A Great Barrier Reef joy flight with my Whitsunday wingman

Whitsundays wonder, Hardy Reef

I’m going to let you all in on a little secret. I am afraid of flying! Well I’m not so much afraid of flying as I am of crashing, but let’s not split hairs. Either way it proves a little awkward given I make my living out of travel and spend quite a bit time on airplanes. In the sky.

You’d think with a few hundred flights under my belt that I’d be able to fly one of things myself by now. But no. I still soil myself! Add a touch of claustrophobia to the equation and hilarity ensues.

The in-flight safety demonstration never helps. The seat belt? Farcical! My kid has a better restraint in her pram and we’re lucky if that ever does over 2km per hour, let alone 900!  And the life jacket with its light and whistle, what’s that for… entertaining the sharks?  You’re floating in the middle of the ocean hundreds of kilometres from land or the nearest passing ship and you seriously expect the captain of another non-crashed plane flying 30,000 feet above you to say to his co-pilot, “Did you just hear someone whistle?

If you should ever find yourself sitting next to me on a flight you’ll be pleased to know that I’m not outwardly hysterical, more an introspective quivering mess. If you notice my eyes nervously darting about looking for the nearest exit or my white knuckles as I’m rabidly checking the cabin staff for signs of a nervous sweat, I do have to ask a small favour! Please don’t start with all that “statistically, you’re more likely to have a car accident” bollocks because I’ll raise your rational argument with an irrational smack in the head! I get the statistics.

I know that the likelihood of me dying in a plane crash is about the same as the likelihood of Johnny Depp popping by for a quick martini this afternoon.

But planes do crash and when they do it’s not likely to end with a wee ding that you can get your cousin’s mate to bodge up in exchange for a case of cans, is it? Let’s be honest, it’s going to be less whoops and more flaming ball of twisted metal. There’s a reason you don’t see AAMI insuring freaking jumbos!

Regardless, with the assistance of a litre or two of Rescue Remedy and a lot of rocking back and forward quietly chanting “we’re going to die, were going to die, were going to die” with all the meditational resolve of a Buddhist monk, I get there. I may be a card-carrying flight phobic but I haven’t yet allowed that fear to keep me from flitting around the world several times over and, thus far, I can happily say I’ve made the same amount of landings as I have take-offs. Which is kind of  important.

Seaplane over the Whistundays

But I’m only talking about the big ones. Small planes are different. Just writing about those little bastards is enough for me to call for the smelling salts. And I confess that I have said no when confronted with the reality of having to hit the sky in one of those wee Fockers. Instead of the calm but internally gelatinous individual you might be lucky enough to encounter on a 747, show me a Cessna and I’ll show you a freaking idiot.

Given that pretty much takes the “joy” out of a joy flight for everyone involved, the Eats Worlds have generally avoided those on holidays… until now.

We’re in the Whitsundays Islands with the kids and there really is no better way to see the breathtaking Great Barrier Reef than with a bird’s eye perspective and, as I’m here mostly for work, we’ve been invited by the lovely folk from Air Whitsunday Seaplanes to take to the skies. So I face two dilemmas – pissing off a client and Raffles, who is so excited at the prospect he’s tap-dancing on the tarmac. Gulp!

Ergo I find myself swallowing a teaspoon or two of cement to harden up for a half day Whitsunday joy flight. And not on just any old little plane, no. This one is suffering from an identity crisis and thinks it’s a boat!

On arrival, we’re handed stinger suits. “What now? Are they going to release a swarm of freaking bees mid-flight?” I scream at the long-suffering Mr Eats World, who points out they are for the leisurely reef swimming part of our afternoon before suggesting I seem a tad jumpy!

You think?

After I’m peeled off the tarmac and forcibly stuffed into the aircraft, we’re briefed, seated and given headsets to hear our captain above the noise of the teensy tiny plane.

Mini Maverick

Soon enough we’re in the air and I’m turning a fetching shade of blue from holding my breath. I look down at the water below us and the islands scattered to our left and right and then the most amazing thing happens!

