There are many ways to appreciate Queensland’s stunning Great Barrier Reef. The majority of people take to the water on a boat trip but if you are short on time or can’t snorkel, a helicopter tour from Cairns may prove a time efficient and a spectacular way of seeing the reef. The Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven wonders of the world and according to UNESCO it has the world’s largest collection of coral reefs, with 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of mollusc. It’s certainly a natural attraction to put on your must-visit list when travelling to Tropical North Queensland.
Cairns helicopter tour – Nautilus Aviation
Braeden’s disability means he can’t snorkel so although a boat trip may be lovely, it doesn’t give him a good view of the reef.
A helicopter flight is the best way for Braeden to see the Great Barrier Reef with ease and what a view it offers. Seeing the reef from the air is the only way to get a feel for the vast area it covers.
Taking off from Cairns Heliport we left the city behind and were immediately wowed by the spectrum of blue coloured water beneath us. Our pilot shared facts and figures about the reef, the islands and Cairns itself as we choppered along. I have to admit to being so transfixed by what I was seeing it was hard to concentrate on his commentary – yes, it’s that gorgeous.
Nestled between Hubby and I Braeden was confident and exhilarated by the trip which was booked to coincide with his birthday. After our helicopter flight on the Gold Coast we realised our adrenaline-seeker had some concerns about the window seat when the helicopter tilted this way and that and is more comfortable in the middle seat.
During the flight we spotted Green Island which we had visited on a previous holiday to Cairns. It’s an accessible day trip for those who prefer to keep their feet firmly on the ground. You can read about our day there, along with a range of other Cairns-based accessible activities in our round-up blog.
We also had views of Vlasoff Sand Cay and Upolu Sand Cay, two of the most striking sand islands on the Great Barrier Reef.
From the air we couldn’t see the fish or the colours of the coral but we did have the pleasure of seeing a whale and her calf frolicking, we also spotted a shark. As much as Hubby has told me he enjoyed diving with sharks, I still prefer to see them at a distance.
Cairns Helicopter tour – accessibility
As with all helicopter tours in Australia there is a large step to be negotiated to transfer up into the helicopter. Hubby assisted Braeden to transfer into the helicopter and as they’ve done it a few times they know what to do to make it as easy as possible. Staff from Nautilus Aviation were helpful and didn’t rush us but it is up to you to transfer into the helicopter with the assistance of those you are travelling with if you have a mobility restriction.
Travellers are seated according to weight so Amelia sat up front being the light-weight of the family.
The Nautilus Aviation office is wheelchair accessible with a step-free entry.
Accessible parking is available in the nearby open-air car park.
A step-free route leads from the Nautilus Aviation office to the Heliport.
Guests wear a life jacket and headphones for the flight. Braeden won’t tolerate headphones so helicopter flights are noisy for him and he misses the commentary but the smile on his dial tells me this doesn’t matter.
Staff from Nautilus Aviation took care of Braeden’s wheelchair in the office while we were on the flight and returned it in time for our landing.
Our tip for keen photographers is to wear dark coloured clothing to reduce the reflection on the windows and wear long pants not shorts if possible for the same reasons.
The helicopter over the Great Barrier Reef was not only fabulous for Braeden but for the whole family. Amelia suffers from motion sickness in boats if it is too choppy so our flight with Nautilus Aviation from Cairns ticked the boxes for many reasons. I feel so lucky to live in Australia and to have such a natural wonder right on my doorstep (well, a short flight away).
We were hosted for our flight but as always our opinions are our own and I think the photos speak for themselves. If you’d like to hear my chat about our trip to Cairns and the surrounding areas you can do so on the Accessed That podcast, a fabulous initiative of Tourism Events Queensland.