What It's Like To Take An Aurora Australis Flight

16 June 2022
Read Time: 3.9 mins

Here's what you'll read below- 

  • Chimu adventures offer special Southern Lights flights from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth that give passengers a spectacular view of the Aurora Australis

  • An Aurora happens when the sun releases a massive burst of solar wind and magnetic fields into space

  • Total flight time is 10-13 hours depending on depature city on a full service Qantas flight from the domestic terminal

  • Aurora viewing time is about 4 hours, depending on how good the activity is that night and seat swaps happen half way through to ensire all passengers get a good view of the lights

  • The naked eye usually only sees the lights as a ghostly white and cameras will pick up other colours such as greens and purples

  • There are photographers on board to assist with taking photos and an onboard astromener will provide fascinating information about the Aurora 

  • You can see the lights in some places in Tasmania but the flight is much more reliable 

You’ve likely seen a photo, video or witnessed the magic of the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis), but that’s old news, right? Did you know the Southern Hemisphere has its own version, the Southern Lights – or Aurora Australis? You did? Okay, but did you know there are spectacular flights Aussies can take for the best view of this phenomenon? For many years, travellers have spent a small fortune venturing to the Arctic Circle to see the Northern Lights. But while international borders were closed during the pandemic, Chimu Adventures chartered private Qantas Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners to take guests up, up and above any cloud cover, heading 62 degrees south where this natural phenomenon is brightest, away from the mainland’s light pollution. Now that travel is back up and running – Chimu has continued the flights, and there are selected departure dates from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. I was lucky enough to take the flight, and here is what to expect and what it was like.

A male presenting pilot in cockpit of a plane with many lit up buttons, dials and levers. Green aurora can be seen through the windows View from the cockpit of the private Qantas Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner as you head over the Southern Ocean toward Antarctica.

What is an Aurora?

An Aurora happens when the sun releases a massive burst of solar wind and magnetic fields into space, also known as CME (coronal mass ejections). These solar winds carry particles that interact with the earth’s magnetic field, colliding to produce energy releases in the form of Auroras. As a result of the earth’s magnetic field being closest to its surface at the North and South Poles, Antarctica and Tasmania are the best spots for seeing the Southern Lights given their close proximity to the South Pole.

What to expect:

This was the first flight I had taken in over two years, so I was incredibly excited as it was such a unique flight. I arrived at the domestic airport (yep, it’s technically a domestic flight) in the evening. You don’t have to check in at the usual desk – just go straight through security and to the gate advised on the board. Once you arrive at the gate, you’ll be checked in, your ID checked, and you can choose to get a decorative stamp. The flight is essentially a full-service Qantas flight, so it has all the usual features; we were served dinner and breakfast with the added bonus of entertainment outside the plane as well as in. We were told that the KP Index (the measure used to predict auroral activity) was showing high numbers, so we were likely to be in for a treat of a light show. After travelling about four hours towards Antarctica with fascinating commentary from the onboard astronomer, we started being able to see the faint green sheets of the lights. The naked eye cannot process the Aurora as well as a camera lens can, so usually, the lights will look ghostly white, but we could easily see green and some purple. Halfway through the flight, it is time to swap seats to ensure all guests get the chance to have the best view possible of the lights. The flight weaves around in the lights for about four hours, then turns and heads home. You can sit and watch the lights for as long as you like, try to get photos (it is difficult to photograph them, but there are experts on board to help), and when you’re ready, there are movies to watch, or you can nap.


@flightcentre Incredible experience with our friends @Chimu Adventures #auroraaustralis #southernlights #beentherewithfc Midnight city M83 x Good life Kanye West - Josh gedz


Is the only way to see the Aurora on a flight?

No, you can actually catch this phenomenon in a few places across Tasmania, like Cockle Creek or Mount Nelson in Hobart – however, because of the many large mountain ranges, forests and city (and light) pollution, it can be challenging to see. This is why the Chimu Adventures flights are proving to be incredibly popular and are quickly booking out, so be sure to check it out soon.


@flightcentre A timelaspe taken on our @chimuadventures original sound - Adam







Caitlin MacDonald

Experience Caitlin's experience

Caitlin caught the travel bug 10 years ago when she lived in London for a year and spent another 6 months travelling around Europe and South East Asia. When she isn't writing about travel, she is writing about her other obsession- heavy music and you can catch her at the edge of a moshpit on most weekends.