Whitsundays from the sky

I breathe out! And I realise that I am not afraid! In fact, with the fresh air flowing through the small plane and a head-setted Raffles beaming at me and signing that he loves me in encouragement (my little Wingman is so sweet I could eat him), I’m positively euphoric. Bugger me!

Cool co-pilot

The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest living structure, stretching over 2000 kilometres and one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

Hardy Reef

It is beautiful beyond description, the deep blue of the seas, the green of the islands and the fusion of vivid blues and greens as we fly over the reef itself are nothing short of breathtaking.

Heart reef, Whitsundays

As we descend over the ridiculously pretty sight of Heart Reef, which can only be viewed from the sky, in readiness to land, I once again find myself breathless, only this time in a good way!

Hardy Reef

The plane lands in a spray of water and, after taxiing to a private submersible boat, we disembark.

Raffles the fly baby

After a quick refreshment we suit up in our très flattering stinger suits ready to submerge ourselves into the beautiful blue.

Sugarpuff dons a Stinger suit ready for action

Sugarpuff is too young for the complexities of snorkelling so she and I splash about with a noodle by the boat as the boys head off amongst the coral with their new “crazy coloured fishy friends”.

Splashtastic fun on the Great Barrier Reef

With Raffles promoted to a very chuffed co-pilot on the return trip and me a newly minted non-chicken shit, we head back to Airlie Beach over the sparkling expanse of Whitehaven Beach.

Raffles the co-pilotThere are simply no words.

Mystical magical Whitehaven Beach

Back on terra firma I can’t believe that I nearly talked myself out of this once-in-a-lifetime experience and thank my lucky stars I gave in to the pleas of my fearless fly baby!

Best day ever on Hardy Reef with Air Whitsunday

26 Comments on A Great Barrier Reef joy flight with my Whitsunday wingman

  1. The Mummy Scripts
    May 2, 2013 at 10:23 pm (11 years ago)

    What an amazaing experience! And fabulous photos to document it

  2. Ronnie
    May 3, 2013 at 12:13 am (11 years ago)

    The pictures are amazing and I LOVE all your descriptions of the traumatic experience!!

  3. Cooker and a Looker
    May 3, 2013 at 7:05 am (11 years ago)

    I once flew on a sea plane in the Great Barrier Reef. We flew over a humpback giving birth. Pretty freakin fantastic! 🙂

      May 3, 2013 at 7:15 am (11 years ago)

      Wow! Now that IS a once in a lifetime experience. 🙂

  4. Sarah @ Slapdash Mama
    May 3, 2013 at 10:30 am (11 years ago)

    Oh god I hate flying. And you know what the older I get the worse it is!!! I think it’s because I’m not in blissful ignorance any more. I cannot BELIEVE you went in a teeny plane over the reef! SO BRAVE it makes me feel wobbly just thinking about it!!!

      May 3, 2013 at 2:42 pm (11 years ago)

      I know. The more flights I take I figure the more my odds go up! LOL

  5. Keeping Up With The Holsbys
    May 3, 2013 at 2:39 pm (11 years ago)

    Well, you think you’re so cool.
    I went to the library, and to Aldi.
    You’ve got nothing.

    (green with envy. Hiding it well, wouldn’t you say?)

    May 3, 2013 at 2:44 pm (11 years ago)

    You got me. I can’t compete with that! ;-D

  7. Tegan
    May 3, 2013 at 2:52 pm (11 years ago)

    Wow beautiful pictures, I can see why you were breathless. So glad that you were able to overcome your fears and experience it all.

    Thanks for linking up with us at The Lounge.

      May 3, 2013 at 7:08 pm (11 years ago)

      Loved the Lounge! Such a great group of bloggers. 🙂

  8. Ness
    May 3, 2013 at 3:14 pm (11 years ago)

    You are actually incredibly brave to do something so frequently that you actually fear.

