Me and a Microlight Above Ningaloo Reef

Perth-based Travel writer Amanda Kendle shares the inside track on what to expect from a microlight tour above Western Australia's Ningaloo Reef.

When I visited Ningaloo Reef, the people I met in Exmouth basically all told me the same three things: they told me that this year’s trial of taking tourists out to swim with humpback whales was going really well, and everyone hoped it would be continued. They warned me to look out for the emu dad wandering the main streets of Exmouth – he could be quite protective. Everyone said he had a big bunch of stripy emu chicks following him, but nobody could agree on how many. And finally, without exception, they said that Gav from Birds Eye View Microlight Tours was a good bloke.

On the ground

Going up with Gav for a scenic flight above Ningaloo Reef was the final item to tick off during my stay in Coral Bay and Exmouth. Flying over the Ningaloo Reef sounded wonderful and I hadn’t thought much more about it. Then I turned up at the hangar and realised I’d be going up in a microlight. And yes, that’s “micro” meaning “really tiny”. Basically, a microlight is like a hang glider with a seat for two and an engine. I saw it and was terrified.

In the air

So then everyone’s mate Gav turned up. He’s well-trained in sensing fear, I think, and coaxed me onto the microlight with a mix of jokes and safety statistics. Down the runway we went and suddenly we were up above the Cape Range National Park. Gav’s not just a pilot, but a DJ, and when he wasn’t telling me stories about Exmouth and Ningaloo Reef and what lay beneath us, he’d take requests for music to pump through my headphones.

Watch out for whales, dolphins, mantas and turtles around the reef

I can’t say I wasn’t scared, but as my hour in the air wore on, I managed to relax enough that I could stick out my arms and “fly like a bird” as Gav suggested. We saw whales, dolphins, mantas, turtles, you name it, swimming down below near the reef. We flew over the Exmouth township and I could point out all the places I knew there.

We soared above Turqouise Bay, the beach I’d visited that very morning. Then we landed, gently and carefully, and I was completely converted as a lifelong fan of Ningaloo and of microlights. And everybody was right, Gav really was a good bloke.

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