I am always looking out for new experiences, wherever I may find myself.
Published November 28th 2014
The Great Barrier Reef of one of Australia's most spectacular attractions and I think it's worth a little indulgence when it comes to trying to do it justice. I'm talking about spending a little money to see it from the skies. You can do this either by helicopter or plane, but as the plane trips are a lot longer, I chose to go with a scenic flight by GSL Aviation.
The flight I chose took me past the Whitsunday Islands to the outer Great Barrier Reef. Before we had even taken off the weather was poor and I had reservations that we would even get off the ground, or, if we did, whether my money would have been well spent. I had't paid hundreds of dollars to see some dark masses shrouded in rain and shadows.
The first trip out over the islands wasn't great. But with the attitude everyone in Airlie Beach seemed to possess when it comes to making sure visitors get the best trip possible, the pilot was on the radio a lot making sure he had the most up-to-the-minute information on where the rain was and how to avoid it.
We had to get out to the reef quickly and let me tell you, once there, it turned out to be absolutely beautiful when viewed this way and I can only imagine what it would have looked like if the sun had been out to brighten it up. As you reach it the dark waters suddenly give way to turquoise, greens and blues, which in turn become dotted with immeasurable reef formations. It's one of those scenes you can look at forever because there's too much to take in. One scene you won't forget though is Heart Reef, half the reason the plane comes out all this way.
Even on an overcast, dreary day, the colours at the reef were beautiful
Another section t see is Hardy Reef, which has a deep channel running through it. On my visit, we were treated to whales swimming through this water, an extra special sight and my first view of them from anything other than a beach.
We had to try to beat the rain to the whales (you can see the grey clouds on the left)
As the reef portion of our flight wound down we returned over the Whitsundays and the sun had finally come out (not even the weather has the heart to ruin a visitor's experience). This time I could see a lot more was mesmerised by small things like trees growing well down one small beach, far out in the water. The whole picture was too much to take in, especially as it was my first time seeing any of the islands. The pilot's narration helped me figure out what was what, but was a little hard to hear at times.
Again the sights were beautiful when we can back to the mainland, but I have to confess, I wasn't really enjoying it by this point. It was my first time ever on a plane (and that's a plane of any sort) and the small craft wasn't as steady as it could have been so after almost an hour up there I was starting to feel a little sick. But I was still thrilled I had done the flight and am glad that I didn't let money or weather hold me back.
If you don't want to spend quite as much as I did there is a cheaper flight you can do that doesn't go all the way out to the reef, but just stays around the islands. It goes for 25 minutes and costs $99.00. Alternatively, if you have any extra cash you can part with, I recommend doing an Ocean Rafting tour on top of the flight. These can be booked as part of a package with either of the two flights ($219.00 with the Island Explorer flight and $319.00 with the Reef and Island Flight). Then you'll be able to see the Whitsundays up even closer.