Orgnising the trip was really quite easy using trip reports on 'Cloudbirders' and the site guide 'Finding Australian Birds' by Dolby & Clarke.
Flights and Transport
We found flights with Philippine Airlines for £775 return from Heathrow to Cairns via Manila. With thee cost of accommodation high, especially for single rooms I found the best option for a person on their own was to hire a small campervan (all inclusive £565 for 16 days) and pay the modest campground fees. These were between $22 and $34 (£13 and £21) per night including an electric hook up. Having said that the bottom of the range van I had was pretty ropey but it was mechanically fine and for taking it birding the dents and scratches didn't matter. I could have done without it being covered in flowers though! I slept well in it although if there had been 2 of us it would have been very cramped. The company I used were Hippie Campervans (aka Apollo Campervans) situated on Sheridan Street near the airport.
The camprounds I used were all very nice (except the first one, see below) and quiet. Despite being nearly full, everyone turns in really early and a silence falls at about 20.00! I used:
- Kuranda Rainforest Camp (just outside Kuranda village) - poor
- Daintree Riverview (just above the jetty in Daintree village) - good
- Lync-Haven Rainforest Retreat (c2 mins north of the Daintree Ferry) - good
- Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge (Julaten) - very good (please note this awesome birders place does not accept larger campervans)
- Big 4 Atherton (just south of Atherton Town near Hasties Swamp) - good
- Cool Waters Tourist Park (extreme western outskirts of Cairns) - good
My itinerary was designed to maximise birding time and minimise driving time. It was tweaked throughout the trip but I did go to all the sites I planned plus a few others. I covered 1353km in the 16 days.
Day 1 - Jack Barnes Memorial Boardwalk, Cairns Esplanade, Cairns Botanic Gardens, Kuranda Rainforest Camp
Day 2 - Black Mountain Road Kuranda, Kuranda Village, Kuranda Rainforest Camp, Cattana Wetlands
Day 3 - Barron Falls, Wrights Lookout, Half Moon GC, Yorkeys Knob Creek, Daintree Village
Day 4 - Daintree River Trip, Stewart Creek Road Daintree, Lync-Haven Rainforest Retreat
Day 5 - Marrdja Boardwalk, Cooper Creek Mouth, Dubuji Boardwalk, Cape Tribulation, Jindalba Boardwalk
Day 6 - Newell Beach, Mossman Gorge, Abbatoir Swamp, Mount Molloy Village, Edmonds Road Wetland, Kingfisher lodge
Day 7 - Kingfisher Lodge, Wessel Road, Mount Molloy Village/sports oval
Day 8 - Mary Farms, Mount Carbine, Bradley Road, Kingfisher Lodge
Day 9 - Clacherty Road, McDougal Road, Sides Rod, Mount Lewis
Day 10 - Mount Molloy School, Lake Mitchell, Quaids Road, Sides Road
Day 11 - Mareeba Wetlands, Grantite Gorge, Big 4 Atherton
Day 12 - Hasties Swamp, McCord Road Wetland, Mount Hypipamee, Springvale Road, Wondecla Showground, Malandra Road, Forsyth Road
Day 13 - Tinaroo Creek & Road, Emerald Creek Falls, Wongabel State Forest, Hasties Swamp
Day 14 - Yungaburra & Curtain Fig Tree, Lake Eacham, Lake Barine, Cairns Esplanade
Day 15 - Michaelmas Cay boat trip, Cairns Esplanade and City
Day 16 - Cairns Esplanade, Redden Island, Cattana Wetlands
This was my first trip to Oz and most certainly won't be my last. The country is superb with easy logistics, largely traffic free roads and really relaxed friendly people. Combine superb scenery, great birding and warm but not hot winter temperatures and North Queensland has it all!
The only downside is the cost of living. Food/drink is approx. 30% more expensive that in the UK but fuel is 40% cheaper at 85p per litre.
Guiding & Trips
Virtually all my birding was done by myself with just 1 days of guiding with Carol from Kingfisher Lodge. This was quite expensive at $260 but well worth it for all the species she was able to help with, especially on Mount Lewis where we cleaned up. She is very knowledgeable and good company. My only other indulgences were an earyl morning boat trip on the Daintree River with Ian 'Sauce' Worcester ($60) and an all day boat trip with Seastar to Michaelmas Cay and Hastings Reef ($195 including lunch and refreshments). The Daintree Ferry is $27 return.
I used the maps.me iPhone app for navigation throughout. It is now my 'go to' tool for getting around as you can mark locations very easily and download free and hugely detailed maps before you go for offline use. The app also works like a sat nav, taking you right to the door of places!