Felicity Brown found love Down Under, but she found her passion on a dare.
This pilot now runs her own “air safari” company in South Australia. Because she can turn two weeks worth of epic experiences into a two-to-eight day itinerary, she gets my vote for the best time saver for a once in a lifetime journey.
A few years back, as a born-and-bred Western Australia farm woman, Brown was speaking at a conference that encouraged the area’s unchallenged country youth to become more involved in their communities. The head of the conference was a member of the Royal Flying Doctor Service and organizer of the RFDS’ biggest fundraiser, the Outback Air Race. Seemingly inspired by her gumption, he suggested that Felicity — who had never flown or even known anyone with a plane — should enter this epic 11-day race from Alice Springs to Broome.
Within a few months, that suggestion would turn into a spirited dare. Brown, a single mother, cobbled flight school and fund raising into her already-crazy schedule, and after seven months just managed to be ready. As team “Delilahs of the Desert,” she and a female friend flew in home-made belly dancing costumes amongst a sea of stunned men in embroidered golf shirts. By the time the Delilahs finished the race, Felicity had found she loved to fly.
Around the same time, she found love on the internet. Her beau was a farmer from South Australia, though, an area that had always seemed huge and remote to her. He would soon give her a love of the varied and exciting region, and she gave him her love of flying. Together, they purchased a plane, and in the same week that Felicity gave birth to their twins, she got her commercial pilot’s license.
These days, Felicity’s Chinta Air Tours has several planes and seven pilots. Chinta offers custom itineraries across South Australia and the Outback, combining small plane tours with 4×4 excursions and schmancy lodgings.
South Australia’s attractions are spread out over vast distances. Chinta allows time-strapped couples (not that I know anyone like that) to maximize a special vacation that would, from North America and Europe, already involve a day’s travel just to get there in the first place.
In case you have to ask, “So, what’s in South Australia, anyway?” here are a few highlights from the region:
- The multi-cultural, foodie-heaven city of Adelaide
- Stunning red-rock mountains in the Outback’s Flinders Ranges, with eco-villas where you can lie in bed and look at the stars
- Kangaroo Island, the Australian Galápagos, which has incredible wildlife found nowhere else; accommodation here ranges from a small, cozy B&B with home-made cuisine to an ultra-luxurious lodge on an ocean cliff
- The Barossa Valley for special visits to wineries, farms and an elegant vineyard inn
- The opal-mining town of Coober Pedy, where couples can stay in the world’s only underground hotel
- Ceduna, the oyster capital of Australia and William Creek, a tiny Outback town with a population of 6 people
Adventure and excitement in the Australian skies don’t come cheap: Chinta itineraries range from $3,500-$12,500 US per person for two-to-eight day trips out of Adelaide. They can cost far less, though, if you’re willing to share your plane with other couples.
For now, I’m adding this one to our bucket list. They pretty much had me at winging over the Outback, ogling kangaroos, digging for opals (my birthstone) and tasting our way through the Australian wine country…all inside of a week.