-crested Jacana by Pat Kelly; Double-eyed Fig Parrot, Photo by David Clode on Unsplash.


Like what we do?

Sign up for our weekly eNews to stay up to date!

Get to know our favorite destinations each week. We promise no spam.

No Thanks