    The Barrier Reef is SPECTACULAR. I went snorkelling ther many years ago. I had to be coaxed into doing that. I’m not sure if I could be coaxed into one of those tiny planes.

      May 3, 2013 at 7:07 pm (11 years ago)

      Thanks Ness! Guess the travel bug is stronger than the fear. But I swear flying will kill me cos I’ll probably have a panic attack induced heart attack.:-)

  9. robomum
    May 3, 2013 at 4:58 pm (11 years ago)

    Your pics make me want to chuck it all in and book a trip! What an amazing part of the world!

  10. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    May 3, 2013 at 7:22 pm (11 years ago)

    Hehe yes it’s the fear of crashing that I have too although I’m really very relaxed with flying. Talk to me after any incident though and that might be a different story! Gorgeous photos-we were just in the Whitsundays too! 🙂

  11. MrsD
    May 3, 2013 at 8:53 pm (11 years ago)

    Firstly HOW BEAUTIFUL IS That VIEW?? and secondly How cute is the co-pilot??? I did have a good chuckle at this (no offence). My hubby is exactly the same and he is a total nightmare on any flight. I worked as a flight attendant for several years so I don’t think I’ll ever under stand the true fear of flying!!

      May 3, 2013 at 8:54 pm (11 years ago)

      None taken. I laugh at me too! Even I think I’m daft! 😉

  12. Erin @ The Grass Skirt
    May 4, 2013 at 3:28 am (11 years ago)

    What gorgeous pictures and an incredible experience! My husband wants to take flying lessons, and I’ve been BEGGING him not to do it. I don’t want him up in the sky in some flimsy little plane!


  13. Rachel
    May 4, 2013 at 9:29 pm (11 years ago)

    What a fantastic experience for you all! I am also not a great flyer – like you I am a silent chanter rather than displaying my fear on the outside. I went on a small plane when I was about 4 months pregnant. I was terrified the entire time and vowed never to set foot on one again. So basically you are now my hero!

    Thanks for linking up with The Lounge – Rach (the lounge Lizard)

  14. Shelley
    May 5, 2013 at 10:56 am (11 years ago)

    How absolutely stunningly beautiful!

  15. Jenster
    May 5, 2013 at 6:37 pm (11 years ago)

    Sensational!! A wonderful piece of paradise you were able to experience!

  16. mamagrace71
    May 6, 2013 at 2:15 pm (11 years ago)

    Breathtaking! Aren’t ya glad you did it???

  17. Kim
    May 6, 2013 at 8:15 pm (11 years ago)

    I’m SHOCKED! You intrepid traveller you… short of landing gear! Mama… we’re all going to die.. so you may as well sing good songs when you fly. SO glad you did that flight (so I can vicariously go somewhere other than my desk). I drank about a bottle of Rescue Remedy in the days before my wedding. Seems you can get almost drunk off that stuff.. Love your work.

      May 7, 2013 at 6:02 pm (11 years ago)

      What can I say? I am a chickenshit. *Hangs head in shame* Rescue remedy rocks! 😉

  18. Jessica
    May 9, 2013 at 1:10 pm (11 years ago)

    Those are amazing pictures! I hope it was worth it :). Thanks for sharing @ The Show Off Blog Party!

    The Wondering Brain

  19. Sia Aristidou
    September 1, 2014 at 12:06 am (10 years ago)

    Amazing photos!! Love this post about the Whitsundays 🙂

  20. Green Global Travel
    June 22, 2015 at 11:14 am (9 years ago)

    These photos are breathtaking! Good for you for conquering your fear and being able to enjoy this awesome experience! This was great inspiration for people who are afraid of heights, like I am. Thanks for the post. – Emme @ Green Global Travel


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Hey, I’m Aleney! A mum, award-winning travel writer, magazine editor and gallivanting glutton. He’s Raff, the “boy” in boyeatsworld, and a fearless foodie, adventurer and eco-warrior. Along with his all-singing, all-dancing, all-adventurous sister, Sugarpuff, we’re exploring the world’s colour, culture and cuisine on a food safari for the junior set.

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