Airlie Beach: the heart of the reef. I’m sure that most of us have heard of, or seen a photo of, Australia’s “Heart Reef.” I had no idea where it was though, nor how to access it. After a slew of scenic flights in New Zealand, I had thought to research scenic flights over the Great Barrier Reef. When stumbling upon GSL Aviation, I realized I had found my company. With their hour-long “Reef and Island” tour, we were to be flown over the iconic Whitehaven Beach, Hill Inlet, and the famous Heart Reef.
Who wouldn’t want to see a natural heart sending you love from the Great Barrier Reef?!
GSL Aviation picked me up from Kipara Rainforest Retreat around 9am with their free courtesy bus. After a brief safety video, we went out to our small aircraft where everyone was guaranteed a window seat, so there was no need to stress about placement. Each individual was assigned a seat based on weight, and I was put in the co-pilot seat! GSL Aviation requires that each person wear an inflatable life vest around ones waist and headphones to protect ones ears from the sound of the engine. Those headphones, without fail, make my face look so chubby!
With a smooth takeoff from our pilot, James, we were flying!
With Hamilton Island on our right, we then passed Whitsunday Island with a view of Whitehaven Beach and the iconic Hill Inlet.
GSL Aviation was fantastic, and flew past this area twice so that each side of the plane would get a view and some photographs! I found that to be very thoughtful.
From Whitehaven Beach, it was about an 8 minute flight out to the Great Barrier Reef. The further out to sea we flew, the bluer the water became. Relatively immediately after reaching the Great Barrier Reef, we saw a bit of Hook Reef and Hardy Reef before blatantly seeing the Heart Reef.
While well-known, Heart Reef is a very small bit of reef, and thus easy to miss if you aren’t prepared. James was fantastic and did a countdown for us when approaching Heart Reef. None of us missed it thanks to GSL Aviation! Just like with Whitehaven Beach, James turned us around and flew past Heart Reef twice to ensure that each person saw Heart Reef. It’s a really incredible thing to see from above.
From Heart Reef, we saw more of Hook Reef, Hardy Reef, and Line Reef, before approaching Bait Reef. Seeing Bait Reef from the air was extra special for me, as I had just snorkeled Bait Reef two days earlier on the Anaconda III. To see how beautiful this area was, and to have been able to see it from both sea and air, was remarkable. I’m truly grateful for the experience.
With a smile plastered on my face, in complete awe of the beautiful Great Barrier Reef, it was time for us to fly back to Airlie Beach.
A final view of Airlie Beach completed our Reef and Island Scenic Flight with GSL Aviation, and I couldn’t have asked for a better flight! Smooth and stunning, GSL Aviation can take you to otherwise untouchable locations.
**Special thanks to GSL Aviation for sponsoring our experience. As always, all opinions are my own.