rusty duck Gains Wings



Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen. Today we’ll be flying this Cessna 208B Grand Caravan at 2000 ft over the Coral Sea. Your pilot will be Matt and your co-pilot… Jessica.


Well, just HOLD. ON. A. MINUTE.. Is this the same Jessica whose knees have been shaking ever since arriving at the airport? Before arriving actually. At the thought of flying in the teeniest, tiniest non jet-engined plane yet, low out over the ocean? And now she’s going to be doing it IN THE FRONT SEAT??



Cleared for take off..



To fill every seat on the plane one of the passengers gets allocated to the cockpit. To say Mike was envious would be the understatement of the year. He’d have been in there like a shot. But.. too heavy you see. It’s all worked out on the basis of weight distribution to finely balance the plane. Seat swapping strictly verboten.

As we boarded I’d taken a good long sideways look at our pilot, Matt. He seemed healthy enough.



At Whitsundays Airport you can have a house right next to the runway.

Does that garage look a tad oversized to you? Could be because it isn’t a garage at all. Nope, it’s an integral aircraft hanger. For one’s private plane. Access straight off the taxiway. Imagine that. Maybe nip across to Hamilton Island and Qualia for lunch and still have time to pop down to Brissie for a spot of retail therapy before tea. Surely it could only happen here.

They’re building more if you’re interested..



Up in the air and a panoramic view over the Whitsunday passage.



It’s a sailing paradise, for those who like that sort of thing.



Hamilton Island

Bit too built up?



Try this then. There are many tiny uninhabited islands too, only accessible by boat.


But there was one place in particular that we’d come to see.

(“Can you take it from here Matt? I need to concentrate on the shots..”)



The swirling sands of Whitehaven beach and the Hill Inlet. Reputedly the best beach in Australia. If not the world.

And yes, the sea really is that colour.

(Photo by Mike)



Our next destination, glittering in the distance..



The Great Barrier Reef

Well it had to be done didn’t it. We couldn’t come all this way and not even see it.



And what a truly awesome sight it is.


But Australia’s natural wonder is in mortal danger. Bleaching caused by climate change killed almost a quarter of its coral last year and many scientists believe it could be too late for the rest. Many types of coral on the reef have a special symbiotic relationship with tiny marine algae (zooxanthellae) which live inside the coral tissue. The algae provide up to 90 per cent of the energy corals require to grow and reproduce. Bleaching occurs when the relationship between the coral host and zooxanthellae, which give coral much of their colour, breaks down. Without the zooxanthellae the coral’s bright white skeleton is revealed. While some corals are able to feed themselves, most struggle to survive without their algae food generation plant.



The main cause of coral bleaching is heat stress resulting from high sea temperatures. Temperature increases of only one degree celsius over just four weeks can be enough to trigger bleaching events. If these temperatures persist for longer periods (eight weeks or more) corals begin to die. Should conditions return to normal corals can regain their zooxanthellae, reestablish their previous colour and survive. Widespread coral death is the more likely outcome if the stress persists.

For an in-depth analysis of the impact of climate change, and other human intervention, on the Great Barrier Reef try this article in The Guardian newspaper (here). But be warned, it makes for grim reading.



The famous and iconic Heart Reef. Just beautiful.

Much smaller than I’d imagined. Luckily Matt knows where to find it. He’s done this trip a few times before.



The weather wasn’t perfect for the Whitsunday leg of our Australian adventure. You can see in several of the shots above the storm clouds gathering on the horizon. We made it back before the rain but flying toward shore the teeny tiny plane was jostled a fair bit as the wind picked up.

A pilot earns his dollar in these situations, finely tuning his position vis-à-vis the runway to compensate for wind drift.



A view of the approach not usually seen by the blissfully unaware passenger..


“Matt.. straighten up, STRAIGHTEN UP.. we’re going to miss it!!”
Oh for heaven’s sake.


pin it?


2017-10-26T10:22:49+00:00March 6th, 2017|Tags: |


  1. Marian St.Clair March 6, 2017 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    It’s so exciting to travel with you!

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 7:09 pm - Reply

      Travel is a fairly rare event for us, so we tend to pack a lot in!

  2. Sarah Shoesmith March 6, 2017 at 2:46 pm - Reply

    Thank goodness you were there! I shudder to think how Matt would have coped without you 😉

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 7:10 pm - Reply

      It’s a scary thought isn’t it!

  3. annincumbria March 6, 2017 at 2:57 pm - Reply

    It was most certainly a hell of a trip thanks for sharing

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 7:11 pm - Reply

      The flight was supposed to be an hour but it felt much shorter than that once we were in the air.

