This 3-day wildlife tour visits forests, wetlands and coasts of Lamington National Park, Fingal Head and elsewhere, maximizing chances of kangaroos, koalas, platypus, bats, dolphins, birds, reptiles frogs, etc. plus a wildlife park, and enhances understanding of local and Australia-wide wildlife and ecosystems (includes take-home wildlife book).
We leave the city and head straight to the eucalypt forests (typical 'Aussie bushland') of the Daisy Hill State Forest. Here you are introduced to some of the important families of bushland plants and what they mean to wildlife, as well as some of the local birds, arboreal and terrestrial termite mounds, and - if we are in luck - koalas.
In the winter months, and sometimes in warmer parts of the year, we also see wallabies still out grazing on the grassy stretches (they will soon stretch out to sleep during the day under the shelter of the forest.
We then enter the Koala Information Centre for a close-up look at captive koalas in a walk-through enclosure (no touching), a native beehive and interpretive displays.
After looking for waterbirds at the Eagleby Wetlands (ducks, swamphens, swans, egrets, often kingfishers, grebes, stilts, spoonbills, herons, occasionally glossy ibis, magpie goose, black-necked stork, avocet) we head on for lunch in Beaudesert.
Kangaroos, wallabies and waterbirds are the focus of our next search, in Kooralbyn (an Aboriginal name for a local snake). No matter if it's raining - the kangaroos don't seem to mind much and we can usually get closer to them and to the red-necked and whip-tail wallabies anyway by staying in the vehicle and quietly cruising nearer (some excellent photo opportunities here). If we do leave the vehicle we either watch them from afar, or gradually approach by walking not directly towards them but as though we're going straight past, and backing off if they show any signs of nervousness.
On to the Araucaria property to visit the Scenic Rim Wildlife Ecology Centre, have a cup of tea/coffee and sit and wait by the creek just before dusk in the hope of seeing wild platypus. While waiting, we often see turtles, catfish, cuckoodoves, honeyeaters, kingfishers and other wildlife. The platypus are more predictable in the latter half of the year, when they are breeding and don't stray far from their nests, but they are around throughout the year.
If you have chosen the camping option you will now help to erect your tent.
Now we head off to the forsts looking for possums, owls and other nocturnal wildlife in the eucalypt forests and rainforests. Some nights we don't see much at all, other times we see and hear a vaiety, with possibilities including red-necked wallaby, red-necked pademelon, koala, common brushtail possum, mountain brushtail possum, greater glider, squirrel glider, sugar glider, fruitbats, barn owl, boobook owl, sooty owl, tawny frog-mouth, owlet nightjar, carpet python, various frogs and king cricket (Australia's largest - and carnivorous - cricket). Guests staying at the Bed and Breakfast can then settle into their rooms at Cougal Park and enjoy a delicious home-cooked dinner. Campers also join in for dinner here if there are B&B guests on the tour: otherwise we head to Rathdowney Hotel, a typical Aussie pub, for a hearty country meal.
Rise early if you wish to do some birdwatching in the forests at Cougal Park or birding and platypus-spotting along the creek next to the campground. After breakfast we head to O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat at Lamington National Park, where we spend the morning exploring the World Heritage rainforests and seeking bowerbirds, whipbirds and many other forest birds. Pademelons (small wallabies) often make an appearance in the forest or the neghbouring campground. In warmer months me may also see carpet pythons, land mullets and other reptiles.
After lunch we visit a flying fox (fruitbat) colony, regarded as a major breeding ground for the grey-headed flying fox, whose numbers have been decreasing, and often also harbouring black flying foxes and little red flying foxes.
Then it's on to Binna Burra, on the eastern edge of Lamington National Park, nestled between raiforest and tall eucalypt forest. Campers will settle into permanent Safari tents, and others into comfortable log cabins before a short walk through the rainforest, again seeking birds and other wildlife.
After dinner we conduct a brief search for nocturnal animals before bed.
You may like to spend a bit of time birdwatching in the rainforest or eucalypt forest near the lodge before breakfast.
After breakfast we take a walk through both rainforest and eucalypt forest, occasionally seeing koalas in the eucalypt section, as well as goannas, land mullets and other reptiles.
We then drive to Fingal, where we walk through coastal banksia woodland, to a natural sandy beach with pounding surf, which we follow to the basalt cliffs, the easternmost flows of ancient lava. From the cliff-tops we often see dolphins and sometimes turtles and stingrays. We usually see terns, and sometimes gannets, ospreys or sea eagles. We also view basalt columns similar to (but smaller than) the Giant's Causeway of Ireland, and feature g in Aboriginal legend as a giant echidna.
The Wildlife Park we now visit was started by the zoologist David Fleay in the 1950'2. David was the first to ever breed the platypus in captivity, and one of the last people to interact with a living thylacine. He was successful in breeding many rare species and when in his 80's he handed his precious property over to National Parks for a low sum, and they continued to breed rare and endangered species for many years but are now concentrating more on wildlife interpretation. Here we see various rare mammal species, and it is also an opportunity to see northern species such as cassowaries and both Australian species of crocodile. It is one of the few places we can watch the platypus swimming under water, using its rubbery bill to seek electrical vibrations from its prey. Non-captive animals that bring themselves in from the surrounding bush and make the park their home, including eastern water dragons, nankeen night herons and magpie geese.
Our last stop is at Coombabah in the northern part of the Gold Coast, where we walk through eucaylpt forest and tea-tree wetlands, seeing many kangaroos, birds and more often than not a wild koala or two.
Remember it is possible from May to September to make this a 4-day tour by Starting on Tuesday instead of Wednesday and adding a half-day of whale-watching.
Mammals often seen
- eastern great kangaroo
- whiptail and red-necked (and sometimes swamp) wallabies, red-necked and red-legged pademelons
- brush turkey
- waterbirds – spoonbills, herons, egrets, ibis, stilts, dotterels, rails, gallinules, cormorants, darters, pelican, black swans, various ducks, grebes, others
- cockatoos and parrots
- kookaburra, other kingfishers, dollar bird in summer
- bowerbirds (regent and satin in spring, satin also most of the rest of the year)
- paradise riflebird
- Many others – fairy wrens, scrubwrens, “robins”, finches etc. and if rally lucky a lyrebird
- Reptiles in warmer months – lace monitor, carpet python, dragons, turtles, other
- Frogs on warm wet nights (heard more than seen)
- Butterflies and other insects
- Golden orb and other spiders
What is included?
- All travel and guiding
- Morning tea, lunch and dinner 1st day
- All meals 2nd day'
- Breakfast, morning tea and lunch 3rd day
- Some snacks, water to refill drink bottles
- Booklet on Australia's wildlife