Whales & Dolphins of Western Australia
Whale & Dolphin tours main menu - 0845 003 2211 or 01543 258631
NB. PLEASE NOTE THAT THE ITINERARY BELOW OFFERS OUR PLANNED PROGRAMME OF EXCURSIONS. HOWEVER, ADVERSE WEATHER & OTHER LOCAL CONSIDERATIONS CAN NECESSITATE SOME RE-ORDERING OF THE PROGRAMME DURING THE COURSE OF THE TOUR, THOUGH THIS WILL ALWAYS BE DONE TO MAXIMISE BEST USE OF THE TIME AND WEATHER CONDITIONS AVAILABLE.
DAY 1 - IN FLIGHT
Depart Heathrow, Gatwick or Manchester at lunchtime on a scheduled Emirates flight bound for Perth, the capital of the vast state of Western Australia. Please note that a choice of airport is only available to those booking far enough in advance.
DAY 2 - BUNBURY
Arriving at Perth International Airport in the afternoon, you will be met by your naturalist guide and coach for the 3-hour drive to the town of Bunbury. Driving south along the coast, various waterbirds will be seen from the coach en route (daylight permitting!). Look out for Little Black, Little Pied and Pied Cormorants; Australian Pelicans; Silver Gulls and Crested Terns. Other colourful wayside birds that may be seen from the coach include Port Lincoln Parrot, Western Rosella, Magpie-lark and Australian Magpie. On arrival at our Bunbury hotel, an early night will be most welcome after the long journey from England.
DAY 3 - AUGUSTA
There are few places in the world where interaction between humans and wild Bottlenose Dolphins occurs naturally and on a regular basis. Bunbury is one of those special places. This morning we will cruise the protected waters of Bunbury’s Koombana Bay, looking for and watching the local group of Bottlenose Dolphins. Over a hundred Bottlenose Dolphins inhabit the bay year-round. They frolic, hunt and breed here, allowing close encounters from the boat, as well as opportunities for snorkelling amongst them, either from the beach or from the boat. If you wish to do the latter, you will need to advise us in advance, and you need to be a strong swimmer. There will also be time to visit the Dolphin Discovery Centre close to the jetty, to learn more about the dolphins and other marine-life of south-western Australia, whilst off the nearby beach is an ‘interaction zone’ where you may choose to swim from the shore with the dolphins, although the water is cold at this season and you would be advised to bring a wet-suit if you have (or can borrow) one.
Before leaving Bunbury we will visit the southern-most mangroves in Western Australia. These remnants of a 10,000-year-old mangrove forest offer a fine site for birdwatching, where Little Pied and Pied Cormorants, Australian Pelican, Great Egret, White-faced Heron, Australian Shelduck, Pacific Black Duck, Red-necked Stints, Red-capped Plovers, Silver Gulls and Crested Terns, amongst others, may be seen. Amongst the common landbirds we will encounter may be Singing, Brown and New Holland Honeyeaters, Little and Red Wattlebirds, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike and Kookaburra.
Continuing on towards Augusta, we will make other birding stops. In particular, as we enter the magnificent Karri forest of the well-watered south-west of ‘WA’, we will stop to enjoy it. Here, the towering pale-barked Karri trees (Eucalyptus diversicolor) reach up to eighty metres or more above the emerald understorey of Sheoak, Waterbush, Karri Wattle and many grass species. The Karri is a Western Australian endemic and one of the world’s tallest trees; it also supports an abundance of special birds – although many of them can be hard to spot in a canopy that is so high above us! Boranup Forest is one of the state’s prettiest Karri forests, and here we may find colourful displays of climbing clematis and Coral Vine, along with the purple flowers of the Hovea. Delicate mosses and ferns cover the tree trunks in this moist environment, and tiny Droseras (insect-eating plants) and Trigger Plants can be easily missed unless you look carefully amongst the dense undergrowth. Flowering eucalypts and acacias attract the birds which may include Western Rosellas, Brush and Common Bronzewings, Brown, White-naped and Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters, White-breasted Robins, Golden and Olive Whistlers, Red-winged and Splendid Wrens, Grey Fantails, Little and Red Wattlebirds, and Restless Flycatchers. Less common species include Red-eared Firetail Finch, Purple-crowned Lorikeet and the migrant Shining Bronze and Horsfield's Bronze Cuckoos.
