Australia North: Kakadu, Daintree & the Great Barrier Reef
Explore three contrasting ecosystems via a private island and an exclusive safari camp among other stunning accommodations on this wildlife-focused adventure.
Australia: Drink It In
In northern Australia’s underwater wilderness, an orange clownfish flits between anemone tentacles as a loggerhead sea turtle glides by. A manta ray swoops in, and a giant clam yawns below. Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef evokes sheer awe. Here on the coast of the Coral Sea, the world’s biggest reef meets the ancient Daintree Rainforest at the shore. This tropical Eden shelters Earth’s most ancient trees.Take a private Outback safari into this living cultural landscape where Aboriginal people have lived for more than 65,000 years. You won’t find a more exhilarating expedition into Australia’s most remote and wild reaches.
Travel Curator’s Insights:
- • Discover a pristine coral wilderness teeming with fish, turtles, manta rays and more—accessible directly from a fly-in island beach.
• Embrace raw adventure on 4x4 drives and airboat excursions along the bird-rich coastal floodplain at this operator's exclusive safari camp.
• Travel with one of the world's most wildlife-passionate operators for a life-changing deep dive into Northern Australia's wilderness.
Trip Sustainability Awards
Offsets all CO2 outputs from trips and office operations
Has contributed more than $4.5 million to the WWF
Has eliminated use of single-use plastic bottles and straws
Day 1: Brisbane, Australia / Margate
Arrive in Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, Australia’s “Sunshine State,” and transfer to our beachfront hotel on Moreton Bay, approximately 30 minutes away in the suburb of Margate. Gather this evening with our Expedition Leaders for a welcome dinner.
Accommodation: Sebel Margate Brisbane Beach
Sebel Brisbane Margate Beach: The Sebel Brisbane Margate Beach is a stylish beachfront hotel overlooking Moreton Bay. The hotel features well appointed contemporary accommodation with private balconies and stunning views of Moreton Bay. Relax by our rooftop pool and enjoy dinner in our restaurant, which faces the beach.
Days 2–4: Lady Elliot Island—Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
Transfer to a nearby airstrip to board our small plane to Lady Elliot Island, situated directly on the Great Barrier Reef. We spend the next several days exploring the southern tip of the world’s largest and most biodiverse coral ecosystem, spanning 1,400 miles in the Coral Sea. The reef sustains an astounding variety of marine life, earning it designations as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. Lady Elliot, a coral cay lying within the reef’s most highly protected Green Zone, is the optimal base from which to explore its wonders. The island's sole accommodation is an award-winning family-run ecolodge focused on reef health and environmental sustainability.
Within this protected sanctuary, clear ocean waters teem with manta rays, sea turtles, gentle reef sharks and more than 1,500 species of tropical fish. Humpback whales migrate northward from June to September. And the island is home to the second-highest diversity of seabirds on the barrier reef. Because Lady Elliot Island sits directly on the reef, we can snorkel from the beach as well as on boat excursions. Snorkeling instruction is provided, while certified scuba divers can opt for deeper exploration at 20 dive sites around the island (extra cost). On a glass-bottom boat with local naturalists, view the undersea realm and learn how corals are being impacted by climate change. Other activities include a visit to the historic lighthouse, bird watching and stargazing.
Accommodation: Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort
Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort: Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort offers a range of comfortable accommodation options, with each Unit, Tent and Cabin designed to minimise impact on the Island while enriching the overall guest experience of the environment and seasonal wildlife.
Day 5: Lady Elliot Island / Margate
After a last morning to explore more of Lady Elliot Island and the surrounding marine wonderland, we depart after lunch to fly back to Margate, surveying the massive barrier reef ecosystem once more from the air. Return to our hotel on the beach to spend one more night before continuing our journey northward tomorrow.
Accommodation: Sebel Margate Brisbane Beach
Day 6: Brisbane / Cairns / Daintree Rainforest
Transfer to the Brisbane airport for our flight to Cairns. From Cairns, we drive north toward Cape Tribulation where two World Heritage Sites and distinct ecosystems—the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest—converge. The route to our secluded ecolodge follows the coast before turning deep into the ancient ferns, emerald vines and dense canopy that inspired the film Avatar.
