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Onboard - Tourism Operator's Handbook for the Great Barrier Reef

Aircraft Tours

36-1-2

Aircraft or helicopter tours of the Great Barrier Reef are an excellent way for visitors to experience the breath taking nature of the Reef and its size and magnificence. Tours are conducted throughout the Marine Park, some operating to small pontoons near reefs.

What do I need to know?

When you operate an aircraft or helicopter tour in the Marine Park, you need to know about:

  • Marine Parks permits, how you apply, how much they cost and your responsibilities as a permittee.
  • Your permit conditions and operating requirements.
  • Management arrangements for your area of operation, especially zoning requirements.
  • Special management arrangements if you operate in the Cairns Planning Area including group size limits, sensitive locations and anchoring and mooring arrangements. Generally you will not be able to operate an aircraft in a Sensitive Location, except Cod Hole Locality and Lizard Island Locality 1, and there are minimum flying heights for Sensitive Locations.
  • Special management arrangements if you operate in the Hinchinbrook Planning Area, including group size limits, significant bird sites and anchoring and mooring arrangements. The management arrangements specifically for aircraft are outlined below.
  • Special management arrangements if you operate in the Whitsunday Planning Area, including group size limits, significant bird sites and anchoring and mooring arrangements. The management arrangements specifically for aircraft are outlined below.
  • The Environmental Management Charge, how much your clients must pay, who is exempt from paying and your responsibilities to collect, record and remit the charge.
  • How you can operate to high standards in the Marine Park and help keep the Great Barrier Reef great.

Please also make sure that you are aware of any aviation advices issued by Air Services Australia.

What are the important arrangements for the Hinchinbrook Area?

To ensure that the wild and natural qualities of the Hinchinbrook Planning Area are maintained, including minimising disturbance to users, there are some specific management arrangements for the operation of aircraft (including helicopters) in the area.

As well as complying with the general management arrangements, you must:

  • Fly above 1500 feet (above ground or water) when over a Location, except when landing or taking off at any regular aerodrome. (Locations include the Hinchinbrook Channel, Missionary Bay, Shepherd Bay and 500 metres from island coastlines).
  • Fly above 1500 feet (above ground or water) when within 1000 metres of the east coast of Hinchinbrook Island, south of Cape Sandwich.
  • Remain 500 metres seaward from island coastlines
  • Land, taxi and take off outside the Hinchinbrook Island Dugong Protection Area (see Download Maps).

What are the important arrangements for the Whitsundays?

To protect the natural values and use opportunities of the Whitsundays Planning Area, including minimising disturbance to users, there are some specific management arrangements for the operation of aircraft (including helicopters) in the area.

As well as complying with the general management arrangements, you must not operate an aircraft in a Location more than twice per week, except to land at, or take off from:

  • A regular aircraft landing area (see Download Maps).
  • Hamilton Island Airport, the Lindeman Island airstrip or the Whitsunday airstrip.

How can I help protect the Reef?

As an operator who travels widely in the Marine Park, you can play a very special role helping to keep the Great Barrier Reef great for the future by observing and reporting incidents and changes to the Reef. In particular, you can participate in the Eyes and Ears Program and report any incidents or suspected infringements. You can also be part of our partnership and rewards program, including programs such as Bleachwatch, and help monitor the Marine Park.

Whenever you are operating in the Marine Park, you can help protect the Reef by following the responsible reef practices for your activities.


© Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority