Lake Eyre – a stunning shimmering inland sea

Vicky Sass-Nielson (right), Norma Jackson (l) and moi.

It’s a phenomenon in our lifetime to peer below at Australia’s vast inland sea – Lake Eyre filled with water, so crystal clear it mirrors the sky.

Where once there was only that barren, crusty, salty surface we learnt about in geography lessons at school, now the desert is in flood. Water is everywhere and everything here is changed as flowing waters define the landscape into stunning shapes. Into sandy beaches, islands and headlands and through the parched earth trickling rivers now flow and mud flats now sprout a beard of green.

The dead centre of Australia is transformed by those flood waters from Queensland’s summer floods and below me lies a shimmering sea zipping along under a light morning breeze.

Ahead the waters lap against sand cliffs as stunning at those at Port Willunga, where I once holidayed as a young woman and on the headland countless pelicans gather.

From on high, flying hundreds of metres above in a small six-seater Cessna 210 aircraft, this watery wonderland is absolutely beautiful and I am mesmerised.

The miracle is that the inland sea shows us how Australia used to be eons ago when the Diamontina River was always a torrent.

I am in distinguished company for this unique experience because Australian pioneering explorer Edward John Eyre’s great, great grand-daughter, Veronica Sass-Nielsen sits alongside me.

She is spellbound – like me – to learn from our pilot that the West End of Lake Eyre North is three metres deep and rising.

Yet Lake Eyre South, immediately below us, is so shallow – at 300 mm deep that I can see the sand underneath.

Here the sea is different as it swirls around the ridges and sandhills like a huge python . We swoop lower before we turn back to the flat, arid landscape of Marree.  It is bald and barren but for rivulets of water snaking their way through the parched earth. The rivers have begun to dry up once more leaving in their wake muddy patches tinged with green and isolated clumps of stunted vegetation.

In one part it’s like a moonscape, in another the bare earth has all the fleshy colours of a carcase.

The inland sea now stretching 145 kilometres from one end to the other, an awesome legacy of El Nina and Cyclone Yari.

As we land back at Marree I ask Veronica what she thought of Lake Eyre, named after her forebear.  “It was absolutely beautiful; I wouldn’t have missed the experience for the world,” says Veronica, who travelled from Perth to make what she had described as a very personal journey.

The flight was a highlight of an outback tour with Gekko Safari which included Clare winetasting, Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges and Prairie Hotel Parachilna. More information on

click below to see the photos




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