Southern Lights by Flight… If you haven’t already heard it from me then you’ve probably seen it on the news. If you’ve been wondering what it’s all about or if you have been considering booking on it, I have a two words for you – DO IT!
Back in April I truely felt like the luckiest girl in the world when I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel on the first ever Southern Lights by Flight expedition out of Sydney.
The flight operated by Chimu Adventures aboard the Qantas Dreamliner was the first of it’s kind out of Australia, my expectations were super high and it certainly did not disappoint.
The journey began at the Qantas domestic terminal set to depart at 8pm. I might have arrived at the airport at 5pm just for safe measure and maybe because it had been too long between airport visits, did I mention I’m a plane nerd? The energy in the departure lounge was palpable with around 200 equally as excited passengers as myself eager to board.
I was in an economy class seat over the wing which didn’t bother me particularly as having the wing in your photos can offer some depth and perspective. The way I saw it, the lights would be above the wing anyway. In hindsight, I’d have preferred an economy no wing seat as on occasion the wing did obstruct my view but not enough to lessen my experience in any way. In fact, just put me in a business class seat next time, that’s way more up my alley!
The way Chimu works is they do a seat swap half way through the flight so everyone gets a chance to have the window. The Dreamliner economy cabin configuration is 3/3/3, the middle seat in the middle row is left vacant and the 2 aisle seats swap out with the window and middle seat. Fortunately and by complete chance I was seated next to a fellow TravelManager so I felt a bit more comfortable invading her space, leaning across her to catch the first glimpse of Aurora. I’m sure she didn’t mind in the slightest!
Not long after take off we were offered a full cabin service with wine and a hot meal. ABC Radio host Adam Spencer interviewed expert astronomer Dr Ian Griffin over the airlines PA who provided information on route about how an Aurora is created. Astrophotographer David Finlay offered commentary on how to photograph an aurora. Very helpful in my case being a total photography numpty!
About 3 hours into the flight Captain Lisa Norman announced that they were getting glimpses of aurora in the distance and were tracking them down, essentially we were chasing them, excitement onboard reached peak levels at this moment. When we did finally reach the aurora belt it’s hard to find the words to explain the feeling… magical, enchanting, dreamy, mesmerising are a few that spring to mind, even today 2 months later I get a huge rush of emotion just thinking about it. Bucket list moment, tick!
The thing about viewing the Aurora by flight is that you’re above the clouds and there is practically no light pollution whatsoever. The charter departs during the dark moon, all of the cabin lights are turned off as well as the external aircraft lights. You’re almost flying over Antarctica, it’s kind of spooky! Seeing the Aurora isn’t guaranteed but the advantage of being in a plane is that you can chase it, so chances of viewing in this manner and taking into account all of these factors is high at around 95%. The evening I took flight the aurora was incredible but we were told it wasn’t a particularly strong night, I’d go again in a heartbeat in the hope of being down there on an exceptional night.
The plane turned from side to side chasing the elusive aurora for around 3 hours. I’m sure I can speak for everyone onboard that it was an incredibly special experience. I managed to get a few shots on my iphone for bragging proof. For this blog I’ve shared a few of the professional shots as well as my own. To be honest I’ve always preferred enjoying experiences without worrying about capturing it on a camera, I just leave this up to the experts and credit them, much easier!
After a few hours of viewing we started heading back to Sydney, we were served up a hot breakfast just before we touched down around 6.30. After my ‘long haul’ flight to nowhere I headed home buzzing but exhausted and keen to share my experience to anyone who’d listen.
Would I do Southern Lights by Flight again – ABSOLUTELY
Would I recommend it to my clients – ABSOLUTELY
Will I shamelessly bang on about my Aurora flight for the rest of my days – YOU BETCHA!
Thanks for the dream experience Chimu Adventures!
Click here If you’d like to book on this incredible once in a lifetime experience.
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📷 Cover photo by Jillian Mitchell – jillianmitchellphotography.com @jillianmitchellphotography