Educational Bird-watching & Wildlife Tours in Southern Queensland
Araucaria Ecotours specialises in explaining the fascinating behaviour and ecology of our local wildlife, how Australian wildlife came to be so different from the rest of the world, and why southeast Queensland is such a major hotspot of species diversity, including many of our most famous species (kangaroos, koalas, platypus, lyrebirds and others).
Guests enjoy deepening their understanding of our wildlife while exploring mountain forests, rugged coasts, outback woodlands on red sands and other Australian habitats, admiring impressive scenery, sampling local foods (and sometimes wines), having fun and of course seeking, watching and learning about a variety of birds, mammals, reptiles and other animals.
This family-owned business has been run since 1997 by Ronda, Denis and Darren Green, who live on a forested property in the mountains near Queensland’s southern border, near several national parks, but also own a property in Brisbane where they stay overnight when picking up guests the following day.
The tours were designed by Dr Ronda Green, a zoologist who has conducted ecological research in four Australian states, but in recent decades especially in the forests of south-east Queensland, and has been involved in nature education for children and adults since her teen years. Ronda and her son Darren, who has grown up assisting with fauna surveys and developing a passion for nature photography, are the main tour guides.
The wildlife seen depends on which tour is selected, but includes kangaroos (often in large “mobs”), wallabies, possums, koalas, bandicoots, platypus, colonies of noisy fruit bats with metre-wide wingspan, dolphins, emu, kookaburra, Australia’s two largest raptors (wedge-tailed eagle and white-bellied sea-eagle), lyrebird, bowerbirds, cockatoos (several species), colourful parrots, black-necked stork, brolga, frogmouth, carpet python, lumbering monitor lizards, tree frogs, butterflies (including the second and third largest species in Australia), glow-worms (looking like a starry sky on the roof of a cave) and many more.
We provide checklists, but instead of just ticking off each species and moving to the next, we generally spend a bit of time observing behaviour, discussing ecological roles and often getting some great photos. Most wildlife is viewed in the wild but we also visit a couple of well-run wildlife parks to see some of the rarer species (e.g. bibles) or those from other regions (e.g. cassowaries, tree-kangaroos and crocodiles of North Queensland).
Environmental sustainability is taken seriously. All tours with Araucaria Ecotours have achieved advanced eco-certification through Ecotourism Australia. Long recognised by them as a Green Leader, Araucaria has now been entered into Ecotourism Australia’s Hall of Fame. Waste avoidance, minimal-impact wildlife-viewing, fuel efficiency, use of local foods and other practices are adhered to. Guides Ronda and Darren are active members of conservation societies and lead local conservation projects. Guests on some tours have an option to participate in conservation activities or citizen science. Ronda has also lectured and written extensively on the topic of sustainable wildlife tourism.
Most tours are run in the mountainous and highly diverse Scenic Rim region to the south of Brisbane. A little closer to Brisbane we also visit wetlands with a diversity of waterbirds and a small island with sandy and rocky shores and several kinds of woodland. Occasional on-demand tours visit the Bunya Mountains to explore the tall dark bunya forests with a decidedly primitive atmosphere, or to Girraween National Park, with massive granite boulders, an abundance of kangaroos and birds, and brilliant wildflower displays in spring. The outback tours cover much longer distances, once or twice a year (autumn and spring), heading way out west to the true outback, wide-open spaces, red sands, brilliant sunsets and views of the Milky Way, with the route chosen to maximise chances of red kangaroos, emus, Major Mitchell cockatoos, a variety of colourful parrots, rare bird species, sand monitors, shingleback skinks and other wildlife.
Indigenous use of native plants is explained on some tours, as well as stories based on some of the local landmarks.
The tours are mostly suitable for all ages, expertise and abilities, and all cater to special diets and many other individual needs. Some birdwatchers request tours with no children, but on other days families are very welcome. Light foldable wheelchairs can be carried in the tour vehicle. There are usually two guides on each tour, and when necessary the group can be split according to the needs of the guests. Most of the wildlife tours depart from Brisbane: there is a surcharge for pickup from the Gold Coast or the airport.
With sufficient notice, Araucaria Ecotours can also offer custom Queensland wildlife day trips or multi-day tours catering for special interests.
Ronda Green, BSc(Hons) PhD
Ronda is a research ecologist with a PhD in zoology who has conducted research on birds and other wildlife in both wilderness and modified habitats in four Australian states, but in recent decades mostly in southeast Queensland. She has also had several decades of experience in nature education for all ages, from pre-school through primary and secondary schools and children’s groups such as the Queensland Gifted and Talented Children’s Association to lecturing at universities and other tertiary institutions and running adult education classes. She is the author of Understanding Australia’s Wildlife as well a numerous publications in the academic literature, wildlife-related articles for the popular press, author and/or editor of other books on wildlife ecology and wildlife tourism, and is currently writing a book on animal-plant interactions and another on her experiences running a holiday farm. Her research has included foraging ecology, seed dispersal by fruit-eating birds, effects of habitat modification on wildlife, play behaviour of captive chimpanzees, recreational and educational outdoor experiences for primary-aged children, positive and negative impacts of wildlife tourism, birdwatching tourism in Australia and sustainable wildlife tourism in Asia and the Pacific. Araucaria Ecotours is the second business she has run providing nature tourism experiences, the first being a holiday farm she founded many years earlier in South Australia before pursuing academic studies. As chair of both Wildlife Tourism Australia and the Scenic Rim branch of Wildlife Queensland, she has run many conferences, workshops, wildlife expos and other events, and has been an invited speaker on sustainable wildlife tourism in Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan. Her handbook on running a wildlife tourism business is being used in Malaysia, Sri Lanka and elsewhere, and she is planning an updated version for late 2021 with additional international content. Other memberships include the Ecological Society of Australasia, the Biodiversity Working Group of TAPAS (IUCN), Australian Mensa, Australian Citizen Science Association, Lamington Natural History Association and Protect the Bush Alliance. An enthusiastic traveller herself, she has visited wilderness areas and cities in all Australian states and territories and all non-polar continents, and bases much of her own tour programs on the kinds of information and experiences she seeks when visiting new places with different cultures and ecosystems to explore.