Along the way, look for the endangered cassowary, the spectacular Australian bird that stands up to 6- /2 feet tall. Ferry across the Daintree River, thick with saltwater crocodiles, to reach our destination inside the Cape Tribulation sector of Daintree National Park—land traditionally the province of the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people. This is part of the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area, a region of spectacular scenery and rugged topography encompassing rivers, gorges, waterfalls and mountains draped in the planet's oldest rainforest.
Accommodation: Daintree Wilderness Lodge
Daintree Wilderness Lodge: Surrounded by World Heritage-listed Daintree National Park, this remote lodge, which holds Australia's Advanced Eco Certification, features seven private cabins secluded within the heart of the world's oldest rain forest.
Days 7 & 8: Daintree National Park
Edging the Pacific Ocean in far northeast Australia, the Daintree Rainforest covers 460 square miles and is named for 19th-century Australian geologist and photographer Richard Daintree. This 135-million-year-old tropical forest shelters an unusual array of wildlife, including the musky rat kangaroo and southern cassowary.
High in biodiversity, the Daintree holds 30% of Australia’s frog, reptile and marsupial species and 90% of its bat and butterfly species. Some 430 bird species live in the canopy, including the locally endemic tooth-billed and golden bowerbird, lovely fairywren, yellow-spotted honeyeater, Victoria’s riflebird, Bower’s shrikethrush and fernwren. Ancient plant species date to the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods remnants of the dinosaur age—with wisk and tassel ferns representing some of Earth's earliest land plants. Other ancient flora includes plum pines, southern yews and buny pines.
Spend two full days exploring Daintree National Park and Mossman Gorge, where many Aboriginal sites of significance are located. On a private early-morning boat trip, enjoy birdwatching and nature photography on the Daintree River, flanked by dense rain forest and mangroves. We also visit the Botanical Ark, a conservation-driven ethno-botanical garden, to learn about plants that indigenous rainforest cultures all around the world still use for food, spices, shelter, medicine, cosmetics, fibers, oils and dyes.
Accommodation: Daintree Wilderness Lodge
Day 9: Cairns / Darwin
Drive back to Cairns this morning, then fly to Darwin, a former frontier outpost that is the gateway to Australia's "Top End” and Kakadu National Park. Located on the Timor Sea just below Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, Darwin is the capital of the sparsely populated Northern Territory. With roots into Aboriginal Dreamtime, Darwin’s indigenous heritage extends back tens of thousands of years. More recently, Darwin was an important transportation hub from the early days of European settlement and a strategic Allied base during World War II. Today the city blends Aboriginal, Australian and Asian cultures in a lively melange. Spend the night at our waterfront hotel in the heart of the city’s seaside promenade.
Accommodation: Vibe Hotel Darwin Waterfront
Vibe Hotel Darwin Waterfront: This trendy contemporary hotel offers bright and airy rooms overlooking the lagoon in the heart of Darwin’s vibrant waterfront promenade, steps from the city's best cafes, gastropubs and boutiques.
Day 10: Darwin / Bamurru Plains
Explore a bit of Darwin this morning, then make a 30-minute scenic flight by private chartered aircraft to Bamurru Plains, our secluded safari camp on a private concession bordering Kakadu National Park. On the coastal floodplains of Australia’s most northerly reaches, we have exclusive access to 115 square miles of savanna and woodland along the Mary River. This is the tropical side of the remote Australian Outback, home to one of the world’s largest saltwater crocodile populations and an annual migration of over 100,000 magpie geese. Skim across the floodplains by airboat, cruise the Sampan River, and take guided walks and game drives in search of brumbies, buffalo, dingos and wallabies in this wild and unusual environment.
Accommodation: Bamurru Plains Safari Camp
Bamurru Plains: This luxe safari-style camp features tent-style bungalows on stilts with semi-transparent screens for walls, offering unobstructed views over the floodplain and wild bush.
Days 11 & 12: Exploring the Greater Kakadu Ecosystem
Bamurru Plains encompasses many distinct environments: melaleuca forest, savanna woodlands, riverine habitat that percolates with jumping fish and floating crocs, the bright green Mary River floodplains, open grasslands pocked by lagoons, primordial paperbark swamps, and wetlands full of black-wing stilts, plumed whistling ducks, egrets, ibis, magpie geese and a plethora of other birdlife. This is the storied Australian bush, which we explore via airboat, open-top safari trucks, guided walks and quad bikes. Local naturalists join our Expedition Leaders as they interpret the diverse flora and fauna of these rich ecosystems.
Greater Kakadu is also a living cultural landscape. Aboriginal people have continuously called Kakadu home since before the last ice age—for more than 65,000 years. In fact, there are so many wonders within the 7,700-square-mile Kakadu National Park that it received dual UNESCO World Heritage designations, for both outstanding natural and cultural features. Kakadu is Aboriginal land, and the Bininj/Mungguy owners work hand in hand with Parks Australia to jointly manage it using traditional knowledge and modern science.
The Kakadu region contains stunning biodiversity, including 68 mammal species, more than 120 reptile, 26 frog, and 300 tidal and freshwater fish species, some 2,000 plant species, more than 10,000 insect species and one-third of all Australian bird species. Kakadu’s giant crocodiles are the world’s largest living reptiles, having thrived unchanged for nearly 200 million years. We anticipate seeing endemic freshwater crocs that live in rivers, creeks and pools, and saltwater crocodiles that thrive in floodplains, billabongs, gorges and coastal waters—both species are endemic to Australia.
Accommodation: Bamurru Plains Safari Camp
Day 13: Kakadu / Darwin / Depart
Our northern Australia nature safari comes to a close this morning as we fly back to Darwin to meet departing flights, which should be booked no earlier than noon.
Important Information About This Trip: Australia is a place unto itself, a remote and isolated continent filled with wildlife and landscapes that are truly unique. You could even call them weird. On the other hand, Australia is an English-speaking country, which, aside from some left-hand driving and happy accents, feels pretty familiar to life in North America. This is a new Nat Hab adventure, and itinerary changes may occur in order enhance and improve the experience, or to take advantage of changing conditions.
This journey is designed to explore parts of Australia’s Queensland and Northern Territory that are least populated, most wild, and densest in wildlife and rugged beauty. These are the places that are most difficult to get to and experience fully on your own, where the expertise and guidance of this operator's knowledgeable Expedition Leaders will be most appreciated. Steering away from the crowds, we explore during quiet hours that allow for secluded and intimate encounters with nature. Many people visit Australia, but only an intrepid few travelers will experience Australia in such an unusual way. You could even call them weird, too. And of that, they should be proud.
Limited to 12 Travelers with Two Expedition Leaders: A very important feature of this northern Australia expedition is the limited group size, as nature travel is most meaningful when experienced in the company of fewer travelers, and our environmental footprint is lighter.
Activity Level: Easy / Moderate. This adventure does not require a particularly high degree of physical fitness, however, walks can range from 1 to 4 miles in fluctuating climates and environments. Although these walks are easy to moderate in terms of physical exertion, they can include terrain that is sometimes steep, uneven or slippery. There may be multiple early morning and/or night walks of approximately 1 to 2 miles, often in dim light. Travelers should be able to walk unassisted for 2 miles over sometimes rough terrain and inclines. During our time on the Great Barrier Reef, our primary activity is snorkeling, with the option to scuba dive at an additional cost. For snorkeling, a reasonable level of fitness and comfort in the water is required.
Having two Expedition Leaders guiding this trip is of vital importance so we are able, at times, to divide our groups according to varying physical abilities. This advantage ensures that our guests can move at the pace, and travel the distance that suits their preference. Note that all activities are optional, and travelers should only participate in activities in which they feel comfortable. While travelers are not required to participate in all activities, should you opt out of a scheduled activity, we cannot always guarantee alternatives will be available. Travelers who would like to take longer or more strenuous hikes may have limited opportunities to do so at their leisure. Internal flights include large commercial planes and smaller aircraft. On the smaller aircraft, cabins are small and not pressurized, so travelers must be in suitable health for these conditions.
What a fantastic wildlife itinerary! Combine it with a New Zealand expedition cruise or a custom land itinerary focused on culture for even more Down Under amazingness.
Joy Martinello, Founder
What’s Included & Cancellation Policy: