Australia’s Rainforests and Reefs
14 days / Year Round
Pricing is based on group size and seasonality, please check with us to secure the best pricing.
• Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, and discover one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, complete with corals, urchins, mollusks, rays, and brightly colored coral fish.
• Fly through an ancient rainforest, with zipline rides through Daintree, the oldest rainforest in the world.
• Get up close and personal with the area’s wildlife, thanks to flora and fauna tours guided by informed experts.
Day 1: ARRIVAL AND SUNSET CRUISE
Welcome to the tropics! We will meet you at the Cairns airport and escort you to a breezy hotel only a block from the ocean so that you can rest and recover from your flight. We will gather in the afternoon for a welcome orientation over drinks and tapas with our local guide who will accompany us during the trip. Then we’ll take a short walk from our hotel to Cairns’s wharf and our awaiting boat. We will board a sunset boat cruise on Trinity Inlet — and our guide will give us an introduction to Cairns and Australian culture. Whilst sipping champagne, we’ll look for crocs in the mangroves and watch as the setting sunlight bathes Cairns’s lush coastal mountains. We follow on with an elegant 3 course dinner at a premier Cairns restaurant.
Day 2: WOOROONOORAN NATIONAL PARK AND THE WATERFALLS CIRCUIT
Wooroonooran National Park is one of the most scenic places in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area and hosts some of the oldest continually surviving rainforest in the world. More than 500 rainforest trees thrive here, including black bean, milky pine, and red tulip oak. The park reaches its highest diversity in the area of today’s hike. We will hike to a set of enchanting falls, where the creek drops in a narrow, uninterrupted, 50 meter fall from a basalt parapet. This magical section of the park also has a special connection to the Wari and Dulgubara aboriginals who once lived here. We’ll also take a side trip with our guide through the jungle, listening for the call of the king parrot and the bowerbird and emerge at Josephine Falls, where Josephine Creek plunges down a gorgeous set of cascades. Below the falls, boulders surround a fun swimming hole and a natural water slide down a smooth sloping rock face. We end the day with an exploration of the Waterfalls Circuit: a series of three grand waterfalls. In the evening, we’ll retire to our own private and luxurious treehouses!
Day 3: PRIVATE NATURE RESERVE AND OUTBACK TOUR WITH RENOWNED NATURALIST
Today a professional birder and noted naturalist will take us for an exploration of his private highland rainforest preserve in the Misty Mountains. The preserve adjoins a State Forest fauna sanctuary within the largest single tract of tropical rainforest remaining in Australia and we will visit as privileged guests. With the help of Jonathan’s expertise, we look for unique animals such as golden and tooth-billed bowerbirds, Victoria’s riflebird, chowchillas, Lumholtz’s tree kangaroo, and many other local species. We will walk in a significant climax rainforest and observe ancient trees, rare orchids, and primitive flowering plants that were here with the dinosaurs. At the end of the day, after traversing a diverse array of habitats and landforms, we will turn to the classic savannah country, where wildlife lovers will delight in viewing a host of kangaroos before a crimson sun sets over the outback.
Day 4: HIKING THE MISTY MOUNTAINS
Misty Mountains is Australia’s first network of long distance walking trails in a high altitude rainforest environment. The area forms part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area and is recognized for its diversity of rainforest types, plant species, and outstanding landscape features. Wilderness tracks will take us through the magical rainforests of the Tully Valley, with crystal clear creeks, swimming holes, waterfalls and panoramic views. Here we have several choices of walking trails that offer contrasting types of rainforest and a complete wilderness experience. We will be surrounded by king ferns, epiphytes, and giant strangler figs and our guide will provide interpretation of this area’s unique flora and fauna. This evening will treat ourselves to a delicious backcountry meal prepared by our guide, as well as mugs of hot chocolate and a sky full of stars.
Day 5: HIKING THE MISTY MOUNTAINS
In the morning, we will continue along our long distance trail in the Misty Mountains, where river valleys once filled with lava have incised deep gorges into the basalt, and the valleys are often marked by spectacular waterfalls. We will walk in the traditional country of the Jirrbal and Mamu people, traditional owners who had an extensive system of walking tracks and movement linking a vast network of settlements and ceremonial grounds.
We will spend the night at Mission Beach, home to more than 33 rare and threatened plants, including endangered ferns, orchids, and flowering plants. Nestled in the rainforest, our delightful eco-lodge boasts private nature trails, views to the Coral Sea and delicious meals al fresco.
Day 6: WHITEWATER RAFTING THE TULLY RIVER
The Tully River ranks high with rafting enthusiasts around the globe for its stunning course through national parklands, astounding Class III-IV rapids, and its reliable year round flows. First timers and experienced rafters alike will thrill to the Tully’s nonstop action, and gorgeous pristine wilderness. At Tully Gorge National Park, we’ll get a life jacket and helmet and a safety briefing before we will put into the river. We will raft through UNESCO World Heritage rainforest and below waterfalls that tumble from the walls of the gorge. Rousing rapids with evocative names like The Staircase, Corkscrew and Alarm Clock mark the start of our day, after which we paddle through another 41 rapids, stopping midway for a riverside BBQ.
Day 7: SAILING TO THE GREAT BARRIER REEF, SNORKELING OR OPTIONAL SCUBA DIVING
The Great Barrier Reef—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—lies just off Cairns’ coast, luring snorkelers and divers alike to its underwater universe. Early this morning, we will set sail for the outer Great Barrier Reef on a 65 foot yacht with a crew dedicated solely to our small group. Limiting the group size to ten allows for intimacy, flexibility, and personal service not available on larger boats. The crew is happy to teach us about sailing techniques or we can simply soak up the sun on deck. Upon arrival at the reef, snorkelers will delight in viewing the incredible array of life and colors that exist just below the surface. Snorkelers can also take advantage of the chance to try an introductory scuba dive—or several intro dives if you wish. Scuba divers can log up to five dives during these two days, including a phenomenal night dive on the reef. In the evening the crew offers up a hearty meal, good conversation, and perhaps a game of Pictionary. We will sleep on the boat – in bunks or under the stars if you prefer!
Day 8: GREAT BARRIER REEF SAILING, SNORKELING AND/OR SCUBA DIVING
We will spend another day exploring the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef. A roving marine park permit allows the flexibility of choosing different sites at which to snorkel or dive, most of which are exclusive to our boat. We can expect to see a thousand shades of hard and soft corals, angelfish and clown fish (AKA “Nemo”) in anemones, as well as elusive white-tipped reef sharks and giant turtles. We will learn about different coral species at the reef, and perhaps come close to Wally, the giant wrasse fish. On the sail back, we might “take the wheel” if we choose. We’ll also keep an eye out for dolphins, as they often play in the wake.
Day 9: ABORIGINAL-GUIDED WALK, MOSSMAN GORGE AND DAINTREE NATIONAL PARK
Considered one of the most scenic drives in Australia, the Captain Cook Highway winds north from Cairns and offers views of golden beaches and the translucent sea. Traveling inland, we will discover Mossman Gorge and its surrounding wilderness, an area important to the Kuku Yalanji. An aboriginal elder will take us for a walk to see the rainforest through indigenous eyes. We’ll discover how these aboriginal people found their way through dense rainforest and learn what native plants were used for food, medicine, and even soap. Our guide will also explain the tribe’s rites of passage, the meaning of rock art, and the significance of the boomerang. Traditional tea and damper will be followed by a didgeridoo demonstration. Then we will cross the Daintree River by ferry and enter the main section of the Daintree. At Cape Tribulation, where Captain Cook famously ran aground, we’ll get to see two UNESCO World Heritage areas that lie side by side. At 135 million years old, the Daintree is the oldest rainforest in the world. Approximately 430 species of birds live here, including 13 species that are found nowhere else on earth. While exploring we’ll discover why this area, part of the Kuku Yalanji tribal area, also has great spiritual and cultural significance. At our eco-lodge tonight, our rainforest bungalows are connected by a raised walkway and we will go to sleep surrounded by thick lush emerald vegetation and the sound of birdsongs.
Day 10: JUNGLE CANOPY ZIP LINE, BAT HOUSE, EXOTIC FRUIT TASTING AND NIGHT HIKE
In the morning, we will experience the art of “jungle surfing,” an exhilarating zip line ride among the tree tops. By clipping into a series of steel cables arranged in the trees, we can fly across the rainforest canopy and get a bird’s eye view of the world. The longest span is over 75 meters and the platforms vary in height from 2.5 to 19.5 meters above the ground. At the highest point we fly over 22 meters above the valley. You will get to choose how you want to go – slow, fast, or even upside down. Australians also refer to this as a flying fox. During this unique adventure led by naturalists and scientist guides, we keep an eye out for Boyd’s Forest dragons and the brilliant blue Ulysses butterfly. So as not to miss the real flying fox – or bats, as they’re more commonly known – we will visit the Bat House Environmental Interpretation Centre. As rainforest ambassadors, the bats are unrivaled – friendly, intelligent, and stunning show-stoppers. The bats we will meet are mostly orphans, which for one reason or another have been in captivity too long to be allowed to enter the wild. In the afternoon, we’ll treat ourselves to a tropical fruit tasting on an organic farm in the rainforest. We’ll try at least ten succulent rare and exotic fruits, including the star apple, miracle fruit, and even the ice cream bean before returning to our rainforest eco-lodge. In the evening, we’ll take a guided hike into the stirring, hooting, singing world of the nocturnal rainforest. With the help of a guide, we will look for primeval goannas, the giant tree frog, and the musky rat-angaroo. We’ll also search for Australia’s nocturnal species like the Nankeen Night Heron and the Papuan frogmouth. If we’re lucky we’ll spot the Peppermint Stick Insect on the pandanus palms, or perhaps a giant endangered cassowary.
Day 11: CAIRNS HIGHLANDS, MOUNTAIN SPA RETREAT AND OPTIONAL HORSE RIDING
In the morning, we will settle into a mountain spa retreat that is a paradise for bird watchers. We will look for a mosaic of tropical birds, such as the lovely Fairywren, the Double-Eyed Fig Parrot, and the Rainbow Lorikeet. In the afternoon, we might take a rainforest horse ride with an authentic Australian “jillaroo” (cowgirl), a short walk through the forest to a freshwater swimming hole, a yoga class on a cool lakeside platform, or a soothing spa treatment like a hot stone massage. As evening falls, we’ll listen to the rainforest sing with life from the veranda of our private bungalows before we savor a home-cooked meal by our Australian family hosts.
Day 12: TRANSFER, OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES AND STAR GAZING
We’ll spend the day relaxing in our luxury eco-lodge located on a stretch of untouched coastline just south of Port Douglas. Here deluxe high-set bungalows look through the tree canopy out to the Coral Sea or to the mountains. We’ll indulge in all the facilities of a world class nature resort, including a day spa, two freeform pools, and an exclusive private beach. We might take a guided walk on the 145-acre property to discovery the native flora and fauna. The lodge’s resident bird and butterfly expert will teach us about the mosaic of birdlife that call this area home, and how to identify their calls. In the evening, we can join in an astronomy lesson and star gazing, including an introduction to the southern constellations — including the Southern Cross — most of which cannot be seen at all from North America. With 10 inch telescopes, we will be able to look closely at star clusters, red giants, nebulae where stars are being born, globular clusters, distant galaxies, and the multicolored “Jewel Box.”
Day 13: SEA KAYAK THE CORAL SEA AND MEET THE LOCALS
In the morning, we will take to the water and follow our kayaking guide to his secret places while looking for marine turtles, stingrays, dolphins, and dugongs (manatee). In kayaks that have been specially fitted with glass viewing plates, we will look down into the clear waters to glimpse the rich marine environment of corals, urchins, mollusks, rays, and brightly colored coral fish. We’ll also keep an eye out for the green turtles that frequently swim and play in these waters. The resort regularly invites interesting experts from the local region to share their extensive knowledge and experiences, which creates opportunities to meet some unusual and very interesting local people. In the evening, we might enjoy a special visit with an aboriginal elder from the Kuku Yalanji tribe to hear the telling of legends and the haunting sounds of the didgeridoo.
Day 14: DEPART
After breakfast, we will escort you to the Cairns International Airport for your return flight.
Day 1: ARRIVAL SYDNEY, HARBOUR CRUISE AND OPERA HOUSE TOUR. THE RUSSELL HOTEL
Welcome to Australia! We’ll pick you up at Sydney International Airport and bring you to your hotel right in “The Rocks” — the historic district where Sydney began, and location of the famous weekend market. In the afternoon, you’ll take a few steps from your hotel to board a cruise around the harbor. You’ll see all the highlights of Sydney – the Rocks, Harbour Bridge, and the iconic Opera House, just to name a few. Later, we’ll take a peek into one of the world’s most recognizable buildings, The Sydney Opera House. Enjoy a guided tour of this amazing structure – a work of art that came into existence against impossible odds, and stands as a miracle of architecture and engineering. In the evening, you can opt to see a live performance - from opera to circus, rock and cabaret – in one of the busiest performing arts venues in the world.
Day 2: HUNTER VALLEY WINE AND WILDERNESS
Australia’s Hunter Valley enjoys the distinction of having been one of the earliest planted vine areas in the country, and is now celebrated for its shiraz, chardonnay, and semillion. In a small group, you’ll take the back roads to this bountiful region, regarded as the Napa Valley of Australia. You will learn about Australian history, wildlife and aboriginal culture, as well as enjoying some lovely wine tasting. You will travel through beautiful national parks and colonial townships, meet some native Australian animals at a wildlife park, and view several sections of the original 1820 convict-built Old Great Northern Road. You will also meet some of the winemakers themselves at two small boutique wineries and then visit a larger winery known for its wide varieties. Your day includes a wine and food appreciation lunch as well as a cheese and chocolate tasting. You will sample up to 30 Hunter wines, some of which are not available anywhere else in the world.
Day 3: FLY TO CAIRNS
In the morning, you will fly to Cairns and the tropics. We will pick you up at the airport so that you can begin the adventure above!
• Because we stay in such a contained area, we don’t waste any carbon on long distance drives.
• We use only locally-owned accommodation, restaurants, outfitters and local guides to keep income in the community. We also buy our produce from local farmers.
• Thanks to our partner, The Australian Rainforest Foundation (ARF), a native tree is planted in each guest’s name. You are helping replant the rainforest just by visiting!