In October 2019 I travelled to tropical far-north Queensland in search of cassowaries. It was a very successful trip with around 12 adult birds being spotted, including one with a chick. What follows below is a brief description of my journey to give anyone interested in photographing these animals the best possible chances of finding them.
Nearest airport: Cairns. There are daily flights to Cairns from all over Australia serviced by most of the major airlines.
Transport: You will definitely need to hire a car as without one it will almost be impossible to get to the areas where cassowaries like to hang out. Fortunately Cairns is a major tourist destination and so there is a lot of competition for hire cars which means you can pick something up for a pretty reasonable price.
General information on cassowaries: The best time to spot them is either early in the morning or late afternoon/evening. Most days I would try to leave between 5:00-5:30am for a few hours and then be out again from about 4:00-6:00pm. In this part of the world the sun sets very quickly so after 6:00pm the light starts to get bad for photography very quickly. It is still possible to see them during the day but less likely especially if it is particularly hot. Cassowaries have the potential to be very dangerous so be cautious around them especially if males are looking after chicks.
Accommodation: There is a caravan park directly on the beach but it is very small and on weekends/holidays is cramped with almost no space allocated between tents. If staying here I would highly recommend to go during the week and not during peak holiday times. We stayed at an AirBnB only 5 minutes drive from the beach which was ideal. You can find the place we stayed here and I would highly recommend it:
Spotting cassowaries: There are 3 animals here, 2 adults and a juvenile which come down to the beach most days. There is usually 1 on the beach in the morning and by about 3:30pm all of them can be spotted around the day area. These animals are fairly habituated to humans but please don't feed them no matter how tempting it may be.
Accommodation: There are loads of accommodation options around Mission Beach and everything is so close that it doesn't really matter where you stay, particularly if you have rented a car. We stayed here, and again I would highly recommend it:
Spotting cassowaries: They can be found almost anywhere around Mission Beach and a good strategy is to drive around early in the morning. However, some hotspots include Wheatley Road which goes past the tip in South Mission Beach, the police station and school near Woolworths, the boat ramp in South Mission Beach, and on the roads around Bingil Bay.
By far the most success I had was on the dirt road leading into the Licuala walking track, I saw 4 individual adults, and one with a chick, in this same spot within 24 hours. Speaking to other people on the walking track here they also saw other birds that I didn't see so I would recommend concentrating efforts around this area.
Accommodation: Accommodation can range from reasonable to pretty expensive in this area. Again we used AirBnB and I would probably recommend this over the resorts. Be aware that it is difficult to get supplies once you have crossed over the river on the ferry so be prepared and take all the food you will need if you are staying somewhere that does not provide catering.
Spotting cassowaries: I found it more difficult to find them in this area, most likely because the forest was much thicker and there were more tourists around. However, if you get up early before most people are up you will have a better chance. I found 2 adults together at the Jindalba Boardwalk early in the morning. Other tourists had told me they had seen them walking around on the main roads as well on most days.
While in the area there is some amazing wildlife to see besides cassowaries and I would recommend visiting the Nerada Tea Plantation to see if you can spot the wild tree kangaroos, head to the platypus viewing area in Yungaburra, and do a river cruise on the Daintree River to try and spot crocodiles.