  4. pollymacleod March 6, 2017 at 2:59 pm - Reply

    Oh I’m so envious. We did a whistle stop drive through Airlee beach and stopped in Shutehaven for coffee where we had views of the Whitsunday Islands. But flying really does give you the best views, and, in your case magnificent photos. Well done Mrs co-pilot for keeping Matt on the ball. Must dash now to find the website to order a runway house complete with a plane-garage 🙂

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 7:14 pm - Reply

      I was quite taken with a runway house too, but you’d have to really like planes. Imagine the noise. And the constant aroma of aviation fuel.

  5. Torrington Tina March 6, 2017 at 3:00 pm - Reply

    What an experience and thank you for sharing those photos and the plight of the coral reefs.

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 7:19 pm - Reply

      It’s so sad to learn about the coral reefs. The guide who took us through the rainforest also did a lot of work out on the reef. He was quite pessimistic unfortunately. Much of what he said I’ve since backed up through research for this post.

  6. Peter/Outlaw March 6, 2017 at 3:20 pm - Reply

    Truly exquisite images! So glad that you were there to coach Matt so that you returned safe and sound.

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 7:22 pm - Reply

      I’m quite sure he was relieved to have me looking out for him.. 😉

  7. Freda March 6, 2017 at 3:41 pm - Reply

    Flying is so exciting! tried some gliding but soon realised I was more interested in the view than in actually flying the thing! Ballooning too – same story. I like being a passenger..

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 7:26 pm - Reply

      The views are amazing. So much so I quite forgot about how small the plane was and how close to the water! I’d agree, passenger is best.

  8. jannaschreier March 6, 2017 at 4:24 pm - Reply

    I’ve been lucky enough to sit in the front, too! It’s quite amazing, isn’t it? All those beautiful colours.

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 7:29 pm - Reply

      It is. The colours of the sea are just stunning out there. Impossibly blue!

  9. Christina March 6, 2017 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    Just wonderful Jessica; I have no words to say how beautiful it looks. You also brought back memories of a Bulgarian Airways flight when we were going skiing years ago. The pilot announced that the plane had more passengers than seats and wanted volunteers to sit 1 in the cockpit and 2 in the crew seats – not a very tranquil flight as I recall!

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 7:39 pm - Reply

      British Airways used to do that on regional Scottish flights, the little turboprops with the tartan painted tails which buzzed around the islands. I can’t recall whether I ever did it, despite flying up there a lot. I’m sure I’d have remembered sitting in the front seat coming into Glasgow International! Nowadays I guess security regulations have put a stop to any such excitement.

  10. Kris P March 6, 2017 at 5:08 pm - Reply

    I don’t know if your seating upfront with the pilot was a dream or a nightmare, Jessica, but you did capture some of the most stunning shots I’ve ever seen. What a trip you had! So, are you still afraid of flying over water or did that experience desensitize you for good?

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 7:45 pm - Reply

      It has been pointed out that my tally of photos in this post is 4 compared to his 9. Therefore, credit where it’s due! The view from the cockpit is pretty special, enough to make me forget about where I was briefly. Whether that will still be the case on the next flight I don’t know. It’s a lot more claustrophobic in the back of the plane!

  11. justjilluk March 6, 2017 at 5:15 pm - Reply


    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 7:46 pm - Reply

      It was. Probably never do it again so made the most of it.

  12. Chloris March 6, 2017 at 5:26 pm - Reply

    I have done quite a bit of co- piloting in a Cessna and a Piper Cherokee and been terrified every inch of the way. Landing in a cross wind is particularly nerve – racking. But I think I might have forgotten to be scared with views like this. How amazing to fly over the barrier reef. Wow, amazing photos.

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 7:52 pm - Reply

      It was the only way I was ever going to see the Barrier Reef. You can’t see it from land and there was no chance I was going on a boat out there. It was just too good an opportunity to miss.

  13. Sol March 6, 2017 at 5:32 pm - Reply

    Absolutely stunning! What memories you have made!

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 7:57 pm - Reply

      Thanks. Yes, plenty of memories. But I’ll go back to Australia given half a chance, albeit at a slower pace.

  14. Dorothy Borders March 6, 2017 at 6:06 pm - Reply

    Fantastic photography! I’m not sure how you managed it while helping to fly the plane…

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 7:58 pm - Reply

      I had my trusty co-photographer in the back of the plane. Who has reminded me that actually he took most of the shots! 😉

  15. ginaferrari March 6, 2017 at 6:57 pm - Reply

    The amazing views must have made the flight worthwhile. It’s stunning!

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 8:01 pm - Reply

      I had expected the Barrier Reef to be amazing and it proved even more so. Definitely worthwhile.