Other bird species are more likely to be seen as we are driving along, particularly such birds of prey as Whistling Kite, Little Eagle, Black-shouldered Kite, Nankeen Kestrel and the spectacular Wedge-tailed Eagle.
This area was first settled in the early 1800s when the original white settlers moved in to try to work the land. The settlers, many with no experience of farming, worked with the indigenous people to cultivate the land, and endured many hardships. Finally, after the Second World War, the development of dairy, sheep, beef and vegetable farming gave the economy a firm basis. During those early years, and right up until the present day, the Karri forest has continually been subject to some form of cutting. In the 1920s 12% of the Karri forest was cleared for farming and timber production. This trend continued, and much of the forest was either clear-felled or selectively logged for wood products, including woodchips. This has resulted in great concern being expressed by conservation groups over the continued cutting of the Karri forest, particularly the old growth forests which contain trees hundreds of years old.
On reaching the quiet town of Augusta, in the far south-west, we will settle into our motel for a 2-night stay.
NB 1. Please note that, on our September tour, we will be based at Busselton, not Augusta, for the nights of Day 3 and Day 4. This is because whale-watching charters at this time of year operate from Dunsborough (near Busselton), since the migrating Humpback Whales have now commenced their southward journey towards Antarctic waters, and are best observed in the calm waters of Geographe Bay, to the north of Dunsborough and east of Cape Naturaliste. Here they often rest, frolic, feed and bring their calves prior to heading onwards and outwards into the open waters of the Southern Ocean. In this bay they are found on an almost daily basis, often in small groups, during the months of September to November. Bottlenose Dolphins are also regularly observed, together with other marine species such as large Eagle Rays, and occasional Hammerhead Sharks and Ocean Sunfish. A variety of seabirds may also be seen; at this season including Yellow-nosed Albatross, Wedge-tailed, Fleshy-footed and Little Shearwaters, Australian Gannet, Crested Tern and Great, Arctic and Pomarine Skuas. We also have a chance of seeing some of the lingering winter seabird visitors to these waters, such as Black-browed Albatross, Southern Giant Petrel, Cape and Soft-plumaged Petrels, and Wilson’s Storm Petrel.
As well as having the chance to join two 3-hour whale-watching voyages, we will also spend time at Cape Naturaliste enjoying some land-based whale and seabird watching. Nearby, at Sugarloaf Rock, is Australia’s southernmost colony of Red-tailed Tropicbirds; we will pay a visit hoping to see the first arrivals preparing for the breeding season. This spectacular, unspoiled coastline is part of a fabulous national park that stretches from Cape Naturaliste southward to Cape Leeuwin. At this time of year the magnificent flora of the coastal bush and scrubland – much of it endemic – will be at its colourful best, and any botanists amongst our party will be in their element.
After spending two nights based at Busselton, the September itinerary resumes on Day 5 as detailed below, with two nights in Albany to focus on the Southern Right Whales that are still present at this time. This species only moves southwards into Antarctic waters in the latter part of October.
NB 2. Please note that, on our November tour, we will be based at Busselton, not Augusta or Albany, for all four nights from Day 3 to Day 6. This is because whale-watching charters at this time of year operate only from Dunsborough (near Busselton), since at this time the Southern Right Whales have left West Australian waters, whilst the migrating Humpback Whales have now commenced their southward journey towards Antarctic waters, and are best observed in the calm waters of Geographe Bay to the north of Dunsborough and east of Cape Naturaliste. Here they often rest, frolic, feed and bring their calves prior to heading onwards and outwards into the open waters of the Southern Ocean. In this bay they are found on an almost daily basis, often in small groups, during the months of September to November. Best of all, giant Blue Whales are now being observed increasing in these shallow waters, and the last half of November and early December is proving to be the best season for this, the largest species the world has ever know. Indeed, these leviathans are appearing in the shallow bays of Geographe in waters no deeper than 13 metres! So, if we are lucky enough to encounter a party of Blues, the photographic opportunities are often excellent. Bottlenose Dolphins are also regularly observed, together with other marine species such as large Eagle Rays, and occasional Hammerhead Sharks and Ocean Sunfish. A variety of seabirds may also be seen; at this season including Yellow-nosed Albatross, Wedge-tailed, Fleshy-footed and Little Shearwaters, Australian Gannet, Crested Tern and Great, Arctic and Pomarine Skuas.
As well as having the chance to join two 3-hour whale-watching voyages, we will also spend time at Cape Naturaliste enjoying some land-based whale and seabird watching. Nearby, at Sugarloaf Rock, is Australia’s southernmost colony of Red-tailed Tropicbirds; we will pay a visit to watch these elegant seabirds on their breeding grounds. This spectacular, unspoiled coastline is part of a fabulous national park that stretches from Cape Naturaliste southward to Cape Leeuwin. At this time of year the magnificent flora of the coastal bush and scrubland – much of it endemic – will be reasonably colourful, and any botanists amongst our party will be in their element.
DAY 4 - AUGUSTA
To the east of Augusta lies Flinders Bay. Here, during June, July and August, Humpback Whales, on their northward migration to ‘breeding grounds’ in the warm waters off the north-west coast of Australia, gather to feed and rest in the relative shelter that Flinders Bay provides from the great Southern Ocean. Up to 120 Humpbacks have been seen together in the bay at one time and, whilst such large numbers are only encountered during certain conditions, any number between ten and thirty regularly occur in the bay. Additionally at this time, again depending on weather conditions, Southern Right Whales are also often present in the vicinity of Flinders Bay, and in many of the other bays in the area. They spend the ‘austral winter’ months, from June to October, in these sheltered bays, and can often be seen very close to the beaches. Here, having left the freezing Antarctic waters where they spend the ‘austral summer’, they choose to mate and calve in the warmer Australian waters during the ‘austral winter’.
Today, and tomorrow, you may choose to head out for a 3-hour cruise around Flinders Bay (from 10am to 1pm), looking for, watching and photographing the whales and dolphins. Whilst Humpbacks are the predominant species of the area at this time, Southern Right Whales may also be encountered during June and July, together with Bottlenose and Common Dolphins and, very occasionally, Long-finned Pilot Whales which have tragically been known to beach themselves in large numbers on the region’s beaches from time to time. During our cruises we will visit the colony of New Zealand Fur Seals on Flinders Island and we are also likely to see a wide variety of interesting Southern Ocean seabirds. These may include Black-browed and Yellow-nosed Albatrosses, Southern Giant Petrel, Cape and Soft-plumaged Petrels, Wedge-tailed and Little Shearwaters, Wilson’s and White-faced Storm Petrels, Australian Gannet, and possibly other rarer seabirds.
The whales, on their arrival in the bay, can be very curious, intrigued by our vessel. They are often observed only metres from the boat, and occasionally both Humpbacks and Southern Rights have been found swimming together with their newborn calves! The whale-watching here is a truly exhilarating experience, and one that never ceases to throw up exciting surprises.
NB. The September and November tours will be based in Busselton today (see above)
DAY 5 - AUGUSTA/ALBANY
Much of today is a free day, during which you may wish to relax, whale-watch from the shore, or take a further whale-watching cruise in Flinders Bay. Alternatively, you may wish to join a private charter flight to attempt to locate and observe from the air the pods of Sperm Whales that feed year-round on the giant squid found on the continental shelf about 30 miles offshore (this option - and its cost - is dependent on numbers, and of course the weather).
