Monday, June 3, 2013

TRIP REPORT - Great Barrier Reef - Hardy Reef to Hamilton Island - HeliReef Whitsunday / Whitsunday Air Services / Hamilton Island Air - Eurocopter EC120B Colibri Helicopter - VH-YWY

After a lovely morning of snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef at a small section known as Hardy Reef, we were informed that our time on the Cruise Whitsunday purpose-built pontoon was about to come to an end, and we were to fly over the reef to Hamilton Island Airport on board one of Helireef Whitsunday / Hamilton Island Air (Whitsunday Air Services) helicopters.

I had spotted three choppers parked on their own nearby pontoon - a pair of Bell 206 Jetrangers - VH-VTO and VH-VTU - and a Eurocopter EC120B Colibri. These three choppers plus a couple of Robinson R44s had been providing 10 minute joy-flights over the reef earlier in the day.

We boarded the launch at the pontoon and headed for the Jetrangers. As we tied up briefly to their pontoon, we were informed to stay on board as we were heading back to Hamilton Island on board the EC120B along with one other couple.

This was probably a good thing as these Jetrangers looked to be able to carry as many as six paying passengers with some facing backwards !

We headed for our chopper - Eurocopter EC120B Colibri VH-YWY - and met the pilot who stored our bag in the Colibri’s rear cargo hold.

My wife and I were given the back seat. My loving wife suggested that I have the window seat as I take better photographs!!

As the chopper powered up and took off, our view for the next half hour or so became reality. The vast expanse of the Great Barrier Reef is phenomenal.

Soon, the pontoon that we had been on looked like a small blip on this massive pristine landscape.

We flew over heaps of coral and soon after, we were able to view the jewel of the Great Barrier Reef – Heart Reef.

After circling Heart Reef we headed toward Hamilton Island.

Out pilot – Craig – was able to give us guided commentary during the flight which was very informative and certainly well received by us all on board. 

Soon after, land came into view on the horizon as we approached the Whitsunday Island and yet more stunning highlights in the form of Hill Inlet and magnificent white sands of Whitehaven Beach.  

We over flew over Hill Inlet and then up the length of Whitehaven Beach heading South.  I even spotted a tourist boat and another chopper on visiting Whitehaven Beach!

We then headed towards Hamilton Island flying over some more beautiful scenery – gee the Whitsundays are a simply stunning!

Soon after, and after a couple of right- hand turns, we were on final for landing parallel to runway 32 at Hamo.  

We made our final approach and touched down on the HeliReef Whitsunday / Hamilton Island Air parking apron – next to the two Jetrangers that took off shortly before us!

The Hamilton Island Air apron had no less than five helicopters and a Cessna 208 Caravan (VH-WTY) parked on the apron, while an couple more choppers could be seen inside their hangar.

Hamilton Island Airport is fairly small with a terminal building and apron with 3-4 parking gates. Most scheduled commercial services into Hamo - operated by Virgin Australia and Jetstar - usually arrive and depart in the morning, so an empty apron this afternoon was not a surprise!

We collected our bag and made our way outside and onto a courtesy buggy for a ride to the marina part of Hamilton Island to wait for your ferry boat back to the mainland. It was a nice touch to wrap up a lovely flight over one of the wonders of the world - the magnificent Great Barrier Reef!

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