How to see Africa from above
Imagine drifting above the plains of the Maasai Mara in a hot air balloon before returning to terra firma for a Champagne breakfast, or soaring above the spectacular Victoria Falls in a helicopter. Africa takes on a different appearance when viewed from above, whatever your mode of transport. We take a look at the best ways to get a bird’s eye view of the continent’s natural attractions, cities, National Parks and game reserves.
During a traditional Africa safari, it’s likely that you’ll be transported from lodge to lodge in either a minibus or a 4x4 vehicle. However, if you’re after a different perspective, a fly-in safari is an unbeatable experience. This is a fantastic option if you are short on time yet still want to visit multiple lodges; or if you want to spend less time travelling and more time in your chosen game reserve. Travel by light aircraft high above the National Parks and landscapes you’ll be spending the following days exploring and you’ll often touchdown on a remote airstrip, where wildlife frequently wanders.
We have a range of flexible itineraries in both Kenya and Tanzania, which visit some of the region’s most secluded and exclusive lodges, as well as our Best of Botswana exploration by air. The Okavango Delta is one of Africa’s most awe-inspiring natural wonders and it’s only when you see it from the air that you can realise its scale and beauty. Namibia is another country that looks at its best from above with its vast deserts extending as far as the eye can see and a wild coastline that seemingly never ends. For the ultimate luxury fly-in safari, try our Elewana Sky Safari, where you’ll travel in style between Tanzania’s game-rich parks in a Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft.
Sometimes you need to see something from a different angle to truly appreciate its beauty and what better way to do so than from a helicopter? With its mountainous backdrop and winding coast, Cape Town is not only one of Africa’s most popular cities, it’s one of its most scenic. A ‘heli flip’ (as the locals call it) is a truly exhilarating way to experience it. Hop on board and ascend high above the city for a short-but-sweet flight over The Mother City. Take in the far-reaching views, which include Table Mountain, Robben Island, and the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront before following the coast southwards to Hout Bay, Noordhoek beach, Kalk Bay and False Bay.
If natural wonders are more your thing, an equally spectacular helicopter flight over Victoria Falls is an unmissable experience. The ‘which side to see Victoria Falls from – Zambia or Zimbabwe’ debate is always a popular topic of conversation for Africa aficionados. However, a helicopter flight may be the best way to really appreciate the incredible width of the falls, which are over a mile wide at the Zambezi River’s highest flow.
If you’re staying in Botswana, Belmond Eagle Island Lodge usually has a helicopter on-site so you can hover above the delta and see hippos and crocodiles in the water below, which you may struggle to see from land. The experience gives you a great insight into how the delta flows and how the ‘islands’ are formed in the wet and dry season.
Hot air balloon
If you were to ask people what experiences are on their Africa bucket list, it’s likely a hot air balloon ride over the wildlife-rich plains of Kenya or Tanzania will appear every time. You’ll have to wake early for this once-in-a-lifetime experience; however, it’s more than worth it to watch the sun rise as you fly over a herd of wildebeest, a dazzle of zebra and any other animals which happen to be roaming the savannah. Your amazing morning doesn’t end as the balloon touches down, as a Champagne breakfast will be served close to where you land. We can arrange balloon rides in both the Maasai Mara in Kenya and Tanzania’s Serengeti; and one of our featured tented safari lodges in the Mara, Governor’s Camp, offers a balloon experience that launches from within the grounds.
You can add on a Skeleton Coast scenic flight to your Namibia holiday and view the coast from the best seats in the house. Loop from the seaside resort of Swakopmund past mountains, rivers, little towns and a staggering uranium mine before reaching the untouched beauty of the Skeleton Coast. Haunted by the remains of whales and shipwrecks, you’ll sweep over this beautifully harsh landscape where the vast sea ripples against the burnt orange of the desert in this intriguing juxtaposition of nature.
Combine countries and see more…
Just as fly-in safaris allow you to see numerous game reserves in a shorter period of time, flying between two or more countries – or places within one country – lets you to see a selection of Africa’s most famous sights and destinations in one trip. For example, our Icons of Southern Africa suggested itinerary takes you from Cape Town in South Africa to Victoria Falls on the Zambia-Zimbabwe border via Kruger National Park; while the African Wonders itinerary starts in the Maasai Mara, has a stop at Victoria Falls and ends in Cape Town.
You can choose from one of our existing, but fully-flexible fly-in safaris, or we can tailor-make an Africa holiday just for you, combining countries and hotels and adding flying experiences along the way. Order our Africa brochure or speak to someone who has been there by searching for one of our Africa experts.
This feature was published on 03 May 2018. The information within this feature is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of print. Feature by Emma Tibbetts.