  16. wherefivevalleysmeet March 6, 2017 at 7:07 pm - Reply

    Oh gosh Jessica! I really thought that you were flying at first, and was very impressed. We had a similar thing happen when we flew to the Scily Isles, first of all we embarassingly had to be weighed and then were given seats accordingly.
    It is a terrible tragedy about the coral reef.

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 8:06 pm - Reply

      Ha ha! I have a weighing in story for later in the trip. What’s happening to the reef is so very sad. It is so sensitive to climatic change. Just a single degree C can make all the difference. We are progressively destroying a balance that has evolved over millions of years.

  17. germac4 March 6, 2017 at 7:58 pm - Reply

    Gorgeous photos .. the colours & the beaches are wonderful .. but the gradual destruction of the reef is very depressing..

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 8:09 pm - Reply

      It is depressing. And not just the reef, all the creatures that depend on it for food and shelter.

  18. An Eye For Detail March 6, 2017 at 8:20 pm - Reply

    Love this! Just such gorgeous pictures and oh what a time….

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 8:11 pm - Reply

      It’s a staggeringly beautiful part of the world. I feel very lucky to get to see it.

  19. karen March 6, 2017 at 8:42 pm - Reply

    Good grief! That’s so brave of you. What fabulous photos. What a country. Thanks for sharing. Youve inspired us to look at the map of the world. Exciting times!

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 8:22 pm - Reply

      Not really brave, although I confess I was not looking forward to the small plane. It has given me an appetite to travel more, so many wonderful places in the world to see. We’ll have to save the pennies first though.

  20. FlowerAlley March 6, 2017 at 9:18 pm - Reply

    This was a dream. I would love to get to see the Great Barrier Reef. Wonderful photos and humorous commentary. Good job Lucky Duck.

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 8:25 pm - Reply

      The best way is to dive. I remember once in the Indian Ocean going inside a semi submersible, definitely not something I could do today. The sight of the fish on the reef was pretty amazing though.

  21. restlessjo March 6, 2017 at 10:07 pm - Reply

    What an extraordinarily exciting adventure, Jess, and how desperately sad for the coral!

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 8:27 pm - Reply

      I hope there is something we can do to save the coral, or at least mitigate the effects of the rising water temperature. At the moment most of the damage is at the northern end, where the temperatures are that much higher.

  22. Sue Garrett March 6, 2017 at 10:37 pm - Reply

    You are brave. I’d not have got off the ground not to mention a front seat view so your post is as near as I’ll ever get.

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 8:33 pm - Reply

      We didn’t book it until a couple of days before the flight so I didn’t have much time to think about it. What I’d have really loved to do would be land on that beautiful beach. It’s possible by helicopter (prohibitively expensive) or seaplane. I did think about the seaplane but in the end decided it would be just too traumatic. It was a holiday after all! So a scenic flight had to suffice.

  23. hb March 7, 2017 at 1:03 am - Reply

    Ah, yes. Dear Husband flew for a few years and I was in the other seat a few times. I didn’t burst into tears when he gave it up.

    The scenery was was nice, but not quite at that level. Best beach in the world, it certainly looked like it!

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 8:38 pm - Reply

      Mike would love to fly. The multiple hazards of gardening are quite enough excitement for me.

  24. Karen B. March 7, 2017 at 1:39 am - Reply

    Freaking fantastic! Thanks so much for taking us along!

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 8:41 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome! I’m glad some of our photos came out. It seemed every time I was set up for a shot the plane lurched!

  25. smallsunnygarden March 7, 2017 at 5:07 am - Reply

    I can’t help feeling you were terribly lucky, but then I’ve never tried riding in a teeny, tiny plane 😉 But those views…!!

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 8:43 pm - Reply

      We were very lucky to get the chance to do it. Also because we didn’t book until we got there and it was Christmas holiday season.

  26. Virginia March 7, 2017 at 5:09 am - Reply

    Well, you certainly ‘felt the fear and did it anyway’ on this trip didn’t you Jessica – what amazing photos. Did the wonderful views take your mind off it? I’m seriously impressed.

    Thanks for taking us on the trip of a lifetime!

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 8:46 pm - Reply

      The wonderful views did take over once we were airborne. I hate landing in windy conditions, even in a large jet, so that bit was a bit scary.

  27. Pauline March 7, 2017 at 6:30 am - Reply

    Stunning photos as usual, what amazing scenery you had and the best view from the plane! You certainly had the trip of a lifetime, thanks for taking us along with you!

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 8:53 pm - Reply

      Thanks Pauline. The world is full of wonders. The Barrier Reef is definitely one of them.

  28. Jayne Hill March 7, 2017 at 7:38 am - Reply

    Absolutely stunning, all the more so because this is the only way I could ever experience the wonderful places you visit. I hate flying as much as you ‘love’ boats (actually, don’t care for boats much either . . . )

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 8:56 pm - Reply

      I don’t care for flying much either but it’s a means to an end. Mike loves it. His holiday always starts at Heathrow. Mine starts with a big sigh of relief when we arrive at the destination.

  29. derrickjknight March 7, 2017 at 12:09 pm - Reply

    Superb pictures, the taking of which would scare the life out of me 🙂

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 9:02 pm - Reply

      It could have been worse. It could have been a boat!

  30. Sam March 7, 2017 at 12:36 pm - Reply

    Breathtaking photos. What an incredible experience, especially from the front of the plane. (Did you actually take the controls..?!)

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 9:08 pm - Reply

      I kept my hands well away from the controls. Except when we stopped at the end of the flight and the steering wheel (??) came back unexpectedly and almost sent the camera flying.

  31. Caro March 7, 2017 at 3:25 pm - Reply

    Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! Well done for overcoming your fears to take such brilliant photos. Personally I’m with Mike, I’d have LOVED to be up front – although perhaps not on the bumpy return bit!

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 9:10 pm - Reply

      Apparently Australia has the best record for flight safety anywhere. This is what I kept foremost in my mind!

  32. Anna @Suffolk Pebbles March 7, 2017 at 3:43 pm - Reply

    what an adventure you have had and wonderful images as always!

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 9:13 pm - Reply

      Thanks Anna. Yes, a real adventure. And we barely scratched the surface of Australia.

  33. snowbird March 7, 2017 at 8:10 pm - Reply

    Oh NOOOOOOO….I swear I would have died of fright sitting in the cockpit of that tiny plane!!! We went around the Whitsunday’s by boat….far less traumatic, well for me anyway. You got to see those ariel views though, goodness me, how stunning! The colour of the water….sighs….xxx

    • Jessica March 7, 2017 at 9:16 pm - Reply

      Ah, but you got to see the beaches close up. It looked totally idyllic down there!

  34. offtheedgegardening March 8, 2017 at 11:54 am - Reply

    I am a very nervous flyer, and this would be my idea of hell, but actually, no, I am sure I would be distracted by those amazing views, it would be worth the terror. But now I don’t have to, because you shared. Thanks 🙂

    • Jessica March 8, 2017 at 9:54 pm - Reply

      It’s one of those things that just had to be done. The only issue was finding the least traumatic way!

  35. Sigrun March 8, 2017 at 1:36 pm - Reply

    Wow, wow, wow, Jessica. So beautiful impressions.


    • Jessica March 8, 2017 at 9:55 pm - Reply

      Thanks Sigrun. It was pretty amazing.

  36. emilymbrown13 March 8, 2017 at 5:25 pm - Reply

    How utterly beautiful and totally stunning – I’m so envious – you even managed to take great photos. What an amazing life experience.

    • Jessica March 8, 2017 at 10:02 pm - Reply

      It is utterly beautiful out there. But it looks so fragile.

  37. Brenda March 8, 2017 at 6:14 pm - Reply

    Exquisite. Your boat avoidance had an upside in this case–a bird’s eye view of what must be one of the beautiful places on earth. Seeing the swirling colors of Hill Inlet and the reef mosaics must have made you feel happy just to be alive. As for the bleaching of the coral, maybe we need to send all of the climate-change-denying yahoos in government out for a flyover and dive. We could throw in a glacier-melting cruise, too. Although, for many, I fear it wouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference.

    • Jessica March 8, 2017 at 10:16 pm - Reply

      The evidence year on year will soon be overwhelming. Trouble is by that time it will most likely be too late.

  38. Sarah March 11, 2017 at 8:02 pm - Reply

    That is an amazing flight and sitting in the front gave you such fantastic views. I doubt I will ever get to experience that so it was wonderful to see it through your eyes and lens! Sarah x

    • Jessica March 13, 2017 at 7:26 pm - Reply

      Thanks Sarah. It doesn’t give quite as good a view as you’d think as the control panel takes up most of the forward facing view. I either had to stretch very high or hold the camera in the air for those shots! But there is a lovely big side window and it feels a lot more spacious than the back of the plane.

  39. Cathy March 12, 2017 at 8:21 am - Reply

    What an amazing experience Jessica – and well done for gritting your teeth and making the most of the experience – we are all proud of you!

    • Jessica March 13, 2017 at 7:32 pm - Reply

      I was quite enjoying it by the end, well, until it started to get bumpy. Landing in a plane in the wind is one of my least favourite things.

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