Having successfully been in operation for two and half decades, the team at Ocean Rafting are known for both their love of the Whitsundays and for taking it to the next level!
And that is what the much-loved local Whitsunday tourism operator has done once more, celebrating a new milestone, and surprisingly it’s not another boat to add to their fleet of vessels, but rather an Ocean Rafting plane!
Back in September 1999, Ocean Rafting owners, Peter and Jan Claxton, arrived in the Whitsundays with two young boys and a seaplane. Fast forward, now eight boats later and with three generations of family actively working in the business, this wonderful locally owned and operated multi award-winning business has come full circle.
“We’ve gone from two boats to eight boats and the latest thing we’ve done is…well, we bought an Ocean Rafting plane!”
These are the words Peter and Jan might once have been surprised to hear themselves say after moving from the aviation industry to the marine industry, but with continual growth and many years of already operating an Ocean Rafting Fly Raft package alongside their daily tours to world-famous Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet, it was a natural evolution to return to their aviation roots.
Originally commencing operations in 1997, Ocean Rafting was purchased by Peter and Jan in 2001 after relocating from Cape Town in South Africa where they had owned and operated a seaplane company. On arrival in Australia, Peter piloted seaplanes for Air Whitsunday between the Great Barrier Reef and Hayman Island for two years. The experience provided him with excellent aerial geographical knowledge of the region, which led to his dream of operating his own business around the Whitsunday Islands and the subsequent purchase of Ocean Rafting.
“We’ve been through quite the ride, pardon the pun. We are really very proud to be able to say that we can offer an experience for guests above, on and below the water, but we have truly been in it for the long haul with the highs and lows, the knockdowns and the climbs back up. We can’t forget that when we first purchased the business, 9/11 occurred shortly after, then we have also been through the GFC, Cyclone Debbie and of course COVID-19. But at the end of the day, we get back up, brush off and do what we do best…which is offer our guests an unforgettable Whitsunday experience. If we can continue to build on that, then we are doing well and hence the plane,” continued Jan.
Flying into operations, the 7-seater Australian-built Airvan has already taken to the skies and together with Ocean Rafting’s existing partner aircraft operators, daily capacity has increased significantly. The style of the 7-seater Airvan also ensures all guests enjoy a guaranteed window seat for optimal viewing. Guests many choose from a 60-minute scenic flight over the Whitsunday Islands and Great Barrier Reef, including Heart Reef, Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet or add an on-water experience with Ocean Rafting’s popular Fly Raft package.
Departing from Whitsunday Airport, located near Shute Harbour and just an eight-minute drive from Airlie Beach, the airport offers a range of comfortable facilities to enjoy before or after your flight, including the Hangar Cafe and Bar, offering ‘airside access’ dining, where you can indulge in delicious food, unreal coffee or a cold beverage from the relaxed bar.
“For us to be around as long as we have and always operating as a high standard quality tourism operator, well there is a lot of hard work that goes into it, but honestly, our beautiful Whitsunday playground, our local and regional community, industry partners and of course our staff, well it ultimately always comes together, and for that we are extremely grateful. So to all our friends, thank you for supporting us along the way and we hope to see you on the water, or from above, soon,” smiled Jan.