In the afternoon we leave Augusta and take a scenic drive eastwards for a couple of hours to Albany. En route we will stop to enjoy the new and impressive tree-top walk near the peaceful little town of Denmark. This recently completed tree-top walkway offers an optional canopy experience for those of strong disposition!
For the keen botanists amongst us, and any not keen to take to the tree-tops, there will be numerous botanical highlights to enjoy. Amongst them will be both the Red and Yellow Tingle; Acacia pentadenia and Acacia urophylla (the tall wattles of the Karri forest); Allocasuarina frasereana (Sheoak) and Allocasuarina decussata (Karri Oak); Trymalium spathulatum (Karri Hazel); Chorizema ilicifolium (Flame Pea); Boronia gracilipes (Karri Boronia); Anthocercis viscosa; Stylidium scandens; Kingia australis (Giant Kingia); Banksia grandis (Bull Banksia – with huge flowers and cones); Leschenaultia biloba; Dasypogon hookjeri (Pineapple Bush); Podocarpus drouynianus (WA’s only podocarp); and Green and Red Kangaroo Paws which are at their best in this area.
Continuing on to the large town of Albany, we check into our motel for a two-night stay at this base. This town is the most historic in Western Australia, being the first site of British settlement in the state in the early part of the nineteenth century as well as being one of the country’s main whaling stations, and the last to close down in 1978. Today, the Southern Right Whales have returned to the bays around Albany, and can be seen both from the headlands and beaches, as well as from daily whale-watching cruises (which you may wish to join).
NB. The November tour will be based in Busselton today (see above).
DAY 6 - ALBANY
Today will be free to allow you to take one of the whale-watching cruises out into the bays off Albany. Southern Right Whales are the species we will be focusing on here, although we have a good chance also of Bottlenose Dolphins. The former whaling station is also well worth a visit. Now known as Whale World, it has been transformed into the world’s finest whaling museum, and includes Australia’s last whale chaser, Cheynes IV, as well as a host of displays and cinemas. From Whale World it is also possible to take a glass-bottomed boat cruise out into the sound to view the underwater reefs and the sunken hulk of HMS Perth, plus the very colourful marine-life they support. This cruise also regularly encounters Southern Right Whales, occasionally even allowing you to watch them underwater through the huge glass panels that run down either side of the vessel’s hull.
For those who have done sufficient whale-watching cruises, it may be possible to arrange a day-tour to the Stirling Range National Park. Here you will again notice a change in the vegetation, with tall species of eucalyptus, Jarrah and Marri, occurring. Five peaks over 3,000 feet rise abruptly from the coastal lowlands to make the Stirling Range an obvious feature in the landscape. The area receives more rainfall than its surrounding districts, and consequently plants have evolved here that are not found elsewhere. There are over 500 species of plant here, and walking up one of the peaks in search of endemic plants will give us a busy day in this attractive park. Botanical highlights here may include Bellflower Darwinias (possibly Darwinia hypericifolia, Darwinia leiostyla, Darwinia squarrosa and Darwinia vestita), Hakea cucullata (Hood-leaved Hakea), Kingia australis (a special Stirling Range form of this unique grasstree), Eucalytus pressiana (Bell-fruited Mallee), Isopogon latifolius and Isopogon formosus (both with bright pink flowers), Andersonia spp. (paper-heaths), and a variety of orchid species.
Alternatively, you may prefer to visit Two Peoples Bay Reserve, home to three exceptionally rare and elusive birds – the Noisy Scrub-bird, Western Whipbird and Western Bristlebird. The reserve covers 26,000 hectares of forest, heathland, beaches and lakes, and was made a reserve to protect the Noisy Scrub-bird, a species only known from this area. We will have a look for it, although its very shy nature and the dense habitat in which it lives make it one of the hardest species to see. The wild flowers of the reserve will present no such problems! Some may be in bloom at the time of our visit, and woodlands of Peppermint Trees (Agonis spp.) are particularly attractive. Other botanical highlights here will include Actinodium spp. (‘Swamp Daisy’ Fam. Myrtaceae), Beaufortia schaueri (Pink Bottlebrush), Callistemon glaucus (Albany Bottlebrush), Banksia baueri (Woolly Banksia), Gompholobium scabrum (Painted Lady-pea), Hakea laurina (the popular ornamental ‘Pincushion Hakea’), Anigozanthos preissii (Albany Catspaw), not to mention a wide variety of orchid species in September.
NB. The November tour will be based in Busselton today (see above).
DAY 7 - DEPART PERTH
As our return flight from Perth to England does not leave until 10.30pm, we have the full day in which to incorporate a leisurely 5-hour drive back to the capital. Depending on the wishes of the group, there may be time to include a further whale-watching cruise from Augusta; alternatively the time may be profitably spent further exploring and enjoying the wildlife of the different forest types en route back to Perth (the Karri forest, the Jarrah and Marri forest, and the Wandoo), as well as some of the fine wayside wetland sites.
NB. The November tour will have time to spend most of today in Perth and to enjoy a final whale-watching cruise off Perth.
DAY 8 - LONDON
You are scheduled to arrive at Heathrow or Manchester airports at 11.35 a.m., or at Gatwick at 11.55 a.m.
This short tour to Australia offers you the chance to enjoy the best of Australia’s whale and dolphin-watching, as well as a chance to see some fabulous endemic flora and birdlife. We will be taking cruises and making short walks only on this holiday, but all such excursions will be optional, and will be no more strenuous than you wish to make them! The tour has accordingly been graded A; suitable for those of all ages who enjoy some gentle walking and the outdoor life. While it is important to be healthy, no great measure of fitness is required to enjoy this holiday!
In common with many other parts of the world at present, we dare not predict the weather! However, you should remember that June and July are winter months in Australia and, whilst not as cold and wet as our winters (indeed they are more similar to Mediterranean winters), you will need plenty of warm and waterproof clothing (especially at sea). Generally, you may expect daytime temperatures of between 10 and 20º Centigrade, with a drop in temperatures of 10 degrees at night. By September it should be mild and spring-like, but for the last two years September has been cooler than usual. Daytime temperatures will vary between around 15º and 20ºC. Do note that when winds come off the sea from the Southern Ocean, it can be quite chilly, and heavy rainfall may be expected from time to time. Those travelling in November can expect it to be generally sunny and warm, not unlike good summer weather in the UK!
Please read our separate clothing list included in the pre-departure information sent to you after booking and be prepared for a wide variety of weather, some of it fairly cold.
A set of smart casual clothes will be useful for hotel wear, whilst warm sweaters, a track suit, gloves and woolly hat, and waterproof clothing will be essential during the whale-watching cruises. You will need to bring a pair of lightweight walking boots. Those wishing to swim or snorkel are advised to bring a wet suit (although some hardy Australians do swim year-round!).
Whales and dolphins, plus Western Australian birdlife and flora.
On this tour our groups will be much larger than normal for Naturetrek. Each group will consist of a maximum 20 clients in order to guarantee numbers to run the cruises.
FOOD & ACCOMMODATION INCLUDED IN THE PRICE
In order to sell this holiday at the very competitive price necessary to attract a viable group, and because not everyone will want to do all the cruises that are on offer (max. 5), you should be aware that we exclude the following items from the cost of this holiday:
What our price does include is:
HOW TO BOOK YOUR PLACE!
Call Robert Broad Travel on 01543 258631
If you would like to extend your holiday, we should be delighted to advise you, and to help you to do so (although please note that this can sometimes involve some extra payment for your flights which are currently held on a group fare basis. June and July are a great time for birding, especially for the special winter visitors and seabirds that Western Australia attracts, whilst September to November (the southern Spring) is a fabulous time to see much of Australia at its best. We should be delighted to help and advise you in choosing and organising the post- or pre-tour extension that best suits your interests and travel plans. For example…
WA’s floral spectacle (and other wildlife). Should you wish to extend your time in the south-west of Western Australia, further exploring, at your leisure, this botanical hotspot whilst the colourful display of bushland and wheatbelt flowers and flowering shrubs is at its best, we should be happy to assist you in arranging an accommodated self-drive holiday. We can also offer you a variety of locally organised escorted wildlife tours, or arrange a private expert-escorted wildlife programme for you. All of these we should be most happy to arrange for you.