Darren grew up on a forested property in southeast Queensland with plenty of opportunities to indulge his love of animals and nature generally, from gently removing snakes from our chicken enclosure and disentangling horses from lantana thickets to taking many thousands of nature photos and having a platypus swim underneath him as he floated in our creek. His first camping experience was at six months of age at Binna Burra, where he was entranced by the birds he now points out to our guests. He started assisting his zoologist mother (Ronda Green) with fauna surveys commissioned by governments and private land-owners from the age of eight and has continued to do so as a formal assistant throughout adulthood, as well as conducting voluntary fauna surveys for Wildlife Queensland’s Scenic Rim branch, of which he is currently treasurer and for which he has been tree-planting for a wildlife corridors project and supervising other volunteers. His driving record is spotless, never having an accident or receiving so much as a speeding or parking ticket in his more than twenty years behind the wheel. He has taken short courses in defensive driving and rally driving and has driven under many very trying conditions in busy cities, sandy outback tracks, long muddy roads and steep hillsides without incident, even once while being chased along a rocky road by an angry African elephant. He studied sound and light management as part of a drama course at university, is using his skills (including music competition) to develop educational videos, and travels to most Wildlife Tourism Australia and Wildlife Queensland (Scenic Rim) events to run the audiovisuals. He has also played his own music compositions at various public events and sung in productions by the Queensland Music Theatre (he has perfect pitch and has been trained in opera singing). He is also membership secretary for Wildlife Tourism Australia and has previously been secretary for the Lamington Natural History Association. He has travelled in wilderness and city areas in
most Australian states and territories as well as Indonesia, South Africa, Brazil and Argentina and studied a little Spanish and Mandarin at university.
Araucaria Ecotours is a member of Ecotourism Australia (in Hall of Fame), Wildlife Tourism Australia Inc. (Ronda is chair and Darren is membership secretary), Queensland Tourism Industry Council, Brisbane Marketing and Destination Scenic Rim.
The Araucaria team have revegetated much of their property, converting badly eroded slopes once used for cattle-grazing to rainforest regrowth to complement the forest already on the property and the adjacent Mt Chinghee National Park.
Ronda is currently chair of the Scenic Rim branch of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland.and Darren is treasurer. Themain project we are leading at present is the establishment of wildlife corridorsto connect habitat fragments of the lower-lying, drier eucalyptus woodlands and forests which are not as well protected as the rainforests and tall eucalyptus forests of the mountains. Connections will facilitate the movements of squirrel gliders (a gliding possum), grey-crowned babblers and other species that depend on the valleys, as well as benefitting koalas and glossy black cockatoos that inhabit eucalyptus forests at all altitudes, plus native bees and butterflies.
Ronda is also currently chair of Wildlife Tourism Australia Inc.(of which she was a co-founder two decades ago), the aim which is to “promote the sustainable development of a diverse wildlife tourism industry that supports conservation.” She has organised numerous conferences, workshops and other events, including discussions on minimising negative effects of tourism, ways that tour operations can support conservation, nature interpretation, welfare of captive animals and related topics.
We also conduct reduced-fee fauna surveys for conservation groups and for local councils for conservation management.
Travelers wishing to book tours at a time when such projects are happening are sometimes invited to participate in such activities.
Guests on tour are also encouraged to help find and photograph examples ofanimal/plant interactions, especially possibilities of pollination and seed dispersal, to assist with research by Ronda (who is also an Adjunct Research Fellow at Griffith University), with implications for conservation management, which needs to consider ecological relationships and processes, not just species lists or broad habitat types.
Coochiemudlo Coast Careis a conservation group conducting a weeding program, and guests on ecotours can, with prior notice assist, with this. Thus enabling the establishment of ephemeral orchids and other vulnerable plants and assisting the movements of small ground-dwelling lizards, frogs, and other native creatures.
Bags and gloves are often carried on tour for the collection of litter, including plastics that could otherwise end up in the sea to be swallowed by turtles, seabirds and marine mammals. On our tours we minimise excess packaging, do not use disposable utensils, provide large mineral water containers for re-filling guests’ bottles, and recycle food scraps to chickens or compost and paper waste to mulch.
Unusual sightings of threatened species on the tours are reported to relevant bodies such as Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland, to research ecologists or to local councils to assist with conservation plans.
Electricity for the Araucaria property is from a stand-alone system of photovoltaic cells and deep-cycle batteries, and this also powers the laptops and spotlights we take on tour.
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