Seeing Sydney from above

I went to Sydney, Australia for a short trip in late May to visit my boyfriend on his birthday. My timing was perfect because Vivid Sydney (more on that in future posts) was opening the very weekend I was there. That took care of evening entertainment for pretty much my entire stay in Sydney. But for his birthday, the boyf was thinking of taking a helicopter tour of the city.

I felt a little meh when I first heard about it because I imagined that it just meant sitting there for 20 minutes, and pretty much having the same view you get when you arrive in Sydney. I did a little research and proposed skydiving, which he had already done years before, and a hot air balloon ride, which was at sunrise and therefore entailed staying overnight at a hotel out of town.

Since it was his birthday after all, I gave in and said we can do it if that’s what he wanted to do.

He made arrangements for us to get picked up at 9am. It was funny because that was my first time inside a car in Australia, and the driver kept apologizing and complaining of “Sydney traffic.” I did not see anything that remotely resembled Manila traffic and told him, “I’m from Manila, this is nothing.”

We were taken to the Sydney HeliTours office/hangar at Sydney Airport and watched a safety video at a lounge while we waited for our helicopter to be ready. After leaving everything except our cameras and phones for storage at reception, we were off.


Ok, so the helicopter turned out to be smaller than I imagined. Which is a good thing because the idea that I’d really be able to feel it move during the flight got me more excited.

We were going to be sharing the ride with a Chinese couple. The pilot turned to me and the boyf though to ask who wanted to ride in front. It was Australia, right-hand drive, which meant passenger side was on the left. I was waiting for my boyf to volunteer because, well, it was his birthday and he really wanted to do this tour so he can take lots of good pics. He didn’t say anything though so in a small voice I said, “I do.” He had to sit behind me and next to the other couple.

The airport from above.


The Central Business District. That’s the Sydney Tower Eye in the middle.
Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the Sydney Opera House.
Flying above the Opera House.

It was a pretty good tour, even if it only lasted 20 minutes. I didn’t have enough time to go to Manly Beach or take the ferry at all, and I begged off from Sydney’s many nature walks because, to be perfectly honest, I didn’t have the energy, but catching a glimpse of them from above was pretty neat.

I really like how busy the water traffic is.

Everyone wears noise-cancellation headphones during the trip, and it’s patched to everyone’s mics. But also, you can listen in to the control tower. At some point, our pilot ended up talking about a shark-sighting with other pilots, and I think they were all on the lookout to verify it. Listening in to that was almost as amusing as the trip itself.

A word of advice if you want to take this tour to take aerial pics: don’t wear anything colorful. The camera will catch your reflection on the mirror.
Bondi Beach from above.

Now, there’s a reason I told you the seat arrangement. I was on the left, but in front, so I had the best seat in the house, so to speak. The boyf was at the back, on the left side. Once you’ve passed Manly, the chopper goes back and takes a right toward the Bondi area to loop back to the airport. Which means, for pretty much a third of the tour, he only had a view of the ocean. And nothing else.

He was pretty much bummed about that. The site says, everyone has a good view no matter what seat they’re in, but yeah, try not to sit on the left side at the back, unless you know the other people and can squeeze in and share their window. Meh, still no.

So, yeah. Awkward. I should’ve given him the front seat. I felt bad for him about that. I obviously had a great time, but felt guilty afterwards.

But otherwise, yeah, take the tour if you can afford it. But avoid that seat if you’re doing Sydney Harbour Heli Flight. And no colored shirts if you don’t want it as a weird overlay on your pictures.


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