Africa is a stunning continent of varied landscapes which look spectacular from the air.
From desert dunes, rocky hills and desolate shores to rolling grassland plains, forested mountains, mighty rivers and lush wetlands, the African landscape is ever-changing and always remarkable. To enjoy these wilderness landscapes from the air is an awesome experience, and in prime wildlife areas you may even enjoy some memorable game viewing experiences ‘from above’.
Much of safari Africa is accessed by air, with flights undertaken at low level in light aircraft that naturally provide views of the landscape beneath you. However beyond standard or scheduled air transfers, it is possible to include dedicated scenic flights by light aircraft, helicopter, hot-air balloon or even microlight.
Helicopter flights are are incredible way to explore remote and beautiful landscapes, as they not only offer wonderful visibility from the air, but also allow you to land in very remote and inaccessible places. There are several places in safari Africa where helicopter scenic flights can form part of your safari holiday.
Best known would be at Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe/ Zambia) where scenic ‘flights of angels’ over the falls by helicopter have been offered for years as a ‘must do’ activity. This is an awesome scenic experience and gives you a birds eye view of the Zambezi River above the falls, the Victoria Falls themsevles and the Batoka Gorge below the falls. It is especially rewarding to undertake the flight between February and June when water levels over the falls are highest. To get a feel of what is involved, please watch our Victoria Falls video.
In the Namib Desert, Namibia, it is possible to take a scenic flight out over the dunes around Sossusvlei including local highlights such as Dead Vlei and Dune 45. This region is absolutely breath-taking and viewing it from the air is just another ‘wow’ experience. To get a feel of what is involved, please watch our Namib Desert video.
In Botswana’s Okavango Delta it is possible to either book helicopter scenic flights as an ‘extra’ activity, or to incorporate one into a transfer between two camps – something we highly recommend! It works out a little more expensive than a standard air transfer, but the difference in cost is well worthwhile for the exhilarating experience of flying over the delta at low level, spotting game and enjoying the magical and unique scenery.
In central and northern Kenya it is possible to book helicopter excursions which will take you into wild and beautiful wilderness areas. A short scenic flight will be exciting and offer fantastic views, whilst a longer half day or full day charter will allow you to visit a number of spectacular locations, perhaps landing on a mountain top or on the shores of Lake Turkana – the Jade Sea.
There are of course various other locations where helicopters are used and available for scenic flights, including throughout South Africa.
Hot-air balloon safaris are a magical way to experience the African landscape, with 360 degree views and often the chance to view wildlife on the ground beneath you.
The most famous and potentially rewarding balloon safaris are operated over the rolling plains of Kenya’s Masai Mara and Tanzania’s Serengeti, where it is even possible to witness the incredible wildebeest migration from the air. In both regions you set off at dawn, spending an hour floating over the plains (sometimes so low you can look into the nests of vultures or the upturned faces of big cats lazing in the early morning sun) before landing and enjoying a champagne bush breakfast. The experience is not cheap, and on the whole often not that exclusive, but it is very memorable and the feeling of space as you look out over the plains is immense.
Other areas that offer balloon safaris include the Namib Desert in Namibia, the Okavango Delta in Botswana, Tarangire National Park in Tanzania and several locations within South Africa.
Microlighting is not widely available in Africa, but a few fun options do exist. At Victoria Falls, it is possible to undertake a ‘flight of angels’ scenic flight over the falls by microlight – a more adventurous method of viewing the falls where you also get to fly lower than the helicopters and fixed wing aircraft.
There are very limited other places where microlighting is possible, though at certain times of year there is one operator who offers microlighting over the stunning South Luangwa. Various options are possible within South Africa.
Scenic flights are available as specific activities in limited regions, though most safaris will include light aircraft transfers which will give you wonderful views of the local landscapes.
Zambia and Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls is specifically known for its scenic ‘Flights of Angels’ over the falls, which can be undertaken by fixed wing light aircraft (though many people choose the helicopter option).
In Namibia, the scenery is unbelievable and whilst normal air transfers give you a good experience nothing beats a private scenic flight where the focus is on showing you the landscape. Scenic flights are available out of Swakopmund and can fly you low along the Skeleton Coast to see shipwrecks, seal colonies, sand dunes and the stunning Sandwich Harbour. However for the ultimate Namibia flying adventure, consider an expensive but higly exclusive Skeleton Coast safari with the Schoeman family – 3 or 4 days of exploration by air, landing in some of the remotest parts of the continent.