Coral Bay & Ningaloo Reef. Situated 1,200 kilometres north of Perth, WA’s Ningaloo Reef rivals eastern Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. However, unlike the Great Barrier Reef, Ningaloo Reef is accessible from the mainland beach, particularly at Coral Bay. Here, year-round, you may snorkel amongst fabulous corals and marine-life in knee-deep water just off the beach; you may take boat trips to snorkel with Manta Rays, Black-tipped Reef Sharks and sometimes harmless Grey Nurse Sharks. From June to October you may also take boat trips out to look for the Humpback Whales at the southernmost region of their breeding grounds, and encounter both Bottlenose and Indo-Pacific Dolphins. The region is naturally a paradise for the keen diver, offering numerous diving possibilities which we are able to offer you.
Dryandra State Forest. The largest area of natural bushland remaining in WA’s ‘Wheatbelt’, Dryandra State Forest is a series of blocks of natural woodland comprised of such tree species as Wandoo (Eucalyptus wandoo), Powderbark (Eucalyptus accedens) and Brown Mallet (Eucalyptus astingens). Wandoo and much of its associated flora are endemic to the area, which is a strong contributing factor in the movement to ensure the conservation of this unique habitat. This is a fine habitat, a prime example of the Australian ‘bush’ in its untouched state, which provides a sanctuary to many endangered animals from the onslaught of white settlement. Home to at least 22 species of native mammal; these include nine species of bats, as well as Echidnas and the striped Numbat (Myremecobius fasciatus), an endemic marsupial that is also Western Australia’s fauna emblem. The open forest of Dryandra is also one of the most rewarding birding areas in WA. One its special birds is the Malleefowl, a species which builds an enormous crater-shaped mound and buries its eggs in the rotting vegetation at the centre. The process of decomposition produces heat and the birds maintain the correct temperature for incubation by adding or removing the rotting vegetation as needs be. This region is a must for bird and mammal enthusiasts.
The Kimberley. The Kimberley offers Australia’s most rugged and exciting wilderness adventure, plus a fabulous birdlife. We specialise in private wildlife excursions into the region, escorted by the region’s leading naturalist. Whether you have a few days or a few weeks, we will find a suitable Kimberley extension for you.
Cairns, the Daintree & Great Barrier Reef. Nowhere in Australia is so much of wildlife interest accessible from one place. In one week based in, or near, Cairns, you can visit, snorkel and (should you wish) dive on the Great Barrier Reef which, even for the ‘landlubber’ offers a fine range of breeding seabirds. You can explore the Daintree Rainforest and Atherton Tablelands, both with their own fabulous varieties of birds and mammals, and you can take advantage of some first class night-time spotlighting trips in search of a wide range of nocturnal marsupials, including Tree Kangaroos and Duck-billed Platypus.
Tasmania. A wealth of walking and wilderness opportunities are on offer here... not to mention Australia’s most easily observed selection of mammals and a fine batch of endemic birds. Call us for advice.
Alice Springs and Ayers Rock. Extensions from one night to a week or more (see detailed itinerary below) can be arranged to suit your interests.
Kakadu and Katherine Gorge. Again, extensions from one night to a week or more (see detailed itinerary below) can be arranged to suit your interests.
City Breaks. In Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, etc.
Domestic flights and other travel arrangements to visit family and friends.
or, New Zealand. Explore this spectacular country in spring, by means of an accommodated self-drive holiday, by joining an escorted tour, or by a private expert-escorted programme. All of these we should be most happy to arrange for you.
Examples of two extension suggestions are attached.
AYER'S ROCK & ALICE SPRINGS EXTENSION
The following is a suggested itinerary only and can be amended to suit your tastes and travelling programme.
DAY - 7 PERTH
On completing the tour, overnight in a Perth hotel tonight.
DAY 8 - ALICE SPRINGS
You will fly to Alice Springs this morning. The flight takes you over seemingly unchanging open and arid plains, however, the changes are subtle with a surprising variety of vegetation. The sudden appearance of red ridges rising dramatically from the sandy plains are the MacDonnell Ranges that surround the town of Alice Springs in the heart of Australia. Far from being a flat, arid environment the unique landscape of Australia's "Red Centre" is full of contrasts - from the surreal rock formations of Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) to the seemingly impenetrable mountain ranges and the endless desert sands. The 300-million-year-old MacDonnell Ranges, often reaching over 1,000 metres above sea level, are punctuated by narrow valleys, great rivers and spectacular gorges such as the Finke, the Hugh and the Palmer.
Alice Springs, a young town in the centre of an ancient continent, was surveyed by David Lindsay in 1888, and now supports a population of 23,000 people. Until 1933 it was known as Stuart, then it was renamed after one of the waterholes north of the town. Alice Springs is now a thriving tourist centre, the starting point for numerous trips throughout the region. It is also a home for the Aboriginal people, who have lived in the "Centre" for 22,000 years. Aboriginal art adorns many sites, most of which are still used in sacred rituals so are closed to the uninitiated. However, there are some sites that you are able to visit, including Uluru.
We suggest a stay in Alice of three nights, in order to allow you to make the most of the varied habitats and their wildlife.
Walking in the country around Alice will introduce you to the spectacular gorges including Simpson's Gap, where shy rock wallabies can be seen. A visit to the sewage works can also be a rewarding birding trip!
A full day is required to explore the MacDonnell Ranges, before your last night at Alice Springs.
YULARA, ULURU NATIONAL PARK
A drive to Uluru National Park (Ayer's Rock) with a visit to the Rock at sunset. One of Australia's top tourist attractions, which never fails to inspire. Overnight at Yulara.
DAY 12 - 13
YULARA, ULURU NATIONAL PARK
The unique nature of Uluru (Ayer’s Rock), rising to over 300 metres, and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas), has led the Aboriginal people to weave rich mythologies around the creation of these landforms, crediting their ancestors. These Dreamtime legends are captured in the artwork which covers the walls of the caves beneath the rock. The nearby massive domes of Kata Tjuta, weathered over millennia, stand as a testament to the timeless nature of this ancient continent. Two further nights based at Yulara provide time to more than scratch the surface of this unique region and its wildlife.
DAY 14 - IN FLIGHT
Morning departure from Yulara Airport to connect with your return international flight to London.
DAY 15 - LONDON
Arrive at London Heathrow.
The following is a suggested itinerary only and can be amended to suit your tastes and travelling programme.
DAY 7 - PERTH
On completing the tour, overnight in a Perth hotel tonight.
DAY 8 - 10
KAKADU NATIONAL PARK
You will take a morning flight to Darwin, then an afternoon drive to Gunlom (Waterfall Creek - of Crocodile Dundee fame) in Kakadu National Park.
Lying 120 kilometres east of Darwin, Kakadu covers about 20,000 square kilometres, making it Australia's largest national park. Kakadu's main physical feature is a rugged, 600-kilometre-long sandstone escarpment that has been ravaged by the weather for 1,400 – 1,800 million years. Named after the traditional landowners, members of the Gagudju association, the park is leased by the Aboriginal people to the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, although access is limited in certain regions, including the massive area of Arnhem Land bordering the park. For more than 20,000 years the descendants of those first inhabitants recorded Kakadu's history in red and yellow ochre on the rock faces. It is fascinating to look at how Pig-nosed Turtles and Barramundi (freshwater fish) replaced kangaroos and emus as the last ice age melted into the world's ocean over 6,000 years ago, creating the floodplains that are such an integral part of Kakadu today.
