I visited Marree for the first time in 2018 and did not have the time for one of the scenic flights over Lake Eyre then. But, on my return in 2019, there was no way I was going to miss out on the opportunity again.
A flight over Lake Eyre was put on my bucket list back in 2011 after devastating floodwaters from Queensland finally made their way south and filled Lake Eyre to its highest level since 1974.
I remember seeing it on the news and thinking to myself that I would love to see it in flood, especially from the air. Back in those days, I wasn’t even a photographer!
BOOKING YOUR FLIGHTS OVER LAKE EYRE
This really is a simple process and can be done either online or in-person at the Marree Hotel. If you don’t know your exact travel plans when visiting the region, I would opt to book your flight in-person.
An information board is displayed at the booking desk inside the hotel to help you to choose which flights over Lake Eyre takes your fancy. The number of seats still available for each flight and the time of departure are also displayed.
There are numerous scenic flights over Lake Eyre available. These range from a short 45-minute flight over the nearby Marree Man and local surrounds, to four-plus hour flights over Lake Eyre which includes a stop in at the William Creek Hotel for lunch. Longer charter flights are also available.
I opted for the ‘two and a bit’ hour flight over Lake Eyre which took in the best of what Lake Eyre and the region has to offer. I cannot recommend this scenic flight highly enough. To see Lake Eyre in flood is something I will never forget.
The flights over Lake Eyre are operated by Wrightsair who have been providing scenic and charter flights in the outback since 1992.
WHAT TO TAKE ON YOUR FLIGHTS OVER LAKE EYRE
If you are like me and suffer from motion sickness, I would highly recommend that you have a couple of Kwells (travel sickness tablets) or similar before your flight.
There’s nothing worse than being sick on what should be a very enjoyable experience. Been there. Done that!
Depending on the length of the flight that you have chosen, you may also want to take a bottle of water on board. There’s no food or drinks trolley on this flight.
And probably the most important thing to bring is your camera!
The township of Marree is not a big one, so the chances of getting lost are rather slim. However, the directions on how to get to the airport given by the friendly staff at the pub are spot on and appreciated.
“Just keep going past the pub for a bit then take a right. You can’t miss it!”
At the airport, you won’t be subjected to stringent security checks, long lines or a formal check-in process before your flight over Lake Eyre. You’re in the bush, it’s far more casual here. It’s more like being back at primary school with the pilot doing a roll call of the passengers.
It’s a short walk across the tarmac before being assigned your seat by the pilot. If you are very lucky like I was, you might just get a seat up front!
TAKING TO THE SKY
After getting strapped in, switches are flicked, buttons are pressed and dials are rotated. The throttle eases forward and no sooner are you bouncing along the tarmac but the wheels are up and you are heading towards your first point of interest, Marree Man.
THE MYSTERIOUS MARREE MAN
Mystery surrounds who created the Marree Man and theories, speculation and many assumptions abound. All I know is that it is quite remarkable and can only be seen from the air.
First discovered in June of 1998, Marree Man is the world’s largest work of art. At 4.5km tall with a circumference of 28km, the Marree Man is so big, he can be seen from space.
FLYING OVER LAKE EYRE
LAKE EYRE SOUTH
After passing over Marree Man, it was time to start tracking north. We encountered Lake Eyre South first which unfortunately did not see any inflow from the flooding in 2019.
LAKE EYRE NORTH
Continuing on our way, we crossed from desert and dunes to the salt pans of Jackboot Bay in Lake Eyre North. It was at this point that we could start to see water glimmering in the afternoon sun.
We crossed over water as we left Jackboot Bay, with Dalhunty Island completely surrounded.
We picked up Warburton Groove, following it all the way to the northern extremity of the lake and the Warburton River. The majority of this year’s water flowed from Queensland down the Diamantina, which becomes the Warburton, before entering the lake.
Water flows from the north, down the Warburton Groove, all the way to the south at Belt Bay. Like filling a glass, this water then spreads out, filling up the rest of the lake. At its peak, it was estimated that this flood filled the lake to approximately 70%. By the time I flew over the lake, you could already see where the water had receded from.
Upon reaching the mouth of the Warburton, we followed the water for around 30km. It was here that there was the greatest concentration of birdlife. Flocks of pelicans that would have easily numbered in the thousands were huddled together on the exposed sand spits. Spoonbills, cormorants, and various raptors added to the spectacle. As a bonus, we flew over a section of water that was home to around twenty or so black swans.
HEADING BACK TO MARREE
After our birdwatching exploits, it was time to turn the plane south and head back towards Marree. We tracked along the eastern edge of the lake, at the extremities of where the water had reached, which created some of the most amazing patterns and colours in the surface of the lake below.
We crossed Madigan Gulf as the sun started to get lower in the sky, casting a golden glow across the landscape, revealing even more textures and abstract patterns.
Our last glimpse of Lake Eyre was as we crossed back into the dune fields at Level Post Bay, before taking a slight detour over the homestead at Muloorina Station.
THE FINAL WORD
A little over two hours after we had taken off from Marree, we started our descent and touched down just minutes before the sun slipped away for another day.
If you have ever thought about jumping in a small plane for a scenic flight over Lake Eyre, then I cannot recommend this flight highly enough. There is probably only one thing that could have made this flight better, and that would be if it was longer!
The Lake Eyre Scenic Flight gets 5 out of 5 Battered Akubras!
About the Author:
Hi, I’m Matt. I camp, four-wheel drive, explore the outdoors and get paid to take photos.
I’m happiest when I’m doing all four at once.
Occasionally, I’ll even tap out a couple of words on my keyboard.
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