The weather looked as though it may disrupt my plan for a scenic flight out over the Great Barrier Reef with GSL Aviation. There had been tropical storms overnight and dark clouds over the coastal region of Cairns threatened to curtail my Reef Hopper flight
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is in fact a series of over 2,900 individual reefs, stretching from the tip of Cape York in the north to lady Elliot Island in the south. Covering over 348,000 square km (134,364 sq miles), it comprises fringing and barrier reefs, 600 rocky continental islands, 300 coral cays and 70 different bio-regions, making it the most ecologically diverse system in the world.
Although coral reefs have been around for over 500 million years, the Great Barrier Reef is relatively young at 500,000 years, and this most modern form is only 8,000 years old, having developed after the last ice age.
This World`s largest UNESCO Heritage marine park supports the greatest concentration of life on the planet with over 1,500 species of fish, 400 different corals and 6 of the world`s 7 species of sea turtles are found here. Whales are often encountered in these waters from May to September.
There was an anxious wait in the GA Aero Centre at Cairns Airport as we waited to find out whether our flight would take off. The young people behind the reception desk finally gave us the `thumbs up` and we were on our way for an exciting flight over the Great Barrier Reef.
Out pilot walked us across the apron to our transport, the GA8 AIRVAN provides seating for up to eight passengers but on out flight there were just five on board including the pilot. My seat had a large window for easy viewing of the coral reef below as we set off on our forty-minute flight across the Great Barrier Reef including views of the North Queensland coastline including Cairns, Green Island, Arlington Reef, Upolu Reef, Double Island and Palm Cove.
Our young pilot, Katie gave a very informative in – flight commentary about the reef below pointing out sea turtles and shoals of fish as we flew over them. From my seat, I could marvel at the incredible colours of the coral reef and occasionally spot a sea turtle as a bonus. Out flight went as low as five hundred feet of a couple of occasions so that we could get a much closer look at the sea below.
There are as many different colours as there are over four thousand different types of coral in the reef. The forty minute flight was brilliant. My wife and I thought it was a great way to experience the Great Barrier Reef. From the air you can obviously cover a lot more of the reef than you would in a boat.
We flew out to the edge of the reef in less than ten minutes. It also enables you to see the reef from a completely different perspective. I would recommend a flight over the reef but I would also suggest you take a boat out to one of the islands and do a little snorkelling too. That way you really do begin to appreciate the diversity of the reef.
GA Aero Centre – Unit 3/97, Tom McDonald Dr, Cairns Airport, QLD 4870
Phone: 1300 475 000
Office Hours: Mon – Sun: 8am till 6pm
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