Jan 28, 2022
WE ALL LOVE A PRIVATE JET, but that’s just about getting from point A to B with ease. Seaplane flights, however, offer the best way to not just access but take in the outstanding views of numerous cities and waterways throughout Asia. They allow you to see the familiar from a fresh perspective, and more in a day than is possible in any other way.
From tropical beaches to vibrant reefs, jungle-clad mountains to winding rivers, Asia is awesome from the air. And while the words majestic, magical and awe-inspiring for these water-based aerial experiences all hold, it’s the feeling of building up speed and ‘unsticking’ from the water as you become airborne that makes a seaplane trip unlike any other flying experience.
Whether a short flightseeing hop, a full-day charter or a gorgeous point-to-point transfer, our list of the best seaplane flights in Asia is sure to inspire you to get back in the skies.
Hạ Long Bay
When you are talking about one of the most iconic UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Asia that encompasses 1,550 square kilometers of water and hosts close to 2,000 islands and islets, it’s easy to understand how seaplane flights might be the best way to visit Hạ Long Bay.
On a 25-minute flight from Tuan Chau Marina (eight kilometers southwest of Hạ Long City), you’ll get to see mountain peaks of Bon Ho Island, and limestone cliffs plunging into the deep blue of Dong Tien Lake.
As the entire area is protected, you’ll be greeted by a perfect blue canvas below, dotted only by unspoiled karsts (only 40 islands in the archipelago are permanently inhabited) and unhurried local boats. T+L Tip: For a unique experience try going in the morning or late afternoon; the low angle of the sun makes the views truly striking.
Eight flights per day: VND2,870,000 (US$126) per person, or VND1,500,000 (US$66) for Vietnamese nationals and foreigners residing in Vietnam for more than six months. seaplanes.vn
Take off from Colombo Waters Edge (Battaramulla) to Nuwara Eliya Gregory Lake or Castlereagh Reservoir for a 25- or 30-minute aerial adventure, respectively. Seaplane flights are one of the best ways to explore Sri Lanka’s renowned hill country, home to some of the most beloved tea in Asia.
Both bodies of water, which would by car take six hours’ worth of hairpin turns from Colombo to reach, are not just easy on the eye but also ensure the journey is as rewarding as the destination. Flying over national parks, you’ll spot everything from tropical mountains to rushing waterfalls to vibrant flower gardens.
The waters at both locations are crystal-clear, great for canoeing. You can also cycle in the surrounding hills, or just relax and picnic. And thanks to the elevation, you’ll enjoy cool breezes year-round in this tranquil part of Sri Lanka.
Private charter/scenic flights from US$288 per person, minimum six people. cinnamonair.com
With the options of quick jaunts up in the air to lengthier sightseeing trips taking in the expanses of Puerto Princesa Bay, Honda Bay, and Ugong Rock, you get to choose between mountains swathed in tropical greens or vast blue bays that are, arguably, the most beautiful on earth.
Yep, there are many good reasons Palawan has been named best island in Asia in years past, and seaplane flights over this multi-terrain paradise are a great way to see them all, and perhaps choose where to go next, be it the karsts of El Nido or the longest stretch of beach in the Philippines, in San Vicente.
While you don’t have to be airborne long to understand why this region has been recognized as the cleanest and greenest in the country, from the air, you can spy numerous coral-fringed islands and hidden lagoons – which would take at least a full day of boat travel – within minutes.
Scenic flights from 10 to 45 minutes cost P2,850 to P9,990 (US$55 to US$195) per person. Horizon Sun Charters also offer transfers to resorts in the region. seaplane.ph
Courtesy of Seawings Dubai (2)
When it comes to unique aerial views, it’s hard to surpass Dubai. From expansive dunes to bold architecture and a shimmering sea, it’s all laid out before you as you climb skyward.
The 20-minute Seawings ‘snapshot tour’ flies over Dubai city, the Burj Khalifa (, you know, the tallest building in the world), and the Arabian coastline. But you’re in Dubai, so go big or go home, right? Opt for the 45-minute ‘signature tour’ to view all of this plus Port Rashid and return via the Palm Jumeirah, the largest group of man-made islands in the world.
Scenic flights from AED940 to AED1,780 (US$255 to US$485) per person. seawings.ae
The Maldives are known for gin-clear waters, luxury overwater villas, and being home to more stunning dive sites than there are bubbles in a bottle of Moet. And while the views below the waves are more than well and good, we’d argue it’s just as exhilarating taking in several atolls and white-sand beaches in the space of an hour or so, and from a few hundred meters skyward.
Book a 20-minute scenic/photo flight from the capital Male’s seaplane port, and take in the nearby atolls and islands. Another option is to go standby to see if you can get on a return flight to one of the resorts; these flights can often be done cheaply, depending on availability and distance.
If your resort isn’t within boat distance of Male, though, you’ll have to take a seaplane transfer anyway. While these can be a significant expense added to an already high-ticket vacation, we like to think of them as an aesthetically awesome luxury travel experience in their own right. Oh, and think of the IG likes!
Scenic flights from US$250 per person (minimum six). Transfer flights (one way) from US$370 per person + 23.2% service charge & GST; for example, a transfer flight from Male’s seaplane port will see you beachside at the Four Seasons Resort Landaa Giraavaru in 35 minutes. transmaldivian.com
If big things are on your radar, then a seaplane flight from Ahmedabad’s Sabarmati Riverfront to India’s Statue of Unity (the largest statue in the world) in Kevadia, Gujarat, should go on your bucket list.
The flight is around 40 minutes each way, covering 200 kilometers between each destination. Floating jetties have also been built on the riverfront, so you can easily alight to access the statue.
Spice Shuttle has also inked plans for a further 17 seaplane routes throughout India. Using Delhi as a hub, some of the planned routes include the backwaters of Kerala to the south; Haridwar and Rishikesh in the north, landing on the Ganges; and to southwest Udaipur, in the vibrant, historic state of Rajasthan.
Flight price has yet to be confirmed, but according to industry insiders, it’s likely to be around the US$100 mark, each way, once they restart after Covid suspension. spiceshuttle.com
ON THE HORIZON:
Courtesy of Siam Seaplane (2)
If you’re wondering why two of the best ocean-oriented tourist destinations in Asia aren’t on this list, well, good news as seaplane flights are coming to Thailand and Indonesia soon.
Siam Seaplane intends to fly from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang airports to some of the most picturesque locations in the Gulf of Thailand, from Koh Tao to Koh Chang, and from a second base in Phuket to service beachfront destinations in the south of Thailand.
Meanwhile, look out for two seaplane companies in Indonesia, with SamaSama Seaplanes planning private charters to resorts. Surfers will be psyched about the Padang to the Mentawai Islands routes, and flights from Bali to its surrounding islands are in the cards, too. Some competition for the latter: Bluewater Seaplanes will be Bali based, with flights to the islands of Gili Air and Gili Trawangan, turning a 2½-hour speedboat ride into an easy 20 minute hop.
Prices are set to start from Bt60,000 (US$1,800) per flying hour for private charters and Bt10,000 (US$300) per person for a shared flight. siamseaplane.com