Kakadu is a remarkable combination of outstanding cultural as well as natural highlights. It protects an entire tropical river system, from its catchment to the sea, and provides a refuge for 1,500 plant species, one-quarter of Australia's known freshwater fish species, about 60 mammals, nearly 100 reptiles, 25 frog species and thousands of different insects. Above all, Kakadu is a birdwatchers’ paradise, with over a third of Australia's bird species amongst a wide variety of habitats. Birds of prey include Black-breasted Buzzards, White-bellied Sea-eagles, goshawks, sparrowhawks and Black Kites. Coastal birds include herons, plovers, curlews, cormorants, egrets, terns and sandpipers. Geese and ducks nest in profusion in the dense sedge and grass of the floodplains during the wet season, and the "billabongs" are frequented by Jabirus (Australia's only native stork), pelicans, darters and ibises. Without doubt Kakadu is one of the world's most important remaining tropical waterbird reserves.
The sandstone escarpment forest is home to bowerbirds and White-throated Grasswrens; the patches of moist monsoon forest contain the pittas, Rufous Owls and scrubfowl; whilst, in the Paperbark (Melaleuca) forest the sweet nectar of the flowers provides food for the lorikeets and honeyeaters. In the more open forest are Red-tailed Black Cockatoos and parrots, including the Northern Rosella.
Kakadu's aboriginal history should not be missed. It is beautifully presented in rock art at an estimated 500 or more sites, forming the world's oldest and greatest art collection. For the Aboriginal people, art is more than just creative expression. According to Aboriginal belief, when the ancestral beings gave the earth its form they painted the first images and the Aborigines learnt to paint by copying them. Myths, legends and history - the essence of Aboriginal culture - were recorded, enabling later generations to learn and understand their value. These fascinating records of Australia's history prior to white man's arrival depict the Tasmanian Tiger, long since extinct in this part of the country, and now quite possibly in Tasmania. After the rise in sea level, flying foxes appeared in the drawings, and as the environment changed further, Barramundi assumed greater importance. The arrival of the first outsiders is recorded, the Macassans in their praus, then Europeans, guns in their hands, whose arrival heralded cultural upheaval. Some 2,000 Aborigines, divided into seven tribes, are thought to have lived in this area before the Europeans arrived, but their numbers soon fell dramatically. Only since the declaration of the national park in 1979 have they begun to return. Now 300-400 live in the park, helping with park management and guiding at rock art sites.
During a three-night stay in Kakadu, you may choose, perhaps, to stay first in the Gunlom region and then the Point Stuart region, in the far north of the park. In the latter, you will be able to enjoy a fine area of rainforest, well away from the busier tourist areas. Similarly, to escape the crowds, you may choose to travel on one of the lesser-known but equally exciting boat trips on the Mary River. This will be one of the highlights of the tour - a wetland area of world renown, with waterbirds by the thousand (and Estuarine Crocodiles!). Great-billed Heron, Jabiru, Comb-crested Jacana, Pied Heron and Radjah Shelduck are just some of the 80 species or so of waterbirds that we shall hope to see.
You should also take the opportunity to take a walk up Nourlangie Rock. Here are depicted some of the spirits of the "Dreamtime". According to the Dreamtime legend the country was once a vast featureless land inhabited by giant spirit creatures. Over time, the spirits made epic journeys across the land creating mountains, rivers, rocks, animals and plants. Namarrgon, the Lightning Man, and other powerful figures of the Dreamtime can be seen in the rock art at Nourlangie.
DAY 11 - DARWIN
You return to Darwin today in order to catch your scheduled flight to London, via Perth, Singapore or Bangkok.
DAY 12 - LONDON
Arrive London Heathrow, Gatwick or Manchester.
To check availability and book please call Robert Broad Travel on 0845 003 2211 or 01543 258631
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