Thursday, December 6, 2012

One Happy Shauna and A Flight Over the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef.

One of the best things about traveling the eastern Australian coast is talking to people about their travels and your own. The people you meet are either heading north or south. It is one of the first questions asked, after "where are you from....are you going up or down?" You want to hear that people are going in the same direction as you so that you can make friends to travel with along the way, but at the same time, when they are heading in the opposite direction, they can offer advice on what they've done and recommend what you should do. I had only booked Fraser Island and the Whitsundays with a travel agent. Everything else, every hostel, every bus ride was just done when I felt like it and when I needed to move on, on my own time.  One of the trips that I had repeatedly heard was worthwhile and I had seen spectacular pictures of, was a plane ride over the Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef. It was in the back of my head when I arrived in Airlie Beach and saw the posters advertised in the various travel agents around town, but I never thought it would be something I would actually do. The more I thought about it after sailing around the Whitsundays and hanging out in Airlie Beach, I couldn't help but think, or justify, it's now or never. It was something I wouldn't normally sign up for, like some gimmicky tourist excursion, however I wandered into one of the travel agents to inquire and she basically said, after the boat trip, the plane ride over not only puts its all into perspective, but is the cherry on top. There were three possible plane trips, but only one that flew over the Great Barrier Reef as well. If you're going to go, you might as well go all out. It was a splurge I couldn't really afford to make, but from what I had heard from others who had gone, and others reconfirming that you only live once, I knew that it would be worthwhile. 
Of all the other trips and places I had visited, I was excited for sure. I knew that I wanted to see these places, to check them off. Maybe a little more anxious than realising that I was excited to be doing overnight trips and booking into hostels by myself and not knowing who I would meet, but for this trip, maybe because it was just an hour, and especially because it was something I was doing on my own, I was genuinely giddy. I couldn't help but smile at the thought of the trip. My stomach was in my throat and my knees were bouncing. I honestly felt like a little kid.  A little kid going on a big adventure. 
I was picked up in a van of 10 people who were brought to the little airport. We all "checked-in" and paid the remaining deposit and were split amongst 2 planes. 6 of us were in my plane. There was another solo girl and 2 couples. After our safety lecture, I was hoping I could sit in the front of the plane, but the pilot told me to get in the back. I wasn't disappointed though because I had two seats to myself which meant I had easy viewing access to both sides of the plane and no one to lean over, or no propellers in front of me. IT WAS AWESOME. I absolutely loved every minute of it for the entire hour. So, this post is mostly pictures because I went a little snap-happy, obviously, trying to capture everything that I saw. I wanted to share it. Of course, pictures cannot do any justice whatsoever. You will have to go for yourself! 
the little plane we were going to squeeze into.
In the back of the little plane.
I'm so awkward. But oh so happy.
The plane took off, and it literally felt as though any gust of wind would blow us over, tumbling down to the ground. It was shaky, it was bumpy, and it was not for the claustrophobic. But if this is how I would die, or be eaten by a shark as we crashed into the ocean, then that would be ok.
There were big islands and little islands that conjured up images and desires to be stranded, maybe for just a couple days or even a few hours and create your own little paradise.

We drove past the golf course on Dent Island that is part of the Hamilton Island Resort. I thought about Dad and how much he would probably love a round of golf there! 
Hamilton Island is one of the 5 islands that have resorts. It is one of the most popular.
We flew over White Haven Beach where we went with PowerPlay.
Because it was low tide and the water from the inland was being mixed with the ocean water, it created a swirling effect. 
It really looks like this. Even better.
Those boats to the right are anchored where we got off to go to the look-out and down to White Haven Beach to the left.
After we left the Whitsunday Islands, it took about 10 minutes to fly to the start of the Great Barrier Reef, a flight that would have taken about 2 and a half hours by boat.
This is some of the algae that's floating around.
We passed another plane.
The start of the Great Barrier Reef. It is the largest thing built by living creatures: billions of corals. 
The view of the Great Barrier Reef as we approach it in the plane.
My on-sale camera isn't even that good. I saw some of the shots on the camera screen from the couple in front of me that were crystal clear, but you know what, these will just have to do! It's all about the memory and the experience!
This one looks like a grumpy face.
The little one in the middle, shaped like a heart, is called Heart Reef. It is the most postcard-ed picture I think.
Heart Reef.
Flying 2,000 feet above.
I even saw some ray's...manta or sting...

The plane flew back over Heart Reef again so the other side of the plane could see it. 
And again, zooming by, saying good-bye.

Would be absolutely fascinating to go snorkelling/diving here.
so many colours and forms of life.
I am one happy flyer! 

The breaks along the edge of the reef mean that the reef is protected.
Airplane over coral.
Flying back towards the Whitsundays.
Deep blue sea.
Land Ho.
This is Hayman Island. One of the suits in this resort costs $6,000 a night. hmmmmmm...
We went snorkelling around here on the last day of the PowerPlay trip.
Back to Airlie Beach.
Thank you plane for the trip.

Now, whenever anyone asks me for recommendations on what they should see when traveling up or down the coast, I will 100% say go on the flight. It's worth the splurge. x

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