Undoubtedly, one of the best things to do when travelling to southern Africa is to go on safari. It is a fantastic place to get up close to wild animals, and there’s no more exhilarating feeling than discovering these creatures in their natural habitat. But if you’re looking to make your African holiday a luxury trip of a lifetime, why not take to the skies and enjoy one of the many opportunities for a flying safari? After all, it seems a waste to visit some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world, and not see them in all their glory. So, if you’re interested in spotting herds of gazelles or prides of lions from above, here is my pick of the best type of flying safari experiences on the continent.
Helicopter flights over Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls is one of the most spectacular sights in all of Africa. Dropping 500 million cubic metres of water 100 metres below every single minute, the sound and mist of the thunderous waterfalls is just as impactful on the senses as seeing it. It was once described by David Livingstone as “scenes so lovely [that] must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight” when he first laid his eyes upon the falls in 1855. However, to really appreciate ‘The Smoke that Thunders’, you should take a look at the gorge from the skies. This way, you can truly understand the grandeur, power and ferocity of the 2 km wide waterfall that borders Zambia and Zimbabwe. When it comes to arranging a helicopter flight over Victoria Falls, you may find your luxury tour operator already offers such a service. Alternatively, there are a number of private companies that schedule flights to give tourists panoramic views of the cascade. You can even opt for a longer trip that flies over Zambezi National Park where you may also spot some of Africa’s most famous wild residents – from lions to elephants.
Hot air balloon rides over the Serengeti
For the ultimate luxury safari, there’s nothing quite like a hot air balloon over Africa’s tawny savannah plains. There are several places you can take to the sky for a chance to catch sight of the Big Five – lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffalos – but the Serengeti is among of the best. Not only is it home to the largest collection of wildlife on earth, but it is also the location of one of the biggest migrations. And, if you time your balloon ride right, you could witness this magnificent spectacle. Between April and August, wildebeest, zebra and gazelle move from the Serengeti in Tanzania to Kenya’s Masaai Mara, before making their return trip between October and November. To see the thunderous stampede of the four-legged creatures gallop over the dusty grasslands would surely be a sight you wouldn’t forget in a hurry! To make this type of safari even more impressive, many hot air balloon companies offer a Champagne breakfast on the open plains after sunrise. Perfection.
Fly-in safaris over Botswana
Of course, there are other options if you don’t fancy the idea of a hot air balloon and Victoria Falls isn’t on your itinerary. Fly-in safaris have become increasingly popular lately, offering the chance to take in as much scenery of Africa’s special national parks as possible by flying over them in a small plane. These typically last between seven and ten days, taking you to several lodges during the trip and enabling you to spot several important landmarks on a short adventure. One particularly beautiful place to enjoy a fly-in safari is Botswana, as its changing landscape is out of this world. Not only will you be able to see Chobe National Park – complete with 120,000 elephants! – but you can also take in the impressive Okavango Delta. The sight of the delta will differ depending on what time of year you visit – turning from dry desert land to an oasis, with the expanse filled with water, greenery and animals once the rain has travelled from the Angolan mountains. This is a great way to combine a variety of safari options, as a trip like this allows you to see the landscape from the sky, by 4×4 and, in many cases, on canoes if you want to traverse through the water.
Paragliding over South Africa
For the more adventurous luxury traveller, paragliding is another option. You’re more likely to find these opportunities in South Africa, where there are, undisputedly, plenty of breathtaking sights to see. You can enjoy some long distance flights in the Northern Cape, thanks to favourable weather conditions. Alternatively, you can take to the skies in KwaZulu-Natal, home to beautiful grasslands, mountains, ancient forests and sandy beaches. The Big Five also inhabit this huge area, so you can enjoy a more traditional off-road safari once your feet are firmly on the ground. South Africa also allows you to paraglide over the Western Cape, where you may spot some of the country’s marine life, including whales, penguins and dolphins. There’s simply so much to see in Africa, with something catching your eyes every way you turn. That’s why complimenting a traditional wildlife adventure with a flying experience just makes sense, enabling you to see the best the